So your new thing worked for awhile, and you knew God was in it. Then, suddenly, it stopped working. Maybe people stopped showing up. Maybe you stopped caring. Maybe it just wasn't bearing any fruit.
Regardless of the reason, now your new thing is dead. Deader than a doornail. It petered out despite your best efforts. And now you're not quite sure how to respond to this strange turn of events.
First, let me remind you that not everything you've ever started has died. You've had successes. You've been able to finish some things and bring them to completion, or you've been able to start some things that now other people do.
Why is that important? Because it gives us perspective:
Some new things have a purpose for a short time; some things are for a longer season; and some things are our life's work. And some things are warfare.
It's important not to confuse the four. So if your new thing has died, let's figure out together which bucket it fell in.
1. Maybe your new thing was only for a short time.
If that's the case, I believe that God's purpose was to use this new thing to sow seeds into the hearts of people. And if you look back, you can probably see that. Your new thing gave you an opportunity to sow seeds …
- seeds that make people hungry for more;
- seeds of encouragement or inspiration;
- seeds of training or wisdom that God will pull out of your people again later, after those seeds have matured and marinated awhile.
Remember the words of Paul, when he talked about this principle in 1 Corinthians 3:6-8:
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.
Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Corinthians 3:6-8).
If your new thing was only for a short time, God was using you to plant seeds. For whatever reason, those seeds need to germinate in the ground awhile before they bear fruit. So how do you handle that? Simple:
- Thank God for the seeds that you got to sow.
- Pray that He will water those seeds, and use them in His way, in His time, and for His glory.
- Then let it go, and don't worry about it anymore.
I had this experience with a writers' guild I started that eventually died.
At first everything worked great. Everybody was excited, and people were getting a lot of writing done. Several people built beautiful blogs, and they were doing a fantastic job.
Then people just stopped writing, and all the encouragement in the world from me didn't change that. So you know what? I talked with my pastor about it, and decided to let it go. It wasn't bearing fruit anymore, and I couldn't force it to bear fruit. My time is valuable. So I let it go.
But you know what? During that time, I was still able to sow a lot of seeds into the people in the group. They now have technical knowledge and, hopefully, inspiration and encouragement that they didn't have before. So I believe God will use that. He will water those seeds, and if He has called any of those folks to write or produce creatively, He'll help them fulfill that call.
And me? I hated to let it die, but it was the right decision. I have had total peace about it, because it was for a season. Who knows; maybe God will resurrect it someday. But if not, even if none of the folks I trained ever write again, then it was still worth it because I got to encourage and love on those people during that time.
What's the takeaway for you? If your new thing was for a short time, find the seeds. Thank God for the seeds He let you sow, and let it go.
Enough said about that.
2. Maybe your new thing was for a season.
If your new thing was for a season (longer than a short time, but still not your life's work), I believe it was about preparing the way for the people.
Usually, if you have a longer season, something you did will take root in someone, or in a group, and it will produce fruit. When it starts to produce fruit, someone else will take it over and carry it forward.
That person is a settler, and you were waiting for him even if you didn't know it! That settler will come and occupy the land, so you can move on to the next new thing God wants you to pioneer.
Related: Read about the differences between the pioneer call and the settler call here. Both are equally important, so don't hate the settlers. 🙂
So how do you respond in this situation?
Look at it this way: your new thing didn't exactly die. It got transferred. Your role in it might have ended, but the new thing is still going. It might look different or feel different, but God now has His man or woman in place to handle that thing, and you've been freed up.
If this is the case, there's only one way to respond: move on. Love all the people you got to reach, and bless them. Keep in touch as much as you can, and as the Lord leads. But give your settler his or her space to occupy the land, and you go do what God has called you to do next.
3. Maybe your new thing is your life's work.
If this is the case, and it seems like it has died, then it's possible that the timing wasn't quite right, or that you weren't quite ready (even though you didn't know it).
This happened to me when I started seminary the first time. You read that right; “the first time.” I started years ago, and I quit. I didn't even make it through the first class. I was trying to study, but I was struggling to manage my time; then we bought a house and were in the process of moving; then I landed in the hospital. I was struggling, and it was more than I could handle.
The new thing I was doing was part of my life's work. I am called to preach the Gospel. There's no doubt going to seminary was important for me and God's call on my life.
But you know what? The first time I started, my new thing died because I wasn't ready. I didn't have the character and perseverance needed to handle it. Then God allowed me to go through the fire for a few years. He did a lot of work in my heart during that time. By the time I started seminary again in 2010, I was hungry and determined and ready. I worked hard. I studied, and studied, and studied some more. I wrote hundreds of pages of research papers and theological defenses.
And on June 13, 2012, this happened:
Why yes indeed. That is me, with my husband, and I graduated. June 13, 2012, with my Master's in Biblical Studies from Berea Seminary. Thank You, Jesus! Going to seminary changed my life. But I had to be ready. Could I have stuck it out the first time I started? Probably. But I didn't. My new thing died at that time. But later, God resurrected it and brought me back, and it was AWESOME.
If your new thing has died, but you know it's part of your life's work, ask God to resurrect it.
Ask Him to help you persevere. Ask Him to do the work He needs to do in your heart to make you ready. Ask Him to help you manage your time correctly, so that you can fulfill all His purposes for your life.
And at the right time, in the right way, He will.
4. But maybe this is just warfare.
Maybe your new thing really was God's will, but somehow the enemy got in the way and managed to snuff it out.
If that's the case, you probably know it already. How to respond? Only one–ok, two–things to do:
Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray some more. And, if God leads you to do so, fast and pray.
Related: The Warfare of the Spiritual Warlord
Prayer moves Heaven and shakes earth. Fasting combined with prayer makes demons flee and shapes the history of nations. So if the enemy has brought warfare to your door, don't let him get away with it. Go on the offensive. You can win this thing on your knees. Don't give up. Remember the words of Jesus:
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12).
Do you want the Kingdom to come in your life? Do you want the will of God to be done on earth as it is in Heaven?
Then go on the offensive. God will help you. Isaiah 59:19 tells us:
So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun; when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.”
Do warfare God's way, and you will win the battle every time.
And by the way, the best sermon I've ever heard on going on the offensive through prayer was by Lou Engle at the Mission: Possible conference a few years ago. If you can find it online, I'd strongly encourage you to watch it; you'll be forever changed if you do.
Dear pioneer, if your new thing has died, there is a reason.
Maybe God only intended it to last for a short time. Or maybe it was for a season, or there are delays because of timing, or it is just warfare. Maybe you simply need God's grace to persevere against all odds.
Regardless, don't let it get you down. Just ask God to show you which bucket it belongs in, and He will help you respond appropriately.
Does this message speak to you today? Does it encourage your heart? If so, please leave a comment below. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!
Read the other posts in the “Letters To Pioneers” series:
- Letters To Pioneers #1: So You Feel Like You Don't Fit In
- Letters To Pioneers #2: So You Wonder What's Wrong With Your Timing
- Letters To Pioneers #3: So You Wonder Where All The People Are?
- Letters To Pioneers #4: How To Pioneer Within Your Local Church
- Letters To Pioneers #5: When You're Lonely And Misunderstood
- Letters To Pioneers #6: When Nobody Gives You Any Credit
- Letters To Pioneers #7: When You Feel Completely Inadequate
* Quote is from Strong's, here.
Image courtesy of M01229 on Flickr via Creative Commons license. Graphics have been added.