When my wife married me, she knew what she was getting into because I laid it all out for her—I threw up on our first date. I had recently moved to Northern California. Knowing I was new to the area, she said she’d like to show me around. She asked if I was a mountain biker, and I answered, “yes,” because, well, I owned a mountain bike. But I was soon to learn that owning a mountain bike doesn’t make you a biker.
When the day finally came, I threw my bike and helmet into the car, and drove to her apartment. When she answered the door, she sized me up and said several things. First, we would be driving to the course. She usually began from her apartment, but apparently my atrophied legs told her I was a phony. Second, she thought my helmet was so cute I could paint a lady bug on the side. Again, a giveaway. And third, my mesh shorts would not be comfortable on our long ride, so I should wear a pair of her spandex shorts. I went into the bathroom and slid them on.
We arrived at the course and began to ride. I took the lead, pedaling at a rapid pace, rapid for a guy who owns a mountain bike. After awhile—she says it was fifteen minutes—I needed a rest. I stopped and hopped off my bike.
I flopped on the grass, right in a pile of tree sap. I apologized, “Uhh, sorry about your shorts,” to which she said, “You don’t look so good,” and I said, “I don’t feel so good.” Then all of a sudden I laid it all out for her; I emptied the contents of my stomach all over the place. “Uhh, sorry about your shorts,” I said a second time.
She gave me an energy bar, and we continued our ride. Soon we came to the top of a decline. I started down the gravel hill, but it was steep, and soon I was traveling too fast for comfort. The bike wobbled, but it was too late to recover—I wiped out. I fell off the bike and tumbled onto the ground.
Jumping to my feet, I waived my arms and yelled, “I’m alright; I’m alright!” My leg was scraped and bleeding, but worse yet, I had torn a hole in her precious spandex. “Uhh, sorry about your shorts,” I uttered a third time. “Don’t worry, you can keep them.”
That night as I drove home, I recounted the day. I thought about how wonderful it was, and I wondered if we could have a future together (imagine the nerve of thinking of such a thing). Yes, I had launched my lunch; yes, I had worn women’s spandex; and yes, I had wiped out on the kiddie hill. But none of this mattered because of what God said to me.
I told him how incredible she was. He countered by saying, “Yes, but I made you just as incredible.” I told him she was more than I could ask for.” He replied, “I do more for which you can ask.” My eyes filled with tears at what God was suggesting: this woman and I were a perfect match! This beautiful, poised, gutsy, young woman, and me, this clumsy, little, chunk chucker, actually complemented each other. Despite my colossal blunders that day, God was preparing me for something more colossal. A year later we got married.
Sometimes God encounters us to prepare us for the future. Since he knows the end from the beginning, he knows what happens next in our story. And because he knows what happens next, he prepares us for it. Sometimes God tells us what we need to know; sometimes he gives us what we need to have; and sometimes he practices with us.
God told me what I needed to know after the first date. As a result I pursued the fairest maiden in the land. God told Jeremiah what would happen when he prophesied to the kings, priests, and people of Judah (they will fight against him). As a result Jeremiah knew what to expect, and he wasn’t shaken by the opposition (Jeremiah 1.17-19).
God told Joseph to take his family to Egypt because the king wanted to kill his newborn son. As a result Jesus the Messiah was saved, so he could save us (Matthew 2.13). God told the disciples named Peter, James, and John to listen to Jesus. As a result they founded the Jesus Movement despite persecution and martyrdom (Matthew 17.5). Do you see what God has done? God prepared his people in advance by telling them what they needed to know.
God also gives us what we need to have. Presently, what we have isn’t enough for what’s ahead, and so he equips us for the journey. This happens in great stories. In Lord of the Rings, Frodo receives an elfin knife with which to fight. In The Neverending Story, Atreyu receives the Auryn, a medallion which reminds him of his mission. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lucy receives fire-flower juice, which is a healing potion. In The Paladins, Carissa receives a cross bow and, like Lucy, a vial of healing liquid.
So it is in the Kingdom of God. To the Twelve disciples, God gives “power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases.” (Luke 9.1). As a result they go around, “preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.” (Luke 9.6). To the Samarians, God gives “the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them.” (Acts 8.15-16). As a result, they’re empowered in their faith (they had already been baptized into Jesus, but wanted more). To Jesus followers, God gives spiritual gifts “for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12.7). As a result, the Church is built up.
Not only does God tell us what we need to know, and give us what we need to have, but God also practices with us. He knows the next part of the story, and to prepare us for it, he acts out what will happen so we can be successful. Why do you think God came to Moses in a burning bush? Because he liked bushes? No, because God was preparing Moses for his mission; he was training him.
God calls Moses to a daunting task—commanding Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery. This seems like an impossible mission because Pharaoh considers himself the Greatest on Earth; you don’t tell Pharaoh what to do. And, the Israelites are his biggest labor force. Plus, Moses had earlier killed an Egyptian official, and fled the country; now he would return. Not an easy mission at all.
But God promises to help Moses out. He tells him, “So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.” (Exodus 3.20). Sounds convincing, right? Wrong. It’s not enough for Moses. He doesn’t like the story God is telling, and wants out. He pleads for a rewrite: “O LORD, please send someone else to do it.” But Moses is God’s person for the job, and he doesn’t relent (not even when Moses says please).
So God prepares Moses for the mission by first performing wonders to Moses before he performs wonders to Pharoah. He does this four times: God appears in a bush that doesn’t burn up; he turns Moses’ shepherd staff into a snake; he strikes Moses’ hand with leprosy; and he heals it. Why? It’s all preparation. You see, the burning bush, the slithering staff, the leprous limb are all part of God’s training for the future: Moses has to see what God can do in order to believe what God will do.
Just as God prepared Moses, he’s preparing you. Your mission might not be releasing slaves from labor, but it might be leading people to salvation. It might not be rescuing a baby from a murderous king, but it might be providing an orphan with a family. It might not be starting a worldwide movement, but it might be loving someone who’s hard to love. So listen, receive, and watch for God. He’s preparing you for the future.