A Jewish rabbi and a Catholic priest were good friends. At a picnic one day, the priest was eating a ham sandwich. “You know,” he said to his friend, “this ham sandwich is delicious. I know you’re not supposed to eat ham, but I don’t understand why such a good thing would be forbidden. When will you break down and try it?”
To which the rabbi replied, “At your wedding.”
It would be amazing if we could know God’s will.
It’d be incredible if we would each have a special colored phone that only God would use, or just a special cell number with its own ring for when the Lord wanted to tell us what we’re to do next, what direction we should take, what our purpose is.
Ephesians 5:17 says, “So then, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Some people talk like this isn’t difficult to do. They’ll say things like I prayed and God spoke to me. A pastor will stand up and say he wants to talk about what God laid on his heart to say this morning.
While I don’t want to discredit anyone’s God connection, it certainly isn’t a normal thing, an everyday or every week experience to be told by God what to say or do. Perhaps it’s just me but knowing with certainty that particular emotions, desires, or thoughts are inside of me because God wanted me to have them is a very hard thing to ascertain.
Other people say we’re not really meant to know God’s will, so the best thing to do is to walk as near to Christ as we can and everything that happens is “meant to be.” There’s a lot of truth in that. As it says in Proverbs, “If you acknowledge God in all your ways, the Lord will direct your paths.”
Still others try the putting out the fleece method. They ask for a sign from above. We think of things like, “If so-and-so calls before 8p.m., I’ll know that it’s God’s will to go out.” Or like the woman who wanted to go to the Holy Land. She read about the trip in a brochure. She noticed that she would be flying on a Boeing 747. As she was going to sleep that night, she asked, “Lord, is it your will that I should go to Israel?”
She woke when her alarm went off in the morning, and guess what time showed on the alarm clock: 7:47. Right away she thought, “It’s God’s will to go to Israel!”
As we know this sign may or may not be from God, though many people would be inclined to take it as such.
In our scripture passage God has asked Gideon to become Israel’s warrior leader to deliver the tribes from the Midianites. But Gideon isn’t sure that this is what’s best for him or that what he’s hearing is what’s going to happen. He wants a pledge from the Lord that what he has said will happen, that Gideon will have victory, that the Lord will be with him.
The first sign he seeks is that dew would fall on the fleece of wool that he puts out at nightfall but that there would be no dew on the threshing floor. Gideon gets this his sign but he’s still not convinced. He asks that the dew fall on the ground but not the fleece. He’s covering all bases here.
The fact is Gideon isn’t so good at believing God, at least not at this stage of the game. Later on, he grows to become one of the great believers in God’s will, no matter how strange a thing the Lord says he should do. But not yet.
And that’s the point of this story. Gideon asked for signs from God. He wanted to see something. And he did. He saw what he saw and by seeing he crossed a threshold. After that, he followed the Lord. He became committed.
We have to cross a threshold. We have to find a threshold and then be willing to cross it. Gideon took the signs of the fleece as a full and sure sign that God was watching over him. God’s watching over him meant something to him after this.
Most of us never get past this first point. We keep seeing the goodness and God’s blessing all around us, we trust for awhile God has us in his care, but then we forget all about it. We go all the way back to the beginning of our faith. We need more proof. We start our own version of wet fleece/dry ground, dry fleece/wet ground for the Lord to jump through.
Remained convinced. Step across to faith and stay on the other side. The Lord hasn’t walked away. Trust fully in God’s love for you. We can’t know the fullness of God’s blessings if we stay in only a partial faith. Hasn’t the Lord shown you enough good to earn your deeper commitment?
In any race, a runner can’t reach the finish line if she keeps going back to the starting line. To run the race of faith you have to keep moving forward. Stop turning around. Trust that the Lord knows where you’re going. Lean on the everlasting arms of your God.
I read a story about how someone came to a family reunion and within a half an hour had gotten so mad that he walked out, upsetting everyone and overturning the spirit of the get-together. He had gotten so angry because two
of the family members hadn’t gotten up from watching TV soon enough after being told they were going to take a family picture. Everyone else had.
They hadn’t delayed the picture taking yet, because things were still getting put together. But that didn’t matter. It was the principle of the matter—and he left.
This may seem ridiculous to the rest of us but so often we have our own will about something and nobody is going to change it. We may not be as far gone as this person, but too often we listen to one and only one voice—ours.
The truth is what has been your will so far isn’t the only one that has to be. What I mean is that we usually think that whatever we’re thinking or however we’re feeling is the only way it can be. In other words, there’s no more room for anything else but what you think and what you feel.
The truth is we often want to take the easy way out—and the easiest way is for us to get what we want when we want it. We take our determination to stand our ground, our stubbornness, as stability.
But if you want to follow God’s will you have to see that your will and perspective aren’t the only ones that matters. Let someone else help you question your own view. Find out how smart and wise other people are. The Lord often uses someone else to speak to you and help you.
But this is hard, since we hardly ever take a moment to question the direction we’re taking, what we’re saying or going to do next. If we can’t see that someone else may be right, that we may not have the right perspective or the correct direction or the best attitude or the most helpful solution, then it will be impossible to let God’s will reign supreme in your life. It will always be you and yours.
Seek to grow beyond yourself and your present configuration. To deny yourself is often necessary to develop yourself.
One of the best prayers we can ever pray is “God, not my will, but your will be done.” We pray this not because we believe it’s easy to know God’s will but we pray this to open us to the possibility of another will, another perspective, and another voice getting past our own.
Stay open to God’s direction. Follow your heart and God will watch over you.
I’ve seen people jump into a relationship or a job they didn’t feel particularly good about, but they wanted so badly. They refused to listen to that other voice. They don’t deny themselves in order to develop themselves.
The Lord can’t show them a better choice if they’ve already made up their minds to make the one they’re locked in on.
Many times when we act out of turn and push ahead on our own, we end up making a mess of things, or settling for second best. We need to remember that God is on our side. The Lord’s not trying to hold you back. Nobody wants you to rise to your best more than Almighty God. Nobody wants you to see your dreams come to pass any more than the one put those dreams in your heart in the first place. Let him lead you and guide you.
Someone may say, “It seems like God never answers my prayers.” “The Lord never does what I want,” believes another. Maybe God is answering your prayers—and “No” is the answer. Maybe the Lord is saying not now.
Or maybe the message is, “I’m not going to remove that obstacle until you change your attitude and quit complaining about it.” Make some simple adjustments, and you will see things begin to improve.
The truth is we don’t change unless we’re challenged.
I thank God he didn’t answer some of my prayers, because sometimes what I thought was the best for me wasn’t the best at all. Nevertheless, if you push and manipulate, trying to make things happen, God will sometimes let you have your way. Unfortunately this is how we often learn lessons the hard way.
There’s a story about two men who were flying aboard a small airplane. The aircraft had only one seat on each side of the aisle. After they took off, one wanted to get his tray table out. The tray table on this particular plane came right out of the side, beneath the window.
There was a little sign that said “Pull,” so this man pulled, but it wouldn’t open. It was stuck. His friend was sitting across the aisle, so he looked over at his friend’s tray table, which he had pulled out with ease. That window looked exactly like his. This guy went back to work, trying to extricate his table, yanking on it even harder. He thought, “I’m going to get this tray table out if it’s the last thing I ever do!”
He tugged and pulled, and it still wouldn’t come out. Then the friend helped. But still no luck.
Finally, he sat down across the aisle in a different seat. That’s when he looked up and noticed right above that window where we had been pulling was a little sign in big bold letters. It read, “No tray table this seat. Emergency exit only.”
He thought, “Dear God, thank you for not letting me have my way. Thank you for that door staying shut.”
The people who built that plane put a latch up top, so you had to use both hands to open the emergency door. Otherwise, pulling that latch may have been one of the last things he ever did.
I’ve learned that when my prayers aren’t being answered, or when things aren’t happening as fast as I would like, that either means that God is protecting me from danger up ahead, it’s not the right time, or God has something better in store.
Some of the things you may be frustrated about right now, a year from now you will look back at and thank God for not answering that prayer the way you wanted or for not opening up that door. You may not be able to see it right now… but that’s what faith is all about.
Believe the Lord has you in the palm of his hand. When it comes time for God to open a door, no one can keep it shut. God is powerful for you. Put your life in the Lord’s care and see how good God’s will is for you.
The Lord seeks to open up the right doors and close the wrong doors. We need to stop opening them back up again. Instead of circling back to make the same mistake again, to following the same direction one more time, stay in God’s will. Let a bigger hope rather than past habit take you.
The Lord watches over those who travel his path.