Friday, January 23, 2015
Three fallacies to avoid about God’s guidance
Troas, looking through the remains of the Roman aqueduct to the harbour beyond. Paul and his companions came here and waited for the next word from God after an unexpected change of plan.
THE STORY of Paul’s setback between Mysia and Bithynia, when a door seemed to close without much of a word from God about why, and what they were supposed to do, highlights for us three fallacies about God’s guidance that we meet all the time.
It’s not ‘a message a minute’. God is not like a SatNav voice telling us what to do before every turn of the road. Dallas Willard in Hearing God says: “There is no evidence in the lives of Peter or Paul, for example, that they were constantly receiving communication from God.” Jesus had the greatest conceivable one-ness with His Father – but there’s no evidence that He was awash with revelation as to what to do. God treats us as people with some maturity – able to wait, able to trust, able to work things out together with Him – not as those needing constant intrusion.
It’s not ‘the Bible tells us everything’. The principles are certainly all there, but we take principles and learn to apply them, and it’s in the application that we need help. The Christian tradition I belong to takes a high view of the Bible being truth to live by; that doesn’t mean there’s no need for us to learn to talk with God and hear Him in the many ways He speaks to humankind. Using Bible verses at random or superstitiously really does not guide, while the simple word of Jesus does: “My sheep hear My voice. I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).
It’s not ‘whatever comes is guidance’. Guidance may come out of whatever comes, but whatever comes may be frustrating for Him and us both – it is as if God sets us up with a long pass which we fail to play, or allow the opposition to steal ina tackle. Moses was away, up Mount Sinai receiving the Commandments, and during his absence the people lost faith and were found having made a golden calf and worshipping it. Moses at this point interceded for them over and against God’s declared intention of wrath and destruction. Moses was courageous enough to appeal the verdict. What happened? “And the Lord changed His mind about the disaster He had planned to bring on His people” (Exodus 32:14). Many things that happen are not the will of God, although He does not act to stop them – people have free will. “The Lord… is not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) but we’re all too aware lof the perishing ones. God’s word is an arena in which we have an indispensable role to play.
With respect to many events in our future, the partnership is that we seek to know what God’s will is, and then WE have a role in working out what is to happen about it.