Who fights for you? Defends you? Protects you? No one on earth as much as your Divine Daddy does. Who wants to enter into your heart, your story, your journey through the everyday trials of life? No one on earth as much as your Divine Daddy does. He is on your team, and there is no better teammate that God.
By now on your 30-day journey into the Father’s heart, I hope you can picture God as a Good Father who is at your side assisting you in every difficulty. But this is still a very limited view of him. He’s not only at your side, he is actively pouring his grace into your life and into the troublesome situations that you’ve been praying about.
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32 ESV)
“If God is for us who can be against us?” When you read this, which word stands out strongest to you: “if” or “for”? Many of us look at the word “if” and mentally translate it to, “I hope God is for me. I hope he is on my side”.
The truth is, he is always for us, always rooting for us, cheering and applauding enthusiastically, to give us the confidence to keep pushing forward through whatever trials and challenges we face. He is always wanting what is best for us. He is always doing everything we allow him to do to make our lives better and to prepare us for spending eternity with him in the most glorious way.
I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of your great love,
you who save by your right hand
those who take refuge in you from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings.
(Psalm 17:6-8 NIV)
By his grace — not by our merits — we are favored by our Divine Daddy. He is like any good father who graces his beloved child’s life with goodness, but more so. Much more so than any human you and I have ever witnessed. Would you give your son a stone when he asks for bread? Would you give your daughter a snake if she asks for a fish? Jesus said, “If you, then, though you are far from perfect, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (See Matthew 7:9-11.)
Who else is on your team? Who is advocating for you? Who is giving you good counsel? Consider the most annoying problem that you’ve been working through. Who is supporting you in prayer? Who has given you ideas for possible solutions? Who has confirmed that you’re on the right track or, if need be, that you’re on the wrong track?
Each person in your life who has been helpful to you in any way is the activity of the Father sharing his gifts with you. Among the gifts that he brings to your team are full knowledge and perfect wisdom. He’s keeping an eye on the bigger picture that you cannot see. He’s causing circumstances to fall into place to make difficult situations easier (unless the harder way will produce better results).
Ralph and I brought my parents into our home, in 2012, to help them deal with the challenges of aging. Before we knew this would happen, we had begun to build a new house. During construction, one of the obstacles that nearly blocked the project caused a design change that, at first, was very disappointing.
Our team included the builder (who prayed for us nearly as earnestly as we did), contractors (some of whom did shoddy work), the mortgage broker (who helped us get financing after other banks turned us down) and our future neighbors. God was the first member of the team. Ralph and I had invited him into the project the moment we began to consider finding land to build on.
Unbeknownst to us, God foresaw the needs of my parents — as well as my needs and Ralph’s needs — and made good use of the so-called “obstacle” that ruined the design we had planned. The change enabled my parents to have their own home within our home. God treats everyone with dignity, and the new design gave everyone a dignified way to live together without always being together.
Abba-Father collaborates with us
Four years after we moved into our new home, my dad’s strength was almost gone. Despite this, he decided that it would be nice to take a walk down our long driveway. His mind was set, so off he went without telling us.
Abba-Father knew what would happen next. As a good teammate, he had impressed upon me, during my morning prayers, that I should work from home that day instead of driving to the office. I thought it was just laziness that kept me home. I didn’t “feel like” driving that day.
Well, my dad fell before he reached the end of the driveway, and thanks be to God I was there to take him to the hospital. X-rays showed that he had broken his neck, but (thanks be to God again) not so severely as to paralyze him.
From the hospital, he went to a rehab center. Several months later, he had to be moved to an assisted living facility. As always, God our #1 teammate was working on our behalf to prepare a place that was right for my dad and for the rest of us. (Note: God rarely sends a text message revealing his plans. We had to do legwork that took us to his solution for our problems.) Mom and I checked out a couple of large facilities, but just two miles from our home was a 6-resident assisted living house. If he could live there, he’d receive more individualized attention and at a more affordable price. Plus, taking Mom there for frequent visits would be easy on Ralph and me.
Thanks be to God, a bed in that house opened up just as my dad’s time at the rehab center expired.
You can be sure that your Divine Daddy has been actively working as your Best Teammate whenever your plans get altered for the better and you did nothing to make the change happen. In fact, you actively worked to keep and fix the original plan. The good news is: With Abba on your team, what goes wrong goes right. With Abba on your team, there’s always a better plan in the works.
Judy experienced Abba’s collaborative spirit in her marriage. During her childhood, she continually heard her parents argue and threaten each other. Whenever her dad returned home from work, her stomach cramped because she feared another fight between her parents. Although there was no physical abuse, there was plenty of emotional cruelty.
She says, “For as long as I can remember, I prayed to God during their arguments and afterward. He was my refuge along with Mother Mary. I trusted him and hoped he would change things for the better.”
However, God did not change her parents. He could not, since they did not submit themselves to his help. But Abba-Father did not ignore her prayers. As the best teammate she could ever have, he changed her.
Psychologists tell us that we tend to repeat the behaviors of our parents, even when those behaviors are unhealthy. Judy wanted to escape the pattern set by her parents. She chose to get a college degree so that she would not have to be dependent on a man and get stuck, like her mother, in a situation that she could not walk away from.
Judy was not interested in getting married, but Abba-Father wanted to make her life even better. “He gifted me with my husband,” she says. “Today, I see how the grace of God affected my life. God protected me from falling into the unhealthy patterns that I experienced when young — and I had a good partner in marriage to help. I believe this only occurred by the grace of God.”
To realize what we can rightly expect from Abba-Father, let’s ask: What does a good collaborator look like? To answer this, let’s look at what God as a collaborator is not. How are we inadvertently blocking his teamwork? What misconceptions need to be replaced by the truth?
Sometimes we treat God more like he’s a dictator than a collaborator. In our desire to do what’s right and receive what’s best, we might pray, “What is Your will, Lord?” This is not a good way to pray — if we become paralyzed waiting for God to point the way.
He might be saying, “Go for it! What do you want to do? There are other options, but what you’re thinking of doing is good. I approve. Count Me in.” We don’t hear that if we want certainty and prefer to abdicate our responsibility on the team.
A better way to pray is: “Here’s what I’m thinking is best, Lord. Guide me. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit as I figure this out. You have my permission to change my ideas about it.”
If in his wisdom he knows that we’re making a bad decision, he warns us: “No, not that; let Me point you in a different direction.” If we don’t hear it and therefore make a bad decision, he says, “Don’t worry! You’ve asked for My help; I’ll put a stumbling block in your way. You won’t get very far in the wrong direction.”
With Abba on your side, it’s safe to proceed in striving for a goal or fulfilling a dream or working on a project that appeals to you. The reason it appeals to you is because (if it’s not a temptation toward sin) Abba is the one who planted in you the desire for it. He gave you the idea. He gave you the talents that are needed for it. He gave you a passion for it. This is how his spirit of collaboration works.
My daughter, Tammy, created a theater production company, and Ralph sometimes got involved. He spent many hours at her side sawing and hammering to build sets and to co-engineer mechanical props. Tammy is good at it, but he has many more years of experience and know-how. Regardless, because it was Tammy’s production, he didn’t try to take over.
This is a good picture of Abba-Father’s relationship with us. He’s a collaborator, not a dictator. He’s a team member, not a tyrant. He’s much better at being the head of the committee than we are, but he doesn’t push his authority on us nor “lord it” over us, although he certainly has a right to.
If a project, a ministry, or a goal of ours does not work against the mission of Christ, if it does not lead to sin, if it pleases him, he will always join us in the effort. He joins us! He does not micromanage us.
Abba’s team spirit
Collaboration is very important to God. He is first and foremost a collaborative team of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Then he extended this teamship to include humans:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth. (Genesis 1:27-28 ESV)
When Jesus came to earth, he recruited a team, developed them into a community, and trained them to extend his mission. He told his disciples to pair up (the spirit of collaboration between humans) and go ahead of him into the villages, preaching, healing, and casting out demons (see Luke 10). He collaborated with their ministries by giving them his authority to succeed. He instructed them to take nothing along except a walking staff, not even money and extra clothes, making it necessary to rely on the collaborative spirit of the townsfolk.
Why do you think Christians have not been changing the world nearly as much as evil forces have been changing the world? It’s because we have not been very collaborative. We have not imitated God’s team spirit. The Church, which is the Body of Christ on earth, has spent the last 500 years splintering into increasingly more and more denominations and non-denominations. Parishes have been divided into “my ministry” and “your ministry”.
The truth is we can still work together as collaborators. Our diversity does not mean we have to be unproductive. We’re supposed to behave like we’re on the same team.
For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:18-20 NIV)
It’s very important that when we serve in ministries we behave like we are all part of the same Body of Christ. When we work together, we accomplish more than we ever could separately.
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. (Romans 12:4-6a)
This is why I love to connect with leaders of other ministries. Sadly, my efforts to invite collaboration are often met with silence — not even an email saying, “Thanks but no thanks. We’ll pray for you. Please pray for us.”
While writing this book, I visited the leader of a prayer team of a neighboring parish and handed him a brochure about Good News Ministries. I hoped to explore what God might want to do if we collaborated. If nothing else, we could pray for one another. But the man refused to accept my brochure. He wouldn’t even look at it. I mean, the polite thing would have been to smile, take the brochure, put it aside, and throw it away after I left.
Surprised by his reaction, I tried to explain my motives, fumbling with my words. But he cut me short. The rest of the meeting was awkward and fruitless. Analyzing it afterwards, I realized that the Holy Spirit had not given me words to speak. It would have been pointless.
How do you think our Divine Daddy felt about this?
Jesus told us what to do about uncollaborative, uncooperative people: “If any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them” (Mark 6:11 NIV).
Sweet Abba made good come from the rejection I suffered that day. He used it to reveal to me how deeply it grieves him and even angers him when opportunities for collaboration are ignored, neglected or rejected.
Everyone who’s a leader in ministry is very busy. I’m one of them. I know “busy”! But that’s not a good excuse for ignoring the call to be collaborative with others. The lack of teamwork on individual committees and within ministries handicaps their mission. The lack of teaming up with other committees and other ministries handicaps the Church and the over-arching mission of Christ.
The most common reasons for this lack of collaboration are (1) “I’m too busy, there’s too much to do just keeping up with my own responsibilities; (2) teaming up with someone outside of my jurisdiction just doesn’t fit into the plan” and (3) “I feel threatened by the prospect of someone coming in from outside; they might try to take over and change things.”
The answer to the first and second reasons is: We’re not adding more work, we’re simply networking and discovering how we can help each other, sharing the wisdom and expertise and connections we’ve gained. Doing this might actually save time and reduce workloads.
The answer to the third reason is: Collaborating does not mean merging ministries. It does mean joining as a support network where we can at least talk things over, share expertise, and pray for one another.
This is God’s nature. Abba is on your team, ready and eager to share his wisdom, open doors of opportunity, and enable you to accomplish far more than you could ever do without him.
Abba-Father sides with you when others hurt you
God sides with us every time others reject us, misjudge us, or wound us in any other way. Listen to Roseann share her story:
I have a vivid memory of when I was in third grade and I was wrongly accused of stealing from the milk money collected that I helped collect. A fourth grader had the duty of collecting milk money from the combined class of third and fourth graders. He collected from three and a half rows of students then told me to finish collecting from the remaining students. All of sudden, the teacher, a Religious Sister, stood by my desk and told me to leave the room.
As soon as we both were outside the classroom door, she grabbed me by the collar of my uniform blouse and yelled at me. At first, I really did not know what this was about. Then she called me a thief. As she continued to yell, a classmate came out of the lavatory and must have heard what was being yelled.
When it came to be lunch time, this girl went home for lunch and I too went home for lunch. While at home, this girl reported the incident to her mother who, in turn, drove her daughter back to the recess yard where a majority of girl classmates were playing. The mother informed the students that I was a thief and warned them not to play with me.
As I entered the schoolyard, the group turned and looked at me. In a few minutes, the bell rang to end recess. As I got into line with these fellow students, one of them told what this mother had said.
I felt so alone. Even before this incident, I had only a few playmates. Now it seemed like everyone stayed away from me.
I just wanted the school day to be over. I wanted to go home. When the school day ended, I ran home to tell my mother. My mother reported the incident to the parish priest that night. No recompense was made. The only result was that that Religious Sister did not return the following school year.
Roseann experienced through her mother what God the Father’s support for us is like. It’s a shame that the parish priest did not, and he will be held accountable for that when he meets Jesus face to face and Jesus says, “What you didn’t do for the least of mine, you failed to do for Me” (see Matthew 25). His guilt is worse than the Sister who unfairly accused, judged, and condemned Roseann. And it’s far worse than how her immature classmates responded to the misinformation.
Why? Because God cares about us so much that he gets angry at those who hurt us. He has placed people into positions where they can help, and he wants to serve us through them. So when they shirk their responsibilities, he is blocked, we remain hurt, and their sin spreads. God sees their inner gem, which was made in his image, but he is greatly disturbed by the muck that’s on their gem — muck that they are now throwing at us — and he stands by us, defending us. He holds them accountable for the damage.
He said, “If someone will not listen to the words that my prophet speaks, I will hold him accountable” (see Deuteronomy 18:19). Roseann’s mother was the Lord’s prophet when she sought justice from the parish priest.
Jesus warned his apostles-in-training about how a priest should handle those who are in his care.
Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. (Luke 22:25-27 NIV)
Let’s unpack that.
- “The greatest should be like the youngest” is a common theme of Jesus. For example: “The first shall be last” and “The greatest should serve the least” and “Whatever you do to the least of My sheep, you do unto Me.” Clearly, God is on the side of Roseanne and her mother, and when the priest did not side with them, he failed to be a good representative of God the Father.
- “The one who is at table” foreshadows the table of the Eucharist, the altar at Mass. Roseann and her mother were parishioners “at the table”. The “one who serves” is the priest, just like Jesus who taught very clearly, by word and example, that the priest is a servant.
So how does the Father feel about the failures and sins of clergy and others who are in Church leadership? It’s bad enough when a non-Christian mistreats us. It’s far worse when the mistreatment comes from someone who claims to be Christian but is controlled by evil passions and influences. And it’s far more terribly worse when it comes from someone who stands up before the world in a position of “I represent Jesus in what I do”.
Our Father said in Ezekiel 34:2 (NIV), “Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?” In verse 4, he said, “You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured.” And then in verses 8 through 10:
As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock.
And notice what he said in verse 16:
I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
This is what it means to have God on our team! The Father is quite stern with those who are in positions of helping – especially in leadership positions – yet choose not to strengthen the weak or bind the wounds of the injured, which includes those who have been emotionally injured or those whose reputations have been injured.
He is speaking about you, his beloved child, in Psalm 91:14 where he says, “Because he loves me, I will rescue him; I will protect him.”
To those who have hurt you, he says, “I have tried to rescue you, too, but you rejected Me when you rejected My beloved child. Because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself. The day of My Divine wrath is coming to you! My righteous judgment will be revealed. I will repay each person according to what they have done. You will receive My wrath and anger because, instead of seeking Me whole-heartedly, you are self-seeking and you reject the truth and follow evil!” (See Romans 2:5, 6 and 8.)
To you, he says, “Because of your persistent desire to do good, and because you seek My glory and you honor Me and you want the immortality that comes from My Son Jesus Christ, I will give you eternal life. (See Romans 2:7.)
When we seek help from our Divine Daddy, he is already at our side, delighted that we’re depending on him. He comes to us even before we realize we need him. He sent his own Son to us to serve as the Good Shepherd who goes after the lost to rescue them. He is swifter than we are at recognizing our needs, and he springs into action to do something about it.
If you think you have earned the Father’s wrath and don’t deserve his collaborative help, take this to heart:
The Father tells you, “This is what you are saying: ‘My offenses and sins weigh me down, and I am wasting away because of them.” But as surely as I live, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked. I prefer that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!” (See Ezekiel 33:10-11.)
And he continues: “If someone who is wicked repents, that person’s former wickedness will not bring condemnation” (Ezekiel 33:12 NIV).
So you see, there’s a dividing line between the one who makes God angry by hurting one of his beloved children, and the wounded child whom God defends. If we truly want to be holy, yet we sin, Abba knows our hearts and cherishes our good intentions. But the one who thinks more of himself than he does of the wounded one and has no desire to repent, that evil-doer earns God’s anger.
We’ve all been wounded by unrepentant friends, family, co-workers, priests, teachers, and classmates. In most cases, we don’t witness God’s wrath against them. But don’t let your limited vision trick you into assuming that Abba-Father doesn’t care about your sufferings. The story isn’t over yet. The Father cares about his lost children as much as he does his hurt children. “Love is patient”, as 1st Corinthians 13:4 reminds us. It might take some people a lifetime to repent, and the Good Father waits for them.
Meanwhile, Abba is giving you a way to be healed from your sufferings. It begins with forgiveness. He taught us through Jesus that we don’t withhold our forgiveness while we wait for and hope for their repentance. We forgive in order to be healed. We forgive in order to be set free from the chains of their evil-doings. Forgiving others works miracles for us.
Some of those who’ve hurt us might reject God’s love even after death and end up in Hell. If you could see the Hell they are headed for now, you’d devote the rest of your life to praying for their salvation.
Abba optimizes your opportunities for success
Abba-Father sees problems and opportunities coming before you do, so he has been preparing you to handle them. It’s happened to me many times. Think about how it’s happened to you.
In 2006, I served my parish as Evangelization Coordinator. The RCIA Director resigned (due to work conflicts) from the wonderful work of bringing new Catholics into the Church. Abba-Father told me that the pastor was going to ask me to add this work to my responsibilities. This advance notice gave me time to ask the Holy Spirit what my answer should be. I preferred keeping my parish duties limited to part-time hours, because I also had responsibilities in Good News Ministries.
When the pastor called me into his office, I knew what he was going to ask me and I was ready with the answer. Serving as RCIA Director turned out to be one of my most-favorite-ever parish ministries.
I had sought God’s wisdom and direction. But I was not a puppet pulled by strings in the Father’s hand. Rather, we were a team. Here’s how we worked together on this:
When the RCIA position opened, I had three options, all of which God presented to me as good choices. How did I know this? I recognized God’s voice by the stirring up of divine energy within me. When a thought or idea originates from God, it comes with a passion to do it. When it’s demonic, if we are followers of Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit, the idea is unsettling and makes us feel uneasy. When it’s simply our own thought-process, any initial excitement about it fades as we pray while we give God time to make his Divine Will known.
My three options were: One, continue serving part-time as Evangelization Coordinator; two, quit and focus full-time on Good News Ministries; three, take on full-time parish work.
The Father nudged me to “say yes” to the third option, but it was not a command. It was a clear but soft yes. If I had chosen to answer the pastor’s call with “no”, it would not have been a sin. But God’s “say yes” did come with a caveat: The full-time work would be temporary. The Father knew that the day was coming when he would ask me to focus entirely on Good News Ministries.
When it was time to leave parish work one year later, at first I resisted. I loved what I did; I didn’t want to give it up. But by God’s grace I became more and more uncomfortable with staying there. And when I finally did quit, the timing was perfect for the woman who replaced me.
Throughout it all, God had my back. I wanted a clear “yes” or “no” from him about quitting but he wanted me to make the decision. When the lack of a clear answer caused me to procrastinate, Abba-Father nudged me. Meanwhile, he continued working through me to powerfully evangelize the RCIA candidates and catechumens.
If I hadn’t quit, Good News Ministries would not have grown into what it is today. This was Abba-Father’s first choice for me, but he didn’t command me to quit. If I had stayed in parish work, he probably would have blessed that too — for a while. What mattered most is that I wanted to do the Father’s will. Because he knows what’s best, he has my permission to guide my decisions. And he gives me freedom to participate in how his Divine Will manifests in my life.
That’s teamwork. That’s the spirit of collaboration.
Today’s Exercise: Discern God’s guidance
Think about the last time you were indecisive after seeking God’s guidance. Could it be that your indecisiveness came from Abba approving of multiple options? How did his collaborative spirit reveal itself?
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© 2020 by Terry A. Modica
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