The value of a compass is its ability to discern true north. No matter how thick the trees or the fog surrounding you, true north gives a sense of clarity and a direction to move.
Outside of the principles taught in Scripture, that sense of true north through my life has always come from prayer.
Back in 1989, I had a decision to make. I had no idea at the time that my entire future hinged on that one moment. I’d been working in northern California in the sales division for International Paper, one of the industry leaders in the field of paper and packaging products.
One night, the plant manager took me to dinner at a swanky restaurant in Berkeley, where he offered me an upper-management position with a six-figure salary. I enjoyed working at International Paper and was excited about the opportunity. I was also pleased that it would give me the financial means to take care of my wife, Jean, and the children we hoped to raise. We could even buy our first house.
That night, I told Jean about the position and the salary I’d been offered. We both were enthusiastic about this new direction for us.
A few minutes later, Jean said, “By the way, there’s some kind of business message on the answering machine for you.”
The recording was from a man named Ron Wilson. Ten months earlier, Ron had talked to me about a new position I might be interested in at a nonprofit organization called Focus on the Family. Jean and I admired Focus’ mission to strengthen marriages and families and were big fans of their radio broadcasts, so we were intrigued by the opportunity. But the months had passed, and I hadn’t heard back from Ron. Because I didn’t want to force my way through a door the Lord wasn’t opening, I let it go.
But now, Ron’s message said the position had finally been approved. Would I still be interested?
Suddenly, I had two opportunities to consider, so I prayed about both. I knew Focus wouldn’t be able to offer the same compensation as International Paper, but money wasn’t the only consideration. The Focus mission was close to my heart. My mom died when I was nine, and my stepdad walked out on my siblings and me the day of her funeral. I spent a year in foster care, and my dad later died an alcoholic. The chance to help families around the United States and the world in a significant and meaningful way was an enticing possibility.
I called Ron and flew to Los Angeles the next day for a series of intense interviews and meetings with Focus executives. Throughout the day and on the flight home, Jean and I continued to talk and pray. Ron called on Saturday to ask me to join the Focus on the Family team — at one-third the salary I would make at International Paper. Still, I knew what I felt the Lord was telling me. Ten minutes later, I called Ron and accepted the offer. I’ve never regretted the decision.
I had no idea then that 16 years later God would lead me to assume the presidency of Focus on the Family.
In some ways, the power of prayer is a mystery. Not every prayer receives what we might consider a definitive answer, of course. But I’m convinced, both from the truth of Scripture and from many experiences throughout my life, that the Lord hears our hearts and moves according to His plans to guide our steps.
That’s true north.
• Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family. He co-hosts its daily radio broadcast, which is carried on some 2,000 radio outlets and has been inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. Mr. Daly’s forthcoming book, “Marriage Done Right: One Man, One Woman,” (Regnery Faith) will release in June.
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