The following devotional was taken from my book (now out of print) called ‘The Neurotic Rooster.’ I contained 31 devotionals arising from our three short term study and mission trips to Africa.
"Things don’t always run smoothly do they Lord!"
We commit our way to you, make our plans with good intentions and imagine that we are in for an easy ride. That’s not life. It’s not ministry. There are forces out in the wide world, sometimes close at hand, intent on frustrating our efforts to honour you and encourage others. Plane departure delays making for uncomfortable nights, buses which break down and run to no timetable, promises made without any possibility of being honoured, police road-blocks causing justifiable but time eroding delays have nerve wracking tendencies.
In the face of such barriers and seemingly unbridgeable time chasms how glad am I that your word has made a wonderful promise to your people. Short term mission trips become learning centres for understanding Romans 8:28: ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purposes.’
‘We know...’ Here experience is talking. These often unpleasant experiences had drawn from Paul’s faith and hope the over ruling ministry of the Holy Spirit and the consolation of God’s comforts. It was not a theory. This was a truth we were to learn so that we too can say "we know, from personal experiences, not pious theories."
‘that in all things God works...’ therefore don’t be fatalistic, negative or defeatist. Unseen, unfelt, God is in the scene working on behalf of His people and purposes. It is more often than not only realised with hindsight. Each team member could recount difficulties and embarrassing situations unpleasant and unwelcomed and yet on reviewing them realising God was in there with them and producing good. Faith can only gain muscle through being aware of God's workings in our situation even if it is realised afterwards. It prepares you to be more settled when the next circumstance arises.
‘for the good of those who love Him...’how reassuring. The unbelieving, indifferent World has great delight in doing Disciples of Christ mischief. There is great glee in placing snares across the believers’ path to trap them. The awesome creative power of God, when permitted by His people, takes such hostility and brings ‘good’ out of it. What ‘good?’ For the disciple it fashions him or her into the likeness of Jesus Christ. For God, it vindicates His purposes, blesses His people, converts opponents, and verifies His word.
‘who have been called...’ and responded. It is interesting as we work through this promise that ‘love’ isn’t enough. There needs to be two other faith factors. This one is being ‘called.’ This is not referring to salvation but to ministry. It is stating that God actively safeguards what He initiates, not what we might believe is a good idea to pursue. Here is uncovered why many worthwhile ventures fail. Before going we needed the unshakeable conviction this was pleasing to God. That conviction can be severely tested in coming days.
‘according to His purpose.’ This is the next factor in harmony with the other two ensuring the over-ruling of frustration. Assured of God’s purposes is the essential requirement for emotional and spiritual well-being in the face of opposition and doubts. The bold assertion of our faith in the sovereign grace of Jesus is that nothing can separate us from His love, nothing experienced by obedience to his Word can prevent His purposes from being fulfilled. What ever assessment others may make of our time and miistry we have peace in our hearts. Why? Because, our Lord would have achieved His purposes in us, through us, inspite of our strengths or weaknesses, because He called and we went.
There can be no unwanted experience, no frustrating delay, over which God cannot fashion honour and glory for His Name.