Some time ago, I noticed that in my prayers I was telling God how to answer them. If praying for a wayward family member, I’d give specific steps for bringing that person back to Christ. If asking about other needs, I was telling Him how to supply those needs. I realized an arrogance in thinking God needed my advice and direction.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:13–17)
Rarely have I correctly anticipated God’s answers to my requests. I think of good ways for Him to fix problems, but His ways are always higher (and better) than my ways. Jesus was aware of this. He did not tell God the Father what to do, even though His ideas had no hint of selfishness as mine do. In Gethsemane before His crucifixion, He talked to His Father about His agony . . .
And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:35–36)
My will, at least the will of my fleshy nature, is always in conflict with the will of God. Many Christians have learned this and we find ourselves skeptical when decision-making does not include that inner conflict. This could be a sign that my will is submitted to the will of God, but it could also be a sign that what I want dominates, and the will of God is not even on the radar.
The Bible does offer the possibility of being so delighted in what God wants that there is no war between that and my flesh that resists God. In fact, the psalmist wrote . . .
In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:6–8)
Yet as I read this, it seems the psalmist is pointing to Christ and not himself, speaking prophetically rather than personally. Either way, his desire is to do the will of God and not reduce God to someone who can be told what to do. This makes Jesus the supreme example. In a life or death situation, He could entrust Himself to the will of God rather than tell God to take away the threat.
God wants me to trust Him in all the events of life. If I were working for an employer, this would include exercising faith in the workplace. In the Bible, this was a master/slave relationship, but today it is about a boss and the workers. However, the same principles apply . . .
Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man . . . (Ephesians 6:5–7)
This is about trusting God, not telling God what to do, not insisting that the boss bows to my demands but that I do my job with the idea that the Lord is my master. I can trust Him just as Jesus trusted His Father in situations that don’t seem right, or are unfair, or that I resent.
This is also about trusting God’s wisdom and power. He knows what is best in my situation, just as He knew that dying on the cross was best in Christ’s situation. He has the power to change that situation – after all, Jesus did say “all things are possible” and asked that the cup be removed – but instead of asking Him to do it, He relied on the wisdom of God to do His will.
How big is my God? Is He big enough to know what is best in any situation? Or do I reduce Him to a god that I try to manipulate, a god that I can tell what to do, a god that is no god at all? If so, then I am guilty of idolatry.