“The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9, NASB95)
The year was 2001. I was a young husband and father and in a season of feeling “unsettled” at the church where I was serving as pastor. One day my phone rang and it was the chairman of a search committee from another church. A friend had told them about me. It was a larger church with a larger budget and better facilities. The church had a highly visible location in a major metropolitan area. The area had great schools for our son (and future son). On the surface, it looked like exactly what I wanted and where I wanted it. Becky and I met with the entire search team one evening. They wanted me to be their pastor. Yet, neither Becky nor I could sense the Lord’s peace to go. Everything in me wanted to go. Still, I turned them down and stayed where I was. Sometimes the hardest step is the one you don’t take.
Recently, I was in the vicinity of that church. For some reason, I turned off the highway into the parking lot. Even though the building is still there and all of the external factors are still positive around it, that church no longer exists. It hasn’t moved. It is gone. A church of another denomination has taken the building and is flourishing. I honestly do not know what happened or why.
As I sat in the parking lot and prayed for a few moments, my thoughts were truly not “Lord, I am glad I didn’t come here.” Rather, my thoughts went to the people I might not have led to Christ had I gone there and the people I have shepherded since. The deep friendships I have made. The wonderful churches I have had the privilege of serving. I couldn’t help but think about how my life and ministry might have been very different had I gone there.
The mind of Greg planned my way, but the Lord directed my steps. He directed me not to take one.
Now that I am farther down the road of life and ministry, I have learned that some of the most significant steps I have taken have been those I didn’t take. At some point during that season, I talked with Dr. Jimmy Jackson who has long been essentially my pastor. He looked at me and said, “Greg, you need to learn to bloom where you are planted.” I am glad I did. By God’s grace, I went back where I was serving and had three more good years there before God led clearly to take another step.
Yes, there are absolutely times where God leads to take a step and we must do it by faith. I could write about some of those times too! However, many of us struggle with a restless spirit. This is true of pastors, but it is also true of many others in business, marriage, athletics, education, etc. Many times, we get restless and plan our next step when we really need to “bloom where we are planted,” put our hands to the plow and be faithful for another season where we are. Rather than focusing on the “next step” try focusing on faithfulness right now, right now where you are. The Lord honors a simple faithfulness. He knows where you are. He will make the next step clear when it’s time.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5–6, NASB95)