Half a lifetime ago our youngest child had left home to go to university and we had a new freedom. My life was happy and fulfilled. I had no thought of change, until my husband became convinced that God was calling him into a new direction. This would mean giving up the security of our satisfying careers and moving to another part of the country. This didn’t fit in with my current plans, and initially I didn’t have a sense of the call of God. However, God dealt graciously with me and showed me that His purposes are always better than my plans. Together David and I moved into an unanticipated and fruitful future.
In general, the world’s attitude to life is having the freedom to live your life as you please and getting what you want for self-fulfilment. God’s way is pursuing what you were created for – this is life in all its fullness. Have you ever thought that God has a planned purpose for each of His children which is not guaranteed to fit in with our plans? ‘Many are the plans of a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails’ (Proverbs 9:21). God’s purpose is God’s best, as examples in Scripture teach us.
Abraham settled for second best because he doubted God’s word (Genesis 16:1-4). Childlessness had been a great sorrow to Abraham and his wife, Sarah. When Sarah was well past child-bearing age, God made a covenant with Abraham that a son coming from his own body would be his heir, and his offspring would be as countless as the stars. A covenant is God’s unbreakable promise. This was renewed when Abraham and Sarah were ninety and eighty years of age respectively. What God had promised was humanly impossible and, to add to this, there was a long waiting time between the promise and its fulfilment. Consequently, Abraham and his wife, Sarah, took the matter into their own hands and Ishmael was born to Sarah’s maid. They doubted God’s promise. They couldn’t wait for God’s best and settled for a plan they themselves devised. Had they not settled for second best a lot of unhappiness would have been avoided. However, God fulfilled His promise and Isaac was born when Abraham was a hundred and Sarah was ninety years of age. Little wonder they both laughed at the prospect!
A waiting time is not easy, but it is a preparation time for God’s best to be fulfilled in our lives. If we doubt God, like Abraham, we could be tempted to choose second best and may look back on our lives with regret. God’s purpose for our lives is always tied into His Kingdom purposes for a lost world.
King Saul settled for second best when he was overcome with fear (1 Kings 13). In the middle of a war with the Philistines he had been instructed to wait at a certain place for the prophet, Samuel, to join him to make a burnt offering to the Lord before resuming the battle. When Samuel was late in arriving and Saul and his troops were trembling with fear, he felt compelled to make the offering himself - something a king was forbidden to do. His second best choice, driven by fear, was an act of rebellion against God
One of the most difficult times to trust God is when fear grips our heart. Fear is a thief of faith and confidence, causing us to settle for something that seems to ease the present situation. This is always second best.
Martha settled for second best because she was too busy serving (Luke 19:38-41). Jesus was invited to the home of Martha and Mary. Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She became frustrated with her sister, Mary, who ‘sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said’. Martha resented Mary who had left her to do the work alone. She even commanded Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Jesus wasn’t concerned about all that Martha was worried and upset about. He pointed out that what Mary chose was the one thing that really mattered and nothing could take it from her.
We should all be using the gifts God has given us to serve in the Body of Christ. However, it is possible to settle for second best by being too busy. We can put service before intimacy with Jesus. Our lives can be so full, wrongly focussed, or overtaken with worry about lesser things, that we never come to the place of inner stillness where, like Mary, we spend time at the feet of Jesus, listening to what He is saying.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I lay my life before You today. Thank You that You have a perfect plan and purpose for me. I ask that, by the Holy Spirit, You will show me areas of my life where I have settled for second best because I have doubted You, been overtaken by fear or chosen busy service as a priority, instead of intimacy with Jesus. May I live today with the joy of knowing that I am Your child and filled with the Holy Spirit for the glory of Jesus. Amen.
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