"Lessons In A Chicken House" (November 2004)
Several years ago my husband had the opportunity to go to New Mexico on an elk hunt. To say my husband loves to hunt is an understatement- he LOVES to hunt! So for him this was the opportunity of a life time. There was only one problem, the guy who invited him, and offered to pay his way, worked for his mom (my husband's cousin) at the chicken houses. This meant that he had to find a replacement to do his job while he was gone. Being the "loving wife" that I am, and having the loving daughter that we have, my daughter and I volunteered to work in his place so that they could go. I am happy to report that they had a wonderful time and brought back a "trophy". My husband may have had the more enjoyable experience, but I'm sure I had the richer one.
While I was working in the chicken houses the Lord used that time to teach me many things through analogies. I wanted to share one of those lessons with you this month.
Our cousin raised hatch eggs. This meant that the eggs that were gathered would be sent off to incubators and hatched to produce more chickens. You had to walk through the houses three times a day and pick up eggs off the ground and from the nests. Then you had to clean the eggs carefully and put them in trays and then place them in the cooler. In each house there were cats. (I know... how odd to have cats raising with chickens.) The cats were in there to help take care of the mice so they wouldn't harm the chickens or eat the feed.
As I watched the cats, I couldn't help but think that this was a sad life for them- being stuck in a chicken house full of chickens- clucking, noisy chickens, and mean roosters. The whole of their lives would be spent right there; not in someone's warm cozy home; not playing with balls of yarn and sleeping all day. This was the life that they had to look forward to. During these thoughts is when the Lord spoke to me. He let me know that life isn't always what we think it should be or what we may want it to be. We each have a purpose- a God designed purpose. "I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome." (Jeremiah 29:11- Amplified Bible) God has a plan and purpose for each of our lives, but His purpose may not always take us where "we" want to go- it might take us in the opposite direction. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD." (Isaiah 55:8)
My favorite Bible character is Joseph. God had a plan for Joseph's life. But that plan took him through slavery and then into prison. "And God sent me before you... So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God." (Genesis 45:7,8ff) I'm sure that Joseph would have much rather been raised in his father's house enjoying life as a son and not a slave. I'm sure that he would have rather spent those years with family and friends instead of strangers and masters. But the purpose of God for his life took him out of his father's house, out of his native country, out of the comforts of home and into a strange land with unfamiliar faces, and with people who did not care about him. When you look at Joseph's life you must guard against getting on the defensive of what we see as an unfair situation. It just didn't seem fair that Joseph was deprived of all those years- a childhood, being raised at his father's side, seeing his brother Benjamin grow up, living in freedom. Too often we view our own situations as "unfair"-- "It's unfair that I had to go through this; it's unfair because I did nothing wrong; it's not fair that this is happening." In the parable of the householder who went out into the market place to hire laborers to work in his field, he hired men at different times of the day- some in the morning, some later in the day- and they each agreed to work for certain wages. At the end of the day when it was time to pay each man, the men who hired on in the morning thought that they should receive more than the ones who hired on at the end of the day, but they didn't. They received only what they agreed to. "But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us."
Things that seem "unfair" are a part of life- they are those things that take you into the purpose and plan of God. When you came to Christ, you agreed to certain terms just like these laborers did. You agreed to "take up your cross and follow Him". You agreed to make Him Savior and Lord of your life; this meant that your life was no longer your own to do with it as you please. It is His- He's the Potter and you are the clay. It's up to the potter to make the vessel into what HE wants it to be, and do with it whatever He wants to do with it. God's dealing with Joseph may have seemed unfair, His dealings with others may seem to be unfair, His dealings with you may seem to be unfair, but they are fair in God's scheme of things. God works from a greater level of elevation than you and I can perceive. He has a greater goal in mind and takes us through a route that will accomplish that goal. As I looked up the definition of "fair", some of the words that helped define it were- impartial, unprejudiced, equitable, just to all parties, consistent with the rules. God sees the bigger picture, He knows the outcome, He knows what it takes to get to the end, and He will guide, direct, and, yes, even allow some "unfair" situations to come into your life in order for you to fulfill your purpose. "The King is mighty, he loves justice- you have established equity; in Jacob you have done what is just and right." (Psalm 99:4- NIV) Through what we perceive as "unfair", it was that "unfair" situation that put Joseph in the palace, and made his end greater than his beginning.
I thought it seemed a little unfair that those cats had to spend their lives "cooped" up with the chickens, but there was a reason. What seemed unfair for them was actually a blessing in disguise. If they weren't in there fulfilling a purpose, the chicken houses would have been overrun with rodents. My cousin would have felt the effects of it in her pocketbook. The economy would have felt it. You and I would have felt it at the supermarket. Had Joseph not experienced this "unfair" situation, Israel would not have been preserved and Egypt would have been destroyed- plus he would have starved with the rest of them. His "unfair" situation was a blessing to all the nations. "And God sent me before you to preserve life." (Genesis 45:5) When God is guiding and directing the circumstances of your life, what you feel is unfair is actually being molded into a blessing.
When you start thinking about God being "unfair" to you, stop for a moment and think about whether you think it was fair that God Himself (Jesus) had to come to earth and die a cruel death on a rugged cross, beaten by sinful men, pay for a crime He did not commit, become sin when He knew no sin, and shed His blood so that those who deserve to die could live. Was that fair- the innocent for the guilty? No, but it was the only way! And when Jesus left heaven to become a man and go to the cross, He did not murmur and complain about how unfair it was because He had already agreed to it. He agreed before the foundation of the world ("the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world".- Revelation 13:8b) that at the "fullness of time" He would come and give His life as a ransom and sacrifice for mankind. "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29b) Think about the greatest blessing that would have been missed had Jesus not endured the suffering and "injustice" of the cross. You and I would have no opportunity of being able to have eternal life.
God has a plan for your life. While His plan may not always take you where you want to go, it's certain that it will take you out of your "comfort zone". What is a comfort zone? It's anywhere where you feel safe, secure, warm, loved- you have all your ducks in a row, your life is planned out, all your needs are met, you boat isn't rocking, everything is going smoothly in your own little world- everything is comfortable. The Bible is full of examples of men and women who had to leave their comfort zones in order to fulfill the plan of God for their lives. We have already talked about Joseph- he definitely was out of his comfort zone. Abraham was another one. The purpose and plan of God took Abraham out of his comfort zone. "Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:" (Genesis 12:1) There is nothing "comfortable" about being told to leave your home, your familiar setting and surroundings and go to a strange place. If that wasn't enough to get him out of his comfort zone, God didn't even tell him where to go... just go. Talk about uncomfortable. That's like walking out on thin air- no directions, no road map, nothing, just a command. Can you imagine the uncomfortable position that Abraham was in? Imagine having to tell your wife, "Honey, we are moving, but I don't know where to. Just start packing." (I have a feeling that would go over like a lead weight.) Abraham found himself in this place many times through out his lifetime. His nephew Lot was in trouble- he had been captured and taken prisoner by the king of Sodom. Abraham gathered up his servants and went to Lot's aide. To be a blessing to Lot and save him, Abraham had to get out of his comfort zone. Then there was the time that Abraham had to let his son Ishmael go- actually he had to send him and his mother out of his house. How "uncomfortable"! To give up your son who you loved dearly. But he was the son of the flesh and not the son of the promise, therefore, the two could not live together. One of the greatest Bible stories that we are taught as children is about Abraham taking his son Isaac up to the mountain to sacrifice him to God. I believe that this was not only the greatest trial a parent can face but this will get you out of your comfort zone quicker than anything else will.
Queen Esther was another example. We have hindsight so we can see what her purpose was- to save the nation of Israel from a death sentence. "For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" ( Esther 4:14) In order to fulfill the purpose that God had for her life, she had to get out of her comfort zone and go before the king to ask him to spare her and her people's lives. "All the king's servants, and the people of the king's provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or women, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days." (verse 11) If she went to the king she might be put to death. That was an uncomfortable spot to be in. The will of God will put you between a rock and a hard place sometimes. It brings you to a place where you have to make a choice. Making choices is not always easy, especially when there is a risk involved, and there always is in accepting the plan of God for your life. Esther got out of her comfort zone and went to the king; God gave her favor, and the nation was saved. Getting out of your comfort zone is not always about you- like we eluded to earlier. It's for others. It's so that they can be saved. It's so that a blessing can come to them. Sure that sounds "unfair" but remember, as we said earlier, Jesus got out of His comfort zone for you so aren't you willing to get out of yours for someone else.
Usually this is when (being taken out of our comfort zones) thoughts of "unfair" treatment come to mind. It's not until we are taken out of our comfort zones that we start protesting, "It's unfair." (Think about it.) Let me just reflect back over what we said about Abraham to make my point and you will understand what I mean. If we had to just pack up and leave without being told where or why, we would feel that it was unfair for God to ask us to do that- it's unfair for Him to ask me to leave my family, my house, my land that I have worked so hard for, or my inheritance that rightfully belongs to me. It's unfair to ask me to leave those I love and go live with strangers. It's unfair (not right) that I have to go and put my life in jeopardy and rescue Lot and fight in his battle because he made the choice to live there. I tried to get him to stay with me but he wouldn't. It's not fair that God would ask me to give up my own son, Ishmael, whom I love. How can He ask me to turn my back on him and forget about him? It's not fair that God has asked me to sacrifice my son, Isaac, whom I waited for so long to have. I already gave up one son, how can I give up another? This is my only son, how can I kill him? I not saying that all these responses went though Abraham's heart and mind- I am only trying to make a point. He was a man of great faith so perhaps he didn't face this "self pity" temptation- that's what the protest of unfair treatment is... self pity. I know how we humans are- I'm one myself. Have you seen yourself in any of this? Has God asked you to give up something, has He moved you to a different place, have you lost a loved one, have you been going through the fire? Have you felt sorry for yourself because of it? If so, be on guard and resist the temptation to believe that you have been treated unfairly by God. It's not unfair treatment. It's the route that will bring you to a greater place- a place of fulfilling your purpose.
Let me share one more example that pretty much sums up all we have been talking about- it's the example of Jonah. God told Jonah to go to Ninevah and preach that judgment was going to fall. Jonah didn't want to go to Ninevah- he was willing to preach, just not there. God was sending him a different direction than he wanted to go; so he went his own way. There is always a consequence to going your own way. He wound up in the belly of a big fish. Talk about getting you out of your comfort zone! One moment Jonah was sleeping comfortably in the ship, the next moment he was drowning in a fish's belly. He finally came to his senses, repented, and stop rebelling against the plan of God, so God had the fish vomit him up on the sea shore. Jonah then went about fulfilling his purpose. "So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. And he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown." (Jonah 3:3a,4) The people repented and God spared the city. Jonah got mad because he thought it was unfair. He thought the people deserved judgment because they were wicked. He thought it was unfair that he (self pity) had to go through everything he went through just for them to repent. But that's the point. Getting out of your comfort zone causes you to fulfill your purpose... which is to glorify God and be a blessing to others. Jonah learned this the hard way. I hope we will learn easier than he did and look at "unfair" situations in a different light from now on.