Moving forward in the right direction in life is more than writing a list of goals and pursuing them. It’s also a lot less than the weight of making hasty decisions and suffering from the burden of trying to control your destiny. It is more of a matter of cooperating with God.
What do you mean by cooperate? Cooperation carries the idea of working together- much like that of moving a bike in a certain direction. Our relationship of cooperating with God is much like the relationship between the chain and sprockets that make a bike move. God moves the pedals and turns the handle bars. That is the kind of picture we need to see when we think of cooperating with God when we make decisions in life. While God is fully capable of making a bike move without us, for some reason He has chosen to allow us to participate with him in His work.
I reject the view that we alone create our own destiny. I also reject the view of fatalism. Scripture is clear that God is sovereign. Scripture is also clear that we’re responsible for the decisions we make. God gave Adam responsibilities in the Garden. We’ll all be held accountable for the decisions we make with God’s resources. The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. That means we will be held to account for what we do with everything we have and the influence we’ve been given.
In the last several months our family has been working through a career transition that will probably take several more months to complete. In July, I worked my last day as a full time staff nurse. I’m not refusing to ever work as a nurse again, but so long as God provides in other ways, there will be no need to return down that path.
For 11 years I worked as a nurse, primarily specializing in heart care. My first job was in a cardiac step down critical care unit where I received post op heart bypass surgery patients among others. I worked vigorously in the job to care for patients going to cath lab and coming back from cath lab where they might have received a stent. Since then I had worked my way into the cardiac cath lab itself. But along the whole path, my focus was primarily on the heart.
Today, I’m working as a contractor completing various remodeling projects. This is a job that I have much greater satisfaction in. It provides physical exercise, an avenue to burn off stress, an artistic and creative outlet, and the gratification of seeing my finished product. I enjoy this work, but I don’t sense that I will do it the rest of my life. Last week, the Lord was showing me how He is using this season to condition my own heart as I must trust Him to provide for our family from job to job.
While I’m being diligent to advertise my work, I literally must rely on Him to give me more work for the next week so that I can pay our bills. This is no easy task.
When bills need to be paid and there is not enough work, it is difficult to understand and believe Jesus’ words, “My yolk is easy and my burden is light…” But since last week, God has been helping me understand a little more of what it means to find provision from God. It all started when a friend and I started doing book studies in the Bible. We started in Obadiah but are now in Mark. I’m in chapter 1 and my friend is way ahead! But that’s ok. I am trying to soak in this stuff like a sponge.
Before I go on about what God is teaching me, I just wanted to mention that my goal career change is not to contracting. My prayer is to return back to heart care, but less on the physical side and more on the spiritual side. I’m working toward spending my life in full time vocational ministry. That is where I believe, along with those who know me best, I can best utilize my gifts and be obedient to my calling in life. But regardless if I ever get there, before this transition is complete, I need to learn this one lesson: how to cooperate with God to provide.
There have been times when I have “trusted God” to provide. That is, my anxieties calmed when provision was made. That is not necessarily trust. Trusting God is evident in your life when you experience peace and confidence in God knowing that He loves you and will give you what is best for your life. This attitude transcends your economic situation which literally fluctuates moment to moment. The kind of trust I’m talking about comes from cooperating with God to provide. What does this look like?
One of the greatest pictures of trust in Scripture is actually found in the gospels. It is when Jesus goes out to the wilderness among the beasts where he is tempted by Satan.
When I was reading this passage in Mark 1, I wondered how it was relevant to me. At this point in time, Jesus had been baptized by John. He was driven to the wilderness by the Spirit of God. Jesus had not yet began his earthly ministry as an evangelist and before launching his ministry, Jesus went to boot camp where he trusted God to provide for his needs.
This verse hits home greatest in verse 13 where it says, “He was in the wilderness forty days, enduring temptations from Satan. He was with wild animals, and angels were ministering to his needs.” In order for Jesus to do what he did, He must have really trusted the Father.
Here is what we can learn from this passage about how to cooperate with God to provide. First let’s observe what cooperation is not:
- Following your own will or desire (Jesus went where the Spirit drove Him)
- Being free of conflict (Jesus experienced critical physical, emotional and spiritual needs)
- Escaping suffering (Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days)
- Putting yourself in a place of safety (Jesus was among the beasts)
- Freedom from temptation (Jesus was tempted by Satan)
- Having an attitude of independence from God- one that says I can do this on my own (Jesus was ministered to by angels)
Second, let’s take a look at what cooperation with God looks like in this passage. Cooperation:
- Endures suffering when required (Jesus stayed in the wilderness throughout the 40 days God put Him there)
- Requires an attitude of dependence on God (Jesus accepted the ministry of angels)
- Makes decisions that carry emotions and not vice versa (Jesus was hungry for 40 days and did not fall into temptation)
- Breeds confidence in God throughout times of need (Jesus went where he was driven and he did not fear or flee from his environment or trouble)
- Looks beyond immediate gratification (Jesus endured the temptations of Satan)
- Receives its provision from God (Jesus was ministered to by angels)
This is the kind of cooperation with God that will provide for any kind of situation. Worry, anxiety, fear, depression, numbing yourself with chemicals or other forms of addictions are all signs that you are rejecting God’s provision for your life. It means that you’re trying to carry the load on your own. That kind of lifestyle will wear you out.
In some ways nursing became an idol in my life, which is ironic because I despised the stress and level of commitment it required. I hated the long shifts. I felt that in nearly every place I worked, nursing staff was terribly managed. I didn’t like being required to be away from my family during the holiday seasons. I didn’t particularly enjoy the stress of impatient doctors or rude or demanding family members. But there was no greater privilege than to care for the patient. God drove me into nursing each day I went to work so that I would learn to love His people in their greatest hour of need. That was amazing. So I didn’t just quit.
Yet, I found myself needing to quit because I knew that ultimately I was staying there for the comfort of a salary that was regular and safe. I knew that God had gifted me in other ways and that the stress I endured each day was unhealthy for me. I gained weight. My blood pressure was high. My stomach was constantly in knots from fear of making a mistake that would bring someone harm or cost me my job. It was not for me. I wasn’t created to do it for the long haul.
Yet again, how could I walk away from my sole source of income? How could I throw away the dough to make the bread on my table? It was a matter of cooperating with God. I endured suffering in a noble profession for 11 years. I had to constantly depend on God to be free from harming others. And eventually that same trust had to guide me out of nursing.
Now, I depend on the Lord for work in a job that I haven’t done long. I have to look beyond the temptation when work is plenty to try to accumulate wealth for my own gratification. I also must fight beyond my immediate emotions that say to quit and go back to nursing when work is not readily available. I’m trusting that He will see me through this season and I can find great joy and peace during this time of transition as I move toward a new career where I care for the spiritual lives of God’s people.
Cooperation with God financially means that I’m being responsible to pursue avenues of income for my family. It means that I maintain a steadfast spirit when my next job is not immediately in front of me. It also means that I’m a wise steward with the resources I have. Am I blowing our money without discretion? Am I accumulating debt by spending beyond my means? Am I charging a fair amount for the jobs I do have? Am I tithing back a portion to the Lord with a heart of gratitude for the blessings He gives? These are the things I will be accountable for. Being faithful in these areas are how I cooperate with God as he provides the resources I need.
Cooperating with God will take you places. The reality is that while we might operate like the chain and sprocket on a bike, God is really the one who takes us places. But if we don’t operate the way we should, we aren’t going to get far down the road, or we might cause a lot of unnecessary loss or damage along the way. But if we work together with God by operating the way we should, we are up for an amazing adventure. We might experience gruesome hills or deep valleys, but we can rest assured that we’ll go farther and do more with our life with greater meaning if we do it in a way that cooperates with God.