"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD... to give you a future and a hope." (- Jeremiah 29:11)
Are you struggling with the planning of your future? Are you wondering if God is even thinking about you or working out your life ahead of you? Let me tell you a true story that convinced me forever that God was far more involved than I thought He was.
Have you ever applied for something you thought you were a shoo-in for, only to be rejected? I have. It was my junior year in college. My Resident Advisor (RA) had recommended me to become an RA the following year. But one Saturday morning, on my way to lunch in the campus cafeteria, I opened my mail to discover that my application had been denied. I was mortified and embarrassed. I knew I was qualified. I had been a student leader in high school and all three years of college including taking weekly ministry teams to the county jail. But I was not on the radar screen of the dean's office. I wished I hadn't applied.
The department on campus that would at least know of my name was the chaplain's office. Oral Roberts University was a Christian school. My ministry involvement came under their oversight. From their office, the more visible on-campus role was that of the student chaplain. He/she worked alongside the RA on every floor, serving like a pastor to their contemporaries. Applications were also being accepted for those positions, but I wasn't interested. The RA position was a scholarship job. The chaplain was a volunteer role. Besides, even though I felt called to ministry of some kind, the one thing I did not want to be was a pastor, even though everyone around me believed I would be. It looked boring to me.
I sat down with a group of friends in the cafeteria for lunch, including a close friend who had worked as an aid in the chaplain's office that year. Seeing her, immediately following the revelation of my humiliating rejection, reminded me of the chaplain's role that I neither applied for, nor wanted. However as I began to eat lunch my appetite suddenly disappeared as a deep whisper in my soul questioned my thought process. Had I made a mistake? Did I apply for the wrong position? Suddenly I was facing an inward challenge that, from my experience, could very well be the voice of God. So I turned to my friend and sheepishly asked, "When are the applications due for student chaplains?" She replied, "Oh, the deadline was two weeks ago. They've probably already chosen the chaplains by now."
Hallelujah! Surely that inner rumbling was only indigestion from the pizza I had had the night before. But as I continued with my lunch, the inward stirring only became more intense and convicting. Finally, I could not sit there any longer. Without explanation, I stood up, said a quick goodbye and headed back to my dorm room. While praying through my gut-wrenching, I heard the idea pop up in my spirit, "Call the assistant chaplain of the university." He was in charge of the application process according to my friend. But today is Saturday. The offices are closed. So I began to argue out loud to God. "Lord, certainly you don't mean for me to call him at home on his day off. Besides, wouldn't this be a little presumptive on my part? I have no idea that he even knows who I am.”
With great trepidation, fear, and humility, I called information, found his number and made the phone call. "Please don't be at home, please don't be at home," I said to myself, still hoping this was a wild goose chase. But, yes, as you are probably imagining, he answered the phone. I said, "Brother Gary, I know you probably don't know who I am, but I just felt the Lord speaking to me this morning that I should apply for the chaplain's position. I completely understand if you are finished with the process. I just needed to make this phone call and get it off of my chest.” He thanked me, and indicated that though the applications were in, they had not yet made final decisions and he would let me know if they were interested. He hung up. I hung up. I was so glad that was over. I felt like a fool. But I also felt relief from the struggle in my heart. At least I had obeyed!
Several days later, I got a phone call back from Gary McIntosh, the assistant chaplain, and he told me the rest of the story. The same morning I was overwhelmed with a holy tug at my heart, the chaplain's staff, and all of the student head chaplains were in his apartment on the floor praying over all of the applications spread out before them. They had assigned their choices to all of the resident floors, with the exception of one.
There was this one floor in one of the men's dorms where many of the more athletic guys had congregated to form a powerhouse football team that dominated intramural sports. Many of these guys were rather rebellious-minded jocks who were only at this school because their mothers thought that the Christian atmosphere would straighten them out. They needed a chaplain who could play the sport on their level, relate to these guys, and try to reach them for Christ. It was a call to outreach in the middle of a Christian campus. Someone in the leadership group in Gary’s apartment knew that I had played in the ORU intramural program for three years, and previously had played high school sports, achieving a few awards in football.
I had not even filled out an application. But leaning heavily on the recommendation of the students on his leadership team - who evidently knew of me - the assistant chaplain believed my phone call was a sign from God. He thus assigned me to this rowdy floor as a student chaplain for my senior year.
Now for the real clincher. What I also didn't realize, and wouldn’t know until about a year later, was that among the student leaders in Gary’s apartment that morning was a young lady who served as the spiritual life dorm director for one of the girl's dorms. Her name was Carol Burton, but about sixteen months later she'd change her last name to McLeod.
We did not know each other personally at the time. But she knew who I was and had affirmed the idea of me serving in the role that they were praying for.
I want you to fully understand the perspective I now have of God's involvement in our future and His call to obey His voice, even when it seems outrageous and untimely. It was just a phone call, right? No, it was far more than that. In fact, there on the other side of that call, in that apartment, was not only my future wife and our destiny together, but the future destinies of five children and seven grandchildren (and hopefully more to come).
Don't underestimate just how much God is involved in the planning of your future. And neither should you underestimate how important your response is to His call to obey, even if it is as something as simple as making a phone call.
Is God involved in the planning of your future? Far more than you realize. Don't miss it!
Pray and obey!