I have realized as a result of hundreds of pastoral contacts over the years that some of the underlying fears when it comes to knowing God’s will focus concern the fear of getting it wrong. If our faith is significant at all, we want to do what God wants of us. We can end up being afraid of failing God, either because we don’t want to disappoint him or because we have a touch of Old Testament legalism and we fear what God will do to us if we get it wrong.
To begin with, the concern about getting it wrong is real but probably gets blown out of proportion. The difficult reality we must understand is that nobody ever gets it right every time. We are all going to get God’s will and leading wrong at some point. Everything I have written in this blog about the subject along with everything everyone else has written and preached and counselled over the 2000 years of the Christian faith is there to help minimize the number of mistakes we make but nothing can take away the reality that all of us are going to get it wrong at some point.
Sometimes, we will consciously and clearly make the mistake because we disagree with God’s will. We become like Jonah, running away from God’s will. Jonah knew what God wanted but he personally didn’t want that so he tried to evade it. This is not just an Old Testament problem–there are many believers today who know God’s will and run from it.
Jonah knew exactly what he was doing. In Jonah 1.10, we discover that he had actually told the sailors on the ship that he was running from God. But all who run may not admit that they are running from the will of God. In fact, such are the complexities of the human mind that that we can know something and act on it while at the same time be able to convince ourselves that we don’t know what we really know. If that sounds a bit farfetched, sit down with a counsellor some time and ask him/her about it–a good counsellor knows this reality all too well.
It is relatively to cover the running with excuses that sound valid: I am too (old, young, afraid, etc) to do it; I am not mature enough in my faith; I don’t know enough; I couldn’t do it; It’s not the right time. I won’t give any more examples in case I suggest one you haven’t used yet.
While we serve a God who respects our freedom, we also serve a God who knows what is best for us and for the Kingdom so when we know his will and make the mistake of running from it, he continues to work, seeking to get us to return to his will. In spite of what some may think or say, this is not punishment–this is God using what is available to get us to do what is best for us.
I have know many people who have felt that God is calling them to some form of ministry. They have chosen to run from this call–and many of them experience a deep sense of dissatisfaction in their lives. Some I know have move from career to career, doing well in everything but always looking for something. Their spirit will not rest until they are doing what they are called and gifted to do. God is using this dissatisfaction to persuade them to follow the call he has given. Many believers spend time in the belly of a great fish because they make a mistake in trying to run from the will of God.
When we make this mistake, we really have only two choices: we can keep running, experiencing the dissatisfaction and discomfort that goes with it or we can surrender and accept what God has revealed to us.
The first choice keeps us from having to do what we are running from–but it really takes a lot of effort to keep running and it affects our ability to be comfortable within ourselves and our faith. If we are called by God to something, we will not be comfortable until we do that. We can stay in the belly of the fish but in truth, that isn’t really a nice place to stay.
We are better off in the end if we confess our mistake and surrender to the will of God, doing what he has called and prepared us to do.
Tomorrow, we will look at what happens when we genuinely think we are doing God’s will but it turns out that we were wrong.
May the peace of God be with you.