By David Stahl

Over the last two or three years as God kind of slowed us down from going abroad six to seven times (that is every other month) a year and resting us I often thought about how we operate in God for a specific time while fulfilling a specific function (pastor, missionary, etc.) for a defined period.  When we headed over to Germany back in 1996 we had no idea we would be pastoring a wonderful church and it would grow and many people would be changed by the word of God.  We never thought we would be traveling in ministry to the four corners of the world sharing the good news of the Gospel message, but we did. We never thought Beholding His Glory would be birthed, we never thought we would see the failures and victories in so many lives, but we did.  When I think back to all God did (the church in Germany, the traveling, the lives that were changed ours included) all I can say is, “This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.  24This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalms 118:23-24)  Now this is the very thought “this is the LORD’S doing” I have been thinking about as I reflect over the seven years of ministry while living in Europe.  Before moving to Europe we were faithful in prayer, studying the Bible, in church activities (attendance, leadership, and service), doing whatever we could do to draw closer to God, but there was no special anointing on our lives. I guess with accepting a special call comes the special anointing.  To be brutally honest during this time I really struggled with my faith and with relationships within the church we were attending seeing the lackluster approach to God and the blatant hypocrisy in many lives (even in the church leadership), but in spite of all of this God had a plan for our lives and wanted us to move to Stuttgart, Germany.  As I look back over my 24 years in the U.S. Navy I can see how God did many things (assignments, education, favor from seniors) to help lead us along the way He wanted us to go.  I remember the church we were attending had a huge going away party (after Sunday service) for us and they even gave us a nice plaque, but while playing softball (at the party) from left field the pastor (he always called me elder) yelled to me in center field, “elder where do you think you will be attending services next Sunday?” And I yelled back, “I do not know probably a chapel on base.” Well little did I know (because of my faithfulness to church and God’s plan for our lives) going to the chapel on base  would be the beginning of the unfolding of what God had for me, our family, so many other lives those seven years in Germany, and even all that God is still doing today with Beholding His Glory.  Now all of this was not our intention; our intention was to travel to Europe and enjoy our years raising our kids like most American military families who move to Germany.  My military intention was to be the very best Naval Officer in the world, but God had other intentions. When we started up (at the Lord’s wishes and on Karen’s birthday) Christliche Gemeinde Stuttgart I naively and foolishly thought all of my co-workers in my office were going to join our church, but was sadly disappointed with they rejected me and me as a pastor.  I found out quickly (and painfully) religion is much thicker than friendship.  Karen says I am more loyal to other people than what they are to me and she is right I can name relationship after relationship of over 30 years, but that is okay with me I would rather err on the side of other’s presumption and give my friendship than not to be honest and forthright, God expects nothing less.  When I think back to our seven years in Germany how could I not think of our four kids.  They were raised a lot in their formative years during this time and I will be honest they endured many long church services (some four hours plus) and many things they did not really understand (an international church overseas is much different than a church in the States), but in the end today they all would say they are much better off for the experience living overseas and the lessons they learned in God. It is kind of funny how when we come to the Lord we do so because we have some intentions in mind for us well guess what, God too has some personal intentions of His own for our lives. Often we come to the Lord thinking we will have some kind of fire insurance from hell or we will get God to give us some things (like money, spouse, car, house, better health, etc.), but this all is wrong thinking, all wrong apostate religious thinking like a religious cancer that is destroying the Body of Christ.  In Jeremiah we read his heart, “For I know the thoughts (plans or intentions) that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts (plans or intentions) of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.  12Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. 13And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13) Usually our plans, intentions, or thoughts are selfish and our motives are self-seeking, but God has eternal holy purposes, His intentions are for the betterment of our soul and a desire to bring us to an expected end, which is also another intention of His.     

Now the longer I walk with the Lord and the more I see even in the lives of others in Christian ministry and leadership I am ever the more convinced God has  specific jobs for us to do, for a specific time, and no matter how much we kick or scream we cannot start our mission until we qualify or have been approved for the next thing He has for us to do.  I see now this was what was going on with us in the church we were attending and through the many years of service to God.  Now we all have the duty and responsibility to share the good news of the Gospel message to everyone we come in contact with, but that does not constitute a ministry.  Sharing the Gospel message with everyone we come in contact with is an expectation God expects of us.  Doing or not doing this has nothing to do with our salvation, but it has everything to do with whether God can trust us to fulfil the plans, thoughts, and intentions He has for our lives.  If we critically look at the lives of key people in the Bible we will see this spiritual principle in action.  In the Old Testament we read about Adam serving God in the garden for a specific time and place, but after he sinned things changed significantly.  For most of Noah’s life he was a man who just love and honored God; he was qualifying and being approved at this time to be able to build the ark and save his family (mankind) and the animal kingdom, but after that he was back to just loving and honoring God while living out his life.  Abram who later became Abraham was the same way.  Before he was called out of Ur of the Chaldeans and before he became the father of many nations, and all of the many wondrous things he allowed God to do in his life he just loved and honored God.  After God was finished with him he went back to running his family and loving God.  Moses’ life can be divided into three 40 year periods:  the first 40 years he served in the courts of the Egyptian pharaoh (as an Egyptian Prince) mighty in word and deed becoming learned and wise in wars and affairs of state, in his next 40 years God had Moses on the back side of the wilderness shepherding sheep.  Do you know how dump sheep are? And how they stink?  It took God 40 years to get Egypt out of Moses and when Moses stood before all mighty God, “And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.’  (Exodus 4:10). And his last 40 years God used him to lead his people out of 430 years of bondage and all recorded in the Scriptures that Moses allowed God to do.  For two-thirds of Moses’ life he was being qualified and being approved for the last one-third of his life.  Isaac and Jacob’s lives were the same in character and service. I really like Joseph’s life it followed this same spiritual principle. Before Joseph became Zaphnath-Paaneah (second only to Pharaoh in all the world) so that he could save the entire Hebrew nation (including the birth line of Jesus) and the world he first had to qualify and be approved in enduring ridicule and shame from his father and brothers, being sold into slavery in Potiphar’s home, and going to prison because of false charges.  And us today?  Now the Bible does not say how Joseph ended his days, but it does make a statement about his faith, “And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.”  (Genesis 50:25)  In the New Testament we see this spiritual principle continued.  In the life of John the Baptist John lived a normal life before he was called to be the voice crying in the wilderness, “to make straight the way of the Lord.” His life was lived to fulfill a certain time and a certain mission in God’s eternal plan. In the case of John he never stopped baptizing and never followed Jesus so God had to put him in a place where there was no water, prison.  Even today in Israel you can find some of John’s disciples still baptizing in the Jordon River.  The same held true in the lives of Jesus’ Disciples.  Before their encounter with Christ they were fisher men, a tax collector, a doctor, all living their daily lives, but once they really met Jesus their lives were changed and they served for a specific time and all had a specific function in God’s plan.  One of my favorite examples is Saul who later became Paul. Saul was in Bible School and God called him out (go figure) before God could use him. Even having a face-to-face encounter and Jesus speaking to Paul was not enough God still had to take him to the wilderness for three years (qualifying and approving him) to put his word in Paul’s heart. Even Jesus our Master and example was qualified and approved by the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross.  There is a specific time of ministry and during this time there is a special time of favor and even at times a supernatural anointing. I have seen it and I have felt it, now that does not mean after we pass through this specific time we will lose our anointing oh no just the contrary, we will receive of God what we need next (even by way of supernatural anointing) to do what He wants us to do.  Why do we think God is just going to give us things so that we can store them up for a rainy day?  God does not give us His power and ability to just have His ability and power, oh no my friend God (like His faith) gives us His power and ability to do the things He wants us to do when we need them during our specific time.  And I am here to let you know when it is over it is over.  When God closes a door it is best to keep the door closed.  I have seen many Christian friends try to keep things going that God was doing in their lives, but God was not in it.  One thing for sure, if it starts in God there will be an end time in God.  Realizing this spiritual principle often will take a lot of the pressure off of people to perform.  They identify with what God has done in the past or what He is doing now and cannot see themselves in any other kind of service for God.  I still say God pours us out from vessel (function or ministry) to vessel and as we grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Christ Jesus He uses us and what we have learned of Him to share Him with the world and even uses us beyond our abilities and power.  Paul speaks of the Church at Corinth, “For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; 4Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.”  (2 Corinthians 8:3-5) We will never be able to give ourselves to others unless we first give ourselves to the Lord.  And how do we do that? In that specific time and place of ministry we often find victory and failure maybe both at the same time, but for sure we will always find suffering.  And why?  Because shared suffering always builds unity and comradeship within any army.