Then do you seek Him? Not His will. Not His hand in your circumstances. Not signs. Do you seek Him? Just Him. If you would draw near to God, you must seek Him. And more often than not, looking at our circumstances distracts us from the pursuit of Him.
Why is that?
For starters, circumstances can be confusing at best and downright deceiving at worst.
Let’s say, Monday morning your car won’t start. What does it mean?
A. Is it a sign that you shouldn’t go to work?
B. Is it a test to see if you’ll humble yourself and ask for a ride from that co-worker down the street who you really don’t like, but who really needs Jesus?
C. Does it merely mean you need a new battery?
You may be in the habit of asking God to open or close doors. (“Lord, if this is the job for me, just open the door and if it’s not, don’t let me get the offer.”) Unfortunately, there’s a danger inherent in this “open door” policy.
Sometimes God calls us to kick in closed doors with a little Holy Ghost fu Manchu kung-fu. They’re called challenges. Many times we face open doors that God is directing us to shut and deadbolt, or to simply run away from altogether. They’re called temptations. How can you tell the difference?
Even godly men of scripture had a difficult time discerning God’s will by signs alone.
Do you remember Moses’ right-hand man, Joshua? He was one of the twelve spies that inspected the Promised Land, but one of only two who gave a faithful report of what they saw. Actually, all the spies agreed that the Promised Land was everything God promised, but unfortunately it looked like a closed door to ten out of the twelve spies. The enemy was too strong.
But Joshua and his compadre, Caleb, were undaunted. They essentially said, “The current inhabitants of this land (flowing with milk and honey) certainly aren’t going to just open their doors to us, but we can take ‘em in God’s strength.”
It must have been this kind of faithful, spiritually-in-tune nature that made him the natural successor to Moses. However, as Israel’s leader, Joshua led them into one particularly imprudent treaty. It would be a funny story if the joke wasn’t on Josh. In fact, it reads like a plot from a melodrama.
But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they on their part acted with cunning and went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly. And they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us.”
But the men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you live among us; then how can we make a covenant with you?” They said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” And Joshua said to them, “Who are you? And where do you come from?” They said to him, “From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God. For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon the king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth. So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country said to us, ‘Take provisions in your hand for the journey and go to meet them and say to them, “We are your servants. Come now, make a covenant with us.”‘ Here is our bread. It was still warm when we took it from our houses as our food for the journey on the day we set out to come to you, but now, behold, it is dry and crumbly. These wineskins were new when we filled them, and behold, they have burst. And these garments and sandals of ours are worn out from the very long journey.
So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them. At the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, they heard that they were their neighbors and that they lived among them. – Joshua 9:3-16 (ESV)
It appeared an open-(door)-and-shut case to Joshua, but you can’t judge a people group by its provisions. Likely you’ve made one or two misjudgments like this. I know I have. At least one.
Fact is, if you want to discern God’s will by asking Him to open and close doors, you’re really asking God to do all the work for you. That’s simply not the way God works.
He doesn’t want us to discern His will by looking at our circumstances and going down checklists. He wants us to get down on our knees and look to Him. He wants a dynamic relationship where we intentionally engage Him in His word, through His body and in prayer.
- What were the circumstances that Joshua had to investigate to discern God’s will?
- To what obvious conclusion did those circumstances lead Joshua?
- Can you remember a time when you made the wrong decision looking at the obvious circumstances before you?
- What circumstances are you looking at right now that may be distracting you from seeking God?
- How could you discipline yourself to spend more time seeking God than seeking
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