Have you ever prayed earnestly to God only to be disappointed by the answer with which He replied? When you were soooooo wanting to hear a “Yes,” and instead heard a “No,” or, at best, a “Not Yet”?
I daresay if you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, then you have most likely been the recipient of a disappointing answer from Father.
What are we to do when God speaks in a way that is contrary to our desires?
I hate to admit it, but I’ve often thrown in my lot with the hesitant prophet Jonah and fled to my own version of Tarshish when God was asking me to go to Nineveh. (For the complete account of Jonah and his not-so-stellar performance, you can search the Bible under the chapter titled by his name.)
When asked to do something other than what Jonah had hoped would be his commissioning, he ran in the opposite direction. Verse 2:8 in the prophetic book reminds us clearly that those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. By deliberately choosing the path of disobedience, we let loose of God’s mercy and simultaneously surrender the blessings He desires to bestow upon us.
The people of Judah experienced a similar reminder in the book of Isaiah when they failed to even consult God, and instead chose to turn to the Egyptian pharaoh for their comfort and protection. “For without consulting Me you have gone down to Egypt for help. You have put your trust in Pharaoh’s protection. You have tried to hide in his shade. But by trusting Pharaoh, you will be humiliated, and by depending on him, you will be disgraced.” (Isaiah 30:2-3, NLT; emphasis mine)
It’s amazing how quickly we can find ourselves clinging to “worthless idols” even knowing that God alone is the One who is consistently faithful and patient with us. Instead of consulting Him first when faced with a conflict or decision, we scramble to latch onto something tangible – even though it’s all a mirage alongside the truth of God. Hastening to our personal “Egypts,” we find ourselves hemmed in and seeking shelter in small places. Turning to our old ways of reasoning and rationale, we seek safety where none is to be found.
Not only do we forfeit the grace that could be ours, but we are disgraced by the very things in which we seek to find solace. Left to our selfish wanderings, we are ultimately left humiliated.
Alone and without faith.
For faith is nothing more than a working grace.
Without faith working in our lives by love, all else is worthless. Compared with this priceless gift, all other things are of small value.
This week I watched a friend of mine choose to allow grace to have its way, and I am confident that her faith will grow because of her decision. When faced with a choice to obey a “no/not yet” answer from God when her heart was longing for a “yes,” my friend chose to throw in her lot with God. She chose the hard path of obedience when it could have been easy to slip down a selfish slope of disobedience. Though she is still struggling to align her emotions with her decision, I can’t help but believe that, in the end, she will be grateful for her wise choice. Regardless of how the full scenario plays out. Because when it’s all said and done, choosing to say “yes” to God grows our faith and releases the fragrance of grace in our lives as we are led more fully into His will and His love.
Sometimes we are asked to take a step of faith – even when our emotions are warring against the “want to” of obedience.
And that’s where working grace steps in: to lead us where our own desires never would.
The next time you are faced with a decision that is battling between your wants and God’s wishes, I urge you to be careful that you do not “forfeit grace.” It may seem difficult to do the hard thing in the moment, but it’s better to arrive at your Nineveh upright instead of upchucked.
Rest assured, God will get us to where He wants us to go. I hope you make it there fully in faith and fully graced… without the stench of a fish’s belly clinging to your clothes.