Sunday, November 25, 2012

UGW 18-19: Our Responsibilities, Praying for Wrong Things

            18.  You keep saying that we have responsibilities in getting God’s Will done?  What kinds of responsibilities? 
            I’ve already gone through many of them, but if you read the Bible, you’ll find lots more.  Because His Will is more like a verb; it's about living an obedient life.  He says to seek wisdom.  Do we?  He tells us things that He wants us to do in His Word, things that are always His Will for us, like loving our neighbor, tithing, not gossiping, etc.  Do we obey?  Are we guarding our tongues and building others up, instead of tearing them down?  Are we honoring our marriage vows, and putting up strong protective boundaries around our marriage?  Do we pray or do we think it’s good enough that He can read our minds?  Do we forgive or harbor bitterness?  Do we rationalize the first bit of flirting with temptation that we do?  After the first unintentional glimpse, do we look again?  Do we search the Scriptures and meditate on them as we are called to, or do we just pick the Bible up every now and then for a little boost?  Do we seek godly counsel or go off in our own wisdom?  Are we honest and transparent with ourselves and with Him, or are we hoping He doesn’t notice the “sins” we are covering up and the distance between us and Him?  Have we learned to be thankful, even in the hard times?

            Maybe it’s not God’s Will that someone is struggling financially; maybe it’s that they are not following the command to tithe?  (Choosing to rely on yourself means choosing to be cared for by . . . you.  And then you miss out on the blessings that come with relying on and being cared for by God.)  Maybe it’s not God’s Will that someone loses their job; maybe they haven’t been putting their best effort into it, doing their job for the glory of God?  Maybe it’s not God’s plan for someone to follow a certain path; maybe they didn’t really bother to ask for God’s guidance and to wait for God to guide them?  And when He did show them what they were to do, maybe they didn’t obey?  Maybe it's not that God gave us the short stick; maybe it's that we are failing to live life His way?  
            My concern here is that it’s far easier for us to call all things “God’s Will” than it is to realize that we have an enormous impact and influence on what happens.  If we were to realize that God just doesn’t do what He wills, but that we have an impact and influence on what happens, then we would have to take more seriously our responsibility to search for God, to remain close to Him, to seek righteousness, to be obedient, and to pray.  (Wow, I bet that you are hating the redundancy by now.  But, oh, how important these things are.  And yet, how seldomly we care about them.)
            “All things happen for a reason” and “God always does what He wants” are not always true.   Sometimes they are just ways to relieve ourselves of the guilt over the consequences that we created.  So often, we want the blessings without doing the work.  We want to believe that we are in God’s Will, while we coast through life on “It happened, so it must be God’s Will” and “Everything happens for a reason.”  Believing that we have more responsibility than that infringes on our comfort.  

            19.  What if what I’m praying for is not God’s Will or plan for me?  What do I do?  Like the Israelites begging for and getting meat (Numbers 11), could I end up getting what I ask for as sort of a punishment?  
            I wondered about this one, too.  If I was asking and asking for something that God didn’t want to give me, would He end up giving it to me because I begged so much, but then there would be a punishment attached to it?  That’s how I felt as I pleaded with God for a house.  I mean, that’s like what happened to the Israelites, right?  Or is it?
            As I thought about this one, I realized that there is a difference between hardening your heart and rejecting His care for you, and desperately seeking His “Will” in prayer and bringing a request to Him over and over again.  Even if I did sin by being anxious and focusing on getting a certain answer, I was (at the very least) bringing all this to God.  I was pleading with Him.  I was hurting before Him.  And I was, ultimately, desperate to know what He wanted, and my heart was turned toward Him.
            This is different than what the Israelites got punished for.  The Israelites had rejected God’s care for them.  They refused to believe that He was a good God capable of caring for them.  And they didn’t draw near to God through the trials; they pulled away and rebelled, complaining to others instead of going to God in prayer.
            And so I would have to say that, even if what you are asking for is not in line with God’s Will, keep praying with a soft heart.  Keep bringing these petitions before God, and being transparent before Him.  And as long as you are soft-hearted and sensitive to Him and drawing near in the pain, God will eventually transform your desires and your will to be in line with His.  Usually by revealing things that you didn’t even know you needed to work on.  And sometimes, through the pain. 
            But be willing to go with Him where He leads and to let Him make these kinds of changes, and He’ll guide you in the way you should go.  And you’ll eventually be desiring what He wants for you.  It’s hard-hearted rebellion that gets punished.  But soft-hearted seeking (even if we do it wrong at times) gets God’s tender, loving mercy and care.
            (On a practical note, when I have to choose between different options – such as doing something vs. not doing it, or Option A vs. Option B - there is a “test” that I try to run the options through to help me try to discern if it is the Lord or myself leading.  What I do is run each option through this question:  If I was to choose this one, what would my reason be?  And then I search my heart for what is fueling the desire to choose that path: pride, fear, boredom, frustration, greed, anger, bitterness, selfish desire, impatience, etc.? 
            And generally, there will be one option that will make me answer something like this, “The only real reason that I would choose this one is because I feel like this is the one God is telling me to choose.”  And this helps me know which one is the right one, until God brings further guidance.  And, interestingly, it’s usually the one that seems the most unreasonable or difficult or scary or impossible.  God does His best work with “the impossible.”  It’s like when I was wondering if I should continue waiting for the house or go out and find one.  When I asked myself, Why would I keep waiting?, the only answer that I could come up with is, Because I feel that’s what God is telling me to do.  And that reason had to be good enough for me!)      

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