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Formulas and Presumptions

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
– Isaiah 55:9 (ESV)

“We’ve been dating for almost a year, surely God wants us to be together.”

That was the rationale given to me by a someone in my congregation as to why he should still pursue a woman who wanted time away from him to “think things over” about the future of their relationship. While this person, I believe, has a honest heart about the situation I cautioned him about his reasoning because it risks crossing the line of presumption and seeing God’s work as formulaic.

Hear me, I’m not the one to throw stones. I think many, if not most of us, are tempted to “know” what God wants by seeing only one interpretation of events before everything got complicated…and use that interpretation to say that if God did A then surely he will do B. The only problem is that we presume that we know what B is. The truth is by making God work by predictable formulas we tread the faithless ground of presumption.

Again, to be fair, most of our reasoning flows from logical conclusions; however, when our hopes/dreams get a kink in them we tend to go back to “surely this is what God wants” like a young child seeking after his blanky. We do it because it brings us comfort. The problem is it doesn’t change reality, nor the heart of God.

I don’t need to give examples of how people thought God should do something for one reason only to see him do something else – they’re all over the Bible. Thus, there is a very real chance that God’s will is to have a person date someone for a year not so that they might wind up married but for something else that will be for each of their good (Rom. 8:28). The point is no one but God knows.

That’s why it’s wisest to steady your trust in God when the “kinks” come, not using the past as justification as to why God must act one way or another. That is usually just a sign you’ve succumbed to the temptation of emotion instead of letting the bedrock of God’s truth lead you. Leave the predictable formulas and faithless assumptions to others, instead, as difficult as it may feel, be open to the possibility that there are other outcomes God may bring. And whatever the outcome is we must look with the eyes of faith to trust that it will be for our growth and his glory.

James 4:13-17, 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’— 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. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

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