There truly is no substitute for that moment when you have heard the voice of God, when you are certain of an aspect of His vision for your life. It’s exhilarating, and a bit scary! Of course, you want to get started immediately and put things into place. But knowing the destination doesn’t always mean that we also know the roads we should walk to get there.
I have felt the call of God on my life since my childhood. And looking back I recognize many times when I believed I had a clear vision of what I was supposed to do with my life. Indeed, some of those visions came to pass, but others have not. In hindsight, some of those visions and callings were seasonal, meant only for a particular time; and some were not visions at all, but prideful, fleshly desires.
When these “callings” came to me they were met with a tremendous zeal to see them come to pass. Zeal can be a tremendous asset, but it can also be the undoing of the very thing for which you are zealous. You see, zeal is a motivator. It wants to do everything now. But if we don’t learn to temper our zeal, we can get ahead of the vision.
We all remember the story of when Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers in the temple. Afterwards the disciples remembered what was written in Proverbs about Messiah, “zeal for your house has consumed me” (69:9 ESV). Had Jesus only then felt zealous for God’s house? Absolutely not! He had always been zealous for God’s house. When Jesus was a boy and Mary and Joseph couldn’t find him in their traveling company, they found Him in the temple. “And he said to them, ‘why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’” (Luke 2:49 ESV). But Jesus understood that timing is important.
It’s unbelievably easy to get ahead of God. Just take a calling, toss in some zeal, and whisk thoroughly with a pinch of impatience! It’s why we see “false starts” in sporting events. And there are always consequences for false starts. In some events your first false start comes with just a warning, followed by disqualification on the second offense. In others there are time and distance penalties. And sometimes a false start can cost you the whole game.
Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed” (ESV). There is tremendous wisdom in this saying. When we present our vision to a variety of godly advisors, we increase the odds of success. But it is also important that we don’t seek counsel only from those we know will give us the answers we want to hear.
Ahab, the King of Israel, sought to go to war against Ramoth-gilead. He wanted Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, to fight alongside him. Jehoshaphat wanted to seek counsel with a prophet of the Lord, but Ahab’s “prophets” always spoke favorably to the king. So after Ahab’s 400 prophets prophesied that they would be victorious in battle, Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire” (2 Chronicles 18:6 ESV)? There was one, Micaiah (my son’s namesake!). But Ahab hated him, “And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah the son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil'” (1 Chronicles 18:7).
Jehoshaphat was a wise king. He recognized that there was a problem with the responses he received from Ahab’s prophets. He wanted to hear from God, and not from man! Read the whole story in 1 Chronicles 18. We need to be careful that we choose for ourselves counselors who are not afraid to agree with us OR stand in opposition to us, counselors who can and will hear from God, who do not yield themselves or their counsel to the plans and desires of man.
As I look back on my life I recognize many times where I jumped the gun. I became too caught up in what I perceived as a God-given mandate for now, only to fail for lack of counsel and lack of wisdom in timing. I see times when I have failed because I had too much confidence in my own ability to make things happen. I also can see that when God shared with me a glimpse into my future, I underestimated the years, the struggles and the pains that I would have to endure to become the man I needed to be for Him to fulfill that vision in me.
“For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4 ESV). “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8 ESV). I have seen a portion of the end of my days. I know with certainty some of what He has preordained for my life. But I am learning that not everything I hear from Him is for today. I am responsible to understand and do only what He calls me to do today! I am also learning that I need to surround myself with others wiser than myself, who will not hold back the full counsel of God from me, but will encourage my zeal, when it is directed by God, but temper it with wisdom regarding the appropriate timing and its most prudent course. Just because we see the door, doesn’t mean that it’s time to open and walk through it.
May God grant us all vision, zeal AND temperance! Amen.