How do you argue with God?
What do you say when someone says, God told me to do it?"
I have the same reaction to a man's "God told me to do it," as I do to the man who says, "The devil made me do it." Way down deep something tells me that, whether God or devil, it was the man's own desires that had a lot to do with it.
I certainly don't want to second guess God. But neither do I want to give the first guess to a blinded believer. Am I fighting God if I question the man's claim? Must I get behind him and his project simply and solely because he says God told him to do it? Is his claim my last court of appeal?
A man who flatly says, "God told me to do it," may be absolutely right. However, the possibility is there that he could be absolutely wrong. He could be "using" God to con me into cooperation. Or, to be more charitable, he could be seeking reinforcement for his conviction because of an uncertainty that nags at him in his own heart. So, by emphatically stating that "God told me to do it," he "signs" God's signature to his own idea, and puts me in a position of challenging God!
It's kind of a cop out, to say the least. It's a neat way of sliding out from under responsibility if the thing doesn't work. After all, if God told me to do it, then God is to blame if I bomb out. Conversely, it makes me look powerfully good if the project succeeds, and I turn out to be the man who hears directly from above!
I'll admit that it is more impressive to say, "God told me to do it," than it is to say, "I believe this is what God wants me to do." The former has the benefit of unquestionable divine sanction, whereas the latter leaves open the possibility that I didn't "hear" right ... and that it wasn't God telling me to do it after all!
We all long for certainty. We all long to hear the voice from heaven that says, "Thus saith the Lord." So we identify with the positive person. The more uncertain we are, the more likely we are to seek out someone who is sure of himself. The "ifs" and the "perhaps'" that characterize our own mental state make us followers of fellows whose "faith" won't allow such words as "if' and "perhaps."
Let me get this straight. God does talk to people. God does give specific directions. This article is not written to question the fact that God does tell people to do things. It is written because we who are told, "God told me to do it," have a decision to make. We have to decide whether we are going to accept one man's word for it, or whether we are going to question his claim and make sure for ourselves that God has spoken.
I think we have every right to make sure that a man has heard right when he says, "God told me to do it." In fact, I think it foolish not to question. When we do so, we are not putting God to the test. We are putting the believer who says, "God told me to do it," to the test. And we should. If God has really told that person to do something, his claim will stand our scrutiny.
For myself, I look to three factors that help me decide whether God really told him to do it.
They are: the Word of God, the man of God, and the Church of God.
The Word of God
God does not tell a man to do something that violates His Word. If what he proposes to do does not hallow God's name, promote God's kingdom, and accomplish God's will ... then God has not spoken. I ask myself, will it really glorify God? Will it build His Church? Will it save souls and make believers Christlike? I think I owe it to God to ask these questions.
The Man of God
I next look at the man himself. What is his record? What kind of a man is he? Is he a righteous man? Does he always tell the truth? Has he been used of God in the past? Is he a doer or a dreamer? What is his lifestyle? Who are his friends?
A man's character must back his claims. He claims, "God told me to do it." So what can I do about it? I can look at the man. I can see whether he walks close enough to God to give me confidence in what he says.
Really, if a man's claim is consistent with the Word, and his character is constant and Christlike, I don't need the leverage of "God told me to do it" to get me behind him and his project. His "I believe God wants me to do it" is good enough for me.
A godly man knows he is vulnerable. He doesn't need an escape hatch to avoid the embarrassment of having to admit he has made a mistake. He is humble enough to accept the possibility that he could be wrong. He remembers the admonition in the book of James that says we should qualify our plans with "if the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." So he says, "I believe God wants me to do it." When he puts it that way, he is being both human and humble ... and it certainly makes it easier to help him if he is mistaken.
So I look at the man of God. I want to see a man of faith, but I also want to see a man who is humble, and who has the character to go with his claims.
The Church of God
This last test is where a lot of "men of faith" have problems. They look on their fellow believers as a resource for their vision, but they are unwilling to submit their vision to their fellow believers' judgment. They look on the church as obstructionist. And this is a tragedy. They need the help of the body. They need the church. Neither they, nor their program, could function without it. But they find that to wait for consensus takes time ... and they don't have time to wait. They find that committees and councils inhibit their vision rather than enhance it. And, at times, they are right. Experience proves that God works through men of vision, and that men of vision have not always had the understanding and the backing of the church.
However, having admitted this, let me hasten to say that the fact that it happens does not make it right or desirable. The Bible plainly teaches that believers need one another, and are to submit to one another. There is one body but many members. The eye cannot say to the ear, "I have no need of you." For myself, there is no time when I would need the help of my brethren more than when I think I have heard directly from God. If God "told me to do it," I want to be sure it is God who has spoken. And what better way to know than to submit my vision to the scrutiny of the church where, in a multitude of godly counselors, I can find safety?
"But," you say, "supposing the church says it wasn't God speaking? Are you going to obey God or man?"
To answer, let me first say that when the disciples faced the "God or man" issue, they were dealing with ungodly men. What we are talking about here is a consensus of the church ... of spiritually sensitive men. In this case, I don't think it has to be an "either/or" situation. God is able to reveal to my brethren what He has revealed to me.
And that should be my prayer. If I am so sure God has spoken ... if I am so in touch with God that He can speak to me ... then I must have the faith to believe that God will speak to the church. After all, I am going to be looking to the church to help me fulfill my vision. Why can't I ask the Giver of my vision to give it to the church as well?
I can, and I must.
"God told me to do it" should be backed by more than personal revelation.
There are too many voices clamoring for attention, and the man of God is too finite to be the sole judge in a matter so important. Church history is replete with accounts of misguided vision and aborted ecclesiastical ambition. To accept a single opinion is to invite disaster.
Let us not despise the man who says, "God told me to do it." but let us not "buy his package" until we have first measured his claim against the witness of the Word of God, the character of the man of God, and the consensus of the Church of God.