1 Corinthians 16:7 | Who Controls Your Day?

How do you plan your day, week, month? My wife keeps a physical calendar and she writes on the calendar all the events and schedules that we have upcoming. She likes the physical and visual view of that calendar. For work I keep my plans organized in my email. I know what I need to work on based on what email I have not acted on or completed yet. The list never ends and the weekends are always full. I know that the next two weekend are booked and I will need to return to work to recover from the weekends.

For all the planning and all the work I want to remind myself that it is all in vain outside of God. All my plans. All of my vision statements. All my day to day. All of my schedules could be derailed and stopped cold in an instant.  

For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 1 Corinthians 16:7 ESV

All of my everything rests on “if the Lord permits”. We think we are in control and when we are proven to not be in control, we start having anxiety attacks. As I write this, I have a full-blown migraine because I have been so busy the last week, have eaten poorly, and have not slept well. It all catches up with us sooner or later. My planning and busyness has reached the limits of my physical self.

What does God allow and how does “if the Lord permits” impact life? A tour through the Bible will show God allowing and permitting many things. I have below four ways that the Lord permits us to live life and strangely some of them are not good for us.

#1 Basic laws of nature show the limits he has placed on people.

The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. Proverbs 27:12 ESV

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20 ESV

God has placed laws of human nature on our hearts. If you do stupid things then you will be allowed stupid consequences. As mentioned above I have pushed physically too much and I have eaten terribly and the consequence is that I feel terrible right now while I write this letter. If I make lies and deceit a cornerstone of my life then I will reap the “woes” of evil in my life. These are the rules God put in place when he created and they are just as real and just as consequential as the physical laws of nature like gravity.

#2 Your knowledge of who God is, your faith in him, are a gift given by God.

Therefore, let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits. Hebrews 6:1-3 ESV

Do you recognize Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God the Father’s work in your life? The very fact that you know who He is and understand that this Creator has given you life is “permitted” by God himself toward you. Be thankful of this foundational knowledge. But even more than that seek a greater understanding of God. A deeper fellowship with Him each day is a blessing to be cherished. God is generous to all who seek him. He will give you wisdom if you ask him.

#3 Feeling a call to work for God? Don’t wait until you got it all figured out. Start now! God may not give you that chance again.

21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:21-22 ESV

Have you known the person who talks a good spiritual game but their life does not reflect that talk? For example, someone who wants to serve those less fortunate might say something like “One day I will have saved enough or prepared enough to go off and serve God and others”. This verse where the Disciple said to Jesus, I want to follow you but let me bury my father first has what seems like a harsh response from Jesus. The time is now. Jesus found this disciple of no use. The disciple wanted to wait 5 or 10 years for his father to pass and then he would follow Jesus. Too late for that man and besides he would always have an excuse. If you want to serve Christ, he wants your focus now… not later. Jump if that call is on your heart.

#4 Don’t ignore God’s perfect standard just because he permits bad behavior in a sin cursed world.

And Pharisees came up to [Jesus] and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. Matthew 19:3-8 ESV

Look at this exchange between Jesus and the Jews. God made man and women to be married for life. But people change and they lust after something better so they want a divorce. So, God put in provisions for divorce not because God thinks divorce is good but because people are evil. Because of our sins he allows or permits life to unfold in less than perfect ways. God “permits” less than righteous options in life but that does not mean we should go in that direction. Plus there are still the negative consequences of human nature that play out even in these “permitted” options. There is a Biblically permitted view of having multiple wives, slavery, murder, and all kinds of bad behavior but that is not because God views them right and perfect. He “permits” this behavior because he knows we are sinners.

Acknowledge all the ways that God permits his grace and mercy to find you in your daily life. Be grateful that you were able to rise from bed and go about your life. Thank him for everything big and small because you would have none of it apart from God.

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15 ESV

Daniel 4:22 | Can we stop God?

king

If God is perfect, He never makes mistakes, and He always gets what He wants then is it possible for people prevent God from accomplishing His plans? What happens when we do not follow what God wants? There are two Kings that wanted their own way…

Nebuchadnezzar at the height of his Empire found out first hand that God is in control of everything. It is God from whom all success flows. Daniel gives gracious words to a King who does not recognize God the Creator.

20 The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, 21 whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived— 22 it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth. Daniel 4:20-22 ESV

Nebuchadnezzar’s greatness had grown so large that his power stretched out over the world and nations from everywhere were blessed by this stability. Like most people the King became full of himself and thought about what an amazing person he had become because of the power at his hand. God’s plans in this event are dramatic and overwhelming.

30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” 33 Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws. Daniel 4:30-33 ESV

As soon as the words came from his lips exalting himself, giving credit to himself, patting himself on the back for the scope and wonder of everything before him God stepped in to make known who was really responsible. This king of Babylon is not as powerful as he thinks and neither are normal men who live every day fulfilling their own selfish ambition. This king was just a sinful man that God was using to accomplish his eternal perfect vision.

Nebuchadnezzar is an extreme and spectacular example of God having His way and there are ramification to ourselves and those around us when we resist and rebel against our creator. Have you ever resisted the instructions of God? What was the outcome? How were the people around you impacted? Life is hard and if God has called you to serve Him rejecting that call can make life even more difficult. There is an interesting event recorded in Numbers where a man name Balaam had been given a gift from God to provide blessings and curses to people in the land. The gift is obviously from God and Balaam has some kind of relationship with God even though he does not appear to be an Israelite. Knowing of the gift that Balaam has the King of Moab who is about to go to war with the Israelites offers to pay Balaam to curse the Jewish people.

12 God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” 13 So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, “Go to your own land, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.” 14 So the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak and said, “Balaam refuses to come with us.” Numbers 22:12-13 ESV

Balaam has heard the plans of God that these Israelites are “blessed” and that He does not want them cursed. Balaam told the princes of Moab the bad news but they still pursued Balaam to try and get him to curse the Israelites. Balaam knowing what God said went back to God to see if he would change his mind. God becomes angry with Balaam because Balaam continued to purse God even though he had clear instruction. The reason Balaam did not like God’s instructions is because of the riches that Moab was promising (Numbers 22:22). Because of Balaam’s intent God permits him to go to the King of Moab but the consequences of this selfishness will not be good for Balaam or the King of Moab.

10 And Balak’s anger was kindled against Balaam, and he struck his hands together. And Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have blessed them these three times. 11 Therefore now flee to your own place. I said, ‘I will certainly honor you,’ but the Lord has held you back from honor.” 12 And Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not tell your messengers whom you sent to me, 13 ‘If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the Lord, to do either good or bad of my own will. What the Lord speaks, that will I speak’? Numbers 24:10-13 ESV

Because Balaam did not listen to the first instruction from God to not go with the men of Moab Balaam’s ultimate result was an additional curse on Moab that may not have been needed and Balaam’s reputation being questioned by the people that God had called him to serve. Ultimately through all this disobedience God is glorified and God’s plans are accomplished in regard to blessings on the nation of Israel.

In the same way Nebuchadnezzar’s arrogance and refusal to submit to the will of God caused unnecessary harm to the nation of Babylon for the period of time that God banished him to the wilderness. When Daniel interpreted the dream for Nebuchadnezzar he told the King that all of the comfort and prosperity that were a blessing to everyone around him would be cast away.

14 He proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches. Daniel 4:14 ESV

For the seven years when the King lost his mind the Babylonian kingdom was cast into some level of disarray and a loss of comforting shelter and a loss of the fruit produced by God’s plans for this King. In his arrogance failing to submit to God’s will and plans countless others were impacted.

When God seeks to work through you His child and servant do you resist and champion your own desires. Do you rationalize in your own mind that you can take the consequences? Before you continue to resist God think about the impact to others who are living in a difficult world. Those closest to you the ones under your protection and authority are the ones that would be impacted the most by the selfish acts. What God has planned will come about and what He has planned is lovely, true, and righteous. Here is what Balaam was forced to say when what he wanted was only to make money from Balak the King of Moab by cursing the nation of Israel.

Rise, Balak, and hear; give ear to me, O son of Zippor: 19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? 20 Behold, I received a command to bless: he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it. Numbers 23:18-20 ESV