All the elders at my church are reading a very popular book on the power of prayer. The author is the pastor of a large and growing church.
The premise of the book is that Christians ought to pray to God for a huge vision, something way outside of anything we could pull off on our own and pray until God provides. In all fairness, this is not a prosperity gospel book. This pastor simply wants the church to be bold in its vision and trust God to make it happen.
Here’s the troubling question I and some other elders had as we studied this book; “Should Christians “trust” God to deliver on a specific promise he’s never made?”
By the way, if you’ve not read Monday’s blog, The Things We Should Never Trust Jesus For, than you ought to, before you go any further.
The author bases his ideas on what appear to be some pretty straight forward “promises” of God in these and many other quotes from the Bible.
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” I John 5:14
A few decades ago, the term BHAG was in vogue. It meant a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal. I love big goals and I think Christians ought to have them. But, here’s my concern; how do I know with certainty a goal, for which I’ve prayed and sought the counsel of others, is in fact “the will of God?”
If it is God’s will and his goal, then of course I would expect him to answer it. But if it’s just my goal, my grand idea, worthy and as spiritual as it may be, then is God duty bound to make it happen? I don’t think so. “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21
We’re called to be servants to Jesus – slaves even. I can’t recall a single New Testament servant or example of a servant who came up with a BHAG and expected God to make it happen. I think scripture tells us just the opposite. God comes up the BHAG’s and our job is to work with him to bring that about.
The Will of God – Really?
I’ve learned to be wary of my own motives – do I want this for God or for Clare? As hard as I pray for wisdom sometimes, I’m always skeptical that what I want, may not be God’s will at all, but simply mine.
I’ve also occasionally talked myself into believing that my will, my big idea or goal was God’s as well, and then I set out to bring it about. I’ll then throw all my passion, talent, money and using all my connections to pull it off – or try. The fact that I succeed isn’t proof that it was the will of God. The inverse is also true – failure doesn’t mean it wasn’t the will of God.
I wrote this in the newest edition of The 10-Second Rule. “Christians have somehow gotten the notion that if we respond and things turn out the way we expect – then it must have been the will of God. On the other hand, if it turns out differently – a failure, in our opinion – it must not have been the will of God.
Really? I wouldn’t put it past God to let me fail occasionally, if only to humble me or teach me to be more dependent on him in some way.”
I don’t trust myself
Here’s why I don’t trust myself; I’m not always certain where my will ends and God’s will begins. The only will of God I believe in with certainty is what he’s revealed in scripture.
So, where does that leave us as Christians searching for the will of God and working to be obedient to what we believe is God’s will? Three ideas;
1. Pray for God’s leading and wisdom for everything, then diligently and biblically work to bring it about. If you believe God is moving you to act – then do it! I have many projects I work on that feel right and good to me and that I feel certain advance the kingdom of God and; therefore, I ought to do, with all the giftedness God’s given me.
2. But don’t assume it’s the will of God that you will succeed in all your plans. And, don’t be disappointed with God if you don’t. It’s possible your plan wasn’t really God’s or that you used methods to do God’s will that he didn’t approve of, or there was serious sin in your life and; therefore, his blessing was withheld.
3. Don’t ever hold God to a promise he’s never made with certainty. And, a good idea isn’t a promise. If you do and you fail, others will be unnecessarily disillusioned with God. The truth may be that God didn’t fail us – rather, that we failed God.
Question: have you ever been disappointed with God for him not delivering on what you thought was a promise?
Following Jesus in Real Life