When Linda prays aloud, the air stills and light from heaven spills into those who listen. She is humble, shy, adorable and earthy. She loves the land and her garden, seeing God in every parable of seed and flower. She grows outrageous amounts of lilacs, squash, sunflowers and cosmos, begging others to come and help themselves.
It was a beautiful Saturday, years ago, when the autumnal sun was warming the cold October air. Linda couldn’t resist. Leaving her chores inside, she jumped on her brand-new riding mower, firing it up to carve wide joyous swaths in the long grass overdue for cutting. With a song in her heart and on her lips, she came to their tenants’ yard. Thinking she’d do them a favor, she cut an outer band of unruly grass to neaten the yard surrounding the farmhouse.
The door opened as her tenant stepped onto the porch. In measured words he told her, “There will be no work done within the gates of this house on the Lord’s Sabbath!”
Tears burst from Linda’s eyes, her tenant’s self-righteousness piercing her tender heart. Shaken, she turned her mower home. Safe within the refuge of her own walls, she heard the Lord speak softly, “Colossians 2:16.”
No one loves the Word more than Linda, but like me, if you give her an “address” she has no idea what the verse says. Grabbing her Bible, she opened it to Colossians 2:16:
Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day . . .
The effect was immediate: God’s warm assurance and loving comfort swallowed her hurt as He spoke directly to her heart, from His perspective.
Another Linda Story
Linda was waiting for the evening service to begin in a small rustic church, where a narrow two-lane road winds through thick forest between two mountain ranges beside a steep drop-off into Swan Lake. Her husband, Gerald, was on his way to join her in a truck loaded with firewood, hauling a trailer of logs behind.
As she waited, a train of thoughts formed in her mind. What would she ever do without Gerald? Cold gray apprehension suddenly slammed her with dread. As she slipped into fear, sorrow took hold of her heart. This drew an equally quick reprimand from the Lord, as He told her to not allow that line of thinking — but to pray for Gerald, and pray hard, right then.
Glancing quickly at her watch, she saw that it was the top of the hour. She prayed. A while later, Gerald slipped into the pew beside her, and her heart rested.
After the service, Gerald seemed quieter than usual. Asking him if anything had happened, she waited for his answer, which came slowly.
“Yes,” he began . . .
After dropping off the boys, he was driving to her, feeling like he couldn’t be too careful, due to the weight of his load and the snow on the ground. Then, coming out of a curve, he suddenly saw two cars side by side, taking up both lanes immediately in front of him. There was no way he could stop in time, or get out of the way. And then everything went blank for him. The next moment, all he knew was that he was beyond the two cars, and the road ahead was clear.
On their way home together, he took Linda to the place where it happened, and there were no tracks in the snow showing that a car had swerved off the road. Yet, somehow, the car in his lane had been moved out of his way.
“When did it happen?” Linda asked.
“I know exactly when it happened,” Gerald answered, “right on the hour, because the news had just come on.”
There is a river . . . constantly flowing through the unseen territory of our life. If we could see it, it would flow half-like-light, half-like-water enveloped in a soft golden mist hovering over its enduring flow. The farther you move from this river, the drier the landscape becomes. Closer to the river, the landscape takes on a different character . . . richly watered by the presence of God’s comfort, guidance, tender care, protection, provision, strength, healing and assurance.
This river is the will and purpose of God.
Few people walk closer to this river than my friend, Linda. She has more “God stories” than anyone I know. And, she’s enveloped by the unmistakable aura of grace.
As this river cuts its way through our landscape:
- Its path is God’s will and purpose,
- its water is grace and glory,
- its force is the power of God flowing with His will, in support of His purpose.
An unmistakable aura of grace suffuses those who move in the will and purpose of God, wanting what He wills for their life more than what they will on their own.
It is important to make a distinction, between the landscape and the river flowing through it. The landscape is comprised of the events and circumstances in our lives — much of which we help to shape, reaping what we sow. Our life journey is our exploration and discovery of this territory with its
- hills and mountains that represent our challenges
- lowlands of sadness
- crevasses of tragedy
- peaks of glorious triumph and elevated perspective
- forests and fields, coloring to match the passing seasons of our life
- rocky precipices of danger and crisis
- canyons glorious, demanding everything we have to get across
- meadows, whose light-filled sweetness and soft grass is our resting place
- gardens, overflowing with fruit and flower to satisfy our needs
- predatory yellow eyes in the night belonging to our fears
The river of God’s will and purpose is not the landscape, but flows through the landscape, watering it.
No matter how far we are from this river, even when it has long ago dropped out of sight, if we listen closely, we will hear it. The far sound of its indomitable flow is always calling us, as it rushes toward God’s desire.
It is a mistake to look at violence, tragedy and destruction and tell our self that if it happened, it must be God’s will. Stretches of landscape erupt out of the mysterious alchemy of God’s ineffable sovereignty and His unbreakable laws governing the unseen, but Scripture too full of examples of God’s broken heart and groaning over tragic landscape to pin it all on Him.
Devastating landscape is not God’s will and purpose. His will and purpose, His grace and glory is the river flowing through it. . . giving us a way through and a way out.
God’s will and purpose affects the landscape, waters the landscape, helps to shape the landscape and makes the hard landscape bearable — but it is not the landscape. His will and purpose is the river running through both the grim and most joyous places in our life.
There was a man born blind, forced to beg. Jesus’ disciples saw him beside the road and asked Messiah if the man’s blindness was the result of his or his parents’ sin . . . They were looking for who to blame, assuming that the landscape of the man’s blindness was God’s punishment of sin.
Jesus responded, brushing all blame aside.
It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:3)
The landscape exists to showcase the river —
God’s will and purpose displayed in our lives.
God’s will was not the suffering of a baby born blind, but the river running through it — His ability and desire to heal, His redemptive purpose demonstrated in power.
During these last few months, studying to understand how we receive God’s power, I kept seeing this river running through the landscape of our lives.
And I realized:
- God’s power has to flow with His will, in support of His purpose.
- We can’t separate the two.
Which made me wonder:
If we want God’s power in our life,
and if God’s power only flows with His will in support of His purpose,
how do we join our life to His will and purpose?
If God’s power is going to stream through my life, turning hardship into glory, making every dysfunctional mess work together for good , then my life needs to be as close to that river as I can get — where the power is — collaborating with His will and purpose, instead of defying them.
How does this happen?
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Rom 8:28)
This is huge. For God’s power to be let loose in our life, working everything for good, so that blame doesn’t matter, and the hardest things we’ve suffered as well as the worst things we’ve done become a showcase for His works . . . we need a heart that:
- loves God, and
- is called according to His purpose.
The potential of God’s power in our life
always gets back to the condition of our heart.
One day Jesus went to the pool of Bethesda, where the sick, blind, lame and withered waited to be healed.
A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk. (John 5:5-9)
God’s power was made evident. The man’s life was joined to God’s purpose and will. But, how did this happen? How was he called according to God’s purpose?
To be called according to God’s purpose begins when someone asks you a question that goes straight to the heart, and you make excuses. But even as you listen to your explanation of why God’s power and will is not evident in your circumstances, you realize that God is asking if you really want it.
Do you really want God’s marriage with His power being demonstrated in new tenderness and intimacy? Or would you rather stay with what you have, than become the wife you know He wants you to be?
His power flows with His will in support of His purpose.
Until you are called to become the wife He wants you to be,
you won’t be joined to the river of His power.
Do you really want to write that book God is calling you to? Or teach? Or make a difference? Or leave a legacy? Or get out of drugs? Or get free from pornography? Or, would you rather stay where you are, than pick up your pallet and walk.
Jesus asked the man, “Do you wish to get well?” going straight to the heart of the matter. At some point, listening to the litany of his own excuses, the man entered into a divine dialogue with God . . . and he heard God asking if he really wanted to be stop being sick.
- our part is to really want to stop being sick
- God’s part is to make us well
After Jesus listened to the litany of excuses, he brushed the man’s reasoning aside, giving him a command. The command was the man’s chance to be healed. “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.”
God’s power to make us well is extended in the command He’s giving now.
In really wanting to stop being sick, the man was being called to the healing will and purpose that was running like a river through the brokenness of His life. Unmerited sympathy for our being sick keeps us from the river of healing flowing through the brokeness of our life.
In order to be called according to God’s purpose, a work has to take place in our heart — where we stop lying to ourself, making excuses, procrastinating, blaming other people and unfair circumstances.
When we are called according to God’s purpose — we want what He wants so badly — and no one is more surprised, than we, when we suddenly have the power to do what He is telling us to do.
Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.
That man walked because a work was done in his heart, making him want what God wanted, giving him a heart that was called according to God’s purpose.
A heart that loves God and is called according to His purpose
My friend, Linda, walks with God constantly seeing His power made evident. She bears that unmistakable aura that clings to people who walk in God’s will. She has a heart that loves God, and is called according to His purpose.
- Yet she would be the first to tell you she didn’t always love God. Now, after all He has done for her, she can’t help but love Him.
- And she is not always called according to His purpose. He continually works in her heart, asking the tough questions that make her vulnerable to His will, until she is called, quickened, summoned, and responsive to what she was unwilling to consider before.
Most likely, the man at the pool of Bethesda did not have a heart that loved God, called according to His purpose.
- Love God? I don’t think so . . . where the love of God takes over, victim talk ceases. Not until afterward, would he begin to love God, as he realized what God had done for him.
- Called according to God’s purpose? The distant sound of the river was always calling him . . . or the man wouldn’t have dragged his body to wait beside the pool. But it wasn’t the pool — it was Jesus coming to him with a question — that was the source of his healing. Jesus’ question began the work in his heart, causing him to hear himself, making him vulnerable to the possibility that he was being summoned to something he had never been able to consider before . . . summoning him to pick up his pallet and walk.
The man, ill for 38 years, received the power of God to heal him, because he was called according to God’s purpose.
The only thing that keeps God’s power from being showcased in our lives is our unwillingness or inability to be summoned by His will.
 We defy God’s will as much by neglect and procrastination as by outright rejection.
 The inability of a heart to be summoned by His will is rooted in its hardness toward God — its resistance to His will, its unaccommodating refusal of the word of truth. Very often this has come about because we’ve been wounded or deeply deceived in our past. God knows why our hearts are hard toward Him, and His divine dialogue seeks us with expressions of far more tenderness than we realize. If we saw His tenderness, we would be softened toward Him immediately. The spiritual battle taking place over each of us is a battle for our mind — how are we going to see Him? But the gate-keeper, determining who will eventually possess the citadel of our soul, is our own heart. This is His doing, and it is good in His sight.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.