The Ultimate Conductor: Is God Really Working?

It is easy for me to throw my hands into the air in despair because I can’t see God working.  Honestly, I look for God to provide or work in a very specific way and when he is not working in that way I don’t think he is working at all.  If there is any sort of constant in my life as a pastor it is that God does not work based on my expectations.

I was encouraged by how God replied to Habakkuk’s cry in 1:5-11.  God choosing to use the nation of Babylon might have been THE most unexpected way that God could have worked in that situation.  God is saying, “I am working in ways that you would never expect or understand.”  That should be encouraging to us.  In those moments when you look around in frustration and you feel alone and abandoned by your Father in Heaven… you can think twice… you can be reminded.  You can be reminded that God is working in that very minute and no matter how hard you look it will be impossible for you to completely comprehend all of the ways he is working.

I recently discovered Eric Whitacre.  He is an incredible contemporary music composer.  He had the genius idea of creating a virtual choir for one of his compositions.  He tells the story of videoing himself conduct the composition in isolation.  He sent out a request for people to record themselves singing their voice part of his choral composition and send him the YouTube video.  He received over 2000 recordings from over 58 different countries.  Eric had the video submissions edited (and of course some didn’t make the cut – I know wouldn’t have) into one piece with the voices singing in harmony and him conducting the performance.  It is an incredible work of art and I am an instant fan of Whitacre.

Each of these individual videos were recorded in the isolation of their home or bedroom.  They were completely isolated and sheltered from one another.  Eric was able to hear all of the voices and he smashed them together in harmony.  God has a view of history unlike we can ever imagine.  He is the conductor who hears, knows, and sees every moving part past, present, and future.  You and I are blessed to play and instrument in the greatest symphony ever played.  We are able to sing a part in the greatest choir following the most skilled conductor ever known.

Just because you can’t see how God is working it does not mean that he isn’t working.  Be encouraged today that his artistry is more than either you or I can truly comprehend.

Have you ever felt like Habakkuk?  Have you ever felt like God abandoned or had forgotten about the events unfolding in your life?  What was it that encouraged you to push ahead?

Journeying Through Pain (1 of 3)

I want to start by saying that so many of you who will read this have been through exponentially worse circumstances than I have ever experienced.  Also, I’ve never been left alone for a moment on this journey.  My family, wife, and friends have been a phenomenal blessing.

In my own small way I have asked a lot of questions and struggled to hear God through it all.  My hope is that a glimpse into my struggle will spark some new thoughts about how God works.

As a 34 year old/young man, I have now dealt with a “thorn in my side” for over half of my years.  The pauline pun there is pretty literal.  When I was 16 I was a very healthy High School student playing safety on the school football team.  Midway through the game I tackled one of the opposing running backs in the middle of the field and began feeling a sharp pain in my side.  When we left the felid as our offense came out, I mentioned what had happened to the team trainer.  He, understandably, dismissed it as a usual cramp of some type.  I don’t hold that against him.  If I remember correctly he was a combat medic during the Vietnam War and I’m sure he was pretty desensitized.

Later that night my parents took me to the ER because I began passing a lot of blood in my urine.  As expected, there were countless tests run and doctors consulted.  I met my first urologist that weekend as he was called in to diagnose and treat my ailment.  He described to me and my family that what he found was a blockage or “obstruction” that was inhibiting my kidney in function of draining to the bladder.  He thought this issue had probably been present my entire life and by some chance had been enflamed during this football game.  It was and is pretty confusing to think through how something that was present from birth would begin to cause pain after 16 years of going unnoticed… but I’m not going to dive into that story.

I missed so much school that we had to work through various appeal processes so that I could acquire the necessary credits to advance.  By the end of my High School career I had been through multiple procedures and had seen numerous specialists all over the Houston area.  None of the surgical procedures were successful.  The pain came in varying intensities over the following years.  I would go weeks, and even months, of some occasions without any pain.  The seasons of reprieve would be followed by seasons of life altering discomfort.

There are a few pretty entertaining stories along the way… I wish I could share all of them.  Okay, just one.  I have taken A LOT of pain medication over the years… every kind imaginable.  One day my mom and I were heading downtown to visit a new doctor and I had taken a good bit of pain medication.  As sometimes happens, I got nauseous and my mom pulled the car over.  We were on the Pierce Elevated in Houston which is a long bridge that travels over roads and “stuff.”  I opened the car door and vomited off the bridge onto whatever opportune audience was below… I didn’t look… I didn’t want to know.

In 2009 things seemed to intensify without reprieve.  Every day I would experience significant pain on my right side.  After many tests there was another surgical procedure called a Robotic Pyeloplasty.  I spent a few days in the hospital and some additional days at home recovering.  It seems as though there were a few months of improvement after that procedure before all of the symptoms returned.

As of today I am approaching my next surgery continuing to pray that it will be the one that ends this journey.  The story is still unfolding.  My wife has always known me as someone who is battling this and my children have only known their father as one who is marked by it.  My ministry career including my journey as Church Planter and Pastor at The Crossings has been marked by this struggle as well.

You can probably quickly imagine the questions I have asked.  God, why…. why can’t I be a healthy father and husband?  Why can’t I run and play with my kids at every whim? or help my wife bathe them and put them to bed?  God, I’m a pastor of a church… I can work harder and be more effective if I’m healthy.  Why do you see fit to limit me in my work for you and your church? The common denominator here is the question WHY! It is the same question so many others have asked regarding their individual struggles in life.

In the next post I will share the areas where I believe I have answers and the other areas where I find myself still asking.

Click HERE for PART TWO.

Matt Powell serves as teaching pastor at Crossings Community Church, a body of believers whose mission is to engage, equip, and empower homes for gospel transformation in Katy, TX.