Don’t give me that “God is sovereign” stuff either…

My wife is pregnant! It’s quite amazing… And just really crazy weird! The other day, she made a comment saying, “This is an area of my life that I really don’t have any control over.” She said, “I know I really don’t have control over the other areas of my life either, but at least I feel like I do.” (yeah, my wife is wicked smart!) It’s true though! She can’t develop the baby’s brain or bones or muscles… It just happens!

My father runs a landscaping company in Ohio. Yesterday he said, “I told the Lord that if he opened a door for me, then I was going to go through it no matter where it led.” This is quite an amazing thing to say to the Lord, if you ask me! In fact, kinda scary, but sheesh… What faith!

In college, my roommates (who I still keep in contact with) and I would often have a discussion about God’s sovereignty vs. our free will. I’ve been thinking about this stuff for over 10 years! I don’t want to have “that” discussion again, here, now.

My question is this… (I know, there are a ton of pastors that read this blog, so come on, give it to me!)

Where does it start and stop? My wife has a baby growing in her and she has no control over the development of the baby’s brain or bones or muscles and [even more so] no control over the baby’s developing personality! So, I know that she can eat healthy, take the right vitamins, exercise, rest, drink water, and all those other daggum things, but where does it stop? Or, where does it START? I know we “did it” but did we create that baby? How MUCH should she do to “help” develop that baby?

Let’s say my father has a “door open” to Africa… How hard does he push towards Africa? When does he stop pushing toward Africa… Or does he?

I think a lot of people get a “calling” to working for a church. (I won’t say a calling to the “ministry” because I believe we ALL have a calling to the ministry and we are all IN the ministry!) I have a calling to MY job, just like you have a calling to being a pastor. But, we’re both in full-time ministry! However, I talked to some folks recently who were moving to San Francisco to start a church. Why? Because, they felt a leading from the Lord to San Francisco. So, they start pushing towards San Francisco. What if it doesn’t work? What if only 10 people ever come to their church? What if they never actually make it to San Francisco? Come on, don’t give me that crap that “if one life was changed then it was all worth it”… We all agree with that, but sometimes I feel like it’s a cop out! Perhaps, if you didn’t go to San Francisco, then maybe 2 lives would have been changed. So, don’t give me that answer… Let’s be real here! What if it doesn’t work? What if you kill yourself and your family and your marriage for 5 years and you’re still broke (and probably broken!) and you’re still struggling? (or 10 years or 20 years) When do you stop? Do you ever think that you went the wrong way? Or that your “calling” wasn’t really a “calling”? Don’t give me that “God is sovereign” stuff either… What do you really feel? Deep down in your “knower”, what do you know you should do and when do you know you should start it and when do you know you should stop it?

Believe me, I’m not insinuating anything… I’m just asking the question! And, the real question is, what do you know in your “knower” that you need to do, or need to STOP doing, but you’re just not?

Or, maybe the better question is, where is the balance between what WE do and what we allow GOD to do? If we feel God is pushing us in one direction, do we sit back and let Him do it, or do we push as hard as we can towards it? Where is the balance? Where do I start and where do I allow God to do?

17 Comments

  1. Posted June 5, 2009 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    A lot of people read this blog… More than I thought! I look at my stats and I’m kinda surprised… After I make blog posts, people email me or comment on Facebook or something like that. You can feel free to comment on this BLOG too… Just fill out that form. I’m sure other people would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this stuff… I know I would!

  2. Posted June 5, 2009 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    It sounds like your question is not just about God’s sovereignty but more about finding God’s will. This summer, our women’s ministry will be reading a book called “Just Do Something” by Kevin DeYoung. I chose it because this is a subject that, I think, holds people hostage as they try to find “God’s perfect will.” The book addresses this subject and promotes a different perspective of finding God’s will. I think Garry Friesen’s “Decision Making and the Will of God” is a lot more thorough on this subject, but the DeYoung book is very short and readable and makes a lot of sense.

  3. Posted June 5, 2009 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    God is Sovereign. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  4. Posted June 5, 2009 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    But seriously, I know how you crave for comments – so here’s my 2 cents. You can take it – and a candy wrapper – to the store – and they’ll give you nothing.

    You have control over absolutely nothing – and yet you have complete responsibility for all of your actions. It’s a mystery. It will never be answered. It is what Scripture teaches. Sorry – but this side of heaven you won’t get an answer you understand.

    As for calling, I think way too much is placed on the concept of God calling us or moving us from place to place. If we seek to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength – love our neighbors as ourselves – then we should do what we enjoy doing (for a vocation). We can’t worry about results, those are God’s bidness. Ours is to be faithful.

  5. amber
    Posted June 5, 2009 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I feel like you are reading my mind. I wonder this ALL the time. Sometimes the actions I need to take are much much clearer and the path is layed out in front of me so it’s very easy to follow after the “prodding” God does in my heart. At other times it is completely blurry and I have no idea if I’m just overreacting, or if I’m emotional, or if I’m making up what I think God is showing me. It’s during these times I’m not sure where to walk, so it’s a very slow process, which MAY be exactly what He wants. Maybe he wants us to just carefully put one foot in front of the other considering HIM every step of the way, even though we can’t see 5 feet in front of us.

    I think our only mission in terms of God’s Sovereignty is to consider His way, His holiness, His glory each step of the way and give him the honor and glory where it is due. Even if we never understand free will, we can understand His provision and desire to watch us act in faith, even though what He calls faith may be what we call uncertainty.

  6. Posted June 5, 2009 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    John:
    So, are you saying that you just work as hard as you can towards whatever you think is best? ie. Love God and love people and then let everything else fall into place? So, what if I want to be a rock star?

    Or, better yet, what if you “FEEL” like you’re being pushed to go to San Francisco and start a church, but you really don’t want to? But, you know in your “knower” that that’s what you should do. What then?

  7. amber
    Posted June 5, 2009 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    I think that if you know in your “knower”, to deny that would be to distrust the Lord.

    I mean look at Abraham. He didn’t get what he really longed for for 80 some-odd years…a son. God gave him a son and Abraham’s love and affection and longing for this was satisfied. But then BAM, “Abraham go and kill your son. NOW.” I mean, hello! Did Abraham WANT to do that? No! No way. But he trusted the Lord….and the Lord was testing his faith. The Lord let him keep his son. I wonder what would have happened if Abraham just decided not to go up that mountain with his son. Or tie him to the altar or hold knife over him. I wonder if God would have really taken Isaac’s life. I wonder…

    So if you want to be a rockstar, work at it. Practice, play, make connections. I’m not sure how that ties into the Abraham thing. lol.

  8. Tracy
    Posted June 5, 2009 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Hmmm, if you want to be a rock star and it’s for God’s glory and not your own (loving God more), and you are considering your family’s interests (loving them?) and thinking of the possible financial burden of such a pursuit (being a good steward?), and you can still work it out, go for it. God gives us talents and gifts first to build up the Body, then to serve others. Knock yourself out.

    Regarding this comment:
    “Or, better yet, what if you “FEEL” like you’re being pushed to go to San Francisco and start a church, but you really don’t want to? But, you know in your “knower” that that’s what you should do. What then?”

    Who’s pushing: A church? A person (or group of people)? A spouse? A ministry? God, through all of these?
    It’s been my experience that if we don’t “listen” the first time, God provides lots of other “encouragement” from other believers about a “calling” or not. Glean from the wisdom God has put around you.

    Why don’t you want to go: Are you being fruitful where you are? Are you afraid of discomfort? Don’t like change? No passion for that particular group?
    Again, using my experiences as a reference only, If I have no passion for something and it’s not based on my own comfort or selfishness, it may not be a “calling” after all. For instance, Kevin and I have never felt the ‘call’ to adopt. While we certainly aren’t against it, we feel that, although we could physically provide a home for children, we feel that people who are without children of their own and are passionate about having them should have that opportunity first. To jump to meet a non-physical (not food or shelter, etc.) need just because an opportunity arises may actually take away from others by not allowing someone with that gifting or passion to fulfill it.

    What in your “knower” makes you think you should do this thing? Guilt? Knowing you should be willing to do anything, but you aren’t really willing to?
    At the end of the day, God meets us where we are. If we run, God is at the end of the running. God told Jonah once to go to Ninevah, and he ran away. He told him again after a bit of a fight and Jonah was more willing-not for long, but he was! God continued to pursue Jonah for His own purposes and to change his heart toward Himself and away from selfish desires. God chose Jonah to effectively changed the short-term history of Ninevah, not because he had it all together and was willing to be used, but because he eventually quit running from God and became teachable.

    Enjoy your new bundle o’ joy!! :0)
    God can change circumstances or change our hearts, or sometimes both.

  9. Tracy
    Posted June 5, 2009 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Sorry about that “bundle of joy” comment! I thought I was talking to Ben H. there for a minute! :0)

  10. Posted June 5, 2009 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I am saying if you want to be a rock star, then be a rock star – for the glory of God. If you start equating your feelings with the definitive voice of God – you are in for a world of hurt, baby.

    Scripture doesn’t tell you whether or not you should go to San Francisco. So, what does it tell you? God’s Word is the only definitive word you have. This ain’t the force – don’t trust your feelings.

  11. Posted June 5, 2009 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    So, John, based on Tracy’s comments, how did Jonah know it was God talking to him rather than just his feelings? How did the folks I talked to a few weeks ago know it was God calling them to San Francisco rather than just “feelings”? Or, perhaps there was some sort of confirmation from them? What then?

    It’s weird… Growing up, this guy from our church would come over every couple months for dinner. He would tell us stories that went something like this…

    “I woke up this morning and God told me to drive to Pittsburgh. So, I got in my car and started driving. On the way there, I got a flat tire and had to pull into a truck stop to get it repaired. I didn’t have any money, so I asked the trucker pumping gas if he could help me with my tire. He ended up buying me lunch and we talked over a cup of coffee and he got SAVED that day. I never made it to Pittsburgh, because I knew that God just wanted me to get that flat tire and meet that trucker so I could share Jesus with him”

    How did he know…

    FIRST, to start driving to Pittsburgh.

    SECOND, that his purpose was to meet that trucker.

    THIRD, that he really didn’t have to go all the way to Pittsburgh, God just wanted him to meet the trucker.

    Somehow he knew to “get started” and somehow he knew when to stop.

    HOW?

    BTW… Thanks for the “Bundle of joy” comment, Tracy! :-) We’re crazy excited!

  12. amber
    Posted June 5, 2009 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    The story of Jonah is so interesting regarding God’s sovereignty….I mean Jonah did NOT want to go, did not feel like he could handle what God was calling him to do, he even ran away. But God threw him into the ocean and into a huge fish to get his attention. It’s like you can run, but you can’t hide from God. He’ll get your attention however He has to do it about the direction of our lives, and what He is wanting to do through us.

    I think that’s an important point to remember. God is using us. We are the clay, he is the potter. If we really belong to Him and know Him, no matter how we try to shape ourselves and shape our lives He’s still in control and He will do the molding, whether we are willing or not.

    Also…I think that Jonah’s ignorance of what God was really trying to show him plays a big part. Jonah only wanted to see what he wanted to see. Jonah had his nice little comfortable world. Had he really trusted the Lord that something much bigger than himself was at stake he would have jumped at the chance to speak on God’s behalf to the Ninehvites. It’s obvious he knew what God was calling him to, and he purposely avoided it.

    Hmmm…avoiding the obvious seems like it could end you up in a lot more trouble than good!

  13. Posted June 5, 2009 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    I believe that Jonah literally heard God’s voice. It is Scripture, after all.

    I’d surmise that the dude that heard God tell him to drive to Pittsburgh was dipping into the Schnapps – and I’d ask the question: Why didn’t God just tell him to drive toward Pittsburgh so that he could share the gospel with this guy who helped him with his flat. ?

    You just better be careful telling people that God told you to do something.

  14. Posted June 5, 2009 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know that there is one way to answer this question…

    So much of our ability to “hear God” or “feel the leading of the Holy Spirit” is wrapped up in how we are wired and how God knit us together. I think so much of the trouble that we have when we wrestle through these kinds of issues comes from our desire to have the experience of those that we see as being holier than we are. I think of the times that I met people similar to the “driving to Pittsburgh” guy and came away seeing that as the pinnacle of Christian living… and waited for God to say such things to me, only to be deeply disappointed when I never heard the voice of God the way that others did.

    I guess that the tension we find ourselves in is trying to be ok with a mystical God when the rational part of our brains is screaming for something more tangible. I don’t know that I can specifically tell you why I know that God has said something to me, but I do know that he has. Ben, you specifically asked about the whole San Francisco thing, and all the permutations that went along with it… I went to New Jersey knowing that God was calling me there, but also realizing that it was not my first (or even on my top five) choice. Throughout the entire process I felt the press of the Holy Spirit leading me to Jersey. Nearly five years later I was both broke and broken, but am still convinced that I was taken there, and was taken there to go through the process of refining that only comes when the heat is cranked up pretty high.

    All this rambling to say that I don’t know. I don’t know how God speaks specifically to you, but I do know that as you pursue Christ, the Holy Spirit makes itself apparent to those engaged in that pursuit… we just need to be ok with the idea that the press of the Holy Spirit in our lives might be different from the press of the Holy Spirit in the life of “driving to Pittsburgh Guy”.

  15. Andrew
    Posted June 11, 2009 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    John Lee wrote: “Why didn’t God just tell him to drive toward Pittsburgh so that he could share the gospel with this guy who helped him with his flat. ?”

    Same could be asked as to why Jesus talked in parables or why He doesn’t just speak out of Heaven and tell us exactly what He wants us to do on a daily basis. It’s by faith that we please Him.

    I think each of us have to approach this the same way, but God uses us all differently. We all need to be willing vessels for His use. But that doesn’t mean that God is going to necessarily give us an “urge” to drive to Pittsburgh. He speaks through his Word first and foremost. So the first thing you need to do when discerning the Lord’s will for your life is test the proposed action in light of Scripture to see if it doesn’t contradict. If you don’t find a contradiction and the circumstances of the situation are unique, it’s time to take it before the Lord in prayer. Praying something like “Lord I don’t know if this is from You, but if it is I’m here ready to do it.” God is faithful. If you sincerely desire His will to be done over your own, you WILL get an answer to this. He will not let you fall. He may let you go through a trial (possibly in order to perfect your faith that much more), or He may allow you to suffer adversity or other difficulties along the way. But I’m convinced that you will have peace all the way through it if you are seeking His will to be done and you are trusting Him.

    Now, another part to this is “walking in the Spirit.” This is key to living a life where God can use us. If we are walking in our flesh, we will not be in too good of a position for God to use us. However, when we walk in the Spirit, the fruit (love, joy, peace, etc) flows out. Notice how there’s no “work” there? It’s God’s work. Our “work” is to obey God’s Word and seek Him daily.

  16. amber
    Posted June 14, 2009 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    I was listening to some preacher on the radio on my drive home the other day and he said this:

    “People who have never encountered a cataclysmic event in their lives never fully understand God’s sovereignty.”

    I’m not entirely sure what he means by this, but it’s interesting nonetheless!

  17. Jonathan
    Posted July 31, 2009 at 2:02 am | Permalink

    Galatians 5?

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