As a young man, I had recently decided to follow Jesus whole-heartedly, and was keen to know God’s will for my life. I was 19 years old and the director of a Christian conference center had hired me to transform a 1958 VW panel van into a camper.
The long-term plan was for me to live in this camper and travel up and down the Oregon coast distributing Gospel tracts and sharing Christ with people. This opportunity appealed to me on several levels, but chiefly, I wanted to glorify God.
It took me about a month to build a bed, kitchenette, and storage into the VW van. I prepped the outside of the van for painting, and we had a professional body shop paint it so that it shined. Inside and out it looked great! It ran well, but its 36-hp engine was pretty gutless.
The day came for me to embark on this ministry. The conference center held a small but elaborate sendoff for me, and I headed down the road to the first village. I was prayed-up, excited, and gung-ho.
I canvased my first village with tracts, but only had a few meaningful interactions with people. It seemed that everyone was at work or gone. Not one to be easily discouraged, I set out to the second village. There I had a ridiculous conversation with a man who talked my ear off about aliens from space and other outlandish metaphysical notions.
I continued distributing tracts in this town, but people were either absent or unwilling to talk with me. At one point, I climbed the wide staircase up to a prominent home. But when I was eye-level with the landing, I met a large, vicious bulldog that chased me back to my van intent on keeping me away.
I can’t fully explain it, but after that incident, something snapped in my mind. Something felt wrong. It was far more fundamental than simple discouragement, although for the effort I was investing, I was seeing very little return.
I drove away from that town to a nearby state park. It was the middle of the week and I didn’t see another soul. I sat in the van for a while, praying, and asking God what was wrong with me. Why was I feeling so out-of-sorts? Why wasn’t I experiencing any fruit from my labors? What did He want from me?
The more I prayed, the more frustrated and confused I became. Eventually, my wrestling match with God became a quest to know His will for my life in this situation. What was I supposed to do? What was God’s will for my life in this situation?
Keep in mind that I was still young in the faith, so I decided to flip a coin to determine God’s will. I believed that He could direct the coin to fall the way He wanted it to. So, I pulled a penny out of my pocket, established what heads and tails would designate for a response, and flipped the coin.
But the answer I got from the coin-flipping didn’t satisfy me. So, I thought, How about two out of three flips? But by the time I had flipped the penny for the third time, I was even more confused and realized how ridiculous this was! In frustration I hurled the penny into the woods.
Then, I thought, I know, I’ll seek God’s will for my life in this situation in His Word, the Bible. So, I retrieved my Bible from the van and held it closed in both hands. Then, I prayed a short prayer asking God to reveal His will to me. Looking away, I flopped my Bible open and put my finger on a random verse on the open page.
But when I brought my eyes down and read the verse that I had randomly selected, I couldn’t believe it. The verse said, “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:17) I read the verse again, rolled my eyes and with much sarcasm, I said aloud to the Lord, “Thanks, that really helps a lot!”
Then, it was as if an emotional dam broke. I sensed the presence of the Lord with me palpably. It was as though He had wrapped His strong arms around me and just held me telling me He loved me and not to fret or be discouraged.
Immediately, I knew what He wanted me to do. In His still, tender way, His Holy Spirit revealed His will to me, and His peace washed over me.
I sat at a picnic table in the warmth of the sunshine and in the beauty of that coastal forest. I basked in God’s Word, no longer trying to decipher His will, but simply to know Him better and spend time with Him. It was perhaps the most personal time of fellowship I had ever experienced with the Lord up to that time.
Late that afternoon, I drove back to the conference center to meet with the director and explain to her all that had happened. I knew that I was on the right course, but I feared that she might not understand or would be greatly disappointed in me. After all, the whole enterprise had been her idea and she had invested much in the van and in me.
However, when I told her all I had experienced, she was extremely understanding and said, “It’s my fault for sending you out alone. I should never have sent you out alone.” Then, she invited me to continue working at the conference center for a while.
This whole incident was a huge learning experience for me about the Lord, my relationship with Him, how He reveals His will to us, and how He wants us to engage in ministry.
Some of you reading this may struggle from time to time with the question of how to know God’s will for your life. This is a common question for followers of Jesus.
In my next blog, I’ll reveal to you some principles that I use to determine God’s specific will for my life. Until then, keep following Jesus!
©2019 Rob Fischer