The dilemmaWe're talking about the issue of God's will tonight and for the next few weeks. And when I use the term "God's will" I'm refering to the notion that a personal God has a plan for your life. And that's a premise in itself that presents lots of problems.
That God's will is goodLast week we talked about the goodness of God. And we discussed the fact that God's goodness is something we really don't believe. That's the bone of contention between ourselves and him.
That the infinite God could careIt's also difficult to imagine that God's plan for my life could be anything more than the most general direction, "You ought to love your neighbor as yourself." In other words, it's hard to imagine a God who is involved in the details of my individual life." Example: "It is the height of arrogance to presume the infinite God is listening to me, but it's a good idea to pray nonetheless." And it is. It's hard to believe that God hears my prayers, much less has any kind of good intention in mind for me.
That he makes his will knownThen even if I believe that he's personal, loving and has good intentions for me, there's still the problem of ever hearing from him. Would he make his will known or not? Even those of us who have been Christians for a long time are often frustrated by what appears to be the silence of God. We'll get frustrated especially in difficult situationsÿ.ÿ.ÿ. "Why doesn't he show me what to do!?"
What will happen to me if I fail to follow "The Plan"?If he has one, and he's trying to communicate, what happens if I miss part of it, don't hear him or just outright disobey him? Example: Here's the plan: collegeÿ.ÿ.ÿ. marriage to Sueÿ.ÿ.ÿ. a kid named Willieÿ.ÿ.ÿ. and I miss the marriage to Sue part. Now I can't have a kid named Willieÿ.ÿ.ÿ.
God sees these problemsYou might be interested to know that God also sees these problems. In fact, from his point of view, these are the major problems that we face as people. God describes us in terms like, "sheep without a shepherd," and "those who have lost their way without guidance." It's a situation, according to the Bible, that is deeply burdening to God. In fact Jesus went to great lengths to explain that God is very different than we might think. He is intimate and personal, aware of our every needÿ.ÿ.ÿ. (infinite vs. personal, talk about how that works). Luke 12:5-7; John 10:14-15; Lord's prayer (guidance is premise)
He says his guidance is thereSo God's position is that his guidance is there. As I said, when Jesus teaches us how to pray it's entirely founded on the notion of receiving God's guidance. What's more Galatians 5 speaks of being led by the Spirit of God?that God's Spirit somehow leads us. What I want to do tonight is look at two stories. One of a person who did not want God's guidance, and the other of someone who did.
Ahab: Don't bother meThe first is the picture of King Ahab. He was somewhat of a bad guy in the Bible's reckoning. But there is an instance in 2 Kings 18 that really highlights the problem. read 1-23, tell rest of story
Where's the voice of the Lord?Here you have a situation where there are literally hundreds of voices, not unlike our own situation. But the king of Judah says, "Where is the voice of the Lord in all this?" Somehow he knows that none of these guys represent the voice of the Lord. You can be sure it's not that they weren't pretending to be the voice of God. As you notice later, Cheenah slaps Micaiahÿ.ÿ.ÿ. But there's something about these voices that King Jehoshaphat senses is not from God. And the passage doesn't say what it is. But I think I know what Jehoshaphat was feeling because I've felt it. I've listened to the supposedly Christian voices, the non-Christian voices, the wise guys and know-it-alls, the advice gurus and help-yourselfers. And there is such an air of insincerity, of self-promotion, of great mystical secrets. When we get to heaven and see all the ways God has been communicating, we are going to applaud the genuineness, the understatement and the dignity of God's communication with us. He communicates in a way that has such an air of truth and sincerityÿ.ÿ.ÿ. Example: I can pull an example from the realm of marketing because that's the world I'm in. Let's think about the difference between Odd Lots and Heiniken Beer. With Odd Lots, the parameters we're given are: Create and add that says in the most obvious way you possibly can, "Sale! Cheap! Come today!" With Heiniken, the parameters are: Say quality without saying quality (because all the cheap guys that's the first thing they say, "Quality Keystone Beer!"); say good times without saying good timesÿ.ÿ.ÿ. So they directly position themselves as the antitype of gimmicky, cheap, run-of-the-mill beer. And then there's God. Whos is far more sophisticatedÿ.ÿ.ÿ. Example: You get a flavor for God's genuineness, the reality of God's involvement in the book of Esther. The name of God or his guidance is not mentioned once. But it's so obvious nobody has to say it. This is one of the questions we need to ask when we're saying, "Is this the voice of God?" The question is, "Is it trite, desparate, cheesy and excessively self-promoting?" Is there that sense of falseness? Example: Let's just think of some of the Oval preachers from this standpoint. You get the sense of desparation. "If you don't listen to me, I'll yell at you and call you names. I'll do something stupidÿ.ÿ.ÿ."
How did Ahab know?OK, so Jehoshaphat knew that none of these guys was the voice of the Lord. At the same time, Ahab knew that what Micaiah said the first time wasn't the voice of the Lord. How did he know that? He knew because it wasn't negative. As Ahab said, "This guy always says negative things about me." Here is real insight into someone who doesn't want God's guidance. This person suspects that what God has to say is negative. We talked about this last week, the suspicion on our part that God is not good and he doesn't have good gifts for us. But here we see that it becomes a real barrier to perceiving the will of God. We know that Ahab didn't really believe that this was God's word. How do we know that? Because he went up. If he really thought God had saidÿ.ÿ.ÿ. So we see that someone who doesn't want the guidance of God perceives God's guidance as negative. The truth is, this guidance wasn't negative. It was a loving warningÿ.ÿ.ÿ. It was just not what Ahab wanted to hear. It was different.
God will provide an alternativeThe final, chilling lesson I get from this is that if we don't want to hear God's will, God himself will provide a credible alternative. If there is no alternative, God will see to it that one is provided, as he did in this case. We see this throughout the Bible: God allows there to be a credible alternative to his voice and his will. Example: The best example I can think of is when he allowed the first humans to be tempted by Satan himself?the master deceiver! Why would he do this? Because he wants us to follow him because we want to?not because we have to. Example: Do I want my wife to marry me because there were no other men available? That's the dilemma God's in. He's the only one. So, how to have it so people don't follow him if they don't want to?
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