David inquired of God: “Shall I go?” The Lord answered him, “Go.” David inquired of God again, and God answered him, “Do not go…(mixed messages)” [1 Chronicles 14:10, 14, parenthesis added]
Do you get mixed messages from God?
No, I’m not committing heresy or expressing my disbelief in answered prayers. I am simply acknowledging that God moves in mysterious and, quite often, unexpected ways. We relish the times when He answers, “Yes, go for it!” Then, there are times when we fully expect Him to answer a certain way, to grant our reasonable requests, yet He surprises us with, “No, not just yet” or “I have a different plan of attack.” As King David found out, when we expect a certain answer, God sometimes surprises with the supernatural.
Do I Proceed or Not?
David was being attacked by the Philistines. So he asked God how he should respond. What an incredible first step! All believers should develop such a habit of asking God about every detail of life, even when developing their own logical action plan.
The first time David prayed, God affirmed his battle plan and gave him victory that day. But the enemy soon returned. So, David went back to God and asked if he should attack as he had done previously. I guess he figured, It worked last time – it’ll work again. God previously gave us the victory, so let’s approach the same situation in the same way. But God mixed things up a bit.
Instead of telling David to follow the same pattern of directly attacking his enemy, God had him circle around and attack from behind. Yet even that strategic military move came with a condition – David and his army had to delay their attack until they received a specific signal from God.
Imagine taking your army to the battlefield and telling them, We’re not proceeding until God gives me a sign. When He gives the thumbs up, we start fighting. A surprise attack, in stealth mode, yet waiting on an invisible God to interact in the physical realm by causing the wind to blow through the treetops. Risking your entire army takes some serious faith.
God’s victory required reliance on something outside David’s control. He understood military strategy. Frontal assaults and stealthy flank attacks were his domain. In the first battle, God allowed him to rely on what he knew and on the strength of his army. But in the second battle, he stretched David’s faith by exposing his strength to a step of faith in something intangible and uncontrollable.
Maturing Faith Involves More Trust in the Unknown
Initially, God may answer prayers quickly and through methods we can understand or somewhat control. But as we mature in faith, He may delay our answers or answer in unexpected ways to prompt more reliance on Him. A baby gets more immediate attention than an adult. In cultivating a deeper relationship with God, He moves from the expected to anticipating the unexpected, unimaginable, and supernatural.
Several times, I’ve asked God for what I thought were reasonable requests. Yet, I only heard His silence, seeming delay, or unexpected answer.
- A college friend died after numerous medical treatments. Several of us prayed intensely for God’s healing, yet He remained silent. In the face of seeming tragedy, people became believers at her funeral. God used her death to draw others to Himself.
- After losing my job, I prayed earnestly for another job to arrive quickly. After all, the bills don’t stop when the job does. After six months and a crisis of faith, God provided a job tailor-made for me. He used that crucible to deepen my relationship with Him.
- After ten years of praying for a spouse, and viewing all potential “candidates” through my own preference and criteria, God orchestrated the events that brought my wife. She initially didn’t seem to “fit” the model I constructed in my mind. Yet, after yielding to God and seeking His will, I am now blessed far beyond my wildest expectations. God used that situation to deepen my reliance on Him.
The reality is that we ask and expect certain outcomes based on our limited perspective and reasoning. But behind the scenes, God sovereignly orchestrates every detail to fulfill His ultimate purpose. Whether He answers expectantly or intervenes supernaturally, knowing nothing is random is comforting. God sovereignly controls everything for our good and His glory.