Mark Alan Williams
Adjust Your Plans Based On God’s New Direction
Does God ever change his mind?
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Does God ever allow us to go in one direction and then give us a new direction? Recently I wrote on “How to Know God’s Will in Difficult Decisions.” As challenging as it might seem to find God’s will, sometimes it seems God leads us in one direction only to soon lead us in another.
A church I’m helping called a pastor to a ministry assignment about a year ago. We hoped for many years of ministry partnership, but recently he announced his soon departure. Did we misunderstand God’s calling? Did he misunderstand? Is he being led wrongly? Are we?
Sometimes it’s confusing.
So here are 3 things to consider about being led in a new direction:
01. Sometimes God’s leading is for a short season.
Consider the church planting ministry of the Apostle Paul. As he traveled, shared the Gospel and planted churches, his length of stay varied greatly:
DAYS: Sometimes he was almost immediately mocked, beaten and run out of town. See Acts 13:50-51 where at Antioch of Pisidia the apostles were quickly driven out and “shook the dust off their feet against them” as they left.WEEKS: Other times Paul stayed a few weeks, and then was led to move on. This happened in Thessalonica where Paul and Silas ministered for about 3 weeks before being led in a new direction, see Acts 17:2–4.YEARS: But there were places he was led to stay as long as 3 years. This happened in Ephesus, see Acts 20:31.
Generally speaking, people don’t like change. Change is unsettling, unknown and scary. Thus, we hope God’s leading is for us to stay put for years. But that’s not always God’s way.
In my own ministry, God has led in different ways:
He led Carolyn and me to stay 13 years in the first church we were privileged to plant.
But in the second church plant, we were only led to stay for 3 years.
In my current assignment, I’ve been led to stay for over 18 years.
Each time God said to move on, whether it was 13 years or 3 years, Carolyn and I have tried to simply be obedient to His calling. Whether longer or shorter, that’s His choice.
(Note: This doesn’t apply to commitments such as marriage where there is a lifelong commitment.)
02. Sometimes God’s new direction is because we’re not ready for our more permanent assignment.
Consider the children of Israel as they left Egypt. The trip across the wilderness should have taken just a few months. But because of their rebelliousness, ingratitude and sin, it took 40 years!
Each time they messed up God said, “OK, another lap around the wilderness.”
Don’t you hate it when that happens!
But rather than despising the waiting for our longer term assignment, we need to utilize the waiting to learn and grow. Scripture is clear that we must “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4 ESV)
The questions to ask as we struggle with God’s new direction and plan are:
What does God have for me to learn where I am right now?
How can experiences in my current situation prepare me for the situation I hope to be in some day?
Why might God have me “take another lap around the wilderness?”
03. Sometimes God does change His mind.
God says “I am the Lord, I change not.” (Malachi 3:6 KJV) That means God’s character does not change.
But that doesn’t mean He cannot change His mind:
Fatalism is the dangerous idea that everything that will happen is all predetermined and therefore inevitable. (See a great article about the Bible vs. fatalism HERE.)
Faith is the belief that God moves as we pray, and that He makes “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). This includes God’s work in situations that we create through our own rebelliousness, sinfulness and stupidity! It says “ALL” things.
One example of this is when Abraham asked God to spare Sodom in Genesis 18. You might recall that as Abraham bargained with God, at first he asked for the Almighty to spare the cities if 50 righteous people could be found in it. When God said OK, he asked for 45, then 40, then 30, then 20, then 10. Each time God relented.
Yes, God is sovereign and in control.Yes, God is unchanging in His character.Yes, God is all-powerful (omnipotent).Yes, God is all knowing and knows the future.Yes, God is holy and never lies or breaks a promise.
But these facts don’t mean that He cannot change His mind and give us a new direction.
Note: Some Bible students believe that God doesn’t change His mind. For one example click HERE. My argument is that God can change His mind without changing His character. See Exodus 32:14and Jeremiah 26:19.
So what does this mean in practical terms? It means:
We must constantly stay in tune with God’s leadings. (Again, please see my article on discerning God’s will HERE.)
We must learn all we can from both the good and bad experiences in our current situation, to prepare us for our new direction.
We must happily change our plans based on God’s new direction.
For more help on this website with decision making and guidance, check out these resources:
Podcast: Why Aren’t My Prayers Answered?
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