Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
-- Feeding Jesus' sheep
-- Equipping His servants
-- Proclaiming His Gospel

 

If At First You Don't Succeed...

Keep On Planting Those Seeds

Planting Seeds

by Dennis Pollock

There is an idealistic concept found among some believers, especially newer converts, that if you are truly led by the Spirit and totally yielded to God, your every effort will succeed and you will never know even the appearance of failure. Perhaps theoretically this may be true, but in reality there is no Christian alive, nor any from times past who has not wandered down a wrong trail, attempted ministry projects before God was ready to join in, or simply fallen on his face. Being led by the Spirit is a wonderful thing, but it does not prevent us from the need to try things of which we are not entirely certain and to launch out more in hope than in absolute certainty of success.

It all starts with Holy Spirit-inspired desire. When one is born again and filled with the Holy Spirit, strong desires emerge to do something – something that will bring glory to God and blessings to people. We often don't know the what or how or when, but we must do something. It may be some time before we discover the exact nature of the gifts and calling of God that have been given to us, but we cannot remain idle. This is exactly as it should be. Show me a man or woman who claims Christ but is perfectly content to do nothing, say nothing, and invest no part of their lives or fortunes for the kingdom of God, and I would question whether they had ever truly tasted of Jesus at all. The Spirit of God inside us is a powerful, motivating, moving, stirring, dynamic, nearly irresistible presence, and He will never leave us alone until we are up and working for Jesus Christ. Our first steps may be singularly unimpressive. We may stumble and falter and feel rather foolish, but still we must move forward. If we are determined to wait until we have received a word from the Lord that is unmistakable, as clear as a bell, and one hundred percent sure before we take action, chances are we will be waiting for a good long time – maybe even the rest of our days. If we delay our efforts for Christ until all our circumstances line up perfectly, conditions are ideal, every trace of doubt and fear in our hearts is entirely eradicated, and failure is beyond possibility we will surely fail… to do anything, ever.

Paul's Efforts

A great example of someone who wasn't afraid to launch out in uncertain conditions is the apostle Paul. If anyone could ever be said to be led by the Spirit it was Paul. Paul was undoubtedly a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led man, but he was also human and did not feel it necessary to wait for God to speak to him about every step in his life. One simple and yet profound statement made about him concerns his ministry in Athens. At one point he found himself in this great Gentile city waiting for some of his friends to catch up with him. The Bible tells us:

Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. (Acts 17:16,17)

This was not a case of God waking Paul up in the night and telling him, "Paul go and share Christ with a man you will meet there who will be wearing a yellow robe and a red hat. He will have a long beard and walk with a limp." No, this is simply Paul being stirred in his spirit by all the lost people in this city, and going out to the marketplace every day to share Jesus with "those who happened to be there." Sometimes people try to be so spiritual, that they require a word from the Lord for their every activity. If they ate eggs for breakfast this morning, it is because God told them to eat eggs; if they watch the evening news it is because they were "led by the Spirit" to watch the news; if they wear running shoes to the grocery store rather than their usual cowboy boots, it is because they had a special feeling which impressed them to put on the running shoes. Such folks usually burn out early in their Christian experience. The pressure of needing a specific word from the Lord for even the simplest of activities, instead of making reasonable choices unless hearing otherwise, eventually wears them down.

Paul on shipOne of the strongest evidences of Paul's readiness to move out for Christ without necessarily hearing a direct word is found in the sixteenth chapter of the book of Acts. Paul and his group were trying to determine which direction to travel next in their evangelistic mission. The Bible tells us that they attempted a couple of things which God vetoed:

Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. (Acts 16:6,7)

Certainly Paul's motives were wonderful. He wanted to go to these places and preach Jesus. And we are told that he tried to go into Bithynia, but was not permitted. Just how did he try? How far did he go? How was he stopped? We don't know the answers, but one thing is clear: God allowed Paul to get started, to begin to make the effort to go to Bithynia, and then stopped him. Finally, the Bible tells us that Paul had a dream in which a Macedonian man was asking him to come and help them. The group took this to be the guidance of the Spirit and immediately went to Macedonia. But the question arises, "Why didn't God tell them to go to Macedonia at the beginning? Why did He allow and then shut down their attempts to go to Asia and Bithynia? Was it wrong or displeasing to God that Paul even tried to go to these places which were clearly not the perfect will of God concerning his ministry?

A Faltering Attempt

It seems God will allow His children to make efforts to do things in His service which He fully knows will be fruitless and go nowhere. This does not at all mean that such efforts are pointless or even failures. They are simply the first stumbling attempts to move forward in our service to God. Although not blessed with wonderful results, still there will be no future success if it is not first preceded by these unimpressive, faltering, not-so-spectacular efforts. I have experienced many of these less than stellar efforts in my own life. Many years ago, while teaching school in Albuquerque, I felt the calling to ministry very powerfully. Just how this could ever come about I could not imagine. I had no Bible college degree, I had few contacts in the ministry, and there seemed little reason to expect success. Still that calling was there and I was convinced it was genuine. Finally I decided to do something about it. I created a logo, and had a large batch of stationary and envelopes printed which proudly displayed the name of my new ministry. I called it Dennis Pollock Revival Ministries. I could hardly wait until the stationary and envelopes arrived! As soon as they came I sent out a letter and a pamphlet about revival to many of the evangelical pastors in the city, announcing that I was available for ministering in their churches. I eagerly waited for the calls and letters to come pouring in. Strangely, there was no pouring in, or even sprinkling. I think I may have received one call and one or two letters and zero invitations to speak. Thus was the nature of the extremely short-lived Dennis Pollock Revival Ministries.

Was it foolish of me to try such a thing? In hindsight I don't think so. Attempting to start that ministry at that time represented simply the first, light contractions of a ministry that would eventually be born, quite a few years later, that would succeed and would result in my teaching and preaching Christ both in the U. S. and in many nations throughout the world. My timing might have been a little off, but I seriously doubt that God was upset or offended that I made the effort. Indeed had I sat around and never made any efforts at all, waiting for God to just drop a ministry in my lap, then He probably would have been upset, and I would still be waiting today.

At the age of forty Moses was still a prince in Egypt, but was beginning to identity with his own people, the Hebrews. When he saw a Jew being beaten by an Egyptian, he killed the Egyptian. Many suppose that this was simply an impulse of the moment, but in the New Testament, Stephen tells us that there was more to it than that: "For he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand" (Acts 7:25). Moses was already feeling a calling to be a liberator of his people. In fact he felt this calling so strongly, he supposed that everybody else would see it as well, but of course they didn't. In killing the Egyptian, Moses had been 20/20 in his perception of God's calling, but considerably off in his timing and method. The day would come when God would kill every firstborn son of Egypt, and liberate Israel from four hundred years of bondage, and Moses would play a definite role.

Keep Planting Those Seeds

The Bible says, "In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand; for you do not know which will prosper, either this or that, or whether both alike will be good" (Ecclesiastes 11:6). There are times when the best thing we can possibly do is go for it! We may not be sure if our timing is right, God may have to tweak our style, our lack of maturity may bring about less than desirable results, we may even be planting seeds in the wrong field, but still we must get to work. Even if we head out in the wrong direction, it is easier for God to steer and direct a moving vehicle than one that is inert, without motion, movement, or sweat. Teach a Sunday school class, go door to door with gospel literature, volunteer to help with a program at your church, write an article, sing at a church event, volunteer your services to a local ministry you respect, start a blog, work at a homeless shelter, create an e-newsletter, produce a podcast, determine to be a one-person greeting committee to every visitor that shows up in your church, start a ladies Bible study (if you're a lady), join the missions committee… Just get started and do something! And if, after a season, you sense that God is telling you that this is not for you, then quit that, and do something else. Pray for guidance, to be sure, but don't wait until heaven's trumpets blare and Gabriel comes to your room to announce the exact details of your ministry! Get moving, and trust the Holy Spirit to steer and guide you until you arrive at that form of ministry which has been established for you from the foundations of the world.

When Thomas Edison was attempting to create an incandescent light bulb that would burn more than a few minutes, he tried thousands of different materials from both plants and metals in search of the perfect filament. Over and over again he experienced failure. Some didn't work at all; some fizzled out after only seconds or minutes. But still Edison persevered. Finally he hit upon a carbonized bamboo filament which would last over 1,000 hours, and the world was given the gift of light. What we need today are some spiritual Thomas Edisons who will not rest until they have discovered their own unique place of ministry, by which our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified, His cross and resurrection proclaimed, His sheep fed, His servants equipped, and His elect saved. If at first there must be a few apparent failures or even a lot of them, let us doggedly pursue the perfect will of God for our lives until we can experience the "much fruit" which Jesus has promised all those who will abide in Him. "To him who knocks, it will be opened."

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