Many years ago, I met with a Christian leader who had influenced me in my youth. As we talked, he offered to give me input on a recent sermon series I had preached. A month later, he shared a few positive comments, and then he added this critique: “I think you share your weaknesses too much. People need to hear our victories more than our struggles.”
I think he is mistaken.
The gospels overflow with the deficiencies of the disciples who act like puppies that aren’t housebroken: they fail to understand the parables of Jesus, they argue about which of them is the greatest disciple, they cannot cast out an evil spirit, they correct Jesus for predicting his own death, they miss the meaning of the transfiguration, and they abandon and deny Jesus.
And remember, the gospels were written by these very same weak disciples or by people who heard them tell their stories. The gospel writers hid nothing of the failures of the disciples.
And those struggles encourage me. I don’t need leaders who tell me of their great victories; at least I don’t need them as much as I need leaders who share God’s great victories even when they themselves are clueless.
In the spirit of those “gifts of victory,” let me share (again) of my failure in a current struggle.
I Keep Doubting God’s Goodness
I know: you’ve heard a lot (maybe too much) of the struggle my wife and I have with finding a new house. Please let me share a bit more, to show how thick-headed I am. We listed our old house almost two years ago—in a seller’s market—and for twenty months we got silence.
Late last May, we finally got an offer, but the buyers wanted us out of the house by August 10th.
We searched and searched, but couldn’t find the right house for ministry, so we looked at rentals as we continued to look for a house. In mid-July, another buyer offered us more money for the house, and they said we could stay in it through year-end; the first two months for free, and the next two months we’d simply pay their mortgage.
I had been asking God to help us find a temporary rental; instead he let us stay in our house without the bother of moving. I thanked God for answering a prayer I didn’t even ask.
And the next day I woke up and doubted God would give us the house we want for ministry.
We signed with the second buyers and kept looking for houses. We were grateful for the two months rent-free, but the rental price beginning in November was high, so we began again to look for a rental.
Last Friday the new owners of our old house stopped by. They can’t move into the house until spring, and they suggested we stay in the house through March. To make it more attractive, they cut the rental by more than 50%. It was cheaper than any other rental we found, and less than half of their mortgage!
Again, God answered a prayer I didn’t even ask for. I wanted a good rental at a reasonable price, and God let us stay in the house we love without having to move at all.
The next morning—just last Saturday—I woke up and I again doubted God would give us a house that works for ministry. This morning I read in Isaiah:
Therefore, the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. (Is. 30:18)
I cannot share with you my great victory because I keep failing to wait on God. But I can share His great victories as he continues to wait on me.
P. S. God wants to speak to us in our prayer times, on the way to work, and sometimes he speaks to us even in his silence. To nurture that conversational relationship with your Father, I suggest you read Hearing God in Conversation.
After all, it is not that God is silent; we just haven’t learned to recognize his voice.