Posts Tagged ‘unanswered prayers’

2 Samuel 7:1-17
The Lord’s Covenant Promise to David

Back in December 2016-January 2017, I went through an interview process with a church in north central Ohio. I had two phone interviews, one video interview and one final on-site full weekend of interviews with this church. The first phone interview was with the senior pastor and more “get to know you” and exploratory than anything else. It went really well. The senior pastor, a guy in his early 40s who had within the last two years taken over as senior pastor from the founding and previous senior pastor, and I kind of hit it off in our phone interview so I was really positive after the initial interview. The second phone interview was more in-depth and we discussed my journey to the cross and my life since accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior. In the meantime, I had to fill out this extensive job application which included a request to write my spiritual biography which I did and mailed it all in. Then, the next interview, a third one, was a video interview with the senior pastor, the executive pastor, and a member of the board of directors who was the board’s financial expert. That interview went pretty well. I can only remember fumbling over just one answer to a question.

So, all that went well, and my wife and I were next invited to spend a weekend at the church. There were various interviews I had that weekend with various folks on staff and members of the board. Then finally on Sunday after church we had one final interview over a catered meal in one of the office conference rooms at the church. The interview went well for the most part. But the founding pastor, who no longer was the senior pastor but held the title of pastor emeritus and director of strategic planning or something like that, asked me questions about whether I would be content in the job that they had to offer. He stated that because his read of my spiritual biography gave him the impression that I wanted to be more than just the job they had to offer. I answered him by saying that if other churches are not occasionally coming after your people then you do not have the best and the brightest working for you. And, so, yes, I had greater aspirations long-term than just being an Operations Director but that I could that job growing as I grow and I could see at some point being the executive pastor at the church and maybe even one day, if God desired it, to be a teaching, preaching senior pastor. I felt as though it was a good answer because doesn’t any organization want people to be ambitious (not to the point of it being all consuming but a healthy sense of wanting to grow and advance). After it was all said and done, Elena and I traveled back to South Carolina and felt that we had the job and we were readying ourselves to move, at least in the emotional sense. We were ready. We had been preparing for this for years. This was it – in our minds. And the three years of seminary and the year and a half of waiting afterwards was now over.

We were ready to journey off into full-time ministry in Ohio. We were just waiting for the phone call. We figured it would come Monday afternoon after we got back home. Monday afternoon came and went. Tuesday morning came and went. Tuesday afternoon and evening came and went. Wednesday morning came and went. Finally, an email revealed that they had decided to go with the other of the final two candidates for the position. It so bothered me that I called the senior pastor and asked him what went wrong. He said that the board felt like that the job they had to offer was not “going to be a destination job for me.” They felt like based on the answer to the founding pastor’s question that I would not be in the job for the long-term, that I might be there 4 or 5 years and move on to another job that better fit my long-term goals. Wow! A “destination job”…never heard that term before. Long story short, Elena and I were blown away by this “no” answer. It sent us into a spiritual depression for several months. We had no other offers waiting in the wings. So, this “no” was heartbreaking for us. It was not until months later than God put the now famous line in my head (that has been often repeated by God to me since then) of “keep plowing the field in front of you” and let Him worry about the next field. He reminded me that I needed to find the joy in the doing of what I am doing right now. He reminded me that I needed to trust Him with what’s around the corner or what the next field to plow was going to be. All I had to do was trust Him and keep plowing where he had me planted right now, in the field He had me plowing right now. Enjoy the right now and learn what you need to learn and find the joy in serving the Lord right now doing what you are doing.

That’s the thing that I thought of this morning as I read 2 Samuel 7:1-17 is about how sometimes we get crushed by the “no” that God gives us rather that trust Him that there is a “yes” out there that He has designed for us. Let’s read about David being told “no” by God in this passage now:

Chapter 7
1When King David was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all the surrounding enemies, 2 the king summoned Nathan the prophet. “Look,” David said, “I am living in a beautiful cedar palace,[a] but the Ark of God is out there in a tent!”

3 Nathan replied to the king, “Go ahead and do whatever you have in mind, for the Lord is with you.”

4 But that same night the Lord said to Nathan,

5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord has declared: Are you the one to build a house for me to live in? 6 I have never lived in a house, from the day I brought the Israelites out of Egypt until this very day. I have always moved from one place to another with a tent and a Tabernacle as my dwelling. 7 Yet no matter where I have gone with the Israelites, I have never once complained to Israel’s tribal leaders, the shepherds of my people Israel. I have never asked them, “Why haven’t you built me a beautiful cedar house?”’

8 “Now go and say to my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I took you from tending sheep in the pasture and selected you to be the leader of my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have destroyed all your enemies before your eyes. Now I will make your name as famous as anyone who has ever lived on the earth! 10 And I will provide a homeland for my people Israel, planting them in a secure place where they will never be disturbed. Evil nations won’t oppress them as they’ve done in the past, 11 starting from the time I appointed judges to rule my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies.

“‘Furthermore, the Lord declares that he will make a house for you—a dynasty of kings! 12 For when you die and are buried with your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong. 13 He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for my name. And I will secure his royal throne forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. If he sins, I will correct and discipline him with the rod, like any father would do. 15 But my favor will not be taken from him as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from your sight. 16 Your house and your kingdom will continue before me[b] for all time, and your throne will be secure forever.’”

17 So Nathan went back to David and told him everything the Lord had said in this vision.

In this passage, we see that, through the prophet Nathan, God is saying that He doesn’t want David to build a temple for Him. God told David that it was his job to unify and lead Israel and to destroy its enemies. Therefore, David made the plans and collected the materials so that his son, Solomon, could begin work on the Temple as soon as he became king (1 Kings 5-7). David accepted his part in God’s plan and did not try to go beyond it.

David’s request was good but God said no. This does not mean that God rejected David. In fact, God was planning to do something even greater win David’s life than just allowing him the prestige of building a glorious temple. Although God turned down David’s request, he promised to continue the house of David forever. David’s earthly dynasty may have ended 4 centuries after the time period depicted in this passage, but Jesus Christ, was through His earthly parents, a direct descendant of David and was the ultimate fulfillment of this promise to David. Christ will reign for eternity – now, in the spiritual kingdom and in heaven and later, on earth, in the New Jerusalem (see Luke 1:30-33 and Revelation 21). Have you prayed with good intentions only to have God say no? This may be God’s way of directing you to a greater purpose in life. Accepting God’s “no” often requires as great or greater faith as carrying out his “yes”.

For me and for us as a couple, we learned a lesson over that year – to find the joy of serving God where He has you planted, even when the timetable seems to be taking too long based on what we think. We have to trust the Lord with the next field beyond the current field that we are playing. We cannot see ministry as something that we order and control. We must see our current state of our ministry as God having us right where He wants at the moment and we must make serve Him with passion and fervor wherever He has us planted and in whatever capacity He has us serving. We must trust Him with what’s next. The “no” now means that the “yes” is still out there. The “no” now means that we still have things to do for Him where He has us planted.

Without that “no” in Ohio, we would have never have had the opportunity to become part of the staff at Calvary Church in Moline, IL. This is the “yes”. This is the next field to plow that we had to trust God with. This church, Calvary Church, is the one where I will be bettered nurtured and groomed by a senior pastor who is such a great fatherly kind of guy that has a genuine interest in personally developing his staff pastors. We felt at home the moment the whole interview process started here at Calvary. We knew this would be our next home from the time the process started. It felt right. It was the “yes” that God had been working us toward all along. We just had to learn that sometimes the best thing about a “no” from God is the “yes” that is yet to come.

Sure, there are going to be hills to climb here. Sure, there are going to be challenges. Sure, with all the new staff that we have now at Calvary there is a honeymoon period and I know that it won’t last forever. I know that there are going to be tough times to come in my ministry here. There are things that I am going to have to deal with and be patient with. But we keep plowing where the Lord has brought us. And we trust Him. That’s the whole point. Trusting the Lord – not just in the pretty words that those words are – but really, really, really trusting Him with what is beyond what I can see. In the meantime, we plow where we are planted and trust Him with the rest.

Amen and Amen.

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