About two months ago, my pastor’s wife asked me if I would teach at our annual Ladies’ Retreat. Now, if you don’t know my Pastor and his wife, Carla, let me just tell you that they are completely anointed to do what God has called them to do and they are led by the Spirit in every way. So, when she asked me, although I was shocked and humbled, I knew it was God. I accepted, even though I was scared out of my mind. About 80 women were coming to this retreat, expecting big things. Desiring to hear directly from God in this moment. Ummm…..that’s not too much pressure, right? Well, I was begging God to show me what to say. Begging. I was reading constantly, praying, fasting. I felt very unworthy for this task.
Now, before I tell you this, I just want you to know that I have 80 witnesses AND the message was recorded, so there is plenty of proof. Here is what the Lord gave me to say. This is just a small excerpt of my notes from the beginning of the message the first night….
As I was praying about this Ladies’ Retreat, I was just reading one day and I came across Psalm 91:10 and 12,
10 “Seventy years are given to us, some may even reach eighty. But even the best of those years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear and we are gone. “ (NLT)
12 “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (KJV)
As I read those words, it was literally like they floated up into the air in front of my face. The Holy Spirit immediately began to deal with me regarding this verse. Am I making the most of my time or am I letting time control me? Why would numbering our days cause us to apply our hearts unto wisdom? Well, let’s think about it. We’ve all seen someone receive a diagnosis of death with an estimated time to live. What happens? They immediately start to reflect on their life. Often times, they attempt to right wrongs and heal hurt relationships. Some people in this situation apply themselves to find God and live for Him with the time they have left. They wrap up lose ends and make sure their business is in order. They cherish every day they have left. They search themselves to make sure they are ready to see the Lord. What would you do? How would you spend your time if you were told you had 6 weeks to live? When we live with an expectancy of an end, we are more likely to live on purpose, rather than just let our lives spin around us.
I said those words. I even have a T-shirt to prove that the theme of the entire retreat was “Teach us to number our days that we may grow in wisdom.” God moved in a great way on the Ladies’ Retreat. He showed us so much of who He is. He worked in our hearts to break down our pride and self righteousness. He proved His ability to live through us. We don’t have to try to salvage the pieces of our life into something He can use. We have to lay everything down and let him create a new life.
Before I left for the trip, the Lord had solidified the message for the first night. The notes were completed and all I had to do was review them and pray over them. But, the message for the second night wasn’t quite done. I was frustrated with myself over this. But, I just knew God wasn’t finished with it. I got to the beach (did I mention our retreat is in Gulf Shores…yet another reason I love my church!) early and I woke up the first morning to go pray. When I walked on the patio, the Lord prompted me to read Job. Job? I was thinking, “God, what does Job have to do with this message?” I read it anyway….the whole thing, which is not easy to do. Ha. It’s pretty long. In the past, when I’ve thought of Job, I always think of a strong man who loved God through unimaginable difficulties. He never cursed God and his faith did not waver, even when he had nothing. However, when you read the story closely, it’s more than that.
Job was, most certainly, a righteous man. He did good works and was honest. People came to him for advice and he was honored by all who knew him. God is the one who offered him to Satan. God said, “Have you seen my servant Job.” This tells us that God needed to sift him. Satan tells God that the only reason Job serves Him so faithfully is because he is blessed. And God allows Satan to harm him. As Job laments over his situation, he is sitting in sackcloth on top of a pile of ashes. He’s lost almost everything and people are very concerned for him. He starts to yell at God. He doesn’t curse Him, but he accuses Him. He questions His motives and practically demands an audience with Him in order to ask what He has done wrong. He is essentially saying, “God, I am righteous, yet you afflict me. Show me yourself so I can plead my case to you and demand that you tell me where I have sinned.” Can you imagine demanding an audience with God? I don’t care how good you are, would you ever be so arrogant as to demand to see God so He can tell you what you’ve done wrong? I would hope not. The pride in Job’s life is so gross. He is self righteous and as he sits with nothing, rather than humble himself, he demands an audience with God.
Well, he gets it. God comes in a whirlwind and says, “Brace yourself!” Wow. I never want to hear those words from God. God, in His love and mercy, takes Job through a very sobering process of proving who He is and what He is capable of. As Job SEES God, he sees how insignificant he is. God doesn’t do this to crush Job. He does it so Job will see that God is so much greater than we’ll ever understand and we need Him in order to do anything that we do. God needed Job to see that he couldn’t work his way to heaven. He needed to humble himself before God. Well, he ended up humbled after the whirlwind. I love the verse at the end of the book,
Job 42:5. “I heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.”
We have to SEE God. We can’t just hear about Him. We have to SEE Him. Then we can see the truth of what we are and we will be humbled before Him so we can live a life surrendered to Him. I Corinthians 1 says that “No flesh should glory in His presence.” When we finally make it to heaven and we stand before Jesus…face to face…there will be no room for our pride. We will fall before Him in worship and say that it is ONLY because of Him. We do nothing. We can’t even really believe Him on our own. The Holy Spirit has to reveal Jesus to us.
Job withstood in his trial. He remained strong in His faith and continued to believe God, and because of his steadfastness, God showed up. In His mercy, he showed Job his sin and humbled him so He could be blessed again. And, God raised him back up. He blessed him more than he was blessed before. Praise God.
I know that God brought me to this story because He knew what was waiting for me when I got home from the Ladies’ Retreat. I came home on Saturday evening and on Sunday afternoon, Clay had his first episode that caused us concern. By Monday morning we were at the doctor and at 2:30 we heard a very difficult diagnosis. As soon as I saw the CT Scan in that doctor’s office, I heard the Holy Spirit say “Teach us to number our days that we may grow in wisdom.” The words that God spoke through me, just days before, rushed back to my mind and provided an immediate strength that I needed. I realized in a split second, that, although I thought I taught that retreat so that God could speak to 80 of my closest friends, the truth was that I taught that retreat so the words He spoke would be embedded in my soul. If I had just attended the retreat, the message would never have gotten so deep in my Spirit as it did while I poured over it for two months in preparation. I remember when Carla asked me to teach, I asked her to pray for me because I knew in my Spirit that God was going to have to break me and work in me as He prepared me for the message.
I am so comforted by the way God has directed my steps to this point in our life. He did everything to get me here and to prepare me for it. The story of Job gives me great hope that God intends to restore. He led me to that story to give me direction and hope right now. As soon as we learned about the diagnosis, I shared all this with Clay and we prayed for God to strip us of any pride. We repented. We refused to beat our chest and tell God all the great things we think we’ve done for Him. We refused to demand an audience with God so we could plead our case. We, by the power and prompting of the Spirit, accepted God’s plan with humility and prayed that He would receive glory from our lives, no matter what. That has been our prayer the entire time. We are declaring that we will not doubt. We will not fear. We will not question God. We will trust and wait on Him.
Our present circumstance is our testing. I imagine Satan going before God and God offering us to be tested. I can see Satan saying, “They only love you because you bless them.” And God saying, “Ok. Let’s see.” Well, so far, the Holy Spirit has proven to be a reliable companion and He is passing the test for us. Satan is not gaining ground. He is not receiving glory. God is showing up and His name is being made great. This gives me hope of restoration. Hope that the end of the story is healing. The only question right now is….which one of us is Job? Me or Clay?
I’m not sure. Clay is not sure. God has not told us that he will heal Clay. We know He can heal Clay. We believe it with all of our hearts and we are surrounded by your prayers and your hopeful spirits. You all are believing so hard and it lifts us up. God is able to do this. We have no doubt. But, I want to caution all of us. If he doesn’t do what we think is best, He is still good. God can see so much more than we can see. He knows the end. Although it seems to all of us that the outcome through which God could receive the most glory would be to heal Clay, we can not see all that He sees. He knows. It’s His name, so of course, He is going to do what is going to bring Him the most glory. Clay has accepted that and I have accepted that. This life we live is not about what we see here on earth. Everything we do is about what will happen after this life. We have to live with a spiritual perspective.
Tonight, we go to bed praying for God to be glorified. We are praying for all of you who are following our story. Praying for revival and repentance and for all of us to draw closer to the Lord in this time. We see the doctor tomorrow at 11:30. We have a lot of questions and we hope for a good report. But, no matter what, we will believe the report of the Lord. His Word is truth. His Word is life. I will update you as soon as possible. Thank you for your continued prayers.