When I was 21, God called me into full-time ministry. I obeyed, turning down a scholarship to study accountancy in the UK, and took on the job of a youth pastor and chaplain.
I enjoyed my job very much, and I was living life with the sense of God’s pleasure as I did what He had called me to.
If I were to trace my life according to the framework for discerning God’s will by Pastor Benny Ho, life continued for me and events began to accumulate. Until an incident involving one of my youth leaders happened one day. As his leader, I was held responsible for his behaviour.
Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by the weight of that responsibility and I said to God: “I have to stop. I cannot do this job anymore.” I wanted to quit.
Besides accountancy, the next choice of job that I had for myself was becoming a flight steward. The only problem was that Singapore Airlines (SIA) had a height requirement and I was about 2 inches short; I had also just crossed the age requirement!
So I prayed: “God, would you please change SIA’s requirement.”
One week later, they changed their age requirements and I could now qualify! I was still about 2 inches shorter than their minimum height requirement, but I figured that I could talk my way in.
We can have the help of God to achieve the things we want to do, but they may not be done with the presence of God.
I was so happy that the door seemed to have opened. But remembering what my Sunday School teacher had taught me about presenting every matter to God, I brought this to God in prayer again and asked if He had opened the door for me.
God said: “Yes.”
Then I prayed a second time: “Do You want me to do this?”
God replied: “Do you dare?”
Then He said to me: “I opened the door for you because you begged me for it. You asked me for it and because I love you, I opened the door for you to escape. But you know that my desire for you is to stay.
“Do you dare to live your life outside of my central will?”
I trembled. This was introducing me to something that I had never been familiar with before. I understood the permissive will of God – we have the freedom to choose what we want to do – but it was now placed together with the call and the will of God for me.
I now knew that if I wanted a way out, God would have given me a way out. But if I were to defer to Him, He had a central place in His will for me.
It was a shock to me, so I dived into Scripture, specifically into God’s words to Moses in Exodus 33:1-3.
Being successful in life and doing well does not necessarily mean that we have God’s pleasure and presence in our lives.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, “I will give it to your descendants.” I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey.
“But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.'” (Exodus 33:1-3)
And I realised this: We can have the help of God to achieve the things we want to do, but they may not be done with the presence of God. As Exodus 33:3 points out, this is because we could remain stiff-necked, stubborn, wilful people who refuse to obey God’s central will for our lives.
Thus, being successful in life and doing well does not necessarily mean that we have God’s pleasure and presence in our lives.
I could achieve my destiny with the help of God but without the presence of God.
So when I got to this listening point of discerning God’s will, I listened well, and I continued in my job because I didn’t want to be without the presence of God. I didn’t want to wilfully go to a place where God would not be.
Whether we’re facing open doors or closed doors, we need to ask God what He wants to do in our lives because we’re not at the centre of everything – He is.
Joseph Chean is the National Director of YWAM Singapore. Joseph conducted a workshop with Senior Pastor Benny Ho on the topic of “Discerning God’s Call” at the 2018 GoForth National Missions Conference. Joseph shared this personal story of learning to listen to God’s call.
- Have you experienced open doors that were not God’s will for you?
- How do we discern well whether an open door is God’s central will for us or our own desire?
- What has been God’s central will for your life?
- How have you followed it?