We Cannot Manipulate God, But We Can Trust Him

In Perspective, Soul Food on August 21, 2013 by The Spillover

J.D. Greear:

It frustrates me to no end when I hear people talk about miracles in the Bible and then say something like, “So if you want your miracle, just . . .” That sort of thinking may be enticing, but it is miles away from the gospel. Those who know the gospel know that God cannot be reduced to a formula, as if he were a high-powered vending machine. We cannot manipulate God, but we can trust him, and that is far better.

Just look at the rich woman in 2 Kings 4:8–37. After God miraculously blesses her with a son, the son suddenly dies. But the ensuing miracle is less than flattering for Elisha, God’s appointed prophet. He tries in a few different ways to raise the child from the dead, to no avail. He eventually succeeds, but not because he figured out the right pattern. He simply knew to approach a God that he knew to be merciful.

Religion is always teaching us to approach God based on formulas: “If you do this, God will do this.” It is mechanical and guaranteed. I’ve followed God’s rules, so he owes me a happy marriage (or a healthy family, or a prospering business, etc.). But that sort of “faith” is faith in a formula, not a person. Gospel faith is faith in a person—an almighty, all-knowing, infinitely caring person. When you trust a person, that can never be reduced to a mechanical formula.

It would be terrible if God operated on formulas anyway. How many times have you asked God for something that you later realized was absolutely foolish? If any of you are like me, there are probably dozens of girls that you desperately pleaded with God to make fall in love with you. We’re sinners, which means that a lot of what we ask for is garbage. What we need is not a genie in a bottle, but a loving father who sometimes overrules us.

A “no” answer to prayer is not necessarily “no answer to prayer.” Sometimes God answers our prayers by giving us what we would have asked for had we known what he knows. But the woman in 2 Kings 4 also shows us that trusting in God doesn’t mean we stop pursuing him for grace.

As my friend Steven Furtick says, we cannot make God move in our lives, but we can make room for him to move. The woman wasn’t sure that Elisha would raise her son from the dead. Judging by his awkward failed attempts, Elisha may not have been sure about it, either. But they both presumed upon God’s grace. That didn’t guarantee a miracle, but it put them both in the vicinity.

Don’t mistake me: there is nothing we can do to force God to move in our lives. As Jesus said, the movement of God’s Spirit is mysterious, like the wind. We cannot tell where it comes from or when it is coming. (As soon as someone says they have it figured out, you can be sure they’ve missed it!) But by pressing in to the grace of God, we put our sail up so that when his Spirit blows, we can catch it.

I sometimes think that so few of our people see God work powerfully in their lives simply because they’ve never put their sail up. They’ve never taken the risk of giving any money to the church. They’ve never considered how to repurpose their business for the gospel. They’ve never walked across the room to talk to their coworker. Why not take that risk today? If God is a loving Father—which he is—then you have nothing to lose. Quit trying to manipulate God into acting how you think he should; start trusting him to act how he knows is best.

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