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Years ago, a Christian family I knew felt they had received a clear word that the were going out into the world with God. They were told it would be in stages, that they would first move away from the the community they had always called home. Later, they would move even farther. They were going to go from faith to faith and from glory to glory.
Soon after, in amazing fulfillment of this word, the husband was hired by a small businessman who told him, "I plan on moving my company to Pennsylvania and I want you to move with me. But I intend to only stay in Pennsylvania for a year or two; my ultimate goal is to move to Texas. And, when I go, I want you and your family to go with me." Of course, this fine Christian family jumped at the opportunity. It wasn't too long before they were settled into a new home in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Yet, after a year or two of living in their new home, with their kids settled into good schools with good friends, and after having found a wonderful local church, their ardor for further travel had waned. As he had promised, the Christian businessman who had brought them to Pennsylvania announced he was uprooting his company once again and moving on to Texas. This time, though, they were not willing to go.
As you can imagine, this did not sit well with the business owner. He had invested much time and resources into my friend, providing him with solid training to go along with a solid job. He had explained his plans from the beginning of their relationship and was now simply doing what he had said all along he was going to do. They had promised to go with him and were now reneging on that promise. But the minds of my friends were made up; they had put down roots in their new home town and would not be leaving. The parting was not pleasant.
A year or so passed and my friends moved back to our hometown. It seemed the curtain had come down on the whole episode. Yet, that's where my part of the story began.
My wife and I were sitting in our church one Sunday morning, listening to a guest speaker, named Chico Hernandez, from Puerto Rico. As he was speaking, I suddenly received a very clear word from the Lord. I was to tell my friends that they were supposed to be in Texas and that the Lord was willing to give them a second chance to go, if they would be willing to obey. The word was very clear and distinct; as was my response.
"They won't receive that word, Lord. They didn't want to go at the time and now much time has past and they've moved back home. Besides, his boss was quite upset with them when he left. I don't see how I can give them that word." Yet, the word was clear, as was the command that I deliver it. I squirmed within myself, trapped between knowing what I had to do and knowing how poorly it would be received. So, for the next few days I prayed about it, especially during my long walks with the Lord at lunch time.
Looking back, I am embarrassed that I didn't simply obey God and deliver the word. Perhaps if I had known less I would have obeyed more. But that is no excuse. I made up my mind I couldn't (wouldn't!) deliver the word as instructed. I decided I needed further help from God before I would obey. Therefore, this testimony is as much about His merciful patience as it is about anything else. I knew I not only needed His grace to have the boldness to speak, I also wanted the Lord to intervene so that my friends would believe it truly was a word from the Lord and not just my silly idea.
An apt fleece to lay before the Lord occurred to me, and I started praying about it right away: I wanted the spurned businessman in Texas to call my friends and tell them he still wanted them to join him. That was the sign I needed to fortify my faith and to demonstrate God's involvement. There was simply no way that was going to happen on its own; it would be a miracle. It would be a sign to both my friends, and to me, that He really did want them to uproot their lives once again.
It didn't occur to me that the sign I was asking for would have served better as confirmation of my word after it was spoken. After all, the bible speaks of "signs following" the word (see Mk 16:17 and 20), not the word following after signs. Jesus' usual pattern was to preach the word, then perform miracles. We see this pattern at the start of His ministry in Mark chapter one (see Mk 1:21-27). As it is written, "And He went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons" (Mk 1:39).
I prayed about it constantly every day that week. Back then, my church held its mid-week services on Thursdays, meetings that I had been asked to lead. That Thursday, I explained my dilemma to the small group before me. I don't believe any of them personally knew my friends for whom I had a word (they attended a different church in a neighboring town). Of course, they prayed with me that night for a miracle to take place across the phone lines.
Back home later that evening, I was sitting at my computer in my basement office when I heard the phone ring upstairs. My wife answered it and quickly struck up a conversation with the better half of the couple that had moved to Pennsylvania and back. And she had quite a story to tell my wife - one she thought would be a big surprise: The Christian businessman who had moved onto Texas without them, to whom they had not spoken at all for many months because of their awkward parting - had called them that day out of the blue and had asked them to please reconsider moving to Texas! "I can't believe I am even making this phone call", he had said, "But I really feel the Lord wants me to tell you you can have a second chance to come down here. I am willing to help you move, and give you your old job."
My wife called down to me and said, "Matt, I think you will want to hear this." I ran up the stairs, took the phone from my wife and told our friend the real reason why they had gotten that phone call. My heart was full and I'm sure my face was beaming as I confidently proceeded to deliver to her and her husband the word God had given me for them.
© Matthew Schilling October 2010
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