Knowing God’s leading is like fixing your compass to track North at 0°. Conversely, a compass heading dialed to 180° South would be a reverse track. There is a great confidence that believers can have when they are certain that they are tracking within God’s purpose and calling so long as they frequently check in with him.
Amazing miracles happen when we are obedient to His call. The Red sea divides and enemies fall. Confidence rides high as we venture out upon God’s promises.
What happens, then when catastrophe suddenly strikes and the very thing God calls you to fails in spectacular fashion? What then? Does God call people into dead end alleys? ABSOLUTELY!
I believe God does occasionally take us down dead-end roads as a “proving grounds” of our faith. I’m thinking of the 80,000 righteous Israelite men whom God told to bring justice against the wicked Benjamites of Gibeah who raped and murdered a woman. 80,000 men died during two failed battles to bring justice for that woman! It was only on the third battle that they were victorious. God told them to do it! It seems crazy! Read it in Judges 19-20
I’m thinking of righteous Job who even sacrificed sin offerings on behalf of his children. He was a man without reproach who lost everything except his nagging wife and accusing friends.
Joseph languished in his dead-end prison cell even though he was true to God. What of it?
I’m thinking of Moses in the desert doing U-turns and zigzags for 40 years with an obstinate and rebellious people. Why? Why for 40 whole years did God make them wander in the desert?
The answer: “..the Lord your God led you all the way, in the desert these forty years, to humble you, and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep my commands.“ Deut 8:2
The U-turns and seeming random directions God takes us in can feel an awful lot like he’s “yanking our chain.” The reality is that we are yanking his chain!
God leads us into the crisis of our will vs. God’s will. The other day Pastor John Mclean sent this quote to with me from Oswald Chambers:
“God sends you through a crisis in private, where no other person can help you. From the outside your life may appear to be the same, but the difference is taking place in your will. Once you have experienced the crisis in your will, you will take no thought of the cost when it begins to affect you externally.”
This “crisis of will” reminds me of my foolish little puppy Oliver. Basset hounds are notoriously stubborn and hard to train. He is just now learning to fix his eyes on me, his master, at all times. He’s learning to follow me closely without me asking him to. Oliver began as all puppies do… scampering about acting like a colossal fool. Being a hound, he’s a slave to whatever scent delights his nose. Oliver was quite certain he was the supreme ruler of the universe. He set about to impose is wild style of autocratic dictatorship upon his humans. All would-be resistance was squelched. His primary concern was his new human slave; namely me. Oliver was pestered constantly by me challenging his authority. Whenever I confronted him for his frequent sins he would arrogantly prance around, nipping me, avoiding me and defiantly barking at me.
Oliver’s bid for world domination ended on the front lawn a few days ago. As per usual, he was defiantly holding a loop of his own leash and trying to “walk” me wherever he wanted.
What did I do? I simply walked the other way with the 15ft line trailing out behind me.
Oliver was quite pleased with himself. Content that he had dispatched with his human underling’s bothersome presence. Snorting, he turned and set about his own folly again. With his nose down and his tail sawing the air like a shark, he lurked the lawn hunting for a kid’s flip flop or anything to chew on. Finding a scent, he lurched into a run. He was oblivious to the lead uncoiling behind him in the opposite direction as I sauntered away.
Heedlessly, the fool found the end of the lead at full stride. A jarring stop gripped his puny little neck flipping him upside down! At least I assume thats what happened. I only felt it. I wasn’t really looking. I just kept right on going. With a bewildered yelp the spoiled little tyrant found himself being dragged slowly and surely across the lawn the other way. He finally found his legs again ran to my side. Behold the cold truth: His was not his own master.
Oh, Oliver wasn’t done he had several repeated performances of this nonsense. Each followed by the same inevitable outcome. It finally dawned on his coconut-brain that the only way to avoid the chaos was to fix his eyes on me and stay with me. He was faced with a real crisis and the obligation was on him, not the me his master. He had to watch my every move and stay close to me or sooner or later(he never knew quite when) the leash suddenly snap tight “reminding” him of just who he was. He was my servant. We are no different. We are God’s servants. “You are not your own, you are bought at a price..” said Paul the apostle.
Did I go the opposite direction on purpose? Absolutely I did! It was important that I did.I wanted him to find out who was in charge. God led the children of Israel around in the desert like a master trains a puppy. Left! Right! Stop. Go. Reverse. Stay! Was it a game? Never! It was the love of a gracious parent who knows what’s best for his children.
Did I yank his chain or did Oliver do that to himself? He did it to himself! Oliver’s reality was false one. I am the master, he is the dog. The silly boy choked himself because his eye was not on me.
He met the firm, irresistible and steady force of his master and lost the battle royally.
Tie a rope around your neck(if you’re foolish enough), and tie the other end to a freight train that’s just inching slowly along. Go ahead and run the other way! I dare say you wouldn’t even walk the other way. You wouldn’t even turn your back! If you did you would never be quite sure when that rope would snap tight and drag you silly rear end backwards down the track. You would be a slave to the irresistible freight train. You also would have no one to blame but yourself.
“The kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forcefully men lay hold of it,” said Jesus.(Matt 11:12)
Oliver’s whole kingdom came crashing down with no words, no begging, no coaxing, no treats or even looking at him. It was simply the forcefully advancement of his master’s kingdom. He now walks by my side even though he has a 15 foot lead trailing behind him. Lesson learned.
Notice that Christ never coaxed or flattered. He never worried or wrung his hands about his wayward disciples. He didn’t panic when the crowds left him. He just led on steadily and firmly.
Think of the folly of uncorrected children, uncorrected christians, uncorrected churches! Is it cruelty that God should cause us to fail, or turn us sharply? Is it a sadistic game? Just asking that kind of question communicates just how little a person really knows their heavenly Father. To even consider or assign such evil character to Jehovah God is to be either experientially unfamiliar with God, disillusioned with him or just flat out rebellious. To whom the Lord loves he also disciplines.
I cringe when parents post Facebook videos of their “cute” little tyrants dumping a bag of flour on the kitchen floor and making “flour angels” or some other foolish waste involving milk or chocolate syrup. Often, Mom or Dad can be heard laughing in the background and encouraging the idiocy. God help such children! They are victims of delinquent parenthood. The parents, not even knowing it, are advertising their own delinquency by not immediately correcting such behaviour.
I’m so glad our Father is not delinquent in correcting us.
So, when God calls a child of his to something and it all goes sideways and upside down… Here are some reasons that are all very legitimate.(by no means exhaustive)
- You never heard God in the first place and if you did, you only partially listened. You don’t really know what it is to hear God. You are often in a hurry, self assured, bull headed and stubborn(like Oliver). You’re blaming God for yanking the chain, when in fact you’re doing it to yourself. You kick and scream about it, but you won’t surrender. You likely playing the victim card a fair bit. You haven’t surrendered your will and your eyes aren’t on him.
- You started out in the Spirit and you ran ahead in the flesh without keeping your eye on the master. He turned a corner and you missed it. You probably were quite confused as to whether or not you heard God correctly in the first place, but you did. You just didn’t keep your focus on him. You projected your plans over his as time went on.
- You started out in the Spirit but you were sidetracked by sin. He reversed directions on you to bring you back to him and set you straight and protect his name from being defamed by you and your sin.
- You followed the Lord’s leading but then God brought a reverse direction with no apparent ryhme or reason. You were confused, but submitted and changed direction because his presence was more valuable to you than what you might accomplish on this earth. Keep it up.
No one should claim to know all the answers to why God forces our direction to suddenly change.
The question should rather be:
Are your eyes on him. Is your heart set on Christ? If so, will you allow God to test your heart and see if you will obey him? Will you let him turn you left, right, reverse and forward? Hardest of all, will you wait when he tells you to?
“Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.” Psalm 32:9
Take some time and read through John especially the last half and see how many times Jesus says anything along the lines of, I don’t do anything or I can say nothing unless I see My Father doing it/saying it.
Christ left the perfect of example of a servant who’s eyes were ever on his master.
Whether it was being led of the Spirit into the wilderness or going like a sheep before the shearers in Jerusalem, Jesus yielded himself up to the will of the Father. “Here I am, I have come to do your will,” he said.
Now I ask you, was there any “chain yanking” going on as Jesus faced his death? Did Jesus buck or fight? He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. Silent. Neither the Father in heaven, nor the Son “yanked any chains.” Christ went willingly and submissively to the cross.
This is the picture of a perfect servant.
God tested Israel for 40 years:
- To see if they would humble themselves.
- To see if they would be obedient.
- To see if their hearts were turned toward God.
Brother, Sister, take heart. You haven’t done 40 years in the desert yet. Even if all you ever did was follow God in circles in the desert, for Christ’s sake do it! Prove to the world that He is worthy! Most of all prove it to your Master that He is worthy! Brothers, Sisters, May our kingdoms fall and may His Kingdom come!
“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'” -Luke 17:10