When God is ready to do something new, when He is ready to move His mission into a new territory or when God begins to expand his mission to into areas uncharted, He first has to prepare a person to go and do His will! Understand this: God's plan for expanding His mission is always through His people. We who know Christ have been commissioned as His ambassadors to this lost world. So, when God want to do something new in accomplishing His mission he will first prepare one or more of His ambassadors to go.
In Acts chapter 10 we read of such a preparation when God was wanting to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles. He first had to prepare his ambassador, Peter, and then commissioned him to share the message of reconciliation to them. Let's read what Acts 10:9-23 to see what we can learn:
"About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.' Surely not, Lord!' Peter replied. 'I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.' The voice spoke to him a second time, 'Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.' This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon' house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, 'Simone, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.' Peter went down and said to the men, 'I'm the one you're looking for. Why have you come?' The men replied, 'We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.' Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along." (NIV)
When I begin to contemplate this story of Peter's life I see four important things that will help us to be ready to move with God into a new mission field that He wants us to go into. They are:
I. BE STEADFAST IN PRAYER!
Isn't it interesting that Peter had been in a time of intense prayer just prior to God calling him into a new mission territory? He had been praying so hard and long that he became hungry. I have often found that during my times of intense prayer I also have become hungry. Prayer isn't a passive activity that requires no energy. On the contrary, prayer can be a very exhausting activity that can cause a person to feel physically tired as well as spiritually and emotionally tired.
Prayer prepares the Christ's Ambassador to be open and receptive to what God wants to share with them. Prayer removes the spiritual blinders and chains that can hold us back from joining God where He is moving.
We find in Acts 13 that while some of the prophets and teachers at the church in Antioch were in a time of intense worship, fasting and prayer that God called for Barnabas and Saul to be set apart for the work that he was calling them into. This was to be the beginning of the 3 missionary journey's of Paul. And it was during a time of prayer, worship and fasting that God called for his servants to be set apart.
When people share with me that they never sense God's call to be used, I often wonder how intentional they are in prayer and how submissive are they in their prayers. For if we are praying and have a submissive heart that says, "where ever you lead I'll go" I am confident that God will employ that servant into His service.
How intentional and consistent are you being in your prayer life? How submissive are you being as you pray? Are you trying to tell God what you want and need for him to do? Or, are you asking God what He wants to be done? Yes, we are to pray for God to meet our needs but, as we learn from Jesus' example, we should be in the attitude that says, "Not my will - but thy will be done!"
II. RECOGNIZE WHEN GOD SPEAKS!
Next we see God beginning to speak to Peter while he was in a trance. This experience wasn't confusing to Peter. It was like normal dream people have while they are asleep. This was different. This was a God encounter and Peter recognized it as such. Peter wasn't confused about if it was God speaking to him - Peter knew it was God speaking to Him.
You see when God speaks, God makes it clear it is Him who is speaking. When you look in the Bible to those whom God spoke to, you never find a person wondering if it was God speaking to Him or not. No! they knew it was God and more importantly they knew exactly what God was telling them.
God doesn't want His people confused about if it is really Him talking to them! God wants us to know for certain that He is the one talking to us and for us to know clearly what He is saying. If there is ever a time when we are unsure if what we are sensing is of God or not we have a wonderful promise in the Bible found in James 1:5,
"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Than man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does."
What a beautiful and reassuring promise! If you are uncertain that what you are sensing needs to happen or if it is from God or not, just ask him to confirm it to you and he promises he will. All we have to do is "Ask & Believe".
Have you come to the place in your relationship with Christ that you can recognize the voice of God and discern what He is telling you? Being able to recognize God's voice and understanding what He is saying is ESSENTIAL for joining God in those new mission fields where He is moving. Why should God call you to join Him if you're unable to discern when He is talking to you and what He is saying?
III. BE READY TO BE CHALLENGED BY WHAT GOD SAYS!
Moving into a new mission territories most likely will stretch you greatly in your comfort and your values.
Before this encounter with God Peter was both uncomfortable at the thought of going into the home of a gentile. It was against every value he had been brought up to believe. It was against the establish religious convictions that he had been brought up with. There was no way he would go into the house of a gentile unless God had first prepared him. And that's exactly what God did.
Peter wasn't convinced on the first God encounter or even the second God encounter. It took three different encounters with God and hearing the same message from God before Peter understood that God was serious about what he was saying and before God could send him with those men to go into the house of a gentile. If God hadn't taken the time to prepare Peter, Peter probably never would have accepted their invitation to come.
Are you being challenged about what will be required to join God in the new mission field that you sense He is leading you into? Are some of your church traditions, values and perspectives being called into question and you're not sure how to respond. Then good, because God is shaping you and fashioning you into the kind of servant that will follow Him where ever He leads.
IV. BE OPEN TO MOVING IN A NEW DIRECTION!
Is Peter unique? Or, are we a lot like Peter? I think that we, like Peter, also need to have those God encounters that prepare us to go and join Him in those new mission fields! To be willing to leave the comforts of what is familiar and the treasured established relationships and to go to a place that is unknown has to have a God preparation take place. That doesn't mean it is going to be instant preparation or even an easy transition. It just means it is necessary to happen.
It wasn't instant or even pleasant for Jonah to be prepared and willing to go on his mission assignment! He had to be swallowed by a whale! How quick and how easy that transition to following God depends on how submissive the one being called is. Our openness to moving in a new direction will depend on how much our will has been broken, so that only God's will is left.
How open are you to joining God in the new mission fields He is opening up? How much of your own will have you crucified on the cross and how much of God's will is directing you? These are the question that only you can answer for yourself! No one can answer then for you.