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I strongly suspect that many of our desires and life-long ambitions have come from God. Consider the following: “Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you” (2 Cor. 8:16, NIV). It seems likely the Holy Spirit would plant a concern or desire in your spirit and allow you to nurture it with time. Then at the right moment, after you have nurtured it to maturity and it’s become your own intense desire, God causes the work to be done so “your” desire is fulfilled. It’s consistent with God’s nature and way of doing things.
It also is consistent with God’s promises to do what we ask, within the parameters of his will being done and our asking in Jesus’ name. It’s consistent with the Holy Spirit’s role of revealing kingdom matters to us. And it’s consistent with the doctrines of God’s sovereignty and your free will. It explains one way God’s will can always be done through people with free wills.
While we are speculating on how God might do this, let us develop our hypothesis a little more. First, he gives you a personality that provides the necessary aptitudes, interests and attributes you’ll need to do his will effectively. You enjoy using your abilities because they are fulfilling and rewarding; you can use them effectively and you get good results.
God then arranges a significant event or circumstance in your life that sparks a desire, which draws your attention and causes you to focus on a specific need. At first, you might only watch others who are active in that area, then you might help them or begin doing a little something on your own. It may seem like a hobby to you, just something you “play around with.” But as time progresses, so does your interest. Eventually the matter becomes a significant part of your life and you may even make it your career. It was God’s intent all along for you to do it, and now you have chosen to make it a major part of your life.
There is an important kingdom principle called synergy: two or more ingredients combining and producing greater results than they would separately. A scriptural example is one causing 1,000 to flee and two causing 10,000 to flee (Deut. 32:30). Instead of simply adding their individual efforts to get a combined result of 2,000, the combined power compounds their efforts to produce 10,000. That is synergy.
I am convinced this principle applies to your relationship with God and the results you get when doing his work. God simply has chosen to do his work through cooperative human beings. God places a desire in you and you choose to accept it, then you cultivate it, think about it, talk about it, ponder it and plan for it. The desire grows and becomes a major part of you; you might even become preoccupied with it. The power of your spirit joins with the power of God and the result is the fulfillment of your desire. I believe that is how creative faith works, for example. You and God work together to bring your desire into existence.
In no way am I suggesting that every desire or idea you have is from God or conforms to his will. You still have self-centered interests that motivate you to work everything out for your own pleasure and benefit. But I’m saying this is one way God works in you and through you.
To me, this says a lot about the importance of using your own initiative. We may have a certain limited autonomy in matters of kingdom business. I’m certain this would be dependent on your spiritual maturity and skill in performing God’s will.
Take the case of Peter and the lame man. Peter didn’t pray for the man’s healing, nor did he ask others to agree with him in prayer. He simply said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6). Then Peter took him by the hand and helped him up. He clearly stated that he was acting in Jesus’ behalf — in the name of Jesus — and he did what needed to be done.
Paul exercised the same authority on several occasions. Once a slave girl who had a demon by which she predicted the future was following Paul and creating a disturbance. Paul finally become so troubled he spoke to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” (Acts 16:18). Notice that Paul became personally troubled and then took action in the name of Jesus.
On another occasion, Paul was preaching so long that a young man sitting in a window sank into a deep sleep. He fell out of the third story window to the ground and died. Paul didn’t publicly pray or ask others to pray. He “threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him” (Acts 20:10). The young man came back to life and presumably stayed awake for the remainder of Paul’s teaching. This is very similar to the Old Testament prophet who laid on top of a dead child and brought him back to life (2 Kings 4:34-35).
There is the incident of a man, lame from birth, who was listening to Paul. “Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, ‘Stand up on your feet!’ At that, the man jumped up and began to walk” (Acts 14:9-10). Paul simply observed the situation and responded to it.
Think for a moment about how Jesus administered God’s work. He didn’t pray to the Father or the Holy Spirit for them to perform the healing; he spoke and healing occurred. “Be clean!” (of leprosy, Luke 5:13). “Your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19). “According to your faith let it be done to you” (Matt.9:29). To the wind and waves, “Quiet! Be still” (Mark 4:39). To demons, “Come out of him!” (Mark 1:25).
You might be thinking, “Yeah, but I’m not Jesus.” Well, in a sense you are. You are legally part of his Father’s kingdom, a child of God, and Jesus’ brother or sister. You have the same Holy Spirit within you. Jesus has authorized you to act in his behalf and perform the same functions he did. He said you should follow him, which means copy what he did. He commissioned you to do kingdom business, as he did on earth. Maybe technically you’re not Jesus himself, but for all practical purposes there should be no difference between your results and his.
I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t pray for people or ask God to heal someone. Scriptures are full of examples and instruction on how to pray and how to ask God. Maybe you can’t accept this yet, but I believe there are situations and maybe even a stage at which you stop asking God to do something and begin acting in the authority he gave you.
Let me show you an Old Testament incident in which God rebuked someone for praying instead of acting with authority. God had commissioned Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. After the plagues, the people followed Moses to the sea and then discovered the Egyptian army was pursuing them.
The people cried out to Moses, who appeared to be exercising great faith in God when he responded to them. “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exod. 14:13-14).
Sounds great, doesn’t it? A wonderful statement of faith in what God will do! The only problem was that God expected Moses to deliver the people! So he immediately spoke to Moses. “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground” (Exod. 14:15-16). God expected Moses to direct the people, to stretch out his hand and divide the water. There is no record that God told Moses ahead of time that he would divide the water.
Maybe God showed Moses what would happen and Moses didn’t want to believe that he was responsible for doing it, but God chose not to record that part of the incident in Scripture. This would be an important point since God later reprimands him for not acting, so it seems unlikely God chose not to record it.
Another possibility is that God expected Moses to do whatever was necessary to deliver the people, including such unprecedented acts as dividing the water and immediately drying the sea floor. I think this is the only reasonable conclusion.
The third and fourth chapters of Exodus show that God’s original statement to Moses was, “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exod. 3:10). It was only after Moses resisted that God told him details about how to address Pharaoh and about various signs he could use. Eventually, God became angry with Moses for stubbornly insisting on having so many answers before he would agree to go. Even in this extended dialog, however, nothing was said about crossing the Red Sea, which remains an awe-inspiring miracle thousands of years later.
God’s role was to harden the Egyptians’ hearts so they would follow the Israelites into the sea. The rest was up to Moses, including dividing the Red Sea and directing the people to cross over. God had given Moses authority and responsibility for delivering the people and he wouldn’t let Moses abdicate.
God has chosen to conduct his business through cooperative people. He has transferred you to his kingdom, commissioned you to do kingdom work, begun developing godly character in you and put his Spirit within you to make you effective. Now he expects you to use what he has given you and exercise initiative to do his work.
God alone can produce the desired results, but he can only produce results as you give him opportunity. At some point, you need to stop asking God to do everything and begin using the resources he gave you.