As soon as God directs you to have faith for something that seems impossible, or when He tells you to do something that doesn’t seem logical, or to wait for Him to act, instead of plowing ahead in your own plans, the devil is always right there, ready to slander God to you. The devil will whisper, “He won’t hold up His end of the deal.” Or, “You’re just a sinner, so why should God bless you like that, or hear your prayers?” And then, our first response? Fear. Fear and then our minds begin racing to think up a “better” plan. A plan that’s less risky, more likely to succeed, and – best of all -a plan that we can make happen ourselves, instead of waiting on God to bring His plan to pass in timing that is different than our own.
How do I know this? Oh…just many times of failing to hold onto faith. Many times of circumstances seeming too big and scary…and feeling like God wasn’t acting fast enough. Then my mind would start to whirl, coming up with a plan B, C, and D that all seemed more appealing than ‘A’: waiting for God. It seemed like, if I waited, the situation would crush me to pieces – and then, of course, it would be too late for God to do anything. At least, that is what my mind would tell me.
I am also a fairly resourceful person, so I was be able to think of dozens of ways to “get through” a circumstance in my own strength, without even having to pray or wait. And then, even when I did get up the courage to pray, the devil would have me convinced that I was just being selfish, and that I had too many needs, and that I was being a bother to God by bringing them all to Him…and so, in the midst of my praying, there my mind would start whirling again, coming up with options that were less “bothersome” to God; things I could do to “help Him out” a little. Does God need help? What happens when we try to bring things about with our own ideas?
There is an excellent (and sobering) example of this very thing in the Bible. It is an example that God showed to me, and helped me to realize that I was doing the very same thing, and it has caused me to be much less inclined to “make things happen” myself instead of waiting for God.
First, God promises Abraham (also called Abram) a son, in Genesis 15:1-6, “After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ But Abram said, ‘O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.’ And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: ‘This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.’ And He brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then He said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ And he believed the LORD, and He counted it to him as righteousness.”
Then, his wife, Sarai (also called Sarah), comes to him, and reminds him that he doesn’t have any children yet…and that she is not getting any younger. She then gives her servant girl as a wife to him (back then, this was a common pagan practice…however, it wasn’t God’s way), so that he could at least have a child somehow, even if it wasn’t through her.
Sarai’s servant girl does end up having a son, whom they name Ishmael. However, this is what God had to say about it, in Genesis 17:15-21: “And God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife….I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’ Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh that Ishmael might live before you!’ God said, ‘No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.’”
And, just as God said, Sarah DID have a son! And he is the one who God used as one of the direct fathers of the nation of Israel. Now, it is very interesting to know what ended up happening to Ishmael…and who he ended up fathering. Most of Ishmael’s descendants ended up becoming the Arab nations…which have been a thorn in the side of Israel (as well as other nations) ever since. This is exactly the kind of thing that happens when we try to come up with our own, “better” plans, when we don’t feel like waiting on God’ s plans. Sure, He may allow them to take place, and even to “prosper”…but just think at what peace Israel would have had without the descendants of Ishmael surrounding them and continually making war against them! And, in the end, God still brings His own plans to pass. He still kept His promise to give Abraham a son through Sarah…even though it was years after Ishmael was born. He didn’t use Ishmael to bring forth the nation of Israel at all…even though it seemed like a “good idea” at the time. Waiting on God’s plans will always bring the greatest blessing, and without all of the “aftermath” mess that almost always comes attached to our own plans.
God knows what is best. He can see a much bigger picture than we can…and He is not only concerned about getting us where we need to be; He is also even more concerned about our hearts, and the lessons we need to learn along the way. His plans bring forth not only the best short-term blessing, but they bear lasting fruit in our hearts and lives! (“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:2-5)
When we cling to Him in faith, and press forward persistently in prayer, it is not only NOT a “bother” to God, but it shows Him that we really believe what He says, and we trust Him! In fact, when we let fear into our minds, it not only is telling God that we don’t trust Him and that He isn’t powerful enough or big enough to rescue us and to meet our needs, but fear is a playground for the devil. When we let go of our trust in God, is is like giving the devil a free pass at filling our minds with all of the lies he wants to. Trust in God requires holding onto the promises of God and His goodness. When we don’t trust God, it’s telling the devil that we really aren’t holding onto anything, and we aren’t sure what we should think, which makes us an easy target. When we don’t know what to think, the devil is all too glad to give us “suggestions”. The devil will use that open door to speak all kinds of hurtful things into our hearts about God and even about others! He will use it to destroy our peace, and to cause our hearts to be in turmoil and dread. He uses it to try to push us to the point of suspicion of God, and even thinking that God is purposefully being mean to us! If we could simply see what God sees, we would see that there is no need to fear at all – not even a little bit, and we could see that God’s plans are at work even before we can see the answers! (Isaiah 65:24, “Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.”) These are the sort of things that we must hold onto in the midst of the testing of our faith! And, as Genesis 15:6 said, our faith and trust in the Lord is even counted to us as righteousness – meaning, that even though we have to daily cry out to God for His strength to fill us so that we can even keep holding on to him in faith in the trying circumstances that surround us, He still looks at that tiny mustard-seed of faith as something we did right (even though it’s only because of His strength that we could ever do it!), and it is a delight to His heart! It’s a mystery and a blessing. Our God is so gentle and gracious to us weak, frail humans! Any little effort we make toward Him and toward trusting Him, He rewards, and is blessed by it! It’s so amazing! He is so humble.