What does God want me to do today?
Should I get a haircut? Does God want me to do that?
Open the Bible to a random page and, without looking, I drop my finger on a verse. There, there is my answer. Should I get a haircut? My finger lands on Luke 3:9 — “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” That sounds like a yes to me. I’ll go to the barber shop later this morning.
Rob Coyle, in Elusive God: Learning to Walk by Faith and Not by Sight (and why this is so hard to do), considers the question of how does one know the will of God for their life, for their choices, for their actions?
How does one know whether God wants me to go this college or the other one? How does one know whether God wants me to take this job or that one? What decision should I make relative to my children on this issue that has arisen?
Coyle describes many of the ways people determined the will of God for themselves in the Bible. They often seem to speak with God directly or hear from his angels or receive signs or written instructions — Abraham, Moses, Gideon, the Israelites traveling in the wilderness — and clear, succinct direction is provided by God. Easy enough.
But even in those instances, the recipient of God’s succinct, clear communication still often does not actually do the will of God.
And sometimes they don’t hear directly and clearly from God. There are lots of other ways people of the Bible determine God’s will for their lives — from dreams to prayer to drawing lots to lots of other ways.
Coyle notes prominent lessons from the Bible: listen to prophets and listen to the Holy Spirit.
He also notes that even the wisest people in the Bible, like Solomon, flounder around and go up and down with their feelings and confidence.
Community and Trust
My favorite part of Elusive God is Coyle’s emphasis on community. Sometimes God is clear, but often God is not. The Apostle Paul needed help from others in figuring out what the Holy Spirit meant. Even when Jesus himself speaks to Paul on the Road to Damascus, he is sent to Ananias and other disciples to be strengthened and to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
You and I need community, too, to figure out God’s will.
Community is important, but it isn’t the most important.
Trusting God is Coyle’s emphasis.
Trusting God morphs the concept of what we normally think of as determining God’s will under Coyle’s theme.
That is, in trusting God, the goal of getting it “right” all the time fades with the realization that God is with you no matter what choice you make.
“The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire.”
It’s the stuff that doesn’t produce good fruit that is to be cut. And the ax is “already a the root” of that tree, and I’m not at the barber shop, so the ax isn’t at the root of my hair. And I think my hair produces good fruit. So that sounds like a no to me on the haircut instead.
I’ll skip the barber shop today.
Either way, God is with me.
Encouraging & Recommended Read
Coyle’s Elusive God is an encouraging and insightful read.
His take on receiving direction from God goes beyond the usual “read the Bible and pray” to what is, ultimately, more Biblical, to a trusting relationship with God.
The framework Coyle provides is both practical and uplifting. I recommend Elusive God to anyone who would like a closer, more confident relationship with God.
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Sources / Notes
The drop-a-finger approach is called “Bible dipping.” I read of it in Augusten Burroughs’ Running With Scissors (2002), but recall talk of it before.