Not Waiting FirstBy Nathan Mates
One of the phrases heard often among Christians is that they're "waiting on the Lord for direction." This usually comes up when someone's looking for guidance in what they do in their general life, from deciding whether to quit their job to become a missionary, to deciding whom to evangelize to first, to anything else.
It's always good to seek God's will, and to act in accordance with it, but there's a dangerous tendency to sit still waiting for guidance from God (or, more commonly, guidance that one agrees with) instead of doing stuff in the meantime. Put simply, I believe the Bible is full of enough things God wants us to do that refusing to do anything until specific guidance is handed down is quite dangerous. This is not to be legalistic either-- we're not to busy ourselves doing anything simply to look good, but to serve God from our talents.
For example, some may wonder if they're supposed to be witnessing to others. Jesus's words at the end of Matthew's gospel speak about this: "Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."" [Matthew 28:18-20] Jesus is speaking not just to those present, but to all believers throughout history, and saying, quite simply, to evangelize. We have general orders from God, if you will, to do that. So, there's no doubt in my mind that we should be witnessing as part of our lives.
While most of the 10 Commandments are in negative form (e.g. "You shall not murder." [Exodus 20:13, Commandment #6]) two are in positive form-- #3 and #4. We are to "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy" [Exodus 20:8] and "Honor your father and your mother" [Exodus 20:12a]. We need specific reminders not to have any other Gods, and not to murder. We also need these two reminders to love God and love our family as well. Thus, we do not need any specific extra guidance from God to do such things; we've already been told to do so.
Jesus himself laid down how we are to act towards other humans: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." [John 13:34] This was a simple extension of the commandments above-- the fellowship of believers is all God's children, so we must love other family members. So, once again, we don't need any extra revelation from God before we start obeying this.
Later on, Jesus's brother James laid down service towards others as well: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." [James 1:27] Once again, if you have any ideas that God requires an extra calling before we begin serving, let them be dispelled.
From faith, to keeping oneself away from sin, to denying oneself, the Bible is full of commandments of things to do. Focusing on just one item alone can occupy your time for the rest of your life, though I wouldn't recommend such a thing-- exercising all the talents you may have is a better approach. Read the Bible, starting in the New Testament, if the above list of things doesn't convince you.
Looking at the Bible, we can see many instances where God's people didn't stop to wait on God first before doing things. Luke writes this at the top of his gospel: "Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught." [Luke 1:3-4] Luke doesn't record an order from God to write the gospel, it merely "seemed good" for him to use his gifts of writing.
When Moses was overwhelmed acting as a judge over Israel in the desert [Exodus 18], he received good advice from his father-in-law, Jethro, to delegate responsibility so that the elders could handle the easy cases. The result? "Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said." [Exodus 18:24] Moses, definitely a prophet of God, isn't recorded as seeking God's thumbs up or down on this. He had a good plan presented to him, and he used it.
The apostle Paul, while on missionary journeys, wanted to evangelize to everyone. But, "Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to." [Acts 16:6-7] Paul was not violating God's will by entering these areas; he was prevented because God wanted him elsewhere. Like Luke, it "seemed good" for him to make those areas his next stops. It wasn't to his detriment that God had other plans; instead Paul was sensitive to God and followed new orders to go elsewhere.
As the saying goes, "You can't steer a parked car," it was Paul's obeying of the Jesus's command to evangelize that put him in motion. God steered him elsewhere. Similarly, in our own lives, we may serve in one ministry, then find a calling elsewhere. I believe that this is partly due to the fact that in serving God, we draw closer to him, and we can hear his words more easily. However, if we sit in a state of waiting for signed orders from God in the mailbox, and doing nothing else, we're less likely to be obeying God's directive. Obeying God's words to do the things he's commanded (and avoiding the things he's told us not to do), even if temporarily in the "wrong" area is better than inaction.