God is On Time But Not On Demand

In our study this week, an example of testing God is given.  Let me share that with you and see if you find it as funny as I did.  From Bible Studies for Life by Juan Sanchez and Dr. Jeff Dabbs:

               “I was in elementary school when central air conditioning units were finally installed throughout the school.  My family had not been in the United States very long, and I couldn’t speak English very well.  I was new, but I already had a crush on a girl in my class.”

               “For some reason the idea came into my head to ask God for a sign so that I could know if this girl liked me.  The sign I chose?  Because the AC unit was on a thermostat, it would turn on and off automatically, so I wanted the AC to come on just as the moment I predicted.  I closed my eyes and waited and waited and waited, then I said, “NOW.”  Nothing happened.  Being determined, I tried again.  Again, nothing happened.”

I’d find that story a lot funnier if I didn’t identify with it so much. 

Around thirty years ago I was going through a really difficult time in my marriage to my first husband.  My anxiety was off the chain and had brought along its companion – depression.  I did my best to turn the whole situation over to God, but I will admit I struggled greatly.  I kept asking God to show me signs that it was going to be okay.  I looked for those signs everywhere.  “God, if this is all going to work out, please just let that traffic light turn green before I get there.”  “God, I’m asking that You cause the phone to ring in the next five minutes just to assure me that You’re in control.”  “Dear Father God, Your Word says that all we must do is to ask, and we’ll receive.  So I’m asking that the next car I see is blue in color.  That will prove to me that You hear my prayers.”  It never worked.

But one day, we got some great news that I felt would certainly improve things for us.  I was so thankful.  That same day, this brilliant rainbow appeared in the sky.  The thing was it hadn’t rained in our area.  So, of course, I considered myself an equal of Noah – you know, the only righteous man on the Earth- and took ownership of that rainbow.  I was sure God had put it in the sky for me as a sign of His promise for happier, easier times.  But things didn’t get happier or easier.  Darker days were ahead.

But still, countless times in the years after, I asked God for a rainbow to prove to me that everything was going to be okay despite the circumstances.  I’d search the sky for any hint of a colorful arch.  I was testing God.  I was asking God for a sign to prove Himself to me.  When a rainbow did appear, it would be after a rainstorm, not after my pleas for a sign.  But I would sometimes consider the rainbows I saw as though God was trying to win my favor in a sense as a means of demonstrating that He was worthy of my faith.

The last time I did that was on January 21, 2014. 

We had left the hospital late the night before.  My dad was in grave condition, but he had been close to death before and had rallied.  I prayed all through the night and asked God for “my rainbow” to reassure me that Daddy would be okay.  As I drove away from my home on January 21, 2014, there was no rainbow in the sky as I had hoped for.  Instead, there were just faint patches of different colors splattered amongst the clouds.  There was no arch, no definition, and no cohesiveness to the colors.  The colors were all there, but they weren’t where and how I had expected. It wasn’t the sign I had prayed for.

I learned a valuable lesson that day – the day my daddy died.

I recognized that God is God and I am not.  Simply put, He does not exist to answer to me.  Noah had not asked for the rainbow.  In fact, Noah had never seen a rainbow or heard of a rainbow before.  He could not have asked for something he didn’t know even existed. But a rainbow was the sign God chose to give to Noah.  Noah had acted in complete faithfulness and obedience to God.  Even when it made no sense to him, Noah did exactly as God told him to do.  The sign from God came after faithful obedience.  My continual requests for signs were made during long periods of disobedience and most definitely long periods of having very little faith in God.

God is an on-time God; He is not an on-demand God.

Today’s scripture comes right after the first temptation Jesus encountered in the wilderness after His baptism.  Last week, Jesus had been fasting for 40 days and Satan tempted Him to turn stones into bread.  In doing so, Satan was questioning the provision of God.  Jesus uses Scripture from Deuteronomy that man needs the Word of God more than food. 

Satan, never being one to give up on the first try, tempts Jesus again.

Matthew 4:5 NIV “Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

From the wilderness where He was led to by the Holy Spirit, Jesus is now taken to Jerusalem, the Holy City, to the highest point of the Temple.  This is significant.

Jews, then and now, consider Jerusalem to be the center of the world.  And for good reason.  Ezekiel 5:5 GNT is pretty clear.  “The Sovereign Lord said, “Look at Jerusalem. I put her at the center of the world, with other countries all around her.” Satan took Jesus to the center of the world, but also to the Temple, which was the most prominent and holy place within the city. In addition, he took Jesus to the highest point of that building.  Here they are.  At the highest point of the most holy place in the center of the world.

Once again, he taunts Jesus by saying, “If you are the Son of God” and then tells Jesus to throw Himself down.  It’s estimated that it may have been about 300 feet[i] in the air.  To put that into perspective, 300 feet would be approximately a 28-story building.[ii]  That’s a significant fall.

So whereas in the first temptation of Jesus, Satan questions God’s provisions, now he wants to test God’s protectiveness.  And since the first temptation flopped, Satan puts a different spin on this one.  He quotes Scripture.  He uses Psalm 91, but only parts of it.   The full version written in Psalm 91:11 NIV reads, “For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” 

Satan purposefully misquoted the Scripture by omitting the phrase “to guard you in all your ways”.

The original Hebrew word for the phrase “all your ways” was “derek” which means “journey”.[iii]  See what he did there?  He conveniently leaves out a phrase from that Scripture he quotes that might remind Jesus that God had a plan for Him. Jesus had a mission, a journey.  Therefore, Satan attempts to get Jesus to step out of His journey that God had for Him and to do something reckless and unplanned and expect God to protect Him.

It didn’t work on Jesus, but it sure does work on us, doesn’t it?

If we believe Job 14:5 ERV “The length of our life has been decided.
    You alone know how long that is.
    You have set the limits for us and nothing can change them.”
 And if we believe that God knows the number of hairs on our head as told to us in Matthew 10:30, doesn’t it seem reasonable that God has an individualized plan and journey for each of us?

But we often find ourselves being tempted by Satan to test God by going off-course from what He has planned for us and instead, doing things our own way, in our own time, by our own methods, and then calling on God to protect us and bless us despite remaining in our disobedience and faithlessness.  

Jesus, once again relies on God’s Word for His response and, once again, provides a great WWJD lesson.  Jesus makes reference to Deuteronomy 6:16 NIV “Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.”  This Scripture contains some of the final words Moses is giving to the Israelites before they enter the Promised Land and he goes off to Moab to die. This is given to the Israelites after they had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. 

We need to go back to Exodus to see what Moses is referring to.

Exodus 17:1 CSB “The entire Israelite community left the Wilderness of Sin, moving from one place to the next according to the Lord’s command. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So the people complained to Moses, “Give us water to drink.”

“Why are you complaining to me?” Moses replied to them. “Why are you testing the Lord?”

But the people thirsted there for water and grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you ever bring us up from Egypt to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What should I do with these people? In a little while they will stone me!”

The Lord answered Moses, “Go on ahead of the people and take some of the elders of Israel with you. Take the staff you struck the Nile with in your hand and go. I am going to stand there in front of you on the rock at Horeb; when you hit the rock, water will come out of it and the people will drink.” Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. He named the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites complained, and because they tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

The Israelites at this point, had experienced God’s goodness.  He had rescued them from slavery in Egypt.  He had literally parted the Red Sea so that they crossed over on dry sand, then had that same Red Sea swallow up their enemies right behind them.  He had provided manna in the mornings and quail in the evenings to satisfy their hunger.  He had promised them a future in a land flowing with milk and honey.  He had assured them that Abraham’s blessings were theirs. 

God had been true to His Word. God had blessed them in the past and He had promised to bless them in the future.  Their problem was today.  It didn’t seem to matter much to the Jews what God had done in the past or what He had promised for tomorrow.  Today, they didn’t have water.  They chose not to think about the miraculous things they had experienced from God.  The issue was that they didn’t have what they wanted and what they thought they needed at that very moment.  So, they complained to Moses and tested God because when it came right down to it, they didn’t trust Him.  They didn’t trust God to take care of them even though He had never failed them.  They suffered from spiritual amnesia.  In fact, they suffered from spiritual amnesia quite often.

You may recall that Joshua and Caleb were among those spies sent to Canaan to check it out according to God’s command.  But out of the twelve spies, only Joshua and Caleb trusted God to give the land to them and protect them from their enemies.  The other ten only spoke of the strength and the size of their enemies.  Joshua and Caleb spoke of the many good things the land had to offer.  They encouraged the people to not be afraid and to trust God’s protection.  But instead, the people began to rebel and plot to stone Joshua and Caleb to death. 

God had promised the land to the Israelites and had promised to give them victory over their enemies.  But God’s promise wasn’t enough for them. This was God’s response to their faithlessness.  Numbers 14:11 ERV “The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “How long will these people continue to turn against me? They show that they don’t trust me or believe in my power, in spite of the many miracles I have done among them.”

Whew.  I don’t know about you, but those words cut me to the core.  Say that verse to yourself but personalize it.  “The Lord said, “How long will {your name here}  continue to turn against me?  He/She shows they don’t trust me or believe in my power, in spite of the many miracles I have done among him/her.

Just think about the things we put our faith in without even thinking about it.  We sit on a chair assuming it will hold us up.  We wear a watch and depend on it to give us the right time.  We plug in an address on a GPS and turn when it tells us.  We eat in restaurants without ever inspecting the kitchen.  We ask Alexa just about anything and we take her word for it.  But despite the sun rising and setting every day and the stars that are suspended in space, we lack sufficient faith in God.  Even though we hear birds sing and can recognize flowers by their individual scent, hold a newborn baby or feel our heart beat, we still doubt Him. Although He has heard and answered our prayers, blessed us far beyond anything we could ever deserve, carried us through some rough times, loved our unlovable selves, and has never failed to work things out for our good, we are hesitant to place our trust in Him.

Hebrews 11:6 CEV “But without faith no one can please God. We must believe that God is real and rewards everyone who searches for him.”

Not only do we fail to have faith in Him, but we also test Him as if He has something to prove to us.  We either consciously or subconsciously ask God for signs as a means of pacifying our doubt.  Our requests and petitions for signs are our way of saying to God, “I need You to prove Yourself to me.”

We are not alone in that.  After four thousand people were fed with seven loaves and a few fish with seven baskets of leftovers, the Pharisees began to argue with Him and asked for a sign from Heaven.  They had just seen four thousand people enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet that had been brought forth from a small family meal.  And they still had doubts.  They wanted and demanded more. Jesus responds to them in  Mark 8:12 HCSB “But sighing deeply in His spirit, He said, “Why does this generation demand a sign? I assure you: No sign will be given to this generation!”

Just because Jesus didn’t give an additional sign to them at their command doesn’t change or diminish what He had already accomplished right there before them.   And just because God doesn’t give us a sign when we ask for it doesn’t mean He isn’t capable.  It just means He wants us to have faith in Who He is.

C.H. Spurgeon had this to say.  “I believe that the happiest of all Christians and the truest of Christians are those who never dare to doubt God, but take His Word simply as it stands, and believe it, and ask no questions, just feeling assured that if God has said it, it will be so.”

Do you find it easier to have complete faith in God when a crisis doesn’t affect you directly?  My daddy used to say it was minor surgery if it was happening to someone else, but major surgery if it was happening to him.  There is some truth to that.  When someone else goes through a trial, we tell them, almost flippantly, “It’ll be fine.  God’s got this.”  But when it is us on the receiving end of a trial, our thoughts and feelings become breeding grounds for doubt and cause us to be unsure.  When we are caught in the middle of a storm, spiritual amnesia can come upon us blocking out all that God has done and all that He has promised.   

The Israelites, God’s chosen people, found themselves doubtful as to God’s provision, protection, and presence.  They questioned whether God was even with them there in the wilderness.

Jesus, God’s only Son, found Himself being tempted to doubt God’s provision, protection, and presence.  Just 40 days prior, He had Heaven opened to Him and was immediately taken to the wilderness to be tempted by the enemy of God but He didn’t question God.

We, being God’s children, are often faced with difficulties that may tempt us to doubt God and ask for a sign that He’s listening or that He will make things better.  But it comes to this.  Do you trust Him?

We test-drive cars. We taste-test food.  We test out shampoos and conditioners.  We test the water in a swimming pool.  We test the fit of clothing in dressing rooms. We test the scent of perfumes and lotions.  We test a lot of ordinary things before we commit because we aren’t 100% sure it’s what’s right for us. 

Here’s some simple truth.  God is greater.  God is perfect.  God loves you far beyond what you can comprehend.  And God is always, without exception, 100% right for you.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD Himself, is the Rock eternal.” (Isaiah 26:3-4, NIV)

“To be “steadfast” is to be firm and unwavering. If you keep your mind steadfastly on the Lord, you can have peace in knowing He is in control. He is a steady rock. He does not change or falter. You can have peace in knowing you are cared for by a trustworthy God.”[iv]

There’s a keyword in that quote that I believe is the real reason we test God.  Control.  We have a hard time relinquishing control to God.  There exists within most of us a need to be in control; to navigate and manipulate circumstances to give us peace.  But Isaiah tells us that perfect peace comes to those who keep their minds firmly and solely on God.  So why don’t we?  Why don’t we trust Him in everything and all things?

Trust develops as the relationship develops. 

The more we know God, know His character, know His power, His authority, His goodness, His kindness, His sovereignty, and His love for us, the more we trust Him. 

Jesus didn’t test God because He trusted God because He knew God. 

I do believe that God still sends us signs.  But I believe that He shows signs to us at His discretion and not our direction.  I believe He shows signs to us when we show trust in Him.  And trusting Him means not testing Him, but rather letting Him take control.

“Trusting God’s plan is the only secret I know in the gentle art of not freaking out.” Lysa TerKeurst

[i] https://www.bibleref.com/Matthew/4/Matthew-4-5.html

[ii] https://www.convertunits.com/from/feet/to/story

[iii] https://www.studylight.org/lexicons/eng/hebrew/1870.html

[iv] https://www.cru.org/us/en/train-and-grow/spiritual-growth/trusting-god-verses.html#god-not-things

Published by Diane Simcox

Daily I am humbled at how God shows me that He is active and involved in my life. He is gracious enough to simplify every day things so that I have a better understanding of Who He is to me.

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