The Still Small Voice

The Power of Discernment: When God fulfils His Promise by another Route


Chapter Six, Part Fourteen


When God fulfills His promise by another route

Their faces had a new expression . . . All the sharpness and cunning and quarrelsomeness . . . seemed to have been washed away, and the courage and kindness which he had always had were easier to see. Perhaps it was talking with Aslan that had done it.[19]

Post-modernist orthodoxy would insist that chance and our own resourcefulness determine our destinies. May no hint of such attitudes stain our thinking! There is nothing random about the way God leads us. Meaning and purpose undergird every part of His dealings with us.

Shortly after I became a Christian, I made the conscious decision that I would do my best to consult the Lord before plunging in and doing my own thing. There have been times when I have got things upside down, and ended up way off the mark. On other occasions, God has clearly honoured the fact that I was trying to listen, and has made sure that when it really mattered, I heard clearly.

Returning to the ‘leak of disappointment’ that we looked at earlier, we have watched quite a few of our friends over the years apply unsuccessfully for the ordained ministry. Because each one felt had convinced that they had received a call from the Lord – and had done their best to test it – they often felt extremely confused when it didn’t worked out as they had hoped. If they didn’t openly blame God, the turmoil had to go somewhere. Round and round the questions pound. Had they been mistaken all along? Did the powers-that-be make the wrong decision in turning them down? Or, worst thought of all, were they, perhaps, simply not up to scratch themselves?

Each situation is unique, and the pain is too intense anyway to allow for glib answers. If there has been presumption, may we recognize it and walk away from it. But where the call is genuine, then God can still fulfill what He has promised, even if He does so by an entirely different route from the one we originally envisaged.

When Israel escaped from Egypt, the Lord did not lead them along the Inter-State to the Promised Land for the simple reason that that way led straight through Philistine country. He knew His people were not yet ready to face a full-scale war, and that they would be tempted to flee back to Egypt at the first sign of conflict. He therefore led them by the longer desert road, toward the Red Sea.

Can you recognize times when the Lord has allowed ‘detours’ in your life? When you head from A to B via C, D, E (and even Z as it sometimes feels!). It takes faith then to believe that you will ever reach your destination. To the Lord, however, the journey is every bit as important as the outcome.

We can think of many occasions when we have gone all out for some initiative. We may even have gone public on it, only for it to fall into the ground and flounder. Where this has been a ‘dummy run,’ the real thing that God had in mind for us usually turns out to be not far behind.

These are the times when the verse we quoted earlier comes sharply into focus: ‘What you sow does not come to life until it dies.’ We, like the seed, must often die to our own hopes and expectations before the Lord can cause them to multiply exponentially.

The Lord knows exactly where He is taking us – and He wants all the glory to go to Him. That is one of the main reasons why He allows these dummy runs. We find them painful and confusing, not least because they often feel like the real thing at the time. Beyond the present valley lie higher mountain-tops for those with the courage and the vision to persevere.

For Reflection and Prayer

There is hope for a tree. If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old in the ground, and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant. (Job 14:7-9)

Can you see how seeds that have fallen into the ground in your life have surfaced again another way? When God has fulfilled His original promises to you despite the setbacks and delays?

Lord, You love to lead and speak to us!

You are so much greater than our ability to get things wrong.

Even out of the soil of our failures
You weave new beginnings
and find fresh ways to accomplish Your purposes.

Let us never become despondent or disillusioned,
for You ordain strength
from the depths of our brokenness,
and cause us to grow in discernment
and bear consistent fruit for You,

In Jesus’ name, Amen.