This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. – 1 Kings 19:11-12 KJV
Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left. – Isa 30:21
It was the first weekend in September 1987 when a friend invited me to join him and his son on a fishing trip to Colorado. We would fly out of Houston in a private plane the next Saturday. I had been dealing with some difficult issues at Mars Hill, and my friend thought I needed a break. It was a very appealing invitation, but I didn’t have a peace about it, so I asked if I could let him know in a few days.
I prayed about what to do, and I weighed the pros and cons. But, aside from all the reasons for and against, I just could not get a peace about going. On Wednesday night, I still did not have an answer for my friend. I asked God to do something to make it clear to me why I should or shouldn’t go. I did not want to tell my friend that a lack of peace was really the only reason I couldn’t go.
That night, something strange was going on in my ears. It was the sort of thing that might happen if you had a sinus infection. But I felt good. I knew I wasn’t catching a cold. My only symptom was that my ear canals seemed to be blocked. I had never experienced anything quite like it before. The next morning I called my friend. I explained my concern that if I went up in a small private plane, then whatever was going on in my ears could get worse. He understood and told me his wife would take my place on the plane.
All day Thursday and Friday, my ears were clogged, but no pain. On Saturday morning, I went to the Mars Hill studio to work on a project. There was no change with my ears. About mid-morning, my wife, Nancy, called. I could hear it in her quivering voice; something was very wrong. She told me that another friend of ours, a Delta pilot, had just called her. He seemed to be very distressed and asked if she was OK. A strange question she thought. “Sure, I’m good. What’s up?” He then asked, “Where’s Fred?” Nancy told him I had gone up to the Mars Hill studio. “Are you sure?” “Of course, I’m sure. Why are you asking me this?”
Our friend proceeded to tell her that, being a commercial pilot, he had access to information that was not yet available to the public. And that earlier that morning, the private plane my friend had chartered went down. All those aboard died in the crash; my friend, his wife, his eldest son, and the pilot (a young man who had been attending a Bible study I taught.)
Words cannot describe how the impact of that event shook me to the core of my being. Over the next several days, I cried out to God. I needed to know how to reach out to my friend’s only other son who was away at college. I needed to know what I was supposed to learn from all this.
On the following Monday, about mid-day, I was walking out to my car and talking to God, asking Him to make sense of all. Stepping off a curb into the parking lot, my ears suddenly cleared. Just like that. At that moment I knew God was using a very tangible physical experience to teach me a spiritual truth. He had been speaking to me all along, but I had not been hearing.
Prayerfully thinking about that experience over the next few days, I believe God revealed some things to me.
1) His peace, or the lack thereof, is one way that God communicates with us
Through that experience, I came to believe that peace, the true peace of God, is like a compass for our souls, leading us in the direction He intends us to go. I realize that some people may not agree, but in response I would say that a) the peace of God never contradicts the Word of God, and b) there is just too much ink in the Bible that speaks to the role of peace in knowing we are where God wants us, doing what He wants us to do. For example . . .
The prophet Isaiah wrote, “For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace.” – Isaiah 55:12
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” – Isaiah 26:3
“For the kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 14:17
“In nothing be anxious, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” – Phil.4:6-7
2) Why I couldn’t hear
In my case, there were two things going on in me that kept me from hearing God (and by hearing, I mean drawing the connection between my lack of peace and the decision before me).
- a) The fear of men – I was afraid of what my friend might think if I told him that the reason I couldn’t accept his generous offer was that I didn’t have peace about it.
- b) The need to know – We live in a culture that likes to know “why.” It starts at an early age when parents tell their children not to do something, and the child says, “Why?” And it can even carry over into adulthood when God asks us to do something and we need to know “Why?” We are taught that good decisions are based on good reasons. In thinking through all the pros and cons of going to Colorado, I was trying to feel good about my decision, and give my friend a reason he could understand. Sometimes our need to know just clouds the issue.
3) It should have been enough – I believe that God wants the kind of intimate relationship with us that doesn’t require Him to shout in order to get our attention or direct our path. The two scriptures at the beginning of the devotional highlight this truth. God was patient and gracious to give me a sign I couldn’t miss (stopped up ears), but I want to learn how to recognize His still small voice (1 Kings 19:12) and His word “behind me” (Isaiah 30:21).
Concluding Thought – After reading this story, some might think that my main point has to do with recognizing God’s leading through peace (or a lack of peace) in order to avoid disasters. While that is not untrue, I believe that the other side of the issue is even more important. Keep in mind that God intervened to keep me from getting on that plane. Yes, I certainly want to avoid disasters, but even more than that, I want to experience all that God has for me. I want to be and do all He intends, bearing fruit as He intends. To do that, I need His direction daily. I need to recognize His personal, intimate leadership in my life, moment by moment.