If we have been following Jesus for any length of time we will know Proverbs 3: 5-6, probably by heart – and if we don’t, it’s one to learn! “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” The word translated as “acknowledge” actually means much more that just a nodding reference – it means to know intimately. What this scripture actually tells us is to know the presence of God in all that we do. Here’s a story of how God delights to surprise us at times with the truth of these words.
I am fascinated by wild birds, and my main leisure interest is to spend time watching and photographing them – as those who know me will testify. Sometimes God speaks to me through them as well – see “Dabbling Ducks and Goosanders,” for example. Yesterday was Sunday. My morning routine is to start the day with about an hour reading the word, praying and listening to the Holy Spirit – in other words, having a “quiet time.” But yesterday I woke at about 6.30, saw the sun shining outside, and thought: ”I’m going birding this morning!” I felt a release to go; I didn’t feel that I “should” be having my quiet time or even checking in with the Lord in case He had anything for me to bring to the church meeting. So I made a cup of coffee, and I did in fact read a few verses while I was drinking it, including 1 Cor 8:6 “yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” That’s nice, I thought: I’m going birding through Jesus.
So at around 7.00 am I set off for Norton Bog, one of my favourite birding spots, about 25 mins drive away. I was listening to some worship on the way, and one of the songs referenced Acts 17:28 “In whom we live and move and have our being.” Hello, I thought – there could be a bit of a theme coming through here… Then as I was thinking about where to go in the location I was heading for, I felt the Lord say, quite clearly, “I’ve got something for you this morning.”
I parked the car and set off down the path I had selected, with my camera and binoculars slung round my neck. It’s a wooded area, and I quite often see jays around there, but I’ve never managed to take a decent picture of one – they always fly off into the trees before I can get them in focus. “I wonder what He’s got for me?” I thought. I had it in my mind that I might see some warblers who should have arrived on our shores to breed by now, but I just mentioned to the Lord that If I could get a decent shot of a jay I would go home happy.
There are various trails at Norton bog – woods, heathland, and waterside. In opting for the woods, I wasn’t going to go on the waterside trail as well – it was in the totally opposite direction; but as I was walking I changed my mind, and when I came to a fork in the path I took the one that would double back to the lake. On the way I saw a small bird at the top of a tree whose call I didn’t recognise. My big zoom lens did a good job and I looked at the images on the screen of my camera. A marsh tit! Not a common little bird, and in serious decline, like many others. I’ve been wanting to see one this year. Was this what God had for me? I looked carefully again at all the pictures, and then I saw a tell-tale splash of white on the back of its neck. This wasn’t a marsh tit at all, but a coal tit: much more common. A nice picture of a sweet little bird, but nothing special; not what I felt God had for me. I carried on towards the lake.
I wasn’t far along the lakeside path when I saw it: a splash of white rump flitting among some trees fifty-odd yards away that said “Jay.” As usual though, before I had got it in shot, the bird had flown onto another branch. I backtracked a few paces to get a better picture, clear of some of the woodland obstructions that were in my line of sight, and then the jay did what jays, in my experience at least, never do: it flew onto a fence post in the open and just sat there, posing for me. And not only did I get a beautiful picture of a perching jay, but when it did fly off I already had it in focus, and I got another beautiful picture, this time of a flying jay. This definitely was the treat that God had prepared for me. What a loving Father.
However this isn’t just a testimony of the goodness of God, although it certainly is one, and shows just how much God loves to bless His kids with little treats: there are a few lessons we can draw from it, not least the one that I have already mentioned.
Don’t stop at the coal tit.
God has great things planned for us. There are promises in His Word, and there are promises given to the church and to you as an individual where He has said, in so many words, “I’ve got something for you.” There are many prophesies current at the moment in which the Holy Spirit is talking about a great revival to come. One I saw recently said: “Don’t try and surf the ripple: wait for the wave to come,” the message being that if you surf the small wave you will finish up on the beach and won’t be ready to ride the big wave that follows it. Let’s not be content with one or two people getting saved and joining the church, the occasional healing or other testimony of the grace of God. While we must not “despise the day of small things,” our Father has great things in store, and He wants us to press in to them.
Be open to a change of direction
I had planned just to stay in the woods, but I turned back to go to the lake because I felt a little nudge from the Holy Spirit telling me to do so. I knew He had “got something for me,” so my spiritual antennae were up and open to His guidance. But the fact is that He has always “got something for us:” sometimes He will prompt us to follow an unexpected course that we hadn’t planned for. There will be “a voice behind us saying “this is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21), but our ears need to hear the whisper of the Spirit behind the clamour of our flesh, and when we hear the voice we need to do what it says.
There is… one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things.
As one for whom the morning “quiet time” is as regular and as certain a start to my day as the breakfast that follows it, I am the last person to diminish its importance. But let’s not put God in a box – or an armchair. He does not need us to be sitting with our Bibles open and worship music on to be getting our attention: what He needs is for our hearts to be open to His love. Routine is the friend of religion, not of faith. He wants us to sit with our Bibles open because we are hungry for His word, not because it’s what we do at 7.30 every morning. He wants us to be with Him where He is (John 17:24), and it may not be in our 7.30 a.m. armchair. In Him we live and move and have our being, and all things are through Him. When we are truly walking in the Spirit our quiet time will last all day long, and we will walk into all the things that He has got for us.