October 18, 2017

God Isn’t Gamey: My New Hot Button

redbutI’ve got a new hot button. I experienced it this week and I think it’s best to warn the general public that until I make some progress in sanctification, pushing this button could result in an ugly scene.

(Before I say this, I know there are a bunch of books on this subject and I’ve read some of them. I could just recommend a good book, but I need to get this off my chest.)

My new hot button is “You need to pray until you find God’s will.”

First of all, I believe in God, and I believe he has a will. I believe God sovereignly runs the universe pretty much like the Westminister/Second London Confessions say, though I have absolutely no idea what that means other than God is in control in a way I can’t understand and am not capable of understanding. (My brain is too small.) It’s an assertion, and as much as I know God only in Jesus, it’s a comfort.

Frankly, when Capon says that God runs the world through “Holy Luck,” like a guy with a card trick that’s amazing to you but no big deal to him, that works for me. Capon believes that things don’t look like there’s a plan, but that’s the beauty of the way God has chosen to run the universe. He’s there in plain sight where you can’t see him.

Secondly, I believe God’s will encompasses my life. In the same way, I don’t believe I am going to get much specific insight into that. It’s an assertion, and as much as it comes to me packaged as Jesus, it’s as I said, a comfort.

I know that when tragedy or sudden blessing strike, my belief in God’s sovereign control is a comfort. When my mom had a stroke and died in 14 hours, I was resting in God’s hands and praying the same for her. When I got a book deal, I believe it was God’s time. I’ll give him thanks.

But here’s the thing- I am really, really, really tired of being told to “find” God’s will.

I have no idea what most people mean when they say “find” and I don’t believe they do either.

Let’s run the perspective list:

1. What God declares and commands in scripture is, when rightly understood, his will. I’m fine with that. That’s why I preach the Bible and live my life by it. But I also know there is a lot of life that is a mystery to me, I don’t care how much Bible I stuff in my head.

I’m not impressed by people who demonstrate that they have a verse to turn any tragedy into an opportunity to say “God is doing this.” I prefer to see a tragedy as a tragedy. I’m not saying God is less in control. I’m not going atheist or blaming God, but he’s running the show and he allows tragedy. He doesn’t say, “Now show me you’ve trained yourself to say otherwise.” That’s sad. Maybe even sick.

My human instinct is to see terrible things as terrible. I don’t have any theological response to not trust those feelings and say “Oh, but God is really using this.” He is. He does. But my part is to start with, “This is terrible and people are hurting/suffering.”

2. What God communicates and allows through providence. I’m alive in Ky in 2009. I’m at a school. I have a family. I’m an American. I have an income. I have certain gifts and certain opportunities. God sent them. God allows them. Again, I’m not making a show of believing this. It’s how God unfolds life in time. His story. I’m a character. I don’t try to understand the author. (See Stranger Than Fiction to get that picture.)

3. What God communicates through those with authority over me and/or by means of trusted people in my world. Same as above.

4. What God communicates by his Spirit to me in mystical ways. Now we’re getting close to the issue. I know God does this, but I am really through playing the game of seeking for God to do it or expecting God to do it because some Christians think it’s obviously the way to go. I’ll pray. I’ll ask. I’ll ask others to pray. I’ll be still and listen. I’ll evaluate impressions. I’ll try to discern God’s voices.

But this is not a game I am going to play with God. I’m not cooperating with what amounts to saying “God is toying with us to see what we’ll do.” If God wants to say something to me, no game is necessary. And I am not required to demonstrate my desperation to know God’s will to know it. There may be places in my journey I need to be before God’s will unfolds, but God isn’t being gamey. He’s not playing hide and seek. He isn’t constantly dangling guidance in front of me like bait.

If this makes sense, I reject the idea that God requires some superior effort on my part to be mystical in order to communicate his will to me.

5. What God communicates by signs, miracles and answered prayers. You don’t want me decoding these things. Years ago, our house caught on fire, and a noise outside- totally unrelated- woke me up and got me in the hallway where I saw the fire. That noise saved our lives and our house. It’s a miraculous providence. I have no idea what it “means,” however, beyond what it is. If you hear me saying it meant we were supposed to leave or stay or paint the house pink, I’m just rattling on. No one has that information and I don’t want to go to a church that believes they have it.

I do not want anyone trying to get me on board with anything using miracles as a method. If God is that gamey, I don’t want to play. My dog can talk to me if necessary. I’ll listen.

Now the real deal comes down to this, and I’ll use a real life example. Let’s say I make enough money writing over the next 2-4 years that I could work part time, my wife could work part time, and we wouldn’t have to be where we are doing what we’re doing. So it could be stay or go.

God’s will? Stand by.

I don’t think he cares. And if he does, he can let me know without me acting like he’s an alien sending coded messages.

I can serve him either here or elsewhere. I can serve him anyplace. I can be faithful wherever. I’m free, within the boundaries of following Jesus, loving God, loving neighbor and using my gifts and talents, to serve God wherever I believe is the best place for me. There is a process, but I can trust myself as a reliable means of knowing God’s will. Not perfect, but not to be ignored in favor of “signs.”

I don’t need a sign, or a vision or a voice. I may or may not get a nudge. It doesn’t matter. I don’t think God is hiding his will. I don’t think I am supposed to ignore “normal” factors in determining where God wants me. I believe that if God has a place for me I don’t know about- like being Andrew Marin’s bodyguard- then Andrew will call and talk to me about it.

I can go to school. I can sell programs at the ball park. I can write. I can teach. I can preach or be an associate. I can counsel. I can do a lot of things. And I don’t believe I have to torment myself or anyone else about that.

When it seems right to me and my family, when I’m in a place to be responsible, obedient, submissive and faithful, I can love God and do as I please.

That’s the button. Thanks for listening.

Comments

  1. Stanley says:

    And don’t EVEN get me started about “rhema words”…