YOUR MOMENT IN HISTORY
by Jim Durkin
Over many years of serving the Lord, I have seen high times and low times. To keep from riding through life on a roller coaster, though, I have had to ask myself this important question: “What is it that keeps us moving forward and in the right direction when life seems to go wrong?”
Many of us have had experiences when life went wrong when things didn’t work out as planned, and we said, “What’s the meaning of this? Where is God in all this? Have I somehow missed His plan?”
Think for a moment about what Jesus experienced. Because of His miracles and power, He had a successful ministry right until the end. But there were times, the Bible says when He preached to the crowds and they went away and followed Him no more.
He didn’t always have larger and larger crowds following Him, with more and more people being converted. For a time the crowds were large, but when they finally understood what He was saying, they just walked away — and in large numbers.
Think, too, about Paul. He experienced a similar pattern of ministry — sometimes there were great successes, then suddenly everything turned against him. At one point in his life, he said, “All who are in Asia have deserted me.” That meant the churches he had founded turned away. Remember, too, that even men who were quite close to him — such as Demas — turned away and left him alone. Let me ask you then — was Paul’s life a success?
It can be an extremely difficult thing for many Christians to come to terms with the Bible’s view of a successful, purposeful life. For some reason, they are unable to believe that long, dry and difficult periods have anything to do with God’s design. Of course, this was true for me, too.
I remember a long, dry time in my own life. I’d had some very serious difficulties, including terrible sin that I had to repent of. I still believed in God, but I remember thinking, “I know God exists. I know He is real. I know Jesus is real and that He has a purpose for my life, but I don’t see Him doing anything in my life.”
Then God spoke to me. Of course, He speaks to everyone, but in different ways. At this particular time, there was no one who could have come to me and said, “I can help you through.” I was pretty much alone at that point and didn’t know where to turn. The people I saw said things like, “Hang on, brother… Pray through… Believe God…” But none of it helped. My life was in too big a mess, I thought. I was separated from my wife and children and didn’t know if we would ever get back together. In fact, I didn’t think we would. I had no hope for that. I had no ministry. I was living in a one-and-a-half room shack, unfinished on the inside. I was in a very desperate place.
Many people, especially those who are experiencing a particularly high time in their lives, may think, “Now I’ve got the victory. Now it’s done. Now I’m on track.” But I tell you that’s not true. Life is a series of great high times, and then there are valley experiences. When we’re in the valley and don’t really know where we are, that’s where we can get ourselves into trouble. Sometimes people get themselves into trouble on the mountain top, too. They get too high and overconfident in themselves. Pride comes in and they fall into trouble. But in God’s plan, we are meant to be of value to Him both on the mountain tops and in the valleys — and in all the places in between.
Of course, it is never God’s intention that Christians get themselves into the kind of trouble I got into. That’s not what I mean when I say everyone will go through experiences in the valley. Rather, I got into trouble from not knowing how to walk in God’s purpose while I was in the valley. I didn’t live by and practice God’s Word at the low times in my life — and as a result, I got into serious problems.
At one point, I thought I had it all put together. I had a good wife and children. I was pastoring a church. I was preaching the gospel. Then suddenly there was disaster after disaster until everything was gone. I was so broken that I called out, “Lord, what’s the meaning of my life?”
Then God spoke to me. He said, “Behind everything in My Word you’ve added three words of your own: “But we know.” I immediately saw how I had so often added these words to the Word of God. “Here’s what the Bible says,” I would preach or counsel. Then I would add my little modifications: “But we know that…” Or, I would say, “I believe something a little different…” What God said to me was, “Henceforth, I want you to do My Word, even if you don’t understand it, do it. And in the doing of it, you will come to understand what it means.”
Then I began to go through the Word of God as if it were a new book. The Bible became a living book for me. Before that time it was sort of a textbook, a mysterious book, a tricky book. It puzzled me. And so I concluded that I was going to devote the power of my brain to writing a new book that would explain to ordinary people the secrets of the Bible.
You might say, “Were you really that arrogant?” Yes, and I think many people are that arrogant, in different ways. We don’t really come to that place where God wants us to be — a place that Jesus called humble. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, the apostle said. The whole Bible is giving us a message of humility. God has some direction for your life and the first step is to humble yourselves before Him and let Him reveal that plan, even though it may supersede your own designs.
Once I understood the need to humble myself and say, “Your will be done,” I began to have a different attitude towards some of the things that were in the Bible. I began to say, “Lord, I want to know who You are, what You want, and how You move in a person’s life. It seems like You’ve abandoned me and I’ve gone down, down, down to this ruinous place. Yes, I added my own words after Yours. Yes, I was proud. But how do I get out of this place? My life is ruined. There’s no direction.”
Then God began to lead me to certain scriptures that gave me an understanding about Him that I had not had before, as well as an understanding about myself and about how God works to produce what He wants for my life. Of course, what I’m telling you about myself applies to your own life, too. Maybe not in the same pattern or to the same degree, but the parallels are still there.
Psalm 139 is one of the Scripture passages God brought me to consider. For a long time, because I had my own way of looking at Scripture, this particular passage was one I felt I had to reject. I said it was true in the general sense, that it was biblical and inspired. In fact, I said, “I believe this Bible from Genesis to Revelation. I believe everything that’s in it.” However, I read some things and said, “Well, I don’t understand that, but I know it doesn’t mean what it actually says…” Then I would add my own deadly words: “But we know.” When God told me to begin practicing His Word, though, I saw Psalm 139 in a different light.
In this psalm, David tells of a revelation he received, one that I didn’t have. “O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You do know when I sit down and when I rise up. You do understand my thoughts from afar. You do scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.”
Now, what I believed about God was that He was very busy running the universe. Of course, He was aware of me. Somehow when I prayed He heard me. But I had no such idea as David did about God. You see, what these first verses of Psalm 139 mean is that I have a very personal God who knows me better than my earthly father or mother could ever know me, better than my wife could know me. Though I do not understand how He is intimately acquainted with all my ways. There’s not a thing I do that He doesn’t know, not a thought in my mind He doesn’t see —- even before I think it.
Later in this psalm, David says, “Where can I go from Your Spirit?” His answer: Nowhere! I began to see that the purpose for my life was not to be the product of my own design, but His. I saw, too, that God was busy thinking about me. “I know everything about you Jim Durkin,” I could almost hear Him say. “I know your thoughts. I’ve numbered all the hairs on your head. I know everything about you and I know it all the time. I see you, Jim Durkin. I love you and care for you. I watch you when you sleep. My Spirit lives inside you. I’m inside you. My Son is inside you. There’s not a place you go where I’m not with you. And I will never leave you nor forsake you.” This became a personal revelation to me and it transformed the way I thought about my life and the circumstances I faced at any given time.
“Lord, You’re in me,” I would say. “You’re around me, before me, behind me… But I have a question. What am I doing here? Why am I going through this valley and this trouble?”
Maybe you’ve asked the same thing. Perhaps you’re not in trouble as I was, but do you know something that is worse than going through troubles? Going through tedium! That’s when life is a “blah.” It’s when I get up in the morning and go off to my job and it’s “blah.” And when I come home at night it’s “blah.”
“Hello, wife.” ** “Hello, husband.” ** Blab! ** “What’s on for tonight?” ** “Nothing. Maybe we’ll watch some TV.” “What did you do today?” ** “Well, I worked.” ** “What did you do?” ** “Took care of the kids.” ** Blah! ** Then I say, “What kind of life is this, Lord?”
What’s worse than great trials? No trials! Just nothing! But if you understand that the purpose of your life originates not with you but with God, then even the times when life seems like so much tedium, there is no such thing as “nothing.” Your life is important — every moment of it. When that’s true, there is no such thing as “nothing.”
In verse thirteen, David continues, “For You did form my inward parts; You did weave me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.”
Here was a wonderful revelation to me. Previously I had rejected all of this, because I said, “Well, what about people who are not too handsome or too tall or too smart? Or what about those who are deformed when they are born? I can’t believe You really form people in their mothers’ wombs in the sense of You having direct involvement. I know the Bible says that, but it must mean something different.”
If I could have talked with God before I was formed in my mother’s womb I would have said, “Would You please straighten my nose and make my face a little rounder? And could I have a little different colour for my eyes? And could You make my personality a little different?” How many of us, if we could have talked with the Lord before we were formed, would have asked for something different? Most of us would, that is, until we come to understand that we were put together by an intelligent God. We were not put together as happenstance. Rather, we were carefully and thoughtfully created by a loving God to do and be something.
If you begin to see yourself in a proper way — in light of the truth that God formed you with purpose — you are going to find a different way of looking at yourself. That way of looking at yourself will give you courage. It will give you the strength to go through the tedium and keep you from “blowing out.”
Too many people “blow out.” They get tired or bored or troubled — and they run. I’ve talked to many people over the years and have carefully observed the course of my own life. There’s one thing I’ve learned. If I’m in a certain place, brought there by the will of God, and things go bad — as things do at times —I will not run. Sometimes when people are going through a hard time they say, “Well, maybe the Lord wants me out of here and that’s why He’s sent these hard times. I’ll go somewhere else and get started again.” I’ve learned one lesson. Hard times are a part of good times. There is no such thing as all good times with no hard times. Hard times are an essential part of living. It is necessary that we go through them. If we do not go through them we will not have the strength put into us to really carry out what God wants us to do.
The second thing I’ve learned is that if I don’t get a clear word from God to go somewhere — a clear and confirmed word — I won’t go. I don’t leave simply because it’s gotten tough. I don’t leave because it’s hard. I don’t leave because things aren’t working out. I go only when I’ve heard from God that I ought to go and that’s the only reason I make a move at all. This has become my way of living, not because I am brilliant or strong. Not at all. It’s because I have seen the folly of not trusting that God has a purpose for my life. And that purpose doesn’t change one bit just because circumstances are temporarily going against me.
You see, God is an intelligent Being. He is the Supreme Intelligence, and the most marvellous thing about Him is that He is motivated by love. As He formed me in my mother’s womb He had a desire to express His love through me. All the things He leads me through in life, once I fully understand this truth, are designed to make me a person who can receive the maximum amount of His love that it is possible for me to receive — and to express the maximum amount of His love that can be expressed through me.
Everything that happens — if I believe He is an intelligent, loving God — has a design, a plan, a purpose. An important part of manifesting that final purpose is that I become all He wants me to be. And the same applies to you. God formed you in your mother’s womb. There is a definite purpose for your life in this world. There is a purpose for you individually, not just a general purpose for the kingdom or the church. Because He has a purpose for your life, He made you uniquely, individually, especially, carefully. He knows you intimately. He is watching over you day and night to urge you to fulfill that purpose.
One thing I enjoy reading in Scripture is the stories of men and women who came to trust that God had a purpose for their lives. Once you look past their immediate setting, you will see that the pattern that was true for them is true for you. They went through troubles and trials. They faced “nothing” days, the blahs, tedium and pressure. But because of their faith in a purposeful God, all these things helped to bring His purpose to pass in their lives.
How do you think Daniel felt, for example, when he found himself carried off by Nebuchadnezzar into Babylon? Have you ever faced the kind of circumstances he faced? He was literally torn from his beloved homeland and taken away to live in a foreign country among ungodly people.
Do you think Nebuchadnezzar and all his army could have taken Daniel away if God had determined that He wanted Daniel to stay in Israel? Time and again God showed how powerfully He could protect Israel. But this time He allowed a king to come down with his forces to carry away many people, including Daniel. Whether Daniel wanted to go or not, that’s what happened.
Certainly, Daniel must have thought, “Can this be a part of God’s plan? Is this part of His purpose? Did God allow this to happen? Could He have stopped this from happening?” Yes, He could have. But did He? No, He did not. Why not? Because it is a part of the way He deals with humanity; because God has a purpose greater than our purposes, and greater than all the testings, problems and inconveniences that come upon our lives. God had a purpose for Daniel — and God has a purpose for you and me !!!
In the midst of difficult circumstances — under conditions of great pressure, trouble and fear, or perhaps during long periods of tedium or boredom — Daniel decided that he was going to serve God. Have you ever been in the kind of circumstances Daniel faced? Translate it into the late 20th century. You have a job. The job is boring. The boss is on your back. Your husband or wife doesn’t understand you. The kids are driving you crazy. Your rent was just raised. You wish there was a different administration in Washington. On and on. Do you think Daniel had similar thoughts? “O God, why can’t I be back in Israel? O God, why did this happen? O Lord, I don’t know if I can stand it. Here’s meat sacrificed to idols. What do I do’? The pressures are too great. Maybe I should give in.” Do you think he had thoughts like that? I believe he did. He was human. I think Daniel wept. I think Daniel was afraid at times. I think he wondered, “Why, O Lord?”
Daniel had all the pressures that you and I have, but he learned something about his great God. Daniel learned that he was part of a plan — a plan that originated in the heart of God. But I can tell you that you never would have heard another word about Daniel if he had done just one thing, if he had said, “I’m blown out. This is too tough for me.” But Daniel wasn’t that way. He said, “Look, I don’t know why God allowed this captivity. I know we in Israel have done plenty of sinning, and maybe that’s why. But I know this, wherever I find myself I know that it is God who has allowed me here. It is God who made me and God who raised me. It’s God who created me and is watching over me right now. I am not going to give up the training of my youth. I have been taught by God to do what’s right. I know what pleases God and that’s what I’m going to do.” He made up his mind. And you know the rest of the story of Daniel. Kings and nations were affected by that man of God because he stayed with God’s plan. And let me add this: he stayed with God’s plan even though he had no idea that God would use him so powerfully.
Daniel is a lesson for us. His story — similar to so many others in Scripture — is written in the Bible to give us an example of how we should live out God’s purposes in adverse circumstances. Many times, however, when work doesn’t go right, or the church doesn’t go right, or some little thing happens, we say, “Man, I’ve had it.” What we ought to do is settle right in and say, “Now listen, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m here by the will of God. And I’m going to build by the will of God, according to the plan of God, as much as I understand it. There’s a purpose in my life and I’m going to hang on to that purpose.”
There is a time, a moment in history, for you to do what you were meant to do in this world. And during the times when you don’t understand or cannot clearly see God’s purpose, the secret is to live for Him no matter what set of circumstances you find yourself in because every one of them is necessary to shape you, mould you, turn you, move you, strengthen you and put compassion in you or the work God wants you to do. All of your life’s circumstances are being used by God to ready you. The rotten bosses. Tough jobs. The tedious experiences. The days that housework doesn’t go right when everything goes wrong and nothing works smoothly. Those days when the church seems dead and nobody understands when the pastor has lost it — or if you’re a pastor, when the people don’t have it — all of this serves God’s purpose in your life. Believe it. Believe it not because you are able to control every situation in your life, but because He is an intelligent, loving, purposeful God, who formed you in your mother’s womb.
If you submit to God in the times of testing and tedium, the times of trial and pressure, the times of the blahs — do you know what will happen? At the right moment in history — and there may be more than one such moment — you may be the one who stands up when everyone else lies down because you’ve been made tough by the hand of God. You will understand that God has a purpose for you. You will stand up to change the course of history and to change people’s lives.
But there is a difference between Daniel’s story and yours. Today, it is not one man or woman who will stand up alone (although that may happen, too). It is the church that will stand up. In loving and supporting one another, helping and building each other up, we will stand up in the world and fulfill the purpose of God.
Today we are moving toward one of the most purposeful decades this world has ever seen. We Christians, those who have been tested and tried, who have submitted to the hand of God, will stand up and be counted as never before. We’re going to face conditions that this world has never seen. The troubles and difficulties you face, the tedium and drudgery, the good times as well as the hard, are preparing you for the days that are coming upon the earth so that you will stand strong and firm against the onslaught of the enemy. You are going to be a revelation of Jesus Christ to the world.
Commit yourself fully to Him!!!
It would be better to have not read an inspiring message than to have read one and not acted upon it. Use the following Action Response to help you take action appropriate to the message you have just read.
ACTION RESPONSE: A PRAYER
If God has spoken to your heart as you read this message, take a step to affirm His Word and make a commitment to new action in Your life. If you agree with the following prayer, you may want to add some words of your own and then sign it as an expression of faith. Pray this prayer daily until you begin to see new changes in your life.
“Father, I believe that you formed me in my mother’s womb. Before I was born, you had already determined a marvellous plan for my life. You determined to live in me, to manifest the life and love and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ through me. You determined if I chose to serve you, to empower me by the Holy Spirit so that I could walk each day in your purpose for my life.
I accept your plan and purpose for me. Those things I do not understand — the difficult and tedious times — can be wonderfully used by you to further your purposes for me. By your strength, I will stand firm. I will not run. I will remain planted in the body of Christ, where you have placed me.
I will allow all things to prepare me for even greater service to you.”
ACTION RESPONSES FROM GOD’S WORD
When we recognize and acknowledge God in all the circumstances of life, He promises to guide our steps to the fulfillment of His plan for our lives. Ps. 139 — Pr. 3:5,6
Trade Bitterness for Gratitude
Bitterness and resentment, which are common human reactions to the difficulties we encounter, poison the spirit and blind us to God’s purposes. A grateful heart, which is evidence of the Holy Spirit in us, opens our eyes to see God’s wonderful plan — even in difficult times. Heb. 12:15 — Col. 3:15-17
Stand Firm — Avoid Running
Running away in the face of problems or trouble is a quick and easy answer. But it is also a sign that we have not learned to rely on God’s strength. By drawing closer to Him, learning to rely on His strength and life in us, we are able to stand in the day of adversity. We are able to be faithful and consistent. We can remain in the church, where God planted us, working out our problems over time. Pr. 24:10 — Is. 40:31 — Eph. 6:13
Be Faithful in the Smallest Details
By being faithful in the small things we learn the lessons and develop the character that makes us faithful in greater things. How God uses us in the future depends in great part on how faithful we are with what He has given us to do now. Luke 16:10-12 — Jer. 12:5– Matt. 25:23