We all assume things in our daily lives. We have an estimate of how long our commute to work will take, we figure that work requirements have remained the same as we go about our daily tasks, we make plans on what and where to eat based on our previous experiences with restaurants or recipes. We understand scientific laws and expect that gravity will continue to hold us on the ground and that life will make general sense within our given set of variables. But we have been taught to joke as a culture about the danger of assuming things that are on the fringe of reasonable expectation when it comes to people, because people will not always do what we expect them to do.
Have you ever stopped to consider that God will not always do what we expect Him to do? And just because He told us to do one thing one time, He may ask us to do it differently next time? My pastor showed a survey a few weeks ago asking the question, “Which generation turns to the Bible for direction in making decisions?” The survey shocked everyone when it showed Millennials as the most likely to pull out the Bible looking for answers. But as I reflected on the fact that the Baby Boomers and older were not very likely to pull out their Bibles, I had to wonder if it was in part because many of them have read the Bible so much that they think they already know the answers?
I have done no research and cannot offer that as a tested reason, but when I consider my own approach to Spirituality, I recognize that there are two types of questions that we ask God: First, we ask God’s opinion on a matter. God’s character, morality and promises never change. They are established, they are set, and they are clearly outlined in Scripture for us to know.
“For I, the LORD, do not change…”
– Mal 3.6a
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
– James 1.17
Is murder wrong? You can clearly look up the ten commandments in Exodus 20 and read “You shall not murder”. You can also read Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in Matt 5-7 and see that Jesus makes the teaching more intense by saying that being angry with someone makes one guilty before God, just as murder (Matt 5.21-22). This does not change.
Secondly, we ask God for His direction. In the Bible God has not given us a road map, turn-by-turn, for the life decisions that we are to make. He intends for us to “abide” in Christ and receive direction for those life decisions by intimacy with Him and seeking His plan and His will.
When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over all Israel, all the Philistines went up in search of David; and David heard of it and went out against them. Now the Philistines had come and made a raid in the valley of Rephaim. David inquired of God, saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? And will You give them into my hand?” Then the LORD said to him, “Go up, for I will give them into your hand.” So they came up to Baal-perazim, and David defeated them there; and David said, “God has broken through my enemies by my hand, like the breakthrough of waters.” Therefore they named that place Baal-perazim. They abandoned their gods there; so David gave the order and they were burned with fire. The Philistines made yet another raid in the valley. David inquired again of God, and God said to him, “You shall not go up after them; circle around behind them and come at them in front of the balsam trees. It shall be when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then you shall go out to battle, for God will have gone out before you to strike the army of the Philistines.” David did just as God had commanded him, and they struck down the army of the Philistines from Gibeon even as far as Gezer. Then the fame of David went out into all the lands; and the LORD brought the fear of him on all the nations.
– 1 Chro 14.8-17
When David became king, he had the promises of Samuel in his heart and mind that God was going to use him mightily and prosper him as king. The Philistines set out to fight against David and David, even with those promises, turned immediately to God asking for instruction. “Shall I go up against the Philistines?” God not only said yes, but gave him battle plans. Shortly thereafter, the situation repeated itself. Would you be tempted to just jump in and do the same thing you had done before? If you had just been through a battle, against the very same people, in the very same spot, would you expect God to bring victory just as he had done before? I think I would. But David was wise and chose to ask God for direction and God instructed David with a different battle plan. The ultimate outcome was the same, but the method was different.
We cannot presume upon God. He has promised us big picture things: We will have ultimate victory in the end. People from every tribe, tongue and nation will hear and believe the Gospel. Nothing can separate us from His love or cause us to be lost. But we still need to turn to Him for the battle plan. Why? Because God’s primary concern is our sanctification, and our sanctification is achieved through remaining in Him and relying on Him for daily support, instruction, and sustenance.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification…”
– 1 Thess 4.3a
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
– John 15.4-7
God rarely does the same thing twice. Just because a certain ministry works in one church, it does not mean that God intends to use it in your church. Just because you shared the Gospel a certain way one time and someone came to faith, it does not mean that God wants everyone to hear the Gospel the same way. Just because God miraculously gave you a job through a random move one time, it does not mean that God wants you to move again. These are morally neutral issues about which we must seek God’s will. If we attempt to do these things on our own, we will fail or have moderate, fleshly success. If we seek God in prayer and submission, He will guide us into His perfect path.
God’s primary concern is His glory and our satisfaction through resting in and knowing Him. He does not need us, He is not served by us, and He will accomplish His plan with or without us. But it is our blessing and honor to be included in the accomplishment of His will of bringing people to faith from every tribe around the world. And if we want to be involved, or better yet, if we want to learn and see what God’s will is for our life, we must stop and ask Him. Just because He led us one direction before does not mean that He will lead us the same way again. Let us not presume upon God, but let us stop and ask Him what we He wants for us to do, even if we have been in a similar position before!