Most people think of January 1st as a time of new beginnings and fresh starts filled with resolutions and possibilities. For me, fall (or more realistically late summer when school is starting and ministries are kicking off) is my prime time to take an inventory of my life and my commitments and see renewed vision and passion for the year ahead. The beginnings of things are so exciting, aren't they? It is very easy for "yes" to roll off my lips before I give an opportunity the thought and prayer I should.
A need for a teacher in the youth area? Hmmm, maybe I could do that. The choir is short on altos this year? Well, I really love to sing and praise the Lord. A Bible study for women? What could be better than to study God's Word and fellowship? WAM could use some extra help this year? I have the skills for that. More hands are needed in the nursery? My babies are not babies anymore and I sure would enjoy taking care of little ones again. EVERYTHING sounds like a great fit for me.
Knowing that I need to seek God’s will for my life and that He calls ALL of His followers to serve Him, I have often lamented that if only God would send me a supernatural email with instructions it would be so much easier to be right where He wants me. I am missing the point with my desire for a divine "to do" list.
Ephesians 2:10 says:For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago(NLT). Jesus tells us in John 10:27: My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (NLT)
As a follower of Jesus, there are works planned for me. For ME! As I follow Jesus and my relationship with Him deepens, I will know His voice and hear Him more and more clearly. As I seek Him, the Holy Spirit leads me and guides me and will make my paths clear. It is when I rush off ahead of Him and do not wait for His leadership that I go astray. God doesn't want to send me a to-do list. He actually wants to walk with me and talk with me and lead me personally. I am so amazed and humbled at that. That is also His desire for you. Can you even believe it?!?
What does it look like to seek God's will regarding my commitments? How do I know when NO is the right answer? When is a resounding YES the best thing? I have found if I pause for the "P's" I almost never get way off track.
The first P is prayer. When an opportunity arises that I think may be a yes, I have learned to pray over it. I ask God to make clear the direction I should go. This seems so simple and obvious that it almost seems silly to point it out, but surprisingly it is the step I am most often prone not to take. This is especially true when it comes to ministry opportunities because I tend to assume it is an automatic yes. That simply is not the case, however. When I don't seek the Lord's specific will for me, I run the risk of running off and away from His best for my life.
The second P is partner. As one who is married, for me this means I need to talk about it with my husband. As we are joined together as one, what each of us does affects the other as well as our family. It isn't an issue of seeking his permission, although as the head of our family his role is to provide leadership. He sometimes sees things I do not—and vice versa. It is important to our unity that we both be on board as we choose where to invest our lives both as individuals and as a couple. If you are of a young age and still under your parent's authority, then they would be your partner at this step. If you are neither married nor a child or very young adult, I would strongly suggest you speak with a trusted friend/mentor/advisor.
The third P is priority. I take a look at the commitments I already have and the priorities specific to my own life and responsibilities and calling. A dear friend of mine and her husband have developed a mission statement for their family and they revise it each year. This is so wise! It gives my friend and her family the vision for the year ahead and makes it easier to spot those GOOD things that aren't the BEST things on which to spend their limited time resources. God has already given each of us responsibilities in our families, with our jobs, and also callings within His Kingdom. We can't do everything. If the Lord has given me a calling to minister to women, it may not be the best use of my ministry time to teach a preschool Sunday school class. There might be a ministry opportunity that is more in line with my calling. (However, God can and does certainly give us assignments that can seem outside our gifts, abilities, talents, and leanings. Please don't hear me say to automatically dismiss anything outside your "calling." The Lord may very well be calling you to a brand new thing!)
The fourth P is peace. I have discovered that while I may be nervous or feel unqualified for a thing, if God is bringing me to it, I will have peace. I will KNOW it. It is the same when I have an opportunity before me that He is not leading me to accept. I may be hesitant or apprehensive about saying no (not wanting to disappoint anyone), but if I focus on pleasing the Lord and not men, I will have peace. I will KNOW it is the answer.
For me, those "P's" have made a difference in how I make decisions about long term commitments whether they are to ministry or to any other thing that will take up time in my life on a regular basis. I have sometimes had to say no when it was very difficult for me to do so. There are occasions when I really want to do something, but if the "P's" are all coming back with NO then giving the answer and moving on has been the very best thing I could do. There are times when I haven't wanted to do something, and the "P's" result in a YES that I also know is the best answer. In fact, very recently I had both a no and a yes that I really would rather have had reversed; however, the peace and joy that come from seeking out and walking in God's plan for me far surpass any temporary emotional gratification I would have had following my own paths.
By Denise Woodliff