by Sam Williamson
Sometimes I hear God best in surprises. Seemingly
unrelated circumstances suddenly unite, and their
merger stirs something in my heart. Like a
succession of waves on a beach, one last surge
dissolves my sandcastles.
This last month I talked with:
- A despairing man whose ministry seems
stagnant, and all his work seem fruitless;
- Another man who keeps a tally in the front
of his Bible of all the souls he helped save;
- A group of friends who mused on our
all-absorbing attraction to superhero movies;
Each discussion hinted at some deep longing for
significance, expressed in meaningful ministry,
“souls I helped save,” or that desire to be
superhero (ish) ourselves. Wanting a life that
matters doesn’t contradict Scripture. We are
made in God’s image, and he is the God of all
And yet. Last week I read about the baptism of
Jesus. A voice from heaven cries, “You are my
beloved Son; I delight in you.” My first
response (and probably my second and third) was:
“That’s exactly what I want, to hear the Father
say to me, ‘Well done. I am pleased with you.’”
Then a thought flashed through my mind: Is
it possible to have as much joy when the
Father affirms Jesus as I would have if He so
affirmed me? Can I simply take joy in the joy
Looking in the Rear View Mirror
It’s a brand-new idea to me: of delighting so
much in Jesus that his happiness overwhelms me,
whatever happens in my own life. Familiar verses
take on new meaning:
- Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will
give you the desires of your heart (Ps. 37:4).
No longer to delight in God in order to
get my “real” desire (a new house or better
job), but that the desire of my heart is to
see the Father overjoyed in Jesus.
- Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
In the day of trouble, the Lord delivers him
(Ps. 41:1). To enjoy the blessedness
bestowed on Jesus that he considered the
- The Lord is near to all who call on him, to
all who call on him in truth (Ps. 145:18). To
rejoice in God’s nearness to Jesus who alone
cried out to him with true purity.
My nature unconsciously looks to God to
accomplish my own schemes: my ideas for
happiness or a good name, or my plans for
ministry or a retreat house. In John 15, Jesus
says the branch that bears fruit abides in the
vine. I find myself saying, “If I just do that,
like abide a bit more, then I’ll get what I
Which means my heart really abides in the fruit
and not the vine.
God is inviting me to abide in him a new way:
simply to delight when he is honored, whether I
see results I want or not. Joy in him is
undermining my sandcastles.
All It Took Was a Trip to
On an errand to Lowe’s hardware store, a phrase
from an old John Newton poem snuck into my
thoughts on fixing a furnace humidifier. I googled
the phrase in the parking lot. In it, God speaks
to Newton, and through Newton, God spoke to me:
These inward trials I employ,
I keep thinking I need a home for retreats or to
hear words of affirmation. Both fine things. I
think, instead, God is breaking my “schemes of
earthly joy,” all those fleeting castles of sand,
because he is building a lasting home of unearthly
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may find thy all in Me.”
There is a delight we can have simply in knowing
him, in finding our “all” in him alone.
P. S. God often speaks to us in the moments we
think he is silent. To nurture that conversational
relationship with your Father, I suggest you read
Hearing God in Conversation.
Williamson has published numerous articles
and has written two books.
He has a blog site, www.beliefsoftheheart.com,
and can be reached at
God in Conversation: How to Recognize
His Voice Everywhere, by Samuel C.
Williamson, published by Kregel
Publications, 2016, available from Amazon