Taken By Surprise ~ Chapter 10 ~ Can We Talk?
The year 1984 was a great year for me, so when 1985 rolled around and my business began to wane, I worried. I knew God had led me into this venture, but I needed to know what a savvy businessperson would do in my circumstances. Obviously, I was missing something. I did what I thought was smart and asked advice from my friends who ran their own businesses. Everyone told me that the key was marketing. Marketing? The word made me cringe. I hated this aspect of working, but if they said I should do it, perhaps I should. I was worried enough that I’d try anything.
I attacked the market with vigor and spent months writing letters and phoning people. I even passed out flyers as I was advised to do. The response was miserable; not one person answered my letters. No one responded to my calls or flyers. Nobody seemed even slightly interested. And my business continued to go downhill. Now I really began to feel helpless. Neither appointments nor paychecks were coming in, and I was doing everything I could think of. If marketing was the key, I was in big trouble. I knew I’d fail, as I literally hated every aspect of selling. I had such an aversion to it that many times it made me ill just to think about it. But I kept trying, because everybody said that’s what I needed to do.
All during this time, something inside me quietly nagged, “Wait a minute. This is wrong.” But my colleagues kept pushing me to sell. They seemed so logical and convincing. Slowly it dawned on me that perhaps I should check with the Lord. After all, this whole thing was his idea. Sitting on my couch talking to the Lord one afternoon, I poured out my heart to him. I shared my frustration and fears and the nagging feeling I’d been trying to push down. “Lord,” I begged, “please show me what’s going on. Obviously I’m not understanding what you want.”
In his ever so gentle way, he responded. “Sue, if you’ll spend as much time praying for your business as you’ve spent marketing, I will help you. Be specific. Ask me to intervene. Ask me for specific people and clients.”
“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’”
—Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)
Wow, what an answer! It was that simple. So simple, I’d missed the whole concept. Well, it was certainly time for a change, and I sure was happy for this one. From that day on I changed strategies; I’ve never made another cold call since. Then and there I started interceding for my business and asking the Lord to become intimately involved in it. From that day until the present, he has honored those prayers, although at the time, I wouldn’t have believed just what a personal God he would prove to be.
About that time, I’d been reading several books by George Mueller, and God was increasing my faith. Mueller was a German who, in his early twenties, around 1830, decided to help the hundreds of orphan children in Bristol, England, by providing a warm, large home for their care and nurturing. The fascinating part about his story is that he housed three thousand children over a period of fifty years and prayed in all his finances. He simply prayed specifically to the Lord, and the Lord responded. Not only did he raise three thousand children by faith, but he also traveled all over the world speaking and giving away thousands of dollars to needy missionaries.
The more I read about George Mueller, the more I wanted that kind of faith and the more I wanted to run my business that way. Of course, to run a business like that today is considered ludicrous, so I kept quiet about it for a time. It wasn’t long at all before God began to answer my prayers and miraculously provide for my needs.
My first encounter came in a large dose and an exciting one. I received a brochure in the mail about a one-day retreat offered by Mobilized to Serve. MTS is a Christian organization that offers weekend conferences all over the country for single Christian adults. I went reluctantly, and there met Michael Cavanaugh, the founder. He suggested that I send him some material describing what I did and said that he might use me as a speaker at one of his conferences. What an exciting prospect! I returned home and immediately sent him a promotional package with a tape.
Weeks went by and I heard nothing. A few months later, I attended another MTS conference and saw Michael. To my disappointment, he didn’t say a word about using me. So I let it go. If God wanted to do something with it in the future, that was fine with me, but for now, I would just forget about it. A while later, while I was praying, the Lord broke in and said, “Sue, ask me to tell Michael Cavanaugh to call you and invite you to speak at one of his conferences.”
That couldn’t be the Lord, I thought. Michael has had my material for months; I just saw him, and he didn’t say anything to me. Why would he call me?
But I remembered the Lord saying, “Be specific. Ask me to intervene. Ask me for specific people and clients.”
So I swallowed, closed my eyes, and said, “Lord, please have Michael Cavanaugh call me and ask me to speak at one of his conferences.”
Three days later, he called. I nearly dropped the phone. “Sue, would you be willing to speak at our National Conference in Buffalo in October? There will be 1,700 single Christian adults there.”
My heart turned flips. What an honor — to think God did that just for me.
But the story doesn’t end there. That was August, and I was to speak in October. Although I had stopped praying for jobs with MTS, God had yet another surprise up his sleeve.
One day in September, God spoke again. This time he said, “Sue, ask me to have Michael Cavanaugh call and ask you to speak at all his conferences in 1986.”
This was really getting ridiculous. My prayer had been answered. I didn’t need to pray for MTS again. I was happy for that one answered prayer. But I obeyed. Just a few weeks later, one of Michael’s staff members called and asked me to speak at all of their conferences in1986.
This was the Lord’s way of initiating me into a realm of prayer and faith that I had never experienced. I had wanted to know George Mueller’s God, the one who answered in such miraculous ways. To think that he cared that much about just one person, one of his children, blew my mind. What did this say to me about the future of my business? What did this say to me about the details of my life? It finally dawned on me that I could trust God with all of it. There might be ups and downs, but he would direct and care for me every step of the way. I was, and still am, amazed.
“Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.”
—Isaiah 65:24 (NIV)