God’s plans

I recall back to a bible study I attended a few years back where the topic of providence, or God’s active planning and action in our lives arose.  I don’t discount the idea that God does have plans and does act on them, but I’m always hesitant to assign any particular event to divine intervention.  While I believe His hand acts, I’m not inclined to think it’s as often and in the ways many religious adherents believe He does.

A woman at this particular study recounted a day where she laid outside in her hammock reading the bible.  It was a nice warm summer day which, until this point, hadn’t been interrupted by rain; there hadn’t been rain for some time.  She was about a third of the way of whichever book of the bible she was engrossed when she noticed storm clouds on the horizon.  She prayed to God that, ‘if You want me to finish through Your word today, hold off the rain so that I’ll ‘hear’ what You’re trying to speak to me.’  The rain held off that afternoon and she took that as an explicit ‘sign’ that she was meant to finish reading the book.

I am not discreet enough to refrain from rolling my eyes when I hear hyper-spirituality of this kind.  Right away at least two thoughts entered my mind.  First, why was divine intervention unquestioningly assigned to the weather holding off long enough for her to finish reading?  And second, it was the middle of summer and that year it was particularly dry.  There are many local farms in my state and all of them could have used the rain.  Did she really think that God held of the much needed rain so that she could read outside in the sun rather than inside in the rain?

This specific incident is really of no consequence to me. But this kind of thinking pervades today’s Christian Church.  It is driven by spiritual emotionalism.  There is an expectation of having a “personal relationship” with God to the point where they are supposed to decipher God’s plan through life’s happenings; they are forever wearing their detective hat looking for clues.  For the life of me I don’t know where this idea came from.  I don’t remember any teaching in the bible, whether explicitly or implicitly, which suggests that we need to be on the look out for clues.  Further, that those clues need to be deciphered.

  • If you believe God “speaks” to us through life through clues, why do you believe this?
  • What do you mean when you say you need to “hear” God “speaking in your life”?
  • How do you know it’s God?

Comments

  1. I don’t think your story has anything to do with God. The rain holding until she finished reading doesn’t even qualify as a coincidence. Maybe she’s just bad at guessing the weather.

    But I do believe God directs certain things. I believe I know it and can prove it, too. We’ll talk later and I’ll explain.

  2. I would really like to hear more replies to this post.

  3. I think that Christians sometimes have the misconception that God speaks and does miraculous things all the time. I stumbled across a verse a few weeks ago in 1st Samuel, talking about when Samuel heard from God. The opening of the chapter says “In those days the word of the Lord was rare”.

    We sometimes forget that the history laid out in our Bible covers a period of over 2000 years. The vast majority of the “miracles” and the “message” from God were concentrated in 3 periods: The Exodus and ministry of Moses, the prophets (particularly Elijah/Elisha), and the time of Jesus and early apostles. I would guess that 90% of the Bible’s miracles are described in one of these rather short periods (each lasting for perhaps 30-50 years). And yet there are very long periods of history (described through 1/2 Kings, 1/2 Chronicles, 1/2 Samuel) where God is “silent”. Interestingly, the 3 periods of miracles are centered around 3 periods of “revelation”. God was using the miracles to authenticate a message to his people.

    In the same way, I do expect God to “show up” from time to time in my life in order to authenticate a message or perhaps affirm (or refute) ways that I’m making feeble attempts to follow him. I’ve had this happen at several points in my life. I remember two times in particular. First, a time when I was incredibly frustrated and confused about my line of work. Was I really in the place where God wanted me? Was I just in my job for the money and should I leave it to pursue something more “noble”? After a time of prayer I plugged in my MP3 player and put it on shuffle, as was my habit. After a couple songs suddenly a sermon by Tim Keller came on. (I’ve downloaded dozens of his sermons) The sermon that week was actually a panel discussion with a few people in the banking industry talking about how their faith impacts their work life and what it means to talk Christianity seriously at a major public corporation. (I work at a major pharma company) The timing of it was absolutely profound for me. I can’t prove to you that this was a message from God. But I certainly believe that it was.

    Another time was when I was in a period of serious doubt about my faith, nearly 18 months ago now. I remember several days in a row crying out to God – “If you are there, MAKE YOURSELF KNOWN! Show up! Where are you???” Silence.

    But through the course of my doubt, I plunged headfirst into appologetics. I wanted to know if this faith I have been practicing was really true. While I gradually grew my intellectual confidence, my doubts (particularly emotional doubt) still gnawed at me. Even if were objectively true, it didn’t “feel” true. But then something happened. I was challenged with obedience in an area of my life. (I won’t bore you with the details) But I remember literally thinking “if I take my faith seriously, I have to obey. If I ignore this, how can I claim to really believe?” My intellectual faith suddenly became a practical faith. My knowledge impacted my actions. What was really odd was that suddenly both online and at work I began having multiple opportunities to share my faith with others. Some of the circumstances were really odd. I wasn’t suddenly announcing my faith to the world. Rather, through a series of rather coincidental events I was able to share my faith in rather spontaneous ways. This was something I had been struggling to do (unsuccessfully) for years and had prayed about it on many occasions. Suddenly I it dawned on me. God showed up. He had answered my cry from weeks earlier in a very unexpected way. Sure, maybe it was all a big coincidence. But I think not.

    Anyway, I know this was a rather lengthy reply. But my point is that I have come to firmly believe that God DOES speak to us and intervene in our lives. But perhaps not in ways we expect or even want. The Bible does not describe a silent God. But neither does it describe a God who intervenes willy-nilly. The truth is somewhere in between.

  4. Such an interesting topic. From the context of this post I cannot tell if the person was just grateful for what happened for that day or if they rely on emotionalism. I cannot make the conclusion that they rely on emotionalism. I would have to observe them over a period of time. My belief is to look for signs,wonders, miracles and direction from the Holy Spirit but it they may not be so privately existential. And in however the manner the reliance is on God and the credit goes to God. It may be in a scripture or God may give no answer.

    “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17, NKJV)

    “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”. (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NJKV)

    This post is part of a larger question of who/what is in control? Take the area of healthcare. Some Christians won’t take any medication and others are hypochondriacs who try to fit God into science. I am in neither spectrum because God has healed me through modern medicine and He has supernaturally healed me of catch all idiopathic things where science was lost. For example antibiotics. Who created bacteria? Who created fungus? Who created man with a neurological system of understanding? Why not take antibiotics (mostly fungus based) to kill bacteria? I give God glory for getting rid of my past bacterial infections. However I had irritable bowel syndrome which is one of many clear idiopathic End-Times illnesses on the rise out of no where just like Autism, and “allergies”. I know there is eschatological dispute on the application of Matthew 24 but generally speaking I think we would all agree that we are in a dark time in the world, wrestling against spiritual forces (Ephesians 6) and Jesus will come back (I know there is tons of debate, I am not advocating the timeframe, but that everyone should be ready) so Matthew 24:7 “And there will be famines, pestilences (NKJV)”. Science cannot help with everything and as a continuationist that has seen God heal myself and others with no medication but miraculously after a surrendered will to Him I believe God for such things but I’m not depending on it because I don’t know need daily supernatural occurrences to keep my faith.

    Christianity is not under girded in signs or knowledge but in belief in the existence of Jesus Christ as the Son of God:

    “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness”

    • Zanspence, she is very spiritually emotional. I have known her for some time.

      Excellent comment as usual :), thank you.

      • Okay, I believe God showed you that about her so that you can pray for her. In general any one of us can stray to depend on something else other than Christ and the Bible.

        Romans 15:1 (KJV): “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

        and

        Galatians 6:1-3 (NKJV): “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. “

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