We live in a society that values movement. Things always need to be going up and to the right. They need to be faster, better, bigger, more important, more expensive.
But God doesn’t value the same things we do.
Often, it’s like He’s not playing the same “game” at all.
God has a wholly different view of life.
As I quote often from Isaiah 55:8-9:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
This plays out in a lot of ways, but one in particular has been on my heart for a while and I’ve wanted to share it:
Sometimes, God wants you to wait.
As I’ve written about before, my family and I have felt like we’re in a time of waiting, and it hasn’t been clear yet for what.
And during that time we’ve had some really cool opportunities come up… but they didn’t feel quite right.
They were great opportunities,
And I’m sure God would have used them,
But we felt like God was telling us to wait.
Which brings me to a common misunderstanding:
Just because there’s a great opportunity doesn’t mean God wants you to take it.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t pursue things on the basis that they’re “too good to be true” or that “God doesn’t want you to be happy” but that we tend to go too far the other direction and assume that because there’s an opportunity, that God wants you to take it.
And that’s simply not true.
The best example I see in scripture is when you compare two separate God-ordained “jailbreaks”.
Here’s the first one:
“But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.Acts 5:18-21
It’s very clear. The apostles were (wrongly) in jail and an angel broke them out and they left the jail.
But check out what happens in a similar situation 11 chapters later:
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.”Acts 16:25-34
In this situation, it seems just as clear: God is breaking Paul and Silas out of jail.
They were wrongly in jail,
The “precedent” in the Christian community is if God does a miracle to let you out of jail; you leave and go preach the Gospel.
But they don’t.
They stay in the jail.
And as we see from reading this passage: that was the right choice.
When To Stay, When To Go
You might be wondering why Paul and Silas decided to stay.
Maybe it was because Paul realized that the jailer would be faced with the death penalty for loosing the prisoners, but I think it’s for a different reason.
I think it’s because they know God didn’t tell them to.
In the first example, it says that the angel led them out of jail,
But in the second, it only says the doors were opened and the bonds were unfastened.
Maybe, for you, that would be enough to believe God wanted you to step out,
But it wasn’t for Paul and Silas,
And God knew that.
God was providing this situation for Paul and Silas,
Not to the other apostles,
And not to you and me.
I believe that if God wanted Paul and Silas to escape, that He would have made that clear in a way Paul and Silas would receive it, so long as they were willing to seek and hear from Him.
God isn’t trying to play games to get us to guess His will, even though it can sometimes feel like that, and I believe that had He wanted Paul and Silas to leave, He could have directed in a way they would have understood and followed – just like He did with the other apostles.
Following Jesus In The Difficult Decisions
There have been many books written and sermons preached on this subject, so here are just a few thoughts:
1. God desires your faith to be put in Him, not a system or program. So be ready to have to trust that God is working and to follow where you believe He is leading you.
2. Your desire to please God and love God is far more important than making perfect decisions, so don’t be afraid of making the “wrong” decision. If you’ve prayed about the situation, asked for help/input from those around you in the process and are truly desiring to please God, He loves us and knows our limitations and imperfections and sometimes simply wants to have us choose between different good options.
3. Consider waiting. If you don’t have to make a decision, sometimes it’s ok to wait. Sometimes we have an external deadline that we have to make a decision by, but other-times our deadlines are arbitrary and are unhelpful in God’s timeline.
4. Stay connected to Jesus. In the second example, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God. They were spiritually sensitive to Him and worshiping Him, and so when an opportunity came their way, they knew what to do.
There’s certainly no formula on knowing when to wait and when to go, or which direction to go.
But here’s what we do know:
It’s ok to wait, and it’s ok to “pass up” an opportunity.
We need to stay connected to Jesus to know His will.
We need to stay connected to each-other as God’s intended Church for godly counsel.
And most importantly:
We know that God is God and we are not,
And that He promises to guide us,
And that we please Him by following in faith and love in response to the love He has first shown us.