As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
— Romans 8:14
When I was a young man growing up in the city of Tulsa, I always thought I would attend Oral Roberts University (ORU). ORU was and continues to be one of the premier Christian universities in the world, and it just happened to be located in my hometown. I was so fervent about attending ORU that I even began taking a class there while I was still in high school in order to try to get a jump-start on my education.
Finally the time came for me to graduate from high school, and I eagerly anticipated attending ORU full-time in the fall. However, one day as I was praying about my future, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and forbade me from attending. I was completely stunned!
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“Why don’t You want me to go to ORU, Lord?” I asked incredulously. “There’s no better place for a young man like me than ORU.”
The Holy Spirit answered, “Because there are things I want to teach you that you can only learn somewhere else. You’ll be in a good environment at ORU, but you’ll miss the greater things that I want to impart to you that are important for your future.
When I consider how the Holy Spirit worked with me as I faced the decision of what university to attend, I think of Romans 8:14. It says, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”
The word “led” is the Greek word ago, a word that was used in the agricultural and athletic worlds. In agricultural terms, it described a person who led an animal who was attached to the end of a rope. Wherever the farmer led, the animal was to follow. But interestingly, it is also where we get the word agonidzo, which described the intense struggle of a wrestler as he fought an opponent. From this word, we derive the word agony. It depicts the struggle — or the wrestling — of two opponents, each who are fighting furiously to throw the other to the mat in defeat.
Romans 8:14 tells us that the Holy Spirit wants to lead us about, but often there is a wrestling between our flesh and our spirits. The Holy Spirit leads one direction, but because the flesh doesn’t understand the leading of the Holy Spirit or doesn’t want to obey, it throws us into a struggle. The Holy Spirit is willing to lead us — and He will make sure we are in the right place at the right time — but we may have to overcome the flesh in order to follow. To be honest, it was a very big struggle for my mind to yield to the leading of the Holy Spirit to forego ORU and to attend a secular university.
But as difficult as the decision was, I knew in my heart that I needed to follow the Holy Spirit’s direction. So I made the choice to forego Oral Roberts University and enroll at a state university located a couple hours away from my hometown. As the school year progressed, it soon became apparent that by attending this secular institution, many new doors were being opened to me that might otherwise have been left shut if I had attended a Christian university. It was in this environment where I first began to get deeply involved in the ministry. My earliest experiences teaching the Bible publicly took place in the university church — and because I was constantly surrounded by unbelievers, I had opportunities to share Christ with people. These experiences emboldened me and familiarized me with the academic community’s objections to the Gospel, which in turn sharpened my ability to be an effective witness for the Lord.
That university was also where I began to study Classical Greek in earnest. These studies allowed me to delve deeper into the Word of God by analyzing the New Testament in its original Greek form. Before long, believers at the university church I attended began to approach me if they had a question about the Greek New Testament. Through these interactions, I saw how I could fill a vital niche in the Body of Christ by using my understanding of New Testament Greek to open up Scripture in such a way that listeners could gain new insight about God’s Word. The skills I gleaned from this discipline profoundly affected my entire life — reshaping my approach to studying the Bible and laying the foundations for my teaching ministry that would touch the lives of thousands of people across the world in the years to come.
When I look back on my years at that state university, I completely understand why it was God’s will for me to attend a secular school. It was a necessary training ground that provided me with the foundational skills I needed to succeed in ministry, and I am very thankful for that experience. As wonderful as Oral Roberts University is, God wanted me at a secular university so He could impart certain truths that I personally could not have received in another environment. And to top it all off, I even met my wife Denise at the university church!
Your environment — the surroundings and conditions in which you live and operate — is so important! Being in the right place at the right time according to God’s plan for your life is crucial as you seek to discover and fulfill His will for your life. God will use people, places, and the opportunities around you to shape you, sharpen your gifts, and prepare you to do His will. As First Corinthians 12:18 (NKJV) teaches, “…God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.”
Are you where God has directed you to be? It might be that the place to which you are called is outside of your comfort zone and you wish you could escape to somewhere else far away. However, if you know in your heart that God has spoken a word over your life, don’t second-guess Him. Instead, trust that He is working to fully develop the gifts He has placed within you so you can fulfill your divine mandate. God knows exactly what you need and where you need to be
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, as I reflect on my life, I can see how You have led me at times when I didn’t understand that I was even being led. You put me exactly where I needed to be. You surrounded me with the people who were essential for my training and preparation. I am so thankful that I allowed You to show me what to do and that You gave me the courage to obey. I ask that You reignite that willingness and courage in me right now as I follow Your leading again and again. I receive Your wisdom and strength to do Heaven’s work upon the earth. I believe that You are doing everything to develop the gifts and callings in my life so that I can fulfill my divine mandate.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I thankfully confess that God leads me even when I don’t understand that I’m being led. He puts me exactly where I need to be and surrounds me with the people that are essential for my training and preparation. God’s Spirit shows me what to do. He gives me courage to obey. And right now, He is reigniting that willingness and courage in me as I follow His leading again. He is doing everything to develop the gifts and callings in my life so I can fulfill my divine mandate!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Have you ever thought you knew where you were supposed to be, but God interrupted your plans and led you differently than you anticipated?
- Although you may have been taken off-guard at how God led you, as you look back on that experience, can you see how important it was that God led you to where you were and to be with the people you were with? How did that place and those people help prepare you for the next season of your life?
- Is God leading you differently right now than you had anticipated? Is it a place that is outside of your comfort zone?