Does God want the Christian to stay out of the way and let Him sovereignly bring His will to pass? Or does God want to actually use the Christian to bring that will to pass? The answers to these questions are, respectively, “yes” and “yes.” Let me explain.
There are many Bible passages in which God just hauls off and brings His will to pass without any help from anybody. Some classic examples would be Him bringing the great flood upon the earth (Genesis chapter 6-8), Him striking Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar with a mysterious condition that caused Nebuchadnezzar to become beastlike (Daniel 4:1-37), and Him miraculously impregnating the virgin Mary (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38).
On the other hand, there are a whole bunch of other Bible passages in which God works through people to bring His will to pass. Some classic examples would be Him working through Moses to accomplish the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt (Exodus chapters 3-12), Him working through Nehemiah to get the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt (Nehemiah chapters 1-6), and Him working through the apostle Paul to get churches started in areas that were predominantly Gentile (Acts chapters 13-28).
What this means for Christians today is that there is no cookie-cutter approach that we can use to determine how God wants us to handle any given situation. Each situation is unique. Sometimes God will want us to take a hands-off approach and let Him handle things by Himself. Other times He will burden us to wade into the fray and act as His voice, arms, hands, and feet. Obviously, figuring out what we need to do (or not do) in each situation requires a lot of prayer, dying to self, and being obedient to the voice of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Let me offer a practical example of how this plays out in the real world. Let’s say that a Christian parent has an insider’s knowledge of all the potential teachers to whom his or her child might be assigned for the upcoming school year in the local elementary school. One teacher has the reputation of being a strict disciplinarian. Another one has the reputation of leaning heavily toward the arts. Another one has the reputation of producing excellent test scores. One is a man. The other two are women. Two are middle-aged. The other one is relatively young in the profession.
Okay, should that Christian parent request that his or her child be assigned a certain teacher? Or should the parent refuse to get involved and trust that God will sovereignly place the child under the teacher that He knows the child needs most? Decisions. Decisions.
Before you give your final answer, here are a few things you’ll want to consider:
- If a teacher’s personality is the complete opposite of the child’s, perhaps that teacher can build something needful into that child that is lacking in the child. Remember, we grow the most when we are taken out of our comfort zone and forced to deal with unfamiliar circumstances.
- Perhaps the fellow classmates the child will have in a certain teacher’s class will be of even more benefit to the child than the teacher. After all, lifelong friendships are oftentimes begun in elementary school.
- If the parent is the overly protective, controlling type who has real trouble trusting God with the welfare of the child, God might want the parent to stay out of the decision simply because He wants that parent to learn to trust Him with the child. In such a case, the choice becomes as much about the parent as the child.
Can you see how tricky decisions can become? Can you see why you must get in tune with God and let Him guide you in regards to what He wants you to do (or not do)? And this is just using the one example of whether or not God wants a parent to dictate the elementary classroom to which a child gets assigned. The fact is, you can take this same basic template and apply it to a million different situations that crop up in life.
I’ll admit that a one-size-fits-all approach to decision making would be a lot easier. What it wouldn’t be, though, is of God. We can even see this in the life and ministry of Jesus. He was so complex, so unorthodox, so unpredictable. The chosen 12 stayed in close proximity to Him for three years and hung on His every word, but even they never could predict how He would handle a situation. For those men, the key was to always listen to Jesus and do exactly what He said. That advice worked for them 2,000 years ago and it will still work for us today.