1. I am going to present to you a little acrostic to begin our discussion today. What is your latest NLIP? (Not Like I Planned?)
I guess my most recent NLIP concerns our small group at church. About a year ago, my fervent prayers to God that my husband would be filled with the Spirit and become the spiritual leader in our home were answered. We began attending a couples small group and became good friends with the core group. At the time, we were doing a study called The Truth Project (I highly recommend this study!) and as we grew spiritually, we were also growing socially. Trevor and I had never really had close friends as a couple, and this was a new and exciting experience for us.
Then the Truth Project ended, and we moved on to the next study. It wasn't nearly as engaging, and attendance lagged in small group. When we finally moved on to the next study, there were mixed feelings about the content and presentation, and faithful attendance continued to lag. Although our group had expanded beyond the few core couples, we were never all there at the same time and there was no sense of accountability. The group was larger than originally intended, and it was impossible to make everyone happy.
So how is this a NLIP? After my experience with the Truth Project and how we were able to open up and share with one another, I felt certain that we had found our niche. This was a place that we could come and be fed from the Word each week. These were friends that we could trust and encourage. My plan was for this group to remain exactly the same forever. Then it all unraveled and fell apart and we felt like we were adrift.
2. How did you react to your NLIP? Are you still upset about it? Happy about it? Baffled by it? Explain.
We were frustrated that very few people seemed to have the desire to dig into the Word when it required something more of their time and energy, and a little angry at the whole situation to be perfectly honest. We began to pray about our small group and for discernment. I made it a priority in my quiet time to pray about it and so did Ali, my prayer and accountability partner. I knew what I wanted to happen, but I prayed that God would show me what He wanted and to use me to facilitate His plan.
Events fell into place in such a way that I knew at once it was God working in our lives. One of the women in our small group took on a new small group as her ministry and by doing so, alleviated some of the issues of our small group not being so small anymore. One of the other couples felt led to take a break from small group for a season to focus on their family. This left 3 couples, which was what Ali and I had felt would be an ideal number. Enough people for free exchange of ideas, but a small enough group to foster accountability and encouragement.
Am I sad that the original group of people are no longer meeting each week? Of course I am. I miss that particular group of people, but because God is good, He has given me something else. I may not know everything there is to know about God, but I do know that He always works things out for my good. Praise God for being in control!
3. Have you ever attempted to step into an area of ministry and found your desire rejected? Did this cause you to question God and yourself? Perhaps distrust what you perceived to be your calling?
I haven't really reached a point where I stepped out and was rejected, but I know that Satan desires it. He wants us to step out in faith and feel as though our efforts are in vain, so that he can gloat when we backtrack and question God and our very salvation. He lives to plant seeds of doubt and fear, and the only way to overcome is to put all of our trust in God. If we are truly motivated by the desire to glorify God and to let His light shine through us, we may have a NLIP with regard to what we think our ministry should be, but God will reveal His good and perfect will in His time. We just have to trust Him.
4. Do you harbor any bitterness towards any individual or situation which you believe waylaid your best laid plans?
I did at first, because all I could think of was my own loss. The loss of fellowship with good friends, the loss of digging into the Word with trusted Christians. The loss of intimate prayer and worship with my group. But God uses all things for His glory, and this was no exception. He opened up a new ministry in our church, He provided me with Ali to personally encourage me and hold me accountable, and He pared our group down to a manageable number while avoiding hurt feelings. Although I felt out of the loop for a time, God was always in control!
5. Have you had a life experience or trial that left you with a shaken faith because it ended in an NLIP?
I can't think of anything that caused my faith to be shaken, but there have been many times that my faith was renewed and restored by seeing God's hand in my NLIP.
6. Based on Moses' response of faith to his own rejection, how will you re-evaluate your own experiences or look at future ones differently if a NLIP presents itself?
My prayer is that I will see every experience as an opportunity to glorify God. Sometimes that means getting over myself, if you know what I mean. It's not about me, it's about what I can do to glorify God. I am so opposed to change, and sometimes I need to just look beyond the immediate circumstance and press on toward the prize.
If you want to read more about the study, click here.