3. His purpose, not ours.
For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Philippians 2: 13, ESV
Over the last few decades many American evangelical churches abandoned the prayer room and administered their local congregations from the board room. I remember pondering my doctoral dissertation topic back in 1988. After consultation with my field supervisor and two seminary professors I wrote The Statement of Purpose in a Local Church: Evaluation, Clarification, Awareness, and Ownership, in 1990. Everybody wanted to know what I meant by "Statement of Purpose in a Local Church". You see, it wasn't trendy or fashionable for local congregations to have mission statements, brands, tag lines, or theme interpretations back then. Suddenly these corporate systems became the rage. In the process many churches, denominations, and individuals dedicated their resources to fulfilling their mission rather than Gods. The simple assignment of making disciples of all nations became a complicated business model with levels and layers.
God is always working, and he works all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. Today contemporary evangelicals talk about easing away from the business models that sidetracked Christ's church for the past thirty years. It's a slow and broad turn, this reversal of direction. Even so, the weight of denominational uncertainty, leadership grids, administrative bulk, executive titles, and organizational complexity keep authentic biblical purpose in the margins. Underneath it all is theological confusion. The mission Jesus entrusted to his disciples is often overshadowed by the many pursuits of the strategic plan.
Clarity is essential in when seeking to accomplish any goal or purpose or aspiration or mission. We humans get easily side-tracked when what we're about is blurred. It happens in individuals, families, congregations, bridge clubs, civic organizations, and fortune 500 companies. The Apostle Paul wrote, "And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?" (1 Corinthians 14: 8, ESV). Knowing the mission is the beginning of fulfilling it. And, what God is doing in this world is not our thing, but his thing. We must know it, express it clearly, and pursue it with passion.
Paul's reminder to the Philippians, the above listed Focus Verse, is significant in understanding the fullness of God's work in our lives. Sure, I have a list of things, actually several of them, usually expressed as prayer lists. They are my hearts desire for the people I love and serve, and events that are Kingdom significant. Yes, I usually make sure my requests before God are consistent with biblical precepts. There are many occasions, however, when selfish pride inserts personal whims into the process. It's when I realize I'm asking God to do my will. I should pray like Jesus----"My Father, if it is possible, let his cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will" (Matthew 26:39, ESV). They're the simple words of surrender to God's purpose and pleasure.
I can't begin to tell you how many pastors, church staff members, leaders, parents, teachers, and believers have taken spiritual detours because God didn't do what they had asked. You know the truth about answered prayer is not simple. Many spiritual elements condition our prayer lives. Underneath, however, is the truth that God is working his pleasure in the world around us and in our lives. This truth alone should give us comfort, strength, and a sense of eternal purpose because it is his.
He's working His purpose, and not ours. Rejoice evermore!