I love scriptures that declare God’s greatness and what He can do. One of my favorites is, “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” (Eph 3:20 KJ) Yes, God is able. He’s able to do anything. So why doesn’t He? Why are there times that we think we hear from God, move out on His word, and then…nothing?
Years ago God spoke to me about writing a novel for the secular world. There was no doubt in my mind that it was God even though He sounded nothing like Cecil B. DeMille. So, for two years I worked feverishly until finally the great American novel was ready. I had amassed a list of all the publishers I planned to favor with my submission. There was no stopping me now. After all, God said! One last edit. then off to glory. As I sat curled on the couch rereading my manuscript for the hundredth time, a miracle happened. Scales started falling from my eyes like tears. In fact, I began to cry as I saw, for the first time, how truly horrible my writing was. It was stilted, cliched, and…boring.
“What happened, Lord?” I asked. The answer came back, gentle, patient, “You never consulted Me.” Never once had I prayed before writing nor asked the Lord’s direction. The rolled manuscript made a nice size log and as I watched the fire disintegrate it and the two years of hard work it represented, I learned a valuable truth: God can…if we partner with Him.
Two more years of hard work produced a second manuscript, with each and every page a work of prayer. This time there was no long list of publishers I would favor, only a handful I had wrenched in prayer. Still, instead of receiving letters of interest, one rejection slip after another filled my mail box. Then a small Christian organization that had nothing to do with publishing got hold of my manuscript and wanted to publish it. Now I was getting somewhere! I ignored a nagging check in my spirit. I was impatient for results. Four years of work and nothing to show for it was four years too long as far as I was concerned. Impatience is a slippery slope and I had started on a disappointing ride. The book was amateurishly published, stocked on only one Christian bookstore’s shelf because someone knew a friend of a friend, and there it proceeded to collect dust.
“What happened, Lord?” I asked. “Didn’t I tell you this was for the secular world?” came a still, small voice. And what could I say in return? I had failed to follow God’s leading. Now it was too late to do anything with this print version. The typeset was bad, so was the layout, plus it lacked an ISBN and Library of Congress number, without which it could never compete in the secular marketplace. As I dragged twenty cartons of books to the curb for garbage pick-up, I learned another hard lesson. God can…if we are obedient.
Another six years came and went as I waited and prayed for the Lord’s timing and direction. I was determined not to move out prematurely. Finally, the word came: I was to publish a revised edition of the novel myself! I could hardly believe my ears. In fact, I didn’t believe them. I didn’t want to. That’s not how it was supposed to be. I wanted simple-easy, not complicated-hard. “But I know nothing about the publishing business,” I wailed. “Learn,” was the reply.
For the next year I studied, learned, worked. Often I put in 12 to 14-hr days. Finally, the manuscript was tuned into a hardcover book. Then another year of studying, learning, working to market it. It was the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life. As the book orders came in I was stunned. Instead of the hundreds I envisioned, they were onesy-twoseys. This continued for months. Inside, emotions were building. I began to feel tired, depressed, discouraged. It was only a matter of time before I would have a show-down with God. Like the dike that could no longer be plugged, my thin veneer of self-control ruptured. “Haven’t I prayed and sought Your Face? Haven’t I tried to obey You in everything?” I grumbled. I felt let-down, abandoned. “You said!” I whined, trying to drive the point home, and show God how unfair He had been. Self-pity has it own momentum and I was on a roll. “You…You disappointed me!” I continued, forgetting the thousand times I had disappointed Him.
What happened during the next hours, days and weeks was miraculous. Circumcision was going on, surgery of the most delicate nature, as God patiently and lovingly began to show me how His yardstick for success was totally different from the world’s measure. As I lay prostrate on the floor before Him, I began to understand that we will never totally understand His master plan. And then it didn’t seem so important anymore to have to. What difference did it make if I sold one book or one million? That was God’s department. My part was to simply obey and let Him use the fruit of my obedience in any way He saw fit. It was then that I submitted it all to Him. I forgot my preconceived ideas. It was His. He was Lord. Period. Another lesson had been learned. God can…if we are submitted.
After looking back at the those years I see something else too. God has. God has been working, pruning, refining. While I have been concentrating on the here and now, He has been patiently doing kingdom work in me, the benefits of which will be harvested throughout eternity. Now what is more important than that? And isn’t that just like God? To do more than we could ask, or think or hope?
Until next week,