|LIFE IN JESUS-MINISTRIES
|GOD SPEAKS THROUGH CIRCUMSTANCES
Henry & Richard Blackaby and Claude King
I AM REVEALED
Apr 24 2013
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and
He will guide you on the right paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
PREVENTED BY CIRCUMSTANCES
While Marilynn and I were serving in our second church, we attended a missions conference. We both felt God calling
us to surrender our lives to international missions. We went home and applied to our denomination’s mission board.
After the extensive application process was complete, our oldest son experienced some perplexing health problems.
The mission board cautioned us against moving forward until our son’s condition improved. We had sensed God asking
us to prepare for missions, and yet when we attempted to move forward in that direction, Richard’s illness occurred.
This could have been a confusing circumstance in our lives, so we continued to pray and watched to see why God had
told us to prepare for a missions assignment. Before long, we were contacted by a small church in Saskatoon, Canada.
This church had gone through a bitterly discouraging time and had been reduced to a remnant of only ten disheartened
members. Although this church was much smaller than the one where we were serving, we sensed the spiritual need in
Canada was enormous and that God wanted to use us to start churches all over the western portion of the country. This
small church was unable to pay the full salary the mission agency would have, but the opportunity to serve in my home
country – which so desperately needed more ministers and churches – excited us. Because God had prepared us to
serve on the mission field, we were ready to accept the call to Canada.
Interestingly, after we moved to Canada, we took our son to a local doctor to continue treatments for his mysterious
condition. After running several tests, the Canadian medical experts announced there was nothing wrong with our son,
and there never had been! But now we were in Canada. Why had God allowed this unusual medical ailment to afflict
our son at the very time we were preparing for missions? We began to serve the Lord as faithfully as we knew how, and
if we had gone to Africa where our hearts were leaning, our denomination’s missions board would have provided a full
salary, with medical and retirement benefits. Although the lifestyle change would have been drastic, there would have
been an extensive missions network to assist us. All we had was God and His provision. Yet, to our delight, we
repeatedly experienced that this was more than enough. God consistently provided for all our needs.
Ultimately, God led our small church and its missions to begin thirty-eight new churches. We experienced God working
so powerfully that I was eventually asked to write a study describing how I learned to walk with God in such a practical
and powerful way. That study, of course, is Experiencing God.
Experiencing God was so widely used by churches around the world and by missionaries in our international missions
agency that I was asked if I would travel internationally to teach missionaries the truths we learned in Canada. To date, I
have been privileged to minister in one hundred fourteen countries. I was recently in India and, to my surprise, I
discovered that churches all across that great country had been studying Experiencing God. One pastor had used the
material to lead his church to start more than one hundred churches.
It might have appeared that our son’s illness closed the door to our involvement in world missions. However, from God’s
perspective it was just another step in His guidance that enabled us to have the maximum impact for His kingdom. We
never know the truth of our circumstances until we have heard from God.
EXPERIENCE ALONE IS UNRELIABLE
At times as I’m leading a seminar, someone will get upset with me and say, “Well, I don’t care what you say; I’ve
experienced such and such.” I respond as kindly as I know how by saying, “I do not deny your experience. I do question
your interpretation of what you experienced because it is contrary to what I see in the Word of God.”
Your experience alone cannot be your guide. Every experience must be held up against the Scriptures. Throughout
your life, there will be times when you want to respond based on your experiences or your wisdom. However, we can’t
see all that God sees in our situation. We don’t know the long-term results of our present circumstances. We don’t
know how God intends to use good or difficult life events to build our character, to influence other people, or to further
His kingdom. Trying to discover God’s will based on our understanding of circumstances alone can be misleading.
Always rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth of your situation through God’s Word.
Also, see how God works by looking through the entire Bible. Don’t rely on one or two isolated passages. When you
learn how God has worked historically, you’ll better recognize Him at work in your life. Your experience is valid only when
it is confirmed in the Scriptures.
THE BIBLE IS OUR GUIDE
The Word of God is the infallible guide to what we should be doing (see II Timothy 3:16). Some people argue, “That’s
not practical.” They want to move beyond the Bible and rely on the world’s ways, on personal experience, or on popular
thinking. As a Christian disciple, I cannot abandon the guidance I find in Scripture. The Bible is my guide for faith and
practice, and it is remarkably practical.
JESUS WATCHED THE FATHER’S ACTIVITY
Jesus knew the Father’s will for His life daily by watching the Father’s activity. He describes the process in John 5:17, 19-
20: “My Father is still working, and I am working also…I assure you: The Son is not able to do anything on His own, but
only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does these things in the same way.
For the Father loves the Son and shows Him everything He is doing.”
Jesus did not take the initiative in what He did for the Father (see John 5:19). Only the Father is the initiator. The
Father had been working throughout history and was carrying out His purposes in Jesus’ time on earth (see John 5:17).
The Father let the Son know what He was doing (see John 5:20). When Jesus saw the Father’s activity, that was Jesus’
invitation to join His Father.
Jesus did not ever have to guess what He should do. Nor did He have to dream up what He could do for the Father.
Rather, He simply watched to see what the Father was doing around Him, and He immediately aligned His life that way.
Then the Father accomplished His purposes through Jesus.
This is how Jesus wants us to respond to His lordship in our lives. He reveals what He is doing, and then we adjust our
lives, our plans, and our goals to Him. We are to place our lives at His disposal – where He is working – so He can
accomplish His purposes through us.
Sometimes circumstances appear to be “bad.” Maybe you’re in the middle of a difficult situation, and you’re asking God,
“Why is this happening to me?” If so, you’re not alone.
GOD’S PERSPECTIVE IS VITAL
Joseph needed God’s perspective to understand his circumstances. He had visions of greatness when he was a youth
(see Genesis 37:1-11). Yet his older brothers maliciously turned against him and sold him as a slave.
Joseph was taken to a foreign country where it appeared he would spend the rest of his life in bondage, never to see his
family again. Then things got worse. He was falsely accused of a heinous crime and thrown in jail. Later, when a fellow
prisoner Joseph had helped was released, he hoped the man might help him in return. Instead, the man forgot about
Joseph. For someone who had committed no offense, Joseph’s life appeared to be undeservedly harsh and unfair.
Then the pharaoh had a dream, and all of Joseph’s life experiences began to fall into place (see Genesis 41:1-8). His
fellow prisoner remembered and mentioned Joseph to Pharaoh. Joseph interpreted the pharaoh’s dream, which was a
warning from God of impending disaster. Joseph was appointed the second in command in all of Egypt, and ultimately
he saved his father, brothers, and their families from a devastating famine.
Reviewing all God had allowed in his life, Joseph declared to his brothers, “You planned evil against me; God planned it
for good” (Genesis 50:20). When Joseph’s life was placed in the context of God’s eternal purposes, every major
experience in his life – both good and bad – could be seen to have a purpose and to result in good.
When you face difficult or confusing circumstances, they can overwhelm you. If you bury yourself in the circumstances,
you will always have a distorted understanding of God. For instance, you might say, “God doesn’t love me” or “God is
not fair,” but both of those statements are false. Have you ever been in the middle of a tragic or fearful situation where,
in your prayers, you began to accuse God of some things that you know are not true? Perhaps you began to questions
God’s love or His wisdom. Maybe you were afraid to say that He was wrong, but you sort of said, “God, you deceived me
in letting me believe that this was the right thing to do. Why didn’t you stop me?” A whole lot of wrong conclusions can
result if you try to look at God from the middle of a painful situation.
What should you do instead? First, ask God to show you His perspective on what’s happening. Look back at your
situation from what you already know about God. When you face a troublesome time, the Holy Spirit will take the Word
of God and help you understand the event from God’s perspective. He will reveal to you the truth of your
circumstances. Then you can adjust your life and thinking to what God is doing.
OUR DAUGHTER’S CANCER
Earlier in the book, I told you about our daughter Carrie’s bout with cancer, an extraordinarily difficult circumstance for
our family. Her condition had gone undetected for two years, which meant she was in an advanced stage of Hodgkin’s
Disease. The doctors prepared us for six to eight months of chemotherapy, to be followed by aggressive radiation
treatments. We knew God loved us, but everything looked grim. We prayed, “What are You doing in this experience,
and what adjustments do we need to make?”
As we prayed, a Scripture promise came that we believed was from God. The promise was accompanied by letters and
calls from many people who quoted the same Scripture. The verse reads, “This sickness will not end in death but is for
the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). While it would not have been
unexpected for us to gravitate to this encouraging verse, we were inundated with people who sensed this was God’s
word for our particular situation.
Our sense that God was speaking to us grew stronger as the Bible, prayer, and the testimony of other believers began
to line up and say the same thing. We adjusted our lives to that truth and began to watch for ways God would use the
situation for His glory.
During this time, people from many places in Canada, Europe, and the United States prayed for Carrie. Individuals,
college student groups, and churches called to tell us of their prayers. Many said something like this: “Our prayer life
had become dry and cold. We haven’t seen any special answers to prayer in a long time. But when we heard about
Carrie, we put her on our prayer list and felt unusually burdened to pray for her.
After only three months of treatments, the doctors ran more tests and to their surprise, all tests were negative. They
could not find any trace of cancer. I immediately began to contact those who had prayed for Carrie and shared with
them this answer to their intercession. Person after person indicated that seeing God’s answer totally renewed their
prayer lives. Church prayer ministries were revitalized. Student prayer groups found new life.
FOR GOD’S GLORY
Then I began to see what God had in mind for this circumstance. Through this experience, God was glorified in the eyes
of His people. Many people sensed a fresh call to prayer. They personally experienced anew the presence of truth – as
a Person. Carrie’s closest friends began to pray fervently, and some students came to know the Lord after observing
what God had done in Carrie. God brought glory to Himself through this sickness, and many people’s lives were
changed forever. We faced a trying situation and could have looked at God from the middle of it only to gain a distorted
understanding of Him. Instead, we sought His perspective.
God walked with my family and me through that experience so closely and lovingly – and He spoke to us through His
Word so clearly, directly, and powerfully – that we came to understand at a fresh, new level God’s love for us and our
daughter. Even if the Lord had chosen not to heal Carrie, I believe we would have been assured that He loved us. I
also believe He would have shown us, through His Word and through subsequent circumstances, that He had a purpose
for what He did. The key was not that God healed our daughter. The important thing was that God walked with us
through that experience and gave us His perspective.
I have known other Christian parents who lost a child to terminal illness. Many of these experienced God walking just as
closely with them, and they came to see that God could take the most devastating circumstances and bring good out of
In our case, the Holy Spirit took the Word of God and revealed to us God’s view on the end result of that circumstance.
We believed God and adjusted our lives to Him and to what He was doing. Then we went through the circumstance,
looking to see how His purposes would be accomplished in ways that would bring Him glory. When the answer to prayer
came, I knew immediately that my job was to declare the wonderful works of the Lord to His people. In the process, we
came to know God in a new way because of the compassion He showed us.
Let me summarize how you can respond when circumstances seem bewildering:
God is sovereign. You may face a situation like Joseph’s in which God does not tell you what He is doing – at first. If so,
acknowledge His love and sovereignty, and depend on His sustaining grace to see you through the situation. There are
some things that happen in our lives we may never understand until they are revealed in heaven. Then we will celebrate
with people like Joseph and Job that God was indeed faithful and loving – even when we didn’t understand all He was
doing or allowing in our lives.
TRUTH AND YOUR CIRCUMSTANCE
You can’t understand the truth of your circumstance until you have heard from God. Exodus 5-6 records that Moses did
what God told him to do and asked Pharaoh to release the Israelites. Pharaoh refused, instead multiplying the Israelites’
hardship. The Israelites turned against Moses and criticized him for causing so much trouble. What would you have
done if you had been in Moses’ place?
The human tendency would be to assume you’d missed God’s will. You might get mad at Israel for treating your good
intentions so ungratefully, or you might become angry at God for asking you to do something that only magnified your
Moses blamed God and accused Him of failing to do what He promised, and I suppose most of us would have responded
the same way. Moses said, “Lord, why have You caused trouble for this people? And why did You ever send me? Ever
since I went into Pharaoh to speak in Your name he has caused trouble for this people, and You haven’t delivered Your
people at all” (Exodus 5:22-23). Moses was discouraged and ready to quit (see Exodus 6:12).
I’m glad God is patient with us! He took time to explain His perspective to Moses. God wanted Pharaoh to resist so the
people could witness God’s mighty hand of deliverance. He wanted His people to come to know Him by experience as
the great “I AM.” God was allowing His people’s problems to increase so they could witness a greater measure of God’s
power when He delivered them!
Learn from Moses’ example. When you face confusing circumstances, don’t start blaming God. Don’t quit following
Him. Ask Him to reveal the truth of your circumstances, to show you His perspective. Then wait on the Lord (see Psalm
You need to have your life firmly anchored in God. The most difficult thing you’ll ever have to do is deny self, embrace
the will of God, and follow Him (see Matthew 16:24). The hardest part of your relationship to God is remaining God-
centered. If you were to record a whole day in your life, you might find that your prayers, your attitudes, your thoughts –
everything about that day – was radically self-centered. You may not be seeing things from God’s perspective. You
may try to explain to God what your perspective is, but the key is God’s will. As your Father, He has every right to be:
HEARING FROM TRUTH
When the Holy Spirit talks to you, He will reveal truth to you. He is going to talk to you about a Person, Jesus Christ.
Yes, truth is a person! Jesus said, “I am…the truth” (John 14:6).
Truth in a Storm
The disciples were in a boat when a terrifying storm struck (see Mark 4:35-41), but Jesus was asleep in the back of the
boat. If you had asked those disciples in the middle of the storm, “What is the truth of this situation?” they would have
said, “We perish!” But was that the truth? No. Truth was asleep at the back of the boat. In a moment, Truth Himself
would stand up and calm the storm. Once that happened, they knew the truth of their circumstances. The Person of
Truth is always present in your life. You cannot know the truth of your circumstances until you have heard from God.
Truth at a Funeral
Notice the difference truth made in this circumstance:
the gate of the town, a dead man was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow. A
large crowd from the city was also with her. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said, “Don’t
cry.” Then He came up and touched the open coffin, and the pallbearers stopped. And He said, “Young man, I
tell you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Then fear came
over everyone, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us,” and “God has visited His
people,” This report about Him went throughout Judea and all the vicinity. (Luke 7:11-17)
If you had asked the grieving mother, “What is the truth of this situation?” she might have replied, “My husband died
several years ago. We only had one son, and I hoped that we would enjoy wonderful times together and that he would
take care of me in my old age. Now my son is dead and I have no one to care for me.” But was that the truth? No.
Truth was standing in front of her! When He reached out and touched her son, everything changed. When Jesus
demonstrated His power, the people marveled at what they witnessed, and they proclaimed all over the country side that
a great prophet had come (Luke 7:16-17).
Never determine the truth of a situation by looking at the circumstances. Don’t evaluate your situation until you have
heard from Jesus. He is the Truth of every circumstance.
Truth with Hungry People
Jesus was surrounded by more than five thousand hungry people (see John 6:1-15), and He wanted to feed them. In a
test of Philip’s faith, Jesus asked where they could buy enough bread to feed the multitude. If you asked the disciples at
that moment about the truth of the situation, they would have told you, “We can’t do it. Feeding this multitude is
impossible.” But was that true? No. We know the rest of the story. So wouldn’t we be better off if we trusted God with
the other half of the story in our lives? Truth Himself fed five thousand men, plus their families, and had twelve baskets
full of leftovers!
I wonder if God ever tests our faith as He did Philip’s. Does He say, “Feed the multitudes,” and the church responds,
“We don’t have that much money in our budget”? Truth stands in the middle of the church, and the Head of the church
says, “Believe Me. I will never give you a command for which I will not release the power to enable it to happen. Trust
Me, and it will happen.
In making a decision, the greatest difficulty may not be in choosing between good and bad but in choosing between
good and best. You may have several options that all appear good. The place to start is to say with all of our heart:
“Lord, whatever I know to be You will, I will do. Regardless of the cost and regardless of the adjustment, I commit myself
to follow Your will. No matter what that looks like, Lord, I will do it!”
You need to commit to that before you seek God’s will. Otherwise, you do not mean “Thy will be done.” Instead you are
saying, “Thy will be done as long as it does not conflict with my will.” Two words in the Christian’s language cannot go
together: “No, Lord.” If you say “no,” He is not your Lord. If He is your Lord, your answer must always be “yes.” In
decision making, do not proceed until you can honestly say, “Whatever you want of me, Lord, I will do it.”
PHYSICAL MARKERS OF SPIRITUAL ENCOUNTERS
When Israel crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, God gave Joshua the following instructions: “Choose 12
men from the people, one man for each tribe, and command them, ‘Take 12 stones from this place in the middle of the
Jordan where the priests’ feet are standing, carry them with you, and set them down at the place where you spend the
night’” (Joshua 4:2-3).
These stones were to serve as a monument to the Israelites. Joshua explained: “This will be a sign among you. In the
future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ you should tell them, ‘The waters of the Jordan
were cut off in front of the ark of the LORD’S covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.’
Therefore, these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites” (Joshua 4:6-7).
The stones were to be a visible reminder of God’s mighty act in providing for His people. In Old Testament times, others
also built altars or set up stones as reminders of significant encounters with God (Noah: Genesis 6-8; Abram: Genesis
12:1-8 and 13:1-18; Isaac: Genesis 26:17-25; Jacob: Genesis 28:10-22 and 35:1-7; Moses: Exodus 17:8-16 and 24:1-
11; Joshua: Joshua 3:5-4:9; Gideon: Judges 6:11-24; and Samuel: I Samuel 7:1-13). Places like Bethel (“house of
God”) and Rehoboth (“room”) became reminders of God’s activity in the midst of His people. Moses named an altar
“The Lord is my Banner,” and Samuel named a stone “Ebenezer,” saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us (I Samuel
7:12). These altars and stones were physical markers of great spiritual encounters with God. They provided
opportunities for parents to teach their children about God’s activity on behalf of His people.
A SPIRITUAL MARKER
I have found it helpful to identify spiritual markers in my life. Each time I encounter God’s call or directions, I mentally
build a marker. A spiritual marker identifies a time of transition, decision, or direction when I clearly know that God has
guided me. Over time, I can look back at these spiritual markers and see how God has faithfully directed my life
according to His divine purpose. When I review my markers, I see more clearly the directions God has been moving my
life and ministry. Sometimes, it is unclear as we look forward to where God is leading us. But when we look back, we
can more readily discern the purposeful guidance of God at key times in our lives.
At times, I may face several options by which I could serve God, and I need to know which of these good things is what
God desires of me. When I face a decision about God’s directions, I review my spiritual markers. I don’t take the next
step without the context of God’s full activity in my life. This helps me see God’s perspective for my past and present.
Then I look at the options before me to see which one is most consistent with what God has been doing in my life up to
that point. Often, one of the potential directions follows on what God has already been doing. If that is not the case, I
continue to pray and wait for the Lord’s guidance and timing.
MY OWN SPIRITUAL MARKERS
Several years ago, I was approached about taking on a new ministry with my denomination’s home missions agency.
The organization asked me to direct its emphasis on prayer and spiritual awakening, but I had never had such a job in
my life. If I accepted, it meant leaving Vancouver, where we were settled and happy, and moving to Atlanta, Georgia.
Only God could reveal whether this was part of His divine purpose, and the spiritual markers in my life helped me view
this decision from God’s perspective.
My own spiritual markers start before I was born. My heritage goes back to England, where a number of my family
members were graduates of Spurgeon’s College when Charles Spurgeon was trying to win England for Christ. Revival
and awakening were “in my blood,” you might say.
I grew up in a Canadian town where there was no evangelical church. There, my father served as a lay pastor and
helped start a mission church. Way back in my teen years, I sensed a deep burden for communities all across Canada
that did not have an evangelical church. While I was in seminary, God assured me that He loved my nation enough to
bring a great movement of His Spirit across that land. When I accepted God’s call to Saskatoon, He used the prospect
of a spiritual awakening there to affirm my call. A revival and spiritual awakening did occur and spread across many
parts of Canada in the early 1970s. Now I was part of exciting events in British Columbia where God was obviously at
Then one day someone from Atlanta, Georgia, called me. He said, “Henry, we have prayed much about filling a position
in prayer for spiritual awakening. We have been seeking a person for over two years. Would you consider coming and
directing our denomination in this emphasis?”
The spiritual markers in my life showed that spiritual awakening was an important element throughout my ministry.
Although I had assumed I would spend the rest of my life serving the Lord in Canada, when I heard this invitation was in
the area of spiritual awakening, I sensed the Holy Spirit’s involvement in the opportunity. After prayer and confirmation
in the Word and by other believers, I accepted the position. God didn’t lead me into something in which I had never
been interested. Rather, this job brought together things God had been building into my life for decades.
EXPERIENCING GOD, by Henry & Richard Blackaby and Claude King, Copyright 2008, B&H Publishing Group.