When my husband and I entered Emanate, we were headed to West Africa. I had wanted to minister there since I was a little girl. My husband Bill and I had visited years earlier, thoroughly enjoying our time and left feeling, “Yes, we could see ourselves serving here.”
Fast forward to the fall of 2012 and we’re in training for full-time tribal missions work. One day, in chapel, a missionary shared about their ministry in Paraguay South America, a field where NTM has worked for almost 70 years. After sharing, my husband said to me, “I can really see us working in Paraguay.” I said, “Paraguay? You mean Paraguay? Like, Paraguay?” Needless to say, I did not see this coming. I wanted to go to West Africa. Period.
In Romans, we’re given a tiny glimpse of a desire of the Apostle Paul. In chapter 15:24, he says, almost in passing, that as he goes to Spain, he hoped to visit with the saints in Rome. He wanted to go to Spain and preach the Gospel, but he never got there.
In 2 Samuel 7, we see that King David’s desire is to build a temple for God. Even Nathan, God’s prophet, says to go for it and that God was with him. That night though, God reveals that no, David would not be the one to build the temple. A descendant of his would in fact build it. And later, David explains to Solomon that he wanted to build the temple, but God told him no, because he had shed much blood.
Going to West Africa to preach the Gospel. Building a temple for God. Going to Spain to preach the Gospel. These are all good things to desire to do. But even good things may not be the best thing, or the right thing to do. So, then what?
When plans go awry, what then? When medical issues arise and you can’t go to serve where you thought you were going, what then? When your husband says Paraguay, and NOT West Africa, what then? I believe there are three things that should happen in any believer’s life when things don’t go according to how we planned them.
PRAY. It may seem redundant, but our first response to any crisis, whether big or small, should be to pray. Praying aligns our hearts and attitudes with God’s, and we come away from prayer hopefully more clear-headed.
PURSUE. Pursue God and not the dream, or destination or desire. When we pursue God above all else, many desires, dreams, and even destinations often get realized.
PREPARE. When you’ve prayed and pursued God, prepare yourself. God has incredible things in store for those who diligently seek HIM. No place of service or dream job can compare with knowing God. Paul and David both understood this. In Philippians, Paul talks about having LEARNED to be content in whatever circumstances he is in. All throughout the Psalms, David talks about taking refuge in God alone, learning to be content with what God has for him, even though he didn’t get to do what his heart desired.
As for me? After praying about going to Paraguay, like my husband asked me to, I pursued God, wanting to go where HE wanted us to go. Now, we are preparing to go to Paraguay, and I’m content with that.(This article was originally posted to Emanate Training on February 13, 2014.)
The phrase, Here I raise my Ebenezer, is the beginning of the second verse of the familiar hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. This hymn, written by Robert Robinson in 1758, stresses the joy of Christianity and the Christian’s need to rely on the Lord. Robinson chose the phrase, Here I raise my Ebenezer, from 1 Samuel 7:12, because it reminds God’s people how He he delivered Israel from danger.
Chapters 4 through 7 of 1 Samuel describes a series of battles between the Israelites and the Philistines. In an attempt to defeat the Philistines, the Israelites took the ark of the covenant into battle as a sort of good luck charm. To their anguish, however, the Philistines captured the ark and took it back to their temple. God then sent plagues upon the Philistines and caused the idol of their god Dagon to fall over on its face. Fearing God, the Philistines sent the ark back to the Israelites, but continued to fight. As they fought more battles, the prophet Samuel led the Israelites as their last judge. As prophet and judge, Samuel offered sacrifices to God, so that when the Philistines approached, God thundered with a great thunder (1 Samuel 7:10). In the confusion that followed, the Israelites soundly defeated the Philistines.
As a reminder of the great victory God gave to Israel, Samuel took a great stone and raised it as a memorial between Mizpeh and Shen. As he raised it he called the name of it Ebenezer [or stone of help], saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us (1 Samuel 7:12). Whenever the Israelites looked at the stone, they would remember how God had helped them. Unfortunately, the exact site of the stone is unknown today.
When we sing, Here I raise my Ebenezer, we are poetically quoting Samuel, who raised the Ebenezer stone to remind the Israelites of God’s help for them in their time of trouble. The words fit well with the sentiment expressed in the hymn:
Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace, streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love.
Here I raise my Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’m come; and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home. Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God; he, to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood.
O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.
The words of the hymn remind us that God is truly the fount of every blessing. It is He who deserves our worship and our praise. He is the one who is preparing every tribe, tongue and nation to one day bow before Him. He is the one who is building His church. He is the one who is preparing the place for us to serve in Paraguay. He is the one who is moving hearts and opening eyes to see HIM.
So I ask you as I asked my wife, will you pray about Paraguay? Is your heart pursuing God and the things above? Are you prepared to play a part in the work God is doing in Paraguay? God has already provided 1/3 of our needed monthly support. We have the goal of being in Paraguay by September of 2015. We are prepared to go, will you send us? Will you give a dollar, two dollars, three dollars a day to see the Name above every name exalted in Paraguay? God is at work! Together let us raise the Ebenezer, bringing glory to HIS NAME!