|LIFE IN JESUS-MINISTRIES
|GOD’S INVITATION TO JOIN HIM IN HIS WORK
Henry & Richard Blackaby and Claude King
I AM REVEALED
Apr 02 2013
For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)
INVITED TO CANADA
I had been a pastor for almost a decade in California when through a series of events, God made it clear to Marilynn and
me that He was calling us to relocate to Saskatoon, Canada. Our assignment? To become involved in starting mission
churches across western Canada. The church God called us to had suffered grievous decline and now only had ten
members attending. The disheartened members had seriously considered disbanding the church and selling the
property before I agreed to come as their pastor.
When we arrived at the church after the long drive from Los Angeles, we could see there was much work to be done.
The church building desperately needed repair, but the remnant of people were too discouraged and tired to face that
task. After a light lunch at the church, we made our way to the humble parsonage and began to unpack.
A thousand thoughts about what needed to be done to get that church back on track flooded my mind. Suddenly, a car
pulled up in front of our house, and six men got out. Having just driven from Prince Albert, ninety miles away, they told
me they had been praying God would send a pastor who would begin a new church in their city. When they heard I was
coming to Saskatoon, they sensed I was God’s provision for them as well. From a human perspective this seemed
ludicrous. My church could not afford to pay my salary, let alone sponsor a mission ninety miles away. There was so
much to do at my own church, it seemed impossible for me to make a three-hour round-trip commute twice a week to a
mission church as well. But I discovered that what is impossible with people is possible with God!
As I sought the Lord’s guidance, I was profoundly aware that I had received a divine invitation. God had called me to
come and plant churches in Canada, and He was not wasting any time! On my first day in the country, He invited me to
begin my first mission church!
For two years, I commuted twice a week to Prince Albert to minister to that wonderful group of people. God eventually
led us to call Jack Conner, my prayer partner from seminary, to be the mission pastor. He used that church to start
many other missions all over that spiritually needy area, reaching far into northern Canada. I have always been deeply
grateful that when the Prince Albert carload arrived at my house that spring day, I did not merely see the work, the
expense, the effort, and the difficulties. I also saw God. God was inviting me to join in a great work He was about to
accomplish. My life and the lives of many others would never be the same again.
Part of the book of Genesis is the record of God accomplishing His purposes through the life of Abraham. Although
through the story we see Abraham’s growth, it is not primarily the record of Abraham’s walk with God. Can you see the
difference in focus? The attention of the Bible is always on God.
While the essence of sin is a shift from a God-centered to a self-centered life, the essence of salvation is a denial of self
and a return to a God-centered outlook. We must come to a place where we renounce our self-focused approach to life
and turn the attention and control over to God. When this happens, God orients us to Himself and to the purposes He is
accomplishing around us.
God-centered living is characterized by:
Consider the following biblical examples of God-centered living.
Joseph. Potiphar’s wife daily attempted to seduce Joseph. He resisted her bold and persistent advances, refusing to
sin against God. When she tried to force herself on him, he fled the house. Ultimately, he went to prison rather than
yield to temptation (see Genesis 39). Joseph kept his focus on God rather than his fleshly appetites.
Joshua and Caleb. When God was ready for Israel to enter the Promised Land, Moses sent spies to survey the land.
Unlike ten of the spies, Joshua and Caleb said, “If the LORD is pleased with us, He will bring us into this land…don’t be
afraid of the people of the land” (Numbers 14:8-9). They were willing to trust the word from God and to proceed with
confidence rather than trusting in their own strength and resources.
King Asa. In his earlier years King Asa lived a God-centered life. Facing Zerah the Cushite’s army in battle, Asa said,
“LORD, there is no one besides You to help the mighty and those without strength. Help us, LORD our God, for we
depend on You, and in Your name we have come against this multitude. LORD, You are our God. Do not let a mere
mortal hinder You” (II Chronicles 14:11). God delivered the enemy into his hand, and the nation experienced peace.
In contrast to God-centered living, self-centered living is characterized by:
I’ve outlined below some biblical examples of self-centered living.
Adam and Eve. God placed Adam and Eve in a luxuriant garden. He made the entire garden and all it contained
available to them for their comfort and pleasure. God warned them, however, not to eat from the tree of the knowledge
of good and evil. But Eve couldn’t resist the temptation to gain the wisdom she was led to believe God was withholding
from her, so she ate the fruit (see Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-7). She shared with Adam, and he also ate the forbidden fruit.
Their self-centered decision violated the Lord’s command and led to a broken love relationship with their Creator.
Ten Spies. Moses sent twelve men into Canaan to explore it and bring back a report of the land God had promised to
Israel. The land was abundant, just as God had said it would be, but the people living there looked like giants to the
scouts (see Numbers 13-14). Though Joshua and Caleb were prepared to trust God, the other ten spies protested, “We
can’t go up against the people because they are stronger than we are” (Number 13-31). Rather than looking to God
and His power, they focused on themselves and their weaknesses. They couldn’t imagine how they could conquer the
enemy. Little did they know how God had prepared the way. Forty years later Rahab, an inhabitant of Jericho,
described what God had done. She explained that when the people heard about God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt,
“we lost heart, and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on
earth below” (Joshua 2:11). The self-centered conclusion of the ten spies cost Israel forty years of needless waiting in
King Asa. King Asa and Judah were being threatened by Baasha, king of Israel. Once before when facing an enemy
army, King Asa had led the people to trust in the Lord. This time, however, instead of turning to God for help, Asa sent
gold and silver from the temple and his own palace to Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, asking for his help in the conflict (see II
Chronicles 16:1-3). Though once God-centered and trusting, King Asa became self-centered and dependent on himself
and his own resources. God rebuked Asa and said, “You have been foolish in this matter, for from now on, you will have
wars” (II Chronicles 16:9). Because of his self-centeredness, war – the very thing Asa had mainly attempted to avert by
his scheming – would plague him the rest of his life.
Self-centeredness is a subtle yet common trap. The world praises self-reliance, and trusting God may make no sense
from a human perspective. On the other hand, it makes perfect sense to Almighty God. So be careful. Like King Asa,
you can trust God one time and fall right into self-reliance later.
God-centeredness requires a daily denial of self and a submission to God. Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into
the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop. The one who loves his life will lose it,
and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:24-25).
A SELF-DENYING DOCTOR
I once urged the attendees of a conference to deny themselves and obey whatever God told them to do. During a
break, a man told me his story. As a college student, he had felt God calling him to be a medical missionary. In
obedience to God’s call, he entered medical school. Because he excelled in his studies, his professors urged him to do
advanced work. Ultimately, he became an expert in the study of immune diseases and was invited to join the staff of a
His friends and family praised him for him for his accomplishments and told him how much good he could do by
accepting that position. For several years, he worked at the hospital and became a leading expert in immune diseases.
But during the conference at which he and I met, God convicted him that he had neglected to obey his call to missions.
Now, well established in his career and supporting a family, he wondered if it was too late. I cautioned him that the world
urges us to protect, pamper, promote, comfort, and prosper ourselves. But God tells us to deny ourselves. Well-
meaning family and friends want us to live close to them. They hope we’ll earn a comfortable salary and build a
prestigious reputation, but all of that may only be nurturing the very self Christ commanded us to deny. I advised the
doctor to spend time with God and ask Him to clarify exactly what He wanted him to do at this stage of his life.
Later, I heard that this physician had resigned his distinguished position and had become a missionary in Africa, in an
area ravaged by AIDS. His expertise in immunology would now be used to build the kingdom of God. He had denied
himself, and now he was walking in fellowship with God, experiencing God at work in his life in ways the Lord had always
GOD’S PURPOSES, NOT OUR PLANS
To live a God-centered life, you must focus on God’s purposes, not your own plans. Try to see things from God’s
perspective rather than from your distorted human view. When God starts to do something in the world, He takes the
initiative to tell someone what He is doing. Out of His grace, God involves His people in accomplishing His purposes.
God warned Noah when He was about to bring divine judgment on the earth through a devastating flood (see Genesis 6:
5-14). When God prepared to obliterate the debased cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, He revealed His plan to Abraham
(see Genesis 18:16-21; 19:13). Likewise, God approached Gideon when He wanted to deliver the Israelites from the
oppression of the Midianite nation (see Judges 6:11-16). When God was preparing to send the long awaited Savior to
the earth, He told the teenage girl, Mary (see Luke 1:26-38). God appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus when He
was about to send the gospel message to Gentiles around the known world (see Acts 9:1-16). The most important
factor in each situation was not what the individual wanted to do for God. The critical factor was what God was about to
Let’s look closer at the example of Noah. What about all the plans he had made to serve God? What if Noah had
planned to conduct a door-to-door evangelistic survey of his neighborhood or start a ministry to homeless people?
These would have been noble intentions, but they would have been completely irrelevant in light of God’s imminent
plans. Noah did not call on God to help him accomplish what he was dreaming of doing for God. In Scripture, you
never find God asking people to dream up what they want to do for Him. He never urges His people to set impressive
goals and generate grand visions for Him and His kingdom.
In the Bible, God rebukes those who propose their own best thinking over His commands. Those in the Bible who
received praise from God were not brilliant planners. They were humble “heroes of faith” (Hebrews 11). God
commended them for their compliance, not for their performance.
Who delivered the children of Israel from Egypt? Moses or God? God did. God chose to bring Moses into a
relationship so He – God – could deliver His people through him. Did Moses ever try to take matters into his own
hands? Yes, he did. Read this account of Moses’ attempt to assume a leadership role for God’s people:
Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. Looking all around and seeing no one, he struck the Egyptian
dead and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the
wrong, “Why are you attacking your neighbor?”
Egyptian?” Then Moses became afraid and thought: What I did is certainly known.
of Midian. (Exodus 2:11-15)
Why did Moses assert himself on behalf of his own people? The sight of their suffering may have pricked his conscience
because he was living in Egyptian comfort and luxury. Having been trained in the best schools of Egypt, he used his
ingenuity and strength to help a fellow Israelite. Surely his intentions were commendable, but he failed miserably and as
a result, spent forty years as a fugitive. What might have happened if Moses had tried to deliver the children of Israel
through this same human approach? If he had used his own wisdom to mobilize the Israelites to cast off the yoke of
bondage through military force, thousands of his people would have been killed. The Egyptians were a world power with
a mighty army. Untrained, unarmed slaves would have been decimated by the dreaded Egyptian army with its seemingly
invincible chariots. God sent Moses into exile in Midian to work as a shepherd so he could learn God-centered thinking
When God delivered the Israelites from slavery, there were zero casualties. None. In the process, God even led the
Egyptians to give the Israelites their gold, silver, and clothes. Egypt was plundered, the Egyptian army was destroyed,
and the Israelites did not lose a single person.
Why don’t we realize that doing things God’s way is always best? We cause a great deal of pain in our relationships and
division in our churches because we act the way Moses did in his youthful zeal. We decide what we think is best for our
family or business or church. We develop our plans. We implement our strategies, at times imposing them on others
and then experiencing the meager – or even destructive – results of our limited knowledge, reasoning, and power. Oh,
that we would discover the difference when we acknowledge Christ as Head of His body, the church. He will accomplish
more in six months through a people yielded to Him than we could in sixty years in our own strength and wisdom.
God wants us to know more than His character. He also wants us to learn His ways. You see, God’s ways are not our
ways (see Isaiah 55:8-9). We cannot know how God acts unless He teaches us. God is infinitely wise. He sees the
future. He understands our world and everything that takes place in it. God knows the eternal consequences of every
action, of every act of obedience or disobedience to His word. God’s ways lead to life. His ways bring joy. They are
holy and perfect.
Doing things God’s way is always best. When God’s people do not follow His ways, the consequences can be extremely
painful and discouraging. God promised the people of Israel joy and fulfillment if they would live according to His ways,
but their failure to follow Him ultimately cost them everything. He said to Israel: “I am Yahweh your God, who brought you
up from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. But My people did not listen to Me; Israel did not obey
Me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own plans” (Psalm 81:10-12). One of God’s most
devastating acts of discipline is when He allows us to experience the natural consequences of doing things our way
instead of His.
God’s ways would have been infinitely better than the life Israel chose for herself. God said, “If only My people would
listen to Me and Israel would follow My ways, I would quickly subdue their enemies and turn My hand against their foes!”
God wants us to align our lives with Him so He will accomplish His divine purposes in and through us. God is not our
servant to bless our plans and desires. He is our Lord, and we must adjust our lives to what He is doing and to the ways
He chooses to accomplish His work. If we will not submit to God and His ways, He will allow us to follow our own devices.
But be sure of this: we will miss God’s activity, and we will not experience what God wants to do through us to bless
others. As Christians, it is not only important what we do but how we do it.
BUILDING PROGRAMS THE WRONG WAY
I see this happen many times as churches try to serve God. A congregation believes God is leading them to build a new
auditorium. However, once they know what to do – build a new auditorium – they don’t seek Him to determine how He
wants them to raise the money and construct the facility or when He wants them to begin. As a result, many church
leaders have their feelings hurt, numerous families leave the church, and the project costs skyrocket, leaving the
diminished congregation with crippling, long-term debts. Bewildered, the people wonder how things could have gone so
wrong since they believed God wanted them to undertake the project. What they did not understand is that with God,
how you do something is as important as what you do. It is possible to do the right thing in the wrong way or at the
wrong time. It is possible to perform a task God assigns but to do it in such an ungodly manner that it actually harms the
cause of Christ rather than supporting it. Doing things God’s way is critical.
Israel was delivered from bondage in Egypt by many miraculous signs and wonders. They walked through the sea on
dry ground and saw the seemingly invincible Egyptian army destroyed by the Red Sea. They saw God provide bread
from the sky, flocks of quail to eat when they needed meat, and fresh water spouting from a rock. Wouldn’t you think
they could trust God to do anything after all that? Yet when they arrived at Canaan, they did not trust Him to deliver the
Promised Land to them. For that reason, they spent the next forty years wandering in the wilderness. Psalm 81
expresses God’s reminder to Israel that He would have conquered their enemies quickly if they had only followed His
plans rather than relying on themselves. God’s ways were more than sufficient to conquer the land of Canaan, but the
people trusted in their own thinking and chose to attempt only what they thought they could accomplish themselves.
Because of that, they missed God’s blessing.
OUR PLANS AND GOD’S ACTIVITY
One year, a group of missions leaders from our denomination visited our city to help churches make long-range plans
for the metropolitan area. These leaders were going to work with us to develop and fund many new ministries. We
studied various graphs and charts and discussed our plans when I suddenly had the thought, “But what if God has
called our nation to judgment before that time?” I realized that the future might unfold much differently than we were
anticipating. The economy could take a nosedive, or a major catastrophe could strike the city. Obviously, we needed to
know what God had in mind for our city. If God was already planning to do one thing, our plans to do something else
could be totally irrelevant. It became obvious to me that the most important thing we could do in planning was to find out
what God wanted us to do.
When God commissioned the Old Testament prophets, He often gave them a two-fold message. God’s first desire was:
“Call the people to return to Me.” If the people chose not to respond, they would receive a second message: “Let them
know that judgment is imminent.” Think about it. When God was about to bring a devastating judgment upon Jerusalem
and destroy the city, was it important to know what He was up to? Certainly! Understanding God’s plans for the world
around you is far more important than telling God what you are planning to do for Him.
What good would Abraham have done by telling God that he was planning to conduct a series of evangelistic services in
Sodom and Gomorrah the day after God intended to destroy the cities? What good would it do for you to make long-
range plans for your church if, before you have the chance to implement them, God does something entirely different?
The only way for us to make useful plans is first to understand what God’s purposes are.
God is seeking to bring people in your community and nation to Himself. He wants to use your life and church in
the process. While we know Christ has given us the Great Commission (see Matthew 28:18-20), we do not automatically
know the specific ways He wants to use us to accomplish this purpose. For example, we know God wants us to be
witnesses wherever we go (see Acts 1:8), but does He want us to begin a prison ministry so we can share the gospel
with inmates? Or should we start a basketball league to share Christ with school kids? We must know how God intends
to use us and our churches in His redemptive work. Then we can adjust our lives to God, so He will move us into the
mainstream of His activity. Though God likely will not give us a detailed schedule of all He is planning, He will let us know
what our next steps should be so we can respond to what He is doing.
If you study great movements of God in church history, you’ll notice God repeatedly invited people to surrender to Him.
As they adjusted their lives, God accomplished His purposes through those people.
JOHN AND CHARLES WESLEY, GEORGE WHITEFIELD
When God began to speak to John and Charles Wesley, He was preparing to bring a sweeping revival across England
that would save the nation from a bloody revolution like the one France had experienced. Through the Wesleys, along
with George Whitefield and others, God turned England around morally and spiritually. The Wesleys and Whitefield
could not possibly have realized the magnitude of what God intended to do through their lives. Yet as we look back, we
see that because of their obedience to what God told them, God did an enormous work in their land and across the
world that continues to have an impact on people to this day.
God knows what is going to happen in your community. People are going to experience temptation, crises,
disappointments, and hardship. God wants to intercept those lives and bring salvation and blessing to them. Suppose
He chose to do that through your life. What if, when He came to you and invited you to join Him in His redemptive
activity, you responded in a self-centered way? Suppose you said, “I don’t think I can do that. I don’t have enough
formal education. I’m afraid to speak in public. I don’t think I have the experience.”
Do you see what happens? The focus is on self. The moment you sense God wants to do something in and through
your life, you present Him with an extensive list of reasons why He has chosen the wrong person or why His timing is not
convenient. That’s what Moses did. But we need to seek God’s perspective. God knows we can’t do it! He wants to
accomplish His purposes through us any way. God’s achieving anything in our life hinges on His presence and activity in
Throughout Scripture, we see God taking the initiative in people’s lives. He would encounter a person and reveal what
He desired of them. The revelation was always an invitation for people to adjust their lives to God. No one to whom God
spoke remained the same. All had to make major adjustments in order to walk with God. As they responded obediently,
they experienced His character in different dimensions – such as Counselor or Provider or Redeemer.
What often happens when God begins to work around us is that we become self-centered. We begin trying to manage
what is happening or to expand upon and administer it. We must reorient our lives to God, to see life from His
perspective. We must allow Him to develop His character in us and let Him reveal His thoughts to us. Only then can we
gain a proper perspective on life. When you’re God-centered, even the desires to do things that please God come from
God’s stirring in your heart. The Bible says, “It is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His
good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).
If you keep your life God-centered, you will immediately want to participate in His activity when He reveals His plans to
you. When you see God at work around you, your heart will leap inside and say, “Thank You, Father. Thank You for
letting me be involved where You are.” When I’m surrounded by God’s activity and God opens my eyes to recognize His
work, I always assume He wants me to join Him.
You must be careful to identify God’s initiative and distinguish it from your desires. A self-centered person tends to
confuse his or her personal agenda with God’s will.
Moreover, circumstances can’t always be a clear direction for God’s leadership. Christians often talk about “open” and
“closed doors,” asking God to close a door if they are not headed the right way. While it is admirable to seek indications
of God’s desires, the danger in this thinking lies in assuming that God’s will is always the path of least resistance (i.e.,
the open door).
For example, many people have told me God led them to leave their current job, or ministry position after having been
there only a short time. Often, when I ask them to explain the process they went through, they tell me they sensed God
leading them to the first position but, after they arrived, problems and difficulties arose. They assumed God would not
want them to remain under such difficult circumstances. So when a new door “opened,” they seized it as God’s
At times, I challenge them, “What do your difficult circumstances have to do with obeying God’s will?” If you’re focused
on self, you’ll always seek to protect yourself and pursue what is most comfortable and what most builds you up. When
times get hard, “self” immediately urges you to quit or flee or find another position. To the children of Israel, the Red
Sea certainly appeared to be a “closed door.” But if you are God-centered, your focus remains on Him alone. Storms
may rage around you, but as long as you have God in your sight, you’ll stay the course.
Often things do become more difficult after we obey God. You cannot determine if you’re in God’s will by whether or not
things are going well in your current circumstances. “Open” and “closed” doors are not always indications of God’s
directions. In seeking God’s guidance, make sure that prayer, the Scriptures, and circumstances all confirm the
direction you sense God leading.
A PRAYING PASTOR
You may be thinking, “That all sounds good, but how do I actually apply these concepts?” In every situation, God
demands that you depend on Him, not on a method. The key is not a formula but a relationship with God.
Perhaps I can help you grasp how to apply this way of thinking by telling the story of a man who learned to walk with God
by prayer and faith. George Mueller was a pastor in England during the nineteenth century. He observed that God’s
people were discouraged, that most believers no longer expected God to do anything unusual in their lives or churches.
They no longer trusted God to answer their prayers. In short, Christians were not living by faith.
God began leading Mueller to pray for God to guide him into a ministry that could only be explained as a work of God.
George wanted people to learn that God is faithful and that He answers prayer.
Mueller came upon the verse in Psalm 81:10 that you read earlier: “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” Mueller
began to seek God’s provisions for his work in a way that God would be pleased to provide, and God took him on a
journey of faith that became an outstanding testimony to all who hear this story.
When Mueller felt God leading him to undertake a project, he prayed for the resources needed but told no one of the
need. He wanted everyone to know that God had provided for the need in answer to prayer and faith, not in response to
fund-raising. During his ministry in Bristol, he started the Scriptural Knowledge Institute for the distribution of Scripture
and for religious education. He also established an orphanage.
By the time of his death, George Mueller had been used by God to build four orphanages that cared for two thousand
children at a time. In all, more than ten thousand children had been provided for through the orphanages he started. In
addition, Mueller had distributed more than $8 million that had been given to him in direct answer to prayer. Yet when
he died at ninety-three, his personal possessions were valued at only $800.
How did he know and do the will of God? The following is George Mueller’s own explanation:
the Holy Ghost, through the instrumentality of the Word of God, but I have been always directed rightly. But if
honesty of heart and uprightness before God were lacking, or if I did not patiently wait upon God for instruction, or
if I preferred the counsel of my fellow men to the declarations of the Word of the living God, I made great mistakes.
Here is how Mueller summed up the way to a heart relationship with God:
matter. Nine-tenths of the trouble with people generally is just here. Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome
when our hearts are ready to do the knowledge of what His will is.
must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also. If the
Holy Spirit guides us at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.
His Word and Spirit.
to the best of my ability and knowledge, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more
petitions, I proceed accordingly.
EXPERIENCING GOD, by Henry & Richard Blackaby and Claude King, Copyright 2008, B&H Publishing Group.