We often question God’s will. We don’t agree with His timing or His answer. We can’t be patient to have things work out according to His purpose. We won’t be bothered to wait for His better plan or bigger event. And all He asks us to do it wait. Because His way is better. He reminds us in Isaiah 55:9 that “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
We won’t understand. We won’t have all the answers. We won’t see the curve in the road or the twist in the story’s plot. But we do have one thing that never changes. Him. “For I am the Lord, I do not change” (Malachi 3:8a) and “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
Yet as we hold onto this truth we forget that God moves and works how He wants. That God is bringing His purposes and plans into the present moment to be fulfilled in and through us. And why do we forget? Because God’s ways sometimes go against our desires. God’s purposes are outside our comfort levels.
There are several examples of this in the Bible. Let’s start with Gideon. God comes to Gideon, a member of the smallest Israelite clan and the weakest member of his tribe, as he is hiding from their current oppressors. God calls him “you mighty man of valor!” in Judges 6:12b, yet Gideon doubts this. He recites his resume of failure and gives God every excuse to walk away and find someone else. But God had His mind made up and His plan already set. God wanted Gideon. God wanted to show that He could work through anyone anywhere against any adversary. But Gideon couldn’t see beyond his limited circumstances and debilitating fears to believe God, so he asks God for two signs (because obviously one wasn’t enough):
Judges 6:36-40 – 36 So Gideon said to God, “If You will save Israel by my hand as You have said— 37 look, I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said.” 38 And it was so. When he rose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece together, he wrung the dew out of the fleece, a bowlful of water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me, but let me speak just once more: Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece; let it now be dry only on the fleece, but on all the ground let there be dew.” 40 And God did so that night. It was dry on the fleece only, but there was dew on all the ground.
God didn’t turn His back on Gideon, and God didn’t change His plans because Gideon needed a little “push”. God worked around his fears to develop a great faith and a warrior’s spirit in him.
Gideon started with doubt and asked God, “Are You sure you’re talking to me?” God’s “yes” wasn’t enough, so Gideon asked for a sign with the fleece. Then a second sign with the fleece. And when God continues to come through and show him, Gideon finds the boldness originally characterized to him. And Gideon goes on to defeat the numerous enemy with just a handful of God’s chosen men, just as God promised him.
Jesus reminds us in John 20:29b that “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Yes, we’re allowed to have questions. Yes, we’re allowed to ask. But we also have to be OK with God not answering us and simply asking us to believe. To trust Him. To follow Him. And we also have to be willing to walk in the destiny He is prescribing to us.
Another example are the three Hebrew men in Daniel 3. They were charged by law to worship the foreign idols of the captors. But they refused, knowing it would mean certain death. But God was bigger (and badder) than King Nebuchadnezzar, and their fear was righteously (and rightly) placed. So they confronted the king: Daniel 3:16-18 – “16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
Notice the boys didn’t declare that God would save them. They could have, choosing to stand on an openly bold faith. What they declared is that God was more than able to save them but He could choose not to. They believed He could have a bigger purpose and broader intention if they were consumed by the fire. And they were ready to walk in whatever His will was. They didn’t stop to consider the possibilities or question His intentions. They didn’t put any constricting limitations on or give any unreasonable to Him. They simply believed with great faith that God was in control and allowed Him to decide their fate. And boy does God come through! Daniel 3:27b – “they [all the officials] saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them.”
What a testimony! They didn’t question God or His intentions. They simply stood up for Him and their faith in Him. And they came out of a raging fire unsinged without a whiff of smoke on them.
Could it really be that simple? Yes, it can. But not always. Jesus gives us the prime example of the pain that can come from obedience.
It was the night before His betrayal and crucifixion. He was getting Himself ready, alone in the garden with His disciples. He knows the pain, torture, and humiliation that awaits Him the next day. But He also knows the great victory that will happen as a result. But even Jesus took a moment to ask God if the coming suffering was really necessary: Luke 22:41-44 – “41 And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” 43 Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
Jesus didn’t tell His Father God that He wouldn’t do it. Jesus didn’t whine that it was too hard or too consuming or too painful. Jesus didn’t demand an easier way. Jesus fully submitted Himself to His Father’s plan and asked for His will. Yes, He would have accepted a different way. But Jesus knew God was infinite and perfect in His wisdom and His plan, so He did not doubt or hesitate to walk in it. And in that moment, He sealed His destiny as the sinless Savior, the perfect Lamb who forever shines His Light of hope to the world.
So what’s the point? We all have questions, and we all at many points in our journey ask “If You are willing God.” What are you asking “if” about? What are you hoping God will do for you?
God is telling you start with “if” but bounce over it quickly to trust. He makes several promises to us when we trust:
- He will give us favor and prosper us in a multitude of ways. Deuteronomy 28:13 – And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe
- God will take care of you. Matthew 6:30 – Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
- God will bless you to inherit all the blessings and promises in His Word. Isaiah 1:19 – If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land;
- God calls you His own and blessed you with holiness. Deuteronomy 28:9 – “The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways.
And just as Jesus was willing to heal the leper in Matthew 8:3 (Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.), He is willing to heal and transform you. And just as Jesus was willing to heal the centurion’s servant because of great faith in a spoken word in Matthew 8:8 (The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.), so too He wants to speak over your life.
God wants to bless us, keep us, equip us, transform us, mold us, and utilize us out as we walk in His redemption and righteousness. We are a work in progress, a masterpiece being developed one stroke (and one decision) at a time. And if we are willing to follow Him, He can bring all things to pass. He can make all dreams come true. He can give us every desire of our heart. He can bless us beyond our wildest imaginations and possibilities. He can move mountains for us and obliterate any obstacle standing in the way of His plans.
And just as every journey begins with a single step, your journey with God begins with the step of “if”. Are you willing? He is more than willing, and He’s simply waiting for you to join Him.
Marie Fremin, 8/15 and 8/16/15