The Will of God-One Day at a Time
Did you ever think about how much of life is controlled by the smallest of decisions? If your life is anything like mine, you've heard the words "you just made it" or "you just missed it" on all too many occasions. Whether it's a plane that's leaving, a store that's closing, or an event that's drawing to a finish, we are often reminded that, as they say, "timing is everything." When seconds count, suddenly even insignificant decisions matter. Recently, after missing a flight by mere seconds, I found myself thinking about all the decisions that had led up to the predicament I found myself in. "I could have made that flight," I thought to myself, "If only . . .
Whenever we "just make" or "just miss" something we catch a glimpse of the extent to which our lives are controlled by the smallest of decisions. It is in this, however, that we are strangely inconsistent. We fervently seek God's will when it comes to major decisions, but often fail to seek His leading when it comes to the "small" matters of life. Lost in all of this is the reality that the will of God can be found in more than just our major decisions. Small decisions do matter. They shape our lives to a greater extent than we will ever realize. If we focus only on seeking God's will at the great crossroads of our lives, we will miss out on much of His divine plan for our existence.
As a child I rarely had difficulty sleeping. But every year there was one night that was always a tough one to sleep through-Christmas Eve. If your childhood was anything like mine, you can probably remember tossing and turning in bed, thinking about the presents that Christmas Day would bring. Children know what it means to be earnest. Listen to the earnestness that David wrote of:
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalms 63:1)
I can still remember the excitement of Christmas Day. At dawn's first light my brother and I would jump out of bed, race up the stairs, and begin tearing apart the presents that had been so carefully wrapped and placed there the night before. The eagerness of a child on Christmas Eve is the same kind of eagerness that David writes of here. The Hebrew word translated "earnestly" in this verse can also be translated "in the morning." His words reflect an eagerness for God--a desire to seek Him "early"--before anything else.
Do our daily lives reflect this same kind of earnestness? As an adult, I still enjoy opening Christmas presents. But nowadays, I'm just as likely to sleep in or eat breakfast before opening presents on Christmas Day. I'd like to think I've adopted a more mature view of Christmas presents than I had as a child. It sounds much better than saying I'm less earnest than I once was. Perhaps you were once eager to seek God and do His will. Now you're more mature . . . and less eager.
If God has a plan for the major events of our lives, He has plans for the minor events too. It is a fallacy to think that we need only earnestly seek God for the "big" decisions. Small decisions inevitably lead to big ones. This is important because for most of us, God does not seem to reveal His overarching plan for our lives up-front. Indeed, for most of us this is good news as we are terribly prone to stumble when we become too focused on the future. When we know--or think we know--what God's plan is, we must be careful not to try and out-guess God, as did Sarai and Abram (Genesis 15-21). Remember, God's long-term plan never involves short-term acts of sin!
Exercising faithfulness in the "small" decisions of life is a critical part of knowing God's will for your life. When we focus on where we think God is taking us, we are prone to make costly mistakes. Why? Because God's will may be at odds with what seems to make sense from a human point of view. There may be times when following God's will doesn't make sense, as Abraham would later discover (Genesis 22). His descendant David gives us advice to see us through such times:
Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. (Psalms 37:3-6)
In a world where those who ignore the will of God seem to prosper above those who eagerly seek it, David encourages us to respond differently in our everyday actions and decisions:
|Our Response||Our Reward|
|Trust in the Lord and do good (v.3)||Dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture|
|Delight yourself in the Lord (v.4)||He will give you the desires of your heart|
|Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him (v.5)||He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun|
It's easy to overlook the responsibility that is incumbent on us when it comes to the blessings of God. The promise that God will give us the desires of our heart is often referred to as though it were a divinely bestowed expense account. But here we see that it is contingent on our "delight" in the Lord. What does this mean? Perhaps more than we think. We would like this passage to mean that God will give us what we desire, but that is not what is promised. It would seem that David is simply reminding us of the benefit that comes from aligning our desires with those of God, given His ultimate control over our lives (Proverbs 16:9, 19:21). This is not a difficult concept to understand. Suppose you wish to fly to Los Angeles. Will your desire be fulfilled if the pilot decides instead to land in San Francisco? Of course not. There is only one way to ensure that your desire will be fulfilled--by making sure that it coincides with the desire of your pilot! Likewise, when we delight ourselves in the Lord, we adjust our desires to His. In so doing, His destination becomes our destination. The fulfillment of our desires is accomplished by virtue of our adjustment to His will and not vice versa.
When we come to a point where we can say "yet not as I will . . ." (Matthew 26:39), we allow God to meet our needs in a way that only He can. Our part is to trust God--one day at a time. When we do so, we allow Him to demonstrate His love and faithfulness by meeting our needs on a daily basis. Jesus reminded His disciples of this when they asked how to pray:
"This, then, is how you should pray: "'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'" (Matthew 6:9-13, cf. Luke 11:2-4)
The imagery is striking--just as the Israelites were fed in the desert one day at a time (Exodus 16:4-5), so Jesus now tells His disciples to pray that God will "give us today our daily bread" (v.11). God is faithful--and He takes His role as our provider seriously. We can rely on Him to provide us with what we need, when we need it. For this reason, you may find that God's will is not revealed in broad, sweeping terms but rather, in small, individual steps. Lacking a "burning bush" experience (Exodus 3:1-10, cf. Acts 7:30-35), you may have to learn to seek God's will for a particular situation one day at a time.
A couple of years ago, I found myself at the crossroads of a major career decision. Though I prayed that God would make His will clear to me, I had no idea what it was. For a time, the decision I faced seemed almost too difficult to contemplate. But hidden beneath the "big" decision I found there were a multitude of smaller decisions that needed to be made. Each of these decisions had an impact on other seemingly insignificant decisions I would later make--and what options would be available. Lacking clear direction, I decided to postpone thinking about the "big" decision and instead focus on the smaller ones. In doing so, I began to see that there were clear decisions that could be made. As I made what seemed to be the right choices in the small decisions, it began to lead me down a path toward the final decision ahead. On completing the last of the "small" decisions, I emerged confident of the best choice for the ultimate "big" decision that faced me.
Sometimes, in difficult situations, the best thing you can do is to take that next step, even if it means venturing into the unknown or doing something you are reluctant to do. It is not uncommon to see well-meaning Christians hide behind God when their faith--or more often their comfort level--is challenged. Indeed, there may be times when we must wait on God. But all too often it would seem that the phrase "I'll pray about it" is really just another way of saying "no." James reminds us that, "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." (James 4:17, cf. Romans 14:23).
Worry can also hinder us when it comes to taking that next step. You may find that it's not the decisions themselves that are difficult, but rather the concern over what those decisions might lead to. In such cases, it's often best to make the decisions that can be made with confidence now, and press on, refusing to worry today about the decisions that tomorrow might bring. Indeed, each day has enough worry of its own (Matthew 6:34). But God is faithful. We can press on with confidence, secure in the knowledge that God will make straight our path.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
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Copyright © 1998 Tim A. Krell. All rights reserved. Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version (NIV), Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
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