I’m reminded of the humorous but pointed story of the young Christian guy who was seeking God’s guidance, and he needed a quick answer. He decided to play “Bible Roulette,” opening his Bible with his eyes shut and letting his index finger fall on the verse God had for him.
His finger fell on Matt. 27:5, which read: “And Judas went out and hanged himself.” The young man thought, “This isn’t good! I’ll try it again.” He repeated his attempt at guidance but got even worse results when the next time he found John 13:27, “And Jesus said, ‘Do it quickly.’”
Stuck in Lodi again
“Getting stuck” in the Christian life can be very frustrating, as we seemingly find ourselves in a never-ending place of waiting on God to do something for us – anything – to move us out of the wretched place in which we find ourselves. We may decide that 40 years in the wilderness was relatively quick for the Israelites, as we come to grips with our personal mud hole in which our legs are moving, but we’re going nowhere. As Credence Clearwater Rival sang, we’re “stuck in Lodi again” (California, which was apparently not a hot place to live, according to CCR).
We don’t really know what to do, what God really wants for us or how to move on if we knew. This IS not the way it’s supposed to be, or is it? The trouble with this scenario is called Our Will vs. God’s Will. What we want could very well be His will, but we probably aren’t going to know for sure until we let go of our grip, our tenacious control, over the situation. We’re “white knuckling” it, or basically keeping our hands tightly clinging all over what we want to happen. We may even say to ourselves we’ve fully submitted it to God, only to find, in actuality, we still have the “I-I-wants, the Me, Myself and I-I wants” still rocking along.
Like it or not, we generally don’t fully trust God when He says He knows what’s best for us. We think His will is about 90 percent good, and perhaps 10 percent shady. As we grow into His likeness, we realize that indeed “Father Knows Best,” and there is no shadow cast by Him (darkness) because He is pure light (James 1:17) and thus can always be trusted. Until then, we struggle each time it comes to “laying it down.”
A heavenly wrestling match
Most know the story of Jacob. His name meant “deceiver.” He was born holding onto his brother Esau’s heel, and later he deceived his father to wrest the birthright away the firstborn Esau, whose name meant “Red.” (Do you think he was seeing “red” after Jacob deceived him?). Some years later Jacob had a “come to Jesus” wrestling match at a place he named “Peniel,” which means “I have seen God face to face.” This story, found in Gen. 32:22-31, is strange indeed. Several things happen at Peniel. 1) Jacob wrestles with a “man,” who some references say was an angel, and others say was God. 2) He “wins” the wrestling match, only to be struck in the sinew of his hip, which caused him to limp for the rest of his life. 3) Jacob refuses to let go of God until God blesses Him, and God does. 4) The man (God) changes his name from Jacob (deceiver) to Israel (Prince with God).
You could interpret this in several ways, but I think the best one is Jacob actually won over himself – his own selfish will – as He wrestled with God concerning who’s will he would follow. Face it, we all “wrestle” with God over whose will we’re going to follow! The blessing comes when we don’t let go of what God truly wants for us, but choose to let go of what we want for us. That’s the rub. We are self-deceived about what’s really best for us. We tend to lie to ourselves and to God because we think we know. The failure to let go produces for us a seemingly never-ending cycle of fleeting hope, frustration, anger, depression and possibly hopelessness. Hope returns again when we think our way is going to win out. And on and on we go.
What’s your “Isaac”?
I used to go the Krystal for breakfast every morning that rolled. One morning, as I pulled up into that hallowed parking lot for my “senior breakfast,” God said, “Deloris (not her real name) is your Isaac.” I knew precisely what He was saying. This woman I was crazy about had become too important to me, and I couldn’t let go of the relationship. I even had what seemed to be Godly confirmations – dreams and prophetic words – that “proved” to me that she was THE ONE, but there was absolutely nothing that ever validated my thoughts and emotions. I was stuck in Lodi.
God very often calls us to put our “Isaacs” on the altar. Like Abraham, we have a choice to make: kill the promise and trust God, or ease our way out of the situation with a substitute sacrifice. Do you believe that, like Abraham, God will resurrect whatever you put on the altar as a sacrifice? Oh, it may not look like what you thought it would, but it will be better and more powerful than you ever dreamed it would be!
Death of a vision
Isaacs come in many shapes and colors – our jobs, kids, successes, girl and boy friends, ministries, money and egos. Whatever stands in the way of choosing God’s will over ours is our Isaac. When we don’t, the F word, FRUSTRATION, is our constant companion. We are torn between what we think is best, or what we expect to happen, and reality. As we submit our version of reality to God’s sacrificial altar, we experience what is called “the death of a vision.” But remember, resurrection is coming! The whole process is engineered to get our “cotton pickin” hands off the vision so God can raise up a new and better one! If He gives you the original vision afterward, hooray for you, but if He gives you a better vision with an even greater outcome, you’ll be so caught up with worship and praise that you’ll have a get “crazy” Pentecostal meeting with the Lord.
It’s amazing the lengths people will go to to get God to do what they want Him to. The favorite one is to find a scripture that agrees with our point of view, and see if we can bend God’s ear with it. You know, confess it until your tongue falls out because God’s gotta do it, according to what He said. People who constantly choose this method are usually very anti-sovereign in their approach to God. It’s like He’s made up His mind, and the only way to change it is to keep saying what we think He wants to hear. Our “principles” often overstep an intimate relationship with Father, one in which He can lead us to choose the right scriptures for our personal situation. People often prefer their brains to the Holy Spirit’s leading. One of my favorite life verses works real well in these perplexing situations:
“Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed” (Prov. 16:3 Amplified).
This means in the vernacular to give up on your thing, trust God with it, and He will change your thoughts so they agree with His will, which was the thing you wanted in the first place, but you didn’t know it. Make sense?
However, few take this route, preferring to push for their agenda. I remember hearing Joyce Meyer say she was once terribly sick, and she kept confessing over and over, “By His stripes I’m healed.” Guess what? Nothing happened. She remained sick. She went to God and said, “Why aren’t you healing me?” God replied, “Why don’t you just ask me?” She did and He did.
Before you decide I’m against confessing God’s Word, I’m not, but I try my best to stay in prayer long enough to get a leading on what that particular word or direction is, rather than playing a form of “Bible Roulette” that I referred to earlier. I’d be afraid I’d get that Judas scripture…
Passivity stinks, too!
On the other hand, we find people who are just flat passive – almost like Deists – when it comes to God’s will. They ask nothing, act on nothing and get nothing. It reminds me so often of people who say they want tongues, and if God wants them to speak in tongues, He’ll give them the gift. No, He won’t.
“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13).
Point: You can’t speak in tongues without the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, and to receive Him in that overflow, you have to ask.
God keeps saying, as He did in Jer. 33:3, “Call to me, and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things you don’t know about.” Some people like to think their rationalistic approach to life is preferable to asking God to intervene or what He knows is the best route. These folks often end up in a “ditch” later on.
A better way, the Jesus way
Jesus’ way was hearing His Father’s voice and doing what He heard Him say. To do this, He didn’t snatch His favorite Bible verses and hold them up to His Father. He said it plainly: “I do nothing alone – only what I see the Father doing” (John 5:19). He never did anything on His own accord – He obeyed as a Son. Learning to abide in Christ (John 15) helps us know what God’s will is, but it may yet be difficult, as Jesus actually sweated blood to choose His Father’s will over His own (Luke 22:44).
We, too, may experience a major struggle within ourselves – the heavenly sumo wrestling match – to make the choice of whose will we’re going to trust. Either way, once we choose to lay it at the feet of Jesus, we will either be free from our frustration or blessed to receive what we have agonized over.