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Monday, March 11, 2013

Bad Advice: "God Will Fix It," I Said

She's a nurse. More specifically, she's a single mom who worked hard to put herself through school. No doubt she sacrificed to do it, and I'm sure money was still pretty tight even after she graduated.

Still, she made a tough decision.

No pressure at all from us, but she came to believe that her second part-time job took her out of church way too often, so she gave her notice and announced it on facebook.

So far, so good. But then I opened my mouth (albeit via my fingers).

"What a hard decision," I affirmed,"but I fully believe God will honor that and replace your lost income."

As I walked away from the computer screen, I began questioning myself. This is nothing new -- I second-guess myself and my actions mercilessly. I've learned to endure it and move on, lest I never do or say anything, ever.

But this time it was different. "How do you know that God will replace those funds?" and "What will happen to her faith if you tell her that and then He doesn't?" kept echoing in my mind.

And so I listened to the questions, and thought about why I'd ever said or written a statement like that. Truth is, the best I could come up with is that I'd heard other people say that very same thing. Likely, they had a similar personal experience and God did reward their faithfulness. But does their experience mean that material reward for a sacrifice is guaranteed?

Certainly, we see in the Bible stories of God's faithfulness. He did prosper people monetarily. But if I really ponder, it's tough to come up with a time when someone had it easy because they made a tough choice. Often, those choices cost them, sometimes dearly; though there may have been a reward of some kind later down the road.

Yesterday my class was discussing a passage from Exodus 4 and 5. Moses had gathered the leaders of Israel and told them of God's plan to free them, showing them some of the signs God empowered them to give. In faith, the leaders sent Moses and Aaron off to Pharaoh with their full blessing. The reward? Their oppression was worsened and the Israelites called for God to judge Moses and Aaron because of it.

Yes, God did eventually secure their freedom, and they even plundered the Egyptians for material blessings; but I'm pretty sure that during the time of the plagues, they still had to make their bricks without straw.

"But Where is Your Faith?" you might ask me.

I would say that my faith is not in believing that if I do the right thing, God will always bless me in the way I see fit. I believe that true faith is doing what you know is right in spite of the consequences.

Yes, God rescued Daniel from the lion's den. But His rescue of Stephen looked very different. Stephen's reward for faithfulness was seeing Jesus standing in his honor as he was martyred.

Of all the stands for God people have made, the one that challenges me the most is that of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego:
 “Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves to you. If you throw us into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from the furnace. He will save us from your power, O king. But even if God does not save us, we want you, O king, to know this: We will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18, NCV)
Yes, God CAN save me and/or bless me; but even if He does not, I will obey Him. That's the attitude I long to have for all of my decisions, big or small.

THAT is faith. THAT is counting the cost (Luke 14:28). We may still feel like backing out when our faith is put to the test, but fully appreciating ahead of time what is on the line can help us prepare for tough times that may come.

So, the next time I see the woman whom I encouraged with bad advice, I'll tell her that my words were well-intentioned, but wrong. May God help me to give her true encouragement for her journey instead.

Have you ever given someone advice and regretted it later? 

-rg-

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