"Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah." (Jonah 1 verse 17).
These first words five captured my imagination as I pondered the Lord's hand upon our 37 years of Christian ministry - "Now the Lord had prepared ....".
These words are applicable to every Christian person; whether they are a great evangelist whose preaching stories are written down in wonderful books, or the local church volunteer who sweeps the church floor or helps in the church gardens or the one who gives time at the soup kitchen.
Each person who is a follower of Jesus has his or her own pilgrimage to recount with these five words, "Now the Lord had prepared...".
It is a remarkable privilege to recall how the Lord had prepared a path for whatever it is anyone of His follower's has endeavoured, whether that is a ministry of prayer at home or relocating to a mission field.
When I was a student at Morling Seminary in Sydney back in the late 1970s, I chose an elective to do a practical day's outing to discover first hand the ministry of industrial and commercial chaplaincy with the InterChurch Trade and Industry Mission (ITIM).
Reverend Kenneth L McDowell the Director of ITIM in Sydney arranged for those participating to visit a factory and an office block where we were introduced to the industrial padre and were taken for a guided tour.
Later Reverend McDowell spoke to us in a seminar. He told the story of a famous industrial chaplain from Germany who had written several books, the Reverend Symonoski, who related that a young industrial chaplain told Symonoski he was taking God into industry!
Symonoski replied: "That will be very interesting for God". That remark is still with me today.
In other words, the young industrial chaplain had somehow missed recognising the reality of Jonah 1 verse 17, that God was already there in the midst of industry and commerce, "Now the Lord had prepared ...." Where he was going to minister, the Lord had already prepared the way.
In my own ministry, I have found this is to be true in instance after instance. The Lord was already there and had prepared the way. For example, when I was with the sports ministry between 1982 and 2000, and I was negotiating chaplaincy appointments with the CEO or the Head Coach or the Chairman of the Board, or whomever, the Lord had already prepared the way.
The gift of faith in such situations is what I refer to as an "expectancy theology", which describes situations in which one's confidence comes from the Lord; and the outcome is a result of the Lord having already prepared the way.
Every follower of Jesus can attest to this in an astonishing array of events, from seeking the Lord's for a partner in life, to finding someone ready to hear the way of the Lord, to getting a particular item with limited funding. The list is endless.
My wife Delma and I once again can attest to this with our third facility "Basil Sellers Laguna Quays Respite" in the Whitsundays which was opened in 2011 for missionaries and pastors. The Lord has prepared the way as over these past three years missionary after missionary has enjoyed their own respite at the cottage.
Again with the young emerging writers, our International line has young people from Canada, US, England, West Indies, China, Korea, South Africa along with the Australian and New Zealanders. The Lord has prepared the way.
This flows with confidence in the Lord and illustrates this "expectancy theology".
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html