Following Jesus through the changing circumstances of life is an art, not a science. In science, there are rules and equations. If we repeat the steps we have taken in the past, we will get the same results. The art of following Jesus requires us to adjust to His every move. What He had us do yesterday is not necessarily what He will have us do today or tomorrow. It is another reason why prayer is so important.
To be clear, I am not talking about situations in which the Bible gives clear direction to us. I am speaking of those times when we must respond to new circumstances or opportunities and no specific biblical direction exists.
King David faced something of a “Groundhog Day” shortly after becoming king. We looked at Day 1 when considering God’s stress management plan. The Philistine army was invading Israel and David went to God to ask Him what to do. God told David to “Go up” and He defeated the Philistines for David. The story continues as though the same Philistine fiasco was about to happen again on Day 2:
Now the Philistines came up once again and spread themselves out in the valley of Rephaim. When David inquired of the Lord, He said, “You shall not go directly up; circle around behind them and come at them in front of the balsam trees. It shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then you shall act promptly, for then the Lord will have gone out before you to strike the army of the Philistines.” Then David did so, just as the Lord had commanded him, and struck down the Philistines from Geba as far as Gezer. (2 Sam. 5:22-25)
When I face circumstances that are very similar to ones that I have faced before, I tend to assume that I should respond in the same way. It is an understandable assumption, but not one that we should make when we are following Jesus. The Lord’s goal is not to execute the most efficient solution to our crisis. If it were, then He would bless our “cookie-cutter” responses. Instead, God is interested in our spiritual growth and maturity and they come in relationship with Him.
King David’s response to the renewed Philistine attack came in the context of His relationship with God. Although it seemed unnecessary to ask God what to do about the latest batch of Philistines who had “spread themselves out in the valley of Rephaim,” (vv. 18, 22) David still inquired of the Lord.
It was a good job that he did, because it wasn’t Groundhog Day! This time, God told David to attack the Philistines from behind some trees at their rear. It worked, and the Israelites chased the Philistines all the way back to their own territory.
When following Jesus is our priority then we gladly involve Him in each new situation; His voice is always welcome. And when we do as He says, we experience victory and fruitfulness beyond what we would ever see if we acted on our own assumptions.
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