How Do I Recognize God's Will?
Characteristic #4: There Are Times and Seasons in God’s Will
As we are seeking the will of God, we can easily become frustrated if we don’t understand that just as there are times and seasons in nature, there are also times and seasons in our lives and in the process of fulfilling God’s will. This is what Paul was referring to when he said, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal. 6:9, nkjv).
Years ago a group of senior missionaries came together in a conference to discuss life principles they had discovered from several centuries of combined ministry experience. Their purpose was to be able to share this wealth of experience with succeeding generations. As these seasoned leaders shared their life stories, a familiar pattern began to emerge. They realized they had all experienced several common stages in their ministries, and they identified a fascinating five-step cyclical process that God had taken them all through. Here is a brief summary of what these veterans of the ministry discovered:
Stage One: The birth of the vision
Before anything tangible came into existence, these leaders had a vision that was imparted from the Holy Spirit. In its infancy the vision might have been very general with few obvious details about how it would actually be accomplished. But the vision was very real nonetheless and brought with it both a sense of excitement and an abiding awareness that it was from the Lord.
Stage Two: The place of preparation
Following the impartation of a vision into the hearts of these leaders came a time of preparation for the pursuit of that vision. Sometimes this season lasted for weeks. Sometimes this foundation laying season lasted for months, and sometimes it required years. They also found that this was the stage when most of God’s dreams for people are aborted because the individual refuses to do the necessary work. Many people have a vision given to them by the Lord. But a vision that is not embraced and nurtured through the appropriate season of preparation will invariably die. When God gives a vision, we must take some kind of action, or that vision will never become anything more than a fantasy.
Preparation may take many different forms. Sometimes the preparation involves a long, enduring season of prayer. Sometimes it involves an investment of time, money, education, and study. It may involve a time of serving someone else’s vision or working for someone else to gain the benefit of experience. Failing to prepare properly will virtually assure failure at some point in the future.
Stage Three: The place of the wilderness and struggle
One of the biggest misconceptions about discovering the will of God is that if something is truly part of God’s plan for you, there will be no struggle involved in accomplishing it. That is a myth! If God has called you to do something, you will almost certainly encounter a significant amount of struggle. God may actually even allow failures along the way, because He is more interested in the worker than He is the work. Sometimes God will even sacrifice a work to perfect a worker. This stage of struggle is the proving ground of faithfulness, and there is simply no substitute for it. (You can read more about the season of “wilderness” and struggle in chapter 16.)
Stage Four: The place of the realization of the vision
These leaders all found that the fourth step in the process was the place of realization or the attainment of the vision. This is the place we are all looking forward to, where we can finally enjoy the fruits of our diligent preparation and God’s faithfulness.
Stage Five: The place of new beginnings and vision
This fifth stage was perhaps the most surprising discovery, because it was here that these leaders found themselves being challenged once more with fresh vision from the Holy Spirit. For some the vision was brand-new. For others it was to expand and enlarge the very thing God had originally given to them to do. These veterans found that the attainment of their dreams was not a destination but only another step in the cycle that continued to repeat itself throughout their lives. God would bring them back to the first stage of new vision, which would require more preparation and more struggle before the next level of realization would be attained.
These leaders came to the conclusion that their lives had been a continual cycle of ever-expanding vision. As God entrusted them with more, greater amounts of preparation were required, and the intensity of the battles they faced was always increasing.