Best of Daily Reflections: God Had Other Plans for Me, Part 1Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
In the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, I was with the exiles at the Chebar River when the heavens opened and I saw visions of God. (It happened on the fifth day of the month, in the fifth year after King Jehoiachin’s deportation. The LORD’s word burst in on the priest Ezekiel, Buzi’s son, in the land of Babylon at the Chebar River. There the LORD’s power overcame him.) (CEB)
In yesterday’s reflection, we examined the call of Ezekiel. We saw that he was a priest who, by virtue of his exile in Babylon, was not able to serve in the temple of Jerusalem. Yet, in God’s providence, just at the time when Ezekiel was old enough to begin his priestly duties, the Lord called him to be a prophet. God had other plans for Ezekiel, besides those Ezekiel had for himself.
I thought I might share with you ways I have experienced a similar calling in my own life. I tell my story, both by way of illustration, but also in order to encourage you to be open to God’s plans and to trust him even when things don’t go as you had hoped.
After college, I pursued an academic program in the study of the Bible. I did not go to seminary, but instead enrolled in a Ph.D. program in New Testament. I wanted to be a professor and believed that I could serve the Lord in the academic realm.
As I neared the end of my doctoral program, however, I had the chance to work in a church as the director of college ministries. I found this work rewarding and sensed that God was calling me to be, not a professor, but a pastor. So, I was ordained as a pastor and served three years as an associate pastor before becoming Senior Pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church in 1991. I had found my true calling as a pastor with a strong emphasis on preaching God’s Word.
While at Irvine, I did finish my Ph.D. and was able to teach as an adjunct seminary professor. But the major focus of my teaching was within my congregation. I was what you might call a “teaching preacher,” and I loved the opportunity to disciple people through proclaiming God’s Word and leading Bible studies. I believed that I would spend the rest of my life as a pastor/preacher, probably at Irvine Presbyterian Church, a church I loved dearly.
Well, as you know, the story doesn’t end there. I’ll finish sharing it tomorrow. For now, though, I want to point out a couple of things. First, I’m struck by how much my experience was similar to that of Ezekiel. I thought I was going to be a professor. I trained for this role and looked forward to the day when I could serve in it. But God had other plans for me. He knew that my academic training would help me to be a strong preacher/teacher in a congregation.
Second, as I think of how God’s plans differed from my own, I am extraordinarily grateful for how he has used me in his service. My time as a pastor at Irvine Presbyterian was rich. It was not always easy, of course. But I grew to love that congregation, and I deeply valued the opportunity to teach God’s Word to them so that they might grow as disciples of Jesus.
Yes, God had other plans, and they were wonderful. I’ll fill you in on the rest of the story.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have there been times in your life when you expected one thing but God had other plans? When? How have things turned out? Do you sense that God might be calling you to something unexpected in your life, even now?
PRAYER: Sovereign, merciful, gracious God, how I thank you for the ways you have guided my life, for the unexpected opportunities you have given me to serve you, for the rewards that have come when I have followed your lead.
Today I pray for those who receive this reflection, that they might be open to your unexpected plans for their lives. I pray especially for those whom you are already nudging, but are resisting out of fear.
Thank you, O God, for the privilege of serving you in all we do. Amen.