Here we are, back again ready to conclude the Soul Shepherd series. In parts One and Two, we have contemplated how to recognize purposeful stress in the lives of our loved ones. We have also determined that many times, our physical and emotional rescue of those we love, actually leaves them in a state far worse than before we intervened. We have interfered with the work the Most High was doing in answer to our prayers, and now it may be necessary for our loved ones to begin again at step one. AND, we have begun to learn to ask for His will and nothing less.
To that end, perhaps you and I would do well to learn to lean upon the character of the One Who receives our petitions, rather than what our eyes tell us and our minds devise. May we be ever mindful that He will not give us a stone for bread or a serpent for a fish in answer to our supplications. If it appears so, the problem is with our eyesight and not with His provision! Most assuredly, His time schedule may not be ours, and it is true that He will not remove free will from our loved ones. Nonetheless, we should persist in fervently (actively and efficiently) praying that He continue to do whatever is necessary to bring them back to Him. I believe Mrs. Penn-Lewis gives us a wonderful example of how to pray actively and efficiently in what she calls “shepherding souls with prayer.” Perhaps we should learn to pray not for OUR will but HIS, which of course is always perfect, and indeed is what we would want if we had all of the information!
Is it possible that this is another area of prayer in which we often err? Could it be that our focus is all-too-often amiss? Instead of praying that our son be given favor with his employer, or that our daughter be accepted at the school of her choice, perhaps we can admit that our thoughts are not His thoughts, nor are our ways His ways. Perhaps we can remember that He sees past, present, and future all in the same snapshot, and is the Only One Who knows which path will result in the most eternal gain. Maybe we should learn to pray that His will be done in their lives; nothing less and nothing else!
Then, when we see our children or loved ones under stress and in distress we can truly thank the Great Rabbi and Master that He is working through these events for their good! It may be difficult to watch at times, but we can be encouraged by the knowledge that He will only allow that which is necessary, and which will prosper them in the end. He did not place obstacles in their paths because He does NOT love them, but because He DOES.
But, you might say, aren’t obstacles and stresses authored by that great deceiver, Hasatan? (Hasatan is the Hebrew word which means “The Satan”, or “The Adversary.” Satan is not his name, but rather his role.)
Allow me to address this question. First of all, certainly there can be no doubt that the Adversary is active, and wishes to discourage and disrupt those who are following God. He has, however, ZERO interest in those NOT following Yahweh/GOD, except perhaps to use them to draw the faithful away! He will not waste time on someone who is not a threat. So, we might begin by assessing ourselves or others for whom we pray with the fruit test. When we believe our prayers are falling on deaf ears, and the stress is building, and we’re wondering if this is a spiritual attack, examine the fruit!
If we are seeing consistent fruit which would indicate a strong attachment to The Vine, we might reasonably conclude that The Adversary is hard at work. But what about “Judge not lest ye be judged”? While we are not to judge hearts and pass spiritual sentence, His Word does instruct us that “by their fruits you will know them.” Which leads to Point #2.
Does God have a daytimer? Must we be on His “schedule” before He notes what is going on in our lives? Does He ever lose sight of what the Enemy is up to? No, no, and NO! With these things being emphatically determined, let’s answer another query. Is God sovereign? Yes, you respond? Last question. Is the God of the Universe able to overrule The Adversary? Absolutely, NO DOUBT, you shout!
Therefore, SINCE we agree that God is sovereign and SINCE there is no doubt that He never loses sight of what is going on in our lives, and SINCE there is no argument that the Adversary would be the LOSER in any match with our Mighty Warrior God, then it would seem to follow, that any stress or distress in the lives of believers is allowed by our Master (EVEN if perpetrated by the Enemy)! Perhaps it would even be a fair statement to say that He even chose it to be part of our journey, as He could have refused to allow its presence. (See the story of Job.) Selah (pause and think about that). We can be confident that any circumstances allowed by our Master have the potential to lead to great gain, if only we will respond to the pressure they apply!
Thankfully, we can lean on this proverb.
Trust in the LORD with all tine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Prov 3:5-6
Trust! Lean not! Acknowledge! What does it mean to acknowledge Him? Perhaps it means to recognize that, (as Brad Scott of wildbranchministries.org often says), “God is smarter than we are!” and His determinations are true, loving, and profitable!
And now, as we march closer to the conclusion, go with me for a moment to a large sporting event in a major stadium. Have you ever been to such an event and had the opportunity to sit in the press box? Well, I have not either, but I can imagine what it would be like way up there above all of the action. I can envision that from that vantage point I would be able to see everything taking place in the stadium, from the fans in the stands on both sides, to the players on the field. Everything! Now, down in the stands where I really am sitting, I see clearly only the other sports fans seated right around me and some of what goes on below. I strain to see the plays occurring on the field. I do not have a full and unobstructed view.
I am grateful that the omnipresent, omniscient God, knowing all things past, present, and future simultaneously, and loving our sons and daughters far more than we ever could, has an unobstructed view! And I am thankful that the God of Wisdom chooses to focus His attention on eternal value and not on our highly overrated comfort in the here and now. I am infinitely thankful that He will not comfort me or my loved ones all the way down the broad and unobstructed path to Hades. It is clear that stress and discomfort are simply tools in His toolbox that give an opportunity to effect changes into eternity!
How grateful we should be that God is so merciful as to not always grant our petitions! Perhaps it would be wise to recall this Scripture:
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Rom 12:2
Note that the goal of the renewing our minds is that we prove (discern) His good (beneficial), acceptable (fully agreeable), and perfect (complete) will. It brings to mind the following.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called, according to His purpose. Rom 8:28
How can our struggles, sorrow, and pain be “good?” How can they be part of His purpose? Perhaps we have missed a very important word in Romans 8:28; it is the word “together.” Together is a very significant word because one thing does not a together make! This stress that our loved one is going through is just one part of an eventual whole! It is but one element working towards the good and perfect (complete) will of God!
The negative and stressful events occurring in the physical realm are simply used (and at times even orchestrated) by Him, with the ultimate goal of bringing His children to His side so He can shower them with His love, His instruction, His provision, and His protection. And haven’t we determined that this is our most fervent desire as well? When our children are on the wrong path, shouldn’t we WANT them to experience discomfort? If they continue on that path and progress farther and farther into darkness, wouldn’t we CHOOSE for them to experience pain if it would encourage them to step away from the danger? Do we really desire them to be successful at being unholy? Selah.
If He was to grant our ill-conceived petitions, and our son or daughter experienced success in the physical but disaster in the spiritual, would that be something about which to rejoice? Have we been truly loving in our tearful prayers?
Therefore, rather than praying for what seems right to us (which the Bible warns leads to destruction), we have the great opportunity to pray around every detail of our loved ones’ lives with the main focus being to bring them into a vital and right relationship with their Heavenly Shepherd. We should admit that it is at least possible that what we think would be best, could instead be folly. Surely that must be the reason Yeshua/Jesus left us the ultimate example of praying to the Father when he added, “nevertheless not My will but Thine be done.”
If truth be told, it appears that learning to effectively pray is indeed a two-edged sword. While He uses prayer in some mysterious, miraculous, marvelous way to affect the lives of those for whom we pray, prayer also affords us great opportunity to continually lay down our will in favor of His as we present our petitions, but conclude with “nevertheless, THY WILL be done.” Time and again we are allowed to practice trusting that the eventual outcome will be for the good, just as He has promised. This laying down of our will is a vital part of the process of the renewing of our minds. Over time, the tenor of our petitions morph into a focus away from creature comforts, financial stability, even health, and focus instead on trust, faith, and as Epesians 3:14-21 puts it – that they may know the love of the Messiah in their inermost beings…”
In the aforementioned cold murder case recently solved by DNA, the young victim’s family never stopped seeking justice for their daughter. Though her parents died in their nineties, without having seener murderer brought to justice, God was, nevertheless, at work the entire time. His plan, set in motion at Creation in the form of DNA, lay there in the evidence box for 35 years. It was simply awaiting His perfect timing when all things would work together, and man would “discover” what had been there all along. And then the gavel would fall, and the answer to their prayers would be revealed. Though man, for decades, did not have the murderer’s identity to present to the court, the Ultimate Judge always did. Praise Yah!
As we travel this important leg of our journey, may we, with God’s help, develop faith like that of Yochebed, trusting that The Great Shepherd works also in pagan palaces, in wildernesses, and even from within burning bushes. He is not bound by time, and began to act in response to our prayers from the moment we first called out to Him, even if that was 80 years ago!
May you and I continue in our Soul Shepherding classroom, learning to shepherd souls with prayer, actively and efficiently praying through their lives. And as our higher education continues, may it be that we learn to look upon stresses as possible answers to our prayers; tools in His toolbox used for us personally, as well as those for whom we pray. May we be comforted with the knowledge that His vantage point is infinitely greater than a press box view. Indeed, may we trust that He knows all, sees all, and does all things well! And may we ask Him to use our prayer time to affect our faith as well as the lives of those lost lambs for whom we offer up petitions, opening our hearts to receive shepherding as well.
As we wait inside of time while He acts outside of it, may it be that we remember in all things to give praise to the One Who receives our prayers and loves our loved ones more than we could ever possibly comprehend! He is too loving and merciful to only give us happiness and worldly success when He could instead give us loving correction and direction designed to lead us back onto the path that leads to Him.
Rejoice evermore.17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Messiah Yeshua concerning you. 1 TH 5:16-18
Is it possible that the “this” in the phrase, “for this is the will of God”, is pointing to whatever just happened as part of the everything? Could it be that we have misunderstood that it is merely the giving thanks that is the will of God? Might He be communicating that the stress that just occurred in the life of your loved one is part of His will, (often to bring them into right relationship with Him), and therefore reason to give thanks? Selah.
O give thanks unto God; for he is good: because his mercy endureth forever. Ps 118:1
Yes, the word translated as “forever” means into eternity.
Oh what a Mighty (and loving) God we serve! Angels bow before Him. Heaven and earth adore Him. What a mighty God we serve!
May all of your righteous petitions be answered,
Jacquetta (Soul Shepherdess in training)