Sometimes God will give you exactly what you want, even if it isn’t what you need. Not because God has a sick sense of humor, but because you are too thick headed to get the message any other way. Let me share with you an example.
When I first received my calling into ministry, I was working as a salesman for Hershey’s Ice Cream. The classes that I needed to take in seminary were offered in the evening. So, I could keep a full-time job, while going part-time to seminary. The problem was my job.
See, Hershey’s Ice Cream was a non-union company. One of the things that this meant was that if a delivery driver called off, the first person on the list to fill in was me. Basically, I could get a call, on any day, at 5 am to come in and deliver a route. That would also mean that on that particular day I wouldn’t be able to attend a seminary class. For I would be unable to make it to the seminary in Pittsburgh on time. Even for an evening class.
So, understanding that it was God who was calling me into the ministry. And understanding that in order to live into this calling, I had to go to seminary. Combined with the fact that my current job would make it virtually impossible to successfully attend seminary classes. I felt that I was in the unique position to bargain with God. So, bargain I did.
I was driving through Pittsburgh one day. I was doing my normal calling on current customers and stopping in to see prospective customers thing. When it hit me that I needed to be specific and direct with God about what I wanted, in order to live into the calling that he had put on my life.
I wanted a job that would pay me enough money to support my current lifestyle – wife, kid, house, two cars, insurance, etc. And this job had to be flexible enough so that I could attend all of my seminary classes. Afterall, if God wanted me to go into the ministry, the least God could do is give me everything that I want, right?
Well, my sister-in-law, Sherri had the perfect job. She was a manufacturer’s rep in Pittsburgh, for a company that was based in Cleveland. This meant that she worked out of her house and she controlled her own schedule. I had sales experience and I had God. What more did I need? Well, I needed the company to hire me. So, parallel parked on the side of the road in Mt. Lebanon, I got out my journal, that I always carried with me, and I wrote the name of the company and the job that I wanted.
I then spent the next half hour in a very deep, repetitive, prayerful conversation with God about how I wanted this job. How living into his calling on my life was dependent on this job. That if I didn’t get this job there was no way that I would ever be able to attend seminary. Thus, I would never be able to be ordained and serve in ministry. In essence, I prayed, “God you owe me. So, make this happen”.
Well, it took a few weeks, but one day my phone rang and Sherri informed me that her company was hiring a new sales rep in Pittsburgh. I just smiled and told her that the job was mine. God was coming through on his end of the bargain. Life was good!
Several weeks later I found myself at Station Square having a lunch/interview with the sales manager for this company. I was so confident. I wasn’t nervous or worried at all, because I already knew that the job was mine. God and I had made a deal. I would go to seminary and then into the ministry. If God would provide me with the job that would allow me to go to seminary and keep affording the life to which I was accustomed.
And, as it turned out, the job was mine. For an offer came around a few days later. I got exactly what I prayed for. I had a great God, because God had answered the call and given me what I wanted.
Well, you can probably guess how this all turned out. Six months later, one week before the start of seminary, I was fired from that job, because I couldn’t sell anything. When I was fired by that same sales manager, in that same restaurant in Station Square, he had a note from corporate that stated – “First time in the history of our company that a sales rep went six months with no sales.” An honor that didn’t feel very honoring at that moment.
Once I was fired, my ex-sales manager, looked at me and asked, “What happened?” He told me that we were now officially just two guys having lunch. So, he wanted to really know why I was unable to sell anything to anyone. I told him the whole story and concluded with this line, which has stuck with me to this very day. “I was trying to do God’s will my way.” We finished lunch and my ex-sales manager was nice enough to pay and off I went.
I was driving home on the parkway, when I again had another deep, repetitive, prayerful conversation with God. This time I declared that if I was going to go to seminary and into the ministry, that God was going to have to make it happen. I then said these words – “I give up. I can’t do this. You are going to have to do it for me.”
Then there was voice in my head, the voice of God. I knew it was God for it was my voice, but it made too much sense for me to be fooled into thinking that it was my own thoughts. The voice in my head said: “I have been waiting your entire life for you to say that.”
Well, I started seminary the following week. God provided me with a job in a local church. We kept the house. We never missed a meal. We paid all of our bills. The bills we didn’t pay were our own fault. And I eventually was able to attend seminary full time. God did it, in spite of me. And I learned a very valuable lesson. One that this thick-headed guy couldn’t have learned any other way.