Thursday, January 06, 2005

Getting Ahead of God

In a previous post, I included this valuable piece of advice from Tod Bolsinger:

"Don't just do something, stand there."

This statement got me thinking about how easy it is to get ahead of where God wants us to be. In other words, we are so busy pursuing our own agenda that we don't seek what God wants for us first. Recall Jesus' command in Matthew 6:33:

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

Therefore, our first priority in everything is to seek God's desires. So often we fail to do that and often with devastating results.

Perhaps on of the most vivid examples I can recall of getting ahead of God in my own life was right after I graduated from college. All of my friends had gone their separate ways after graduation and I quickly lost contact with them. I was floundering in my career and was not doing much better in my walk with Christ, either. I was dating someone at the time and that did ease my loneliness to some degree. But it was not the type of relationship that God wanted for me. Of course, I didn't come to that conclusion on my own. One of my former housemates, Jeff Johnston had come into town and we talked at some length about this relationship I was involved in and the problems I had with it. He helped put my situation in perspective by telling me that I was "snacking on poundcake" and then proceeded to share the following illustration:

Imagine that a woman has invited you over to your apartment for dinner. When you arrive, there is a poundcake sitting on the coffee table. She is in the kitchen fixing dinner. You can smell the dinner and it smells good. You are hungry. You also see the poundcake and it looks good. You want the poundcake. If you eat the poundcake you will not have any appetite for the dinner. If you eat the poundcake you miss out on the blessing of the dinner.

I was getting ahead of God's plan for me. I was missing out on the "dinner" that God had in store for me. Just a few short months after Jeff challenged me with that illustration I was in a new city, in a new job, and met the wonderful woman who would become my wife and mother of my two beautiful children.

Sometimes getting ahead of God's plan doesn't just mean missing out on the "dinner". Sometimes our choices have dire consequences. One of the best examples of this that the Bible offers is Abraham. God promised to make a great nation from his offspring (Genesis 12:2-3), specifically promised his offspring land (Genesis 12:7) and that his offspring would be of greater number than the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5). There was just one small problem: his wife, Sarah, could not have children (Genesis 16:1-2). Rather than relying on God to fufill his promises, Abraham (with encouragement from Sarah) come up with another plan: Abraham would sleep with their maidservant, Hagar. Their plan worked. Hagar became pregnant (Genesis 16:3-4). Rather than being a blessing, the son that was born to Hagar, Ishmael was father of the tribes that eventually became known as the Arab nations that were and are still enemies of Israel.

The challenge to "Don't just do something, stand there" is a difficult one. It requires a different mindset. The world teaches us to rely on our own wisdom, our own knowledge, and our own reasoning. We are to be self-reliant. But the apostle Paul reminds us:

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2)

Rather than reacting reflexively to whatever comes our way, we should follow the advice of Brother Lawrence:

"We ought to give ourselves up to God with regard both to things temporal and spiritual and seek our satisfaction only in the fulfilling of His will."

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