Often when believers in God how they will know what the Lord’s will might be, they are given information that is at best not all that useful. “Look in the Scriptures for guidance,” they might be told. And in situations for which the Bible offers guidance, this works. Yet some situations are not covered in the Bible, so other advice might be given. “God will direct you through circumstances,” the person might be told. Yes, we can gain direction through circumstances. At times, that direction may even be from our God. Far too often, such seeking to interpret our circumstances leaves us open to following our own desires, the ways of the world, and even the influences of evil.
What I have found over the years is that our God is speaking to us regularly, even daily. Most believers are not trained to listen. They are too busy, too distracted by the hurry, noise, crowds, and visual stimulation in our culture. One must carve out time to listen if hearing the Spirit is to become a daily experience. Over time, hearing the Spirit speaking will become familiar and common.
What about in the big decisions of life, when the scriptures are silent on the details?
When I left direct church work in the mid-1990s, it was because I had felt a growing urgency about developing ministry to students in remote areas, places where traditionally funded ministries would not be practical. Having grown up in such an area had left me with a deep desire to make a difference with students, even if it meant working at “a real job” to make a living.
In 1994, the drive to seek this ministry life could no longer be put on hold. I went to the leadership of the church where I worked and told them that while I did not know when or where, a change in my ministry work was coming within two years. Within a year of announcing this, I was approached about starting an evangelistic outreach in the mountain area where I had grown up. While it sounded attractive, it clearly would be the hardest vocational endeavor I had ever encountered.
Wanting to hear what the Spirit of God had to say about it, I took a week away from town and camped out up in the middle of that area. Every day I drove to different places, praying for the schools, the small communities, and for the students. I prayed as well for the Lord to make His will clear. When the trip started, I was skeptical, and the uncertainty remained until the last day there. On the final day I prayed at the campground one last time, and the message came through clearly.
So clearly that I immediately began planning for my exit from the current work. True to what I had heard early on, within two years of speaking to the church leaders I was established in the mountain area. No job, no income, a house with payments required recently purchased, and a community of church leaders telling me the ministry would never get off the ground. Despite what appeared to be a poor start, I was confident of the outcome.
Three years later, the effort had 16 volunteers, a part-time director (me), and was working with nearly 100 students every week. Year five saw more than 30 volunteers, a full budget, after-school tutoring, and a significant impact in the mountain area. Importantly, most of the local churches were now in support of the work. This growth was not due to the great work done by me or by the team. It was the grace of our God fulfilling the word He had given seven years before on the camping trip. Recognizing when the Lord is speaking helps to remove doubt.
In 2016 a similar story began when it was clear that the next step in my life was to quit a perfectly good job and start a small business. It was a seemingly risky venture that had not been attempted in NW Minnesota before. If it failed, I would be faced with very few professional opportunities in the area. People told me I might lose my house, and that this seemed like an unwise decision.
Again, I took time to speak to God the Holy Spirit about the situation, to listen for His answers. It quickly became clear to me that this was the path I was to follow, and that time to begin was soon. There was a sense of urgency in the answer, and if I waited too long, the opportunity might not be available. It was clear that the plan was to launch me into an area full of unknowns so that I would have to grow in faith and obedience.
In early December of 2016, I gave notice of my intent to leave. My job of ten years continued full-time until a replacement was found, and then part-time until the transition was complete. I started the business as a side hustle, shifting into a full-time job as the other work ended.
In the three years since I started Level 5 Services, the business has turned a modest profit every month except for three months when the state held up payments due to rewriting of contracts. Even in those lean months when my bank account hovered at roughly $200 for seven weeks, my needs were always met. As money would go out, a call for a small job would come in and the account balances would be restored to their meager levels.
When the contracts were settled and the back payments delivered, I was a little sad to see the time of daily dependence and deliverance end. My God showed Himself strong by delivering me through some very lean times. My confidence in taking this path was unwavering, for I had heard the answer from the Holy Spirit.
And as my brother, also self-employed, wisely told me, “God is never late concerning His promises. He is never early, either.”