“If you were to die tonight, are you 100% certain you would be in heaven?”…”Before you make a decision, remember the ol’ adage: ‘when in doubt, don’t!”…”Why did God let this happen?”
These are the kinds of things we as “Job’s friends” throw out and call “wisdom”. I’m not sure if it happened immediately after the forbidden fruit was eaten or if it is the very thing that led to the first bite, but my own heart’s tendency to trust my own perceptions more than God’s Word is inherited from the generations of “family” all the way back to the Garden. Because Adam and Eve couldn’t confidently answer the serpent’s questions and accusations about God’s character and purposes, they chose to go along with him rather than the One who made them. Their discomfort with the unknown, with uncertainty, with being asked merely to trust and obey has been passed on and perhaps even grown to be more powerful in my own heart than it was in theirs.
At some point, my notion of “faith” began to exclude the freedom to say, “I don’t know” and instead felt compelled to provide an air tight dissertation to any challenge. At some point, being bulletproof took priority. At some point, being right in the eyes of others became more significant and necessary than walking by faith into the “I don’t know”. And this not because the “I don’t know” was a thinly veiled form of independent confidence, but because His grace covers and makes much out of both my right and wrong turns because He is Lord of both! Doubt, it turns out, is not sin but instead a new place in which to walk by faith and not by sight. The two are compatible because rather than being a guarantee that a decision will lead to greater health, comfort or reputation, the object of faith is a confidence that the person and work of Jesus is in fact making all things new and that “even this” is part of that grand work of redemption.
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:7-8
I want the schedule, the agenda, the script, the “heads up”, a full disclosure, a list of all possible scenarios and then a unanimous vote of approval that “this” is right, good and trustworthy. Much to my dismay, “all” that Jesus promised was the Holy Spirit to provide the power (and strength, wisdom, energy, fruit, etc.) “when the time comes.”
In you, LORD my God, I put my trust. I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. Psalm 25:1-2
I love that the Psalmist connects a fear of shame to the decision to trust. It lets me know that God often pulls us into places easily mocked and condemned by onlookers, with even my own heart as one of those cynical onlookers. The doubt that is loudest in my heart when God is pulling us to some weighty decision is from the anticipation of others thinking I’m a fool. That ever present fear of man, fear of the “I told you so” when our decisions take us into hard and losing places. “You don’t have to be hungry”, Satan enticed Jesus. “You don’t have to suffer!” cried Peter to Jesus. “I’m delusional,” Noah must have thought. “Take this cup from me,” begged Jesus.
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will… Eph. 1:11
The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. Prov. 16:33
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph. 2:10
It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Rom. 9:16-17
This is the plan determined for the whole world; this is the hand stretched out over all nations. For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back? Is. 14:26-27
I know that the LORD is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods. The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. Ps. 135:5-6
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16
Not a sparrow can fall to the ground apart from God’s permission. Satan cannot move beyond God’s set limitations for him. Kings are set up and deposed by God’s will. It is God’s certainty in which I must trust, and not my own. Will His good, pleasing and perfect will be crystal clear on this side of a decision? Sometimes, but not often. Will His will be done even if Pharaoh is arrogantly oblivious, Judas thinks he’s thwarted it, Noah falls down drunk and naked, and the people mock Jesus on the cross as being a powerless fool and a liar? History and Scripture has told us, with great clarity, “Yes.”
So if my decision making information is not without doubt, is not 100% certain and cannot explain to others the mind of God, what clarity does grace offer? The person and work of Jesus promises to be with me always, to never leave nor forsake me, that absolutely nothing will ever separate me from His love and that He is working out His very good, pleasing and perfect will which frees me from both the fear and the arrogance of the competing notion that I am captain of my own vessel. Oh what very GOOD NEWS indeed. Hallelujah what a savior and hallelujah what a Lord.