The following is an excerpt from an upcoming Foundry release, Everyday Discernment: The Art of Cultivating Spirit-Led Leadership.
I wrote Everyday Discernment because new or maturing Christians tend to be inexperienced with, or even suspicious of, cultivating a Spirit-led life, especially when it comes to receiving remarkable guidance on ordinary projects. The apostle Paul calls this skill a “competence” for discernment in the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:5). It so profoundly shapes his life that he wants people to view him, more than anything else, as a “steward of mysteries” (1 Cor. 4:1).
What is your identity, Christian? Not mother, not CEO, not hobbyist. I’m here to say, you too can be a steward of the mysteries of God. Living in a “believe it when I see it” world may govern sight, but God grants us insight. We’re not cultivating the talent of a marksman who hits a target every time but the genius of God in us who shows how to hit targets nobody else even sees. Indeed, the Spirit-led believer can perceive what others only see and understand what others only hear (see Matt. 13:10–16).
Right now, hovering over your head are invisible bits of information about every imaginable topic. It’s there. I don’t have to prove this to you. By the click of a button, you can find out the whereabouts of Kim Kardashian or what the U.S. Supreme Court decided yesterday. The internet is waiting—invisible, vast, and accessible with a little effort. So too is the case with the Holy Spirit, who is ready to guide you, and only awaits contact.
I’ll tell you a story about that. God did something. But I didn’t know it was God until later.
At my university, we raised support funds for a year to launch a debt-free college program. Families desperately need this. Bubbling with enthusiasm, I recruited a part-time program director. We knew the guy. His enthusiasm matched ours. This was going to be great!
The thrill surged further when I met the first cohort of twenty students. One gal literally moved out of a homeless shelter and into a freshman dormitory. I could already imagine her as a thirty-five-year-old, looking back on the transformative years when she was being equipped for her robust career and discipled deeply in the faith, preparing for an escape from multigenerational poverty.
Then it happened. Only a few months after our launch, the program director resigned. What?! He didn’t just change jobs but industries. So we replaced him with a new director who quit after just ten months. She disliked her supervisor because he held her accountable. Now get this: we hired the next guy, but after a week we discovered that he had deceived us during interviews, so we terminated him.
How is that for an inglorious beginning? If you’re counting, we needed a fourth director after just eighteen months. The program was held together by duct tape, and it was vulnerable. The students deserved more stability, and I felt immense pressure to deliver for the generous donors who had placed their treasure and their trust in us.
We needed supernatural intervention. So the vice president and I set aside the entire day of June 5—the date will be important later—for a fasting and prayer retreat, begging God to save this program, support these students, and send us a director we didn’t recruit. Our premise was that God can accomplish more and faster than we can by ordinary means.
June 5 wasn’t goofy. We didn’t sacrifice any chickens or dance around a fire pit. We simply prayed (both corporately and alone), walked and talked, and asked the Holy Spirit to bring scriptures to mind that related to our dilemma. We read and reread, discussed, and decoded their meanings. We fasted too. Fasting isn’t a fad diet but a demonstration to God and reminder to ourselves that the most important stuff of life becomes clear when we do not live by bread alone but by the Word of God (see Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4). Food denial becomes self-denial because our flesh cries out its demand all day long to be enthroned over every other concern. Fasting says no to King Stomach and yes to the Spirit. I find intense clarity by fasting in prayer.
Indeed, scriptures of particular timeliness came. We found ourselves in Exodus 35, where God summons Bezalel and Oholiab to particular jobs for which they are unusually gifted. First Kings 19 also resonated with us, where Elijah hears from God in a whisper. And what task does God assign Elijah with that gentle voice? A Human Resources mission. Elijah leaves God to appoint priests. We also spent time in Genesis 24, where a servant of Abraham looks for a wife for his son Isaac. Verse 15 jumped off the page at us: “Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out [to the well] with her jar on her shoulder.”
We turned these scriptures into our prayer, all day, in different ways. “God,” we pled, “we see how you summon people to particular jobs, whisper names to hire, and sometimes answer during the asking. We believe you can do the same for us, for your glory.”
I was stunned. Just twelve days later, we hired Rashad, whose credentials and impact exceeded his three predecessors.
Upon his arrival to our workplace, my curiosity oozed into conversation. At a welcome lunch, I said, “I want to tell you a story, but before I do, I have a strange question. Does June 5 mean anything to you?” He squinted, and I thought, What a silly question. Who knows their own calendar like that?
Then he said, “Actually, yes!” Thumbing through the calendar on his phone, he continued, “On June 5, I met a person who contacted me through LinkedIn. I didn’t know her. But it’s funny, we met to talk about something else, and ended up talking a lot about this university. Turns out, she’d sent her daughter here, loved it, and told me to look into it.” And so he did, and here we are. Before Abraham’s servant had even finished praying . . .
That is mysterious. But to a person in need of God, it is a mystery that matters.
Everyday Discernment is now available for pre-order on TheFoundryPublishing.com