Let’s flip the coin. Last week, we began to explore God’s role in daily life with a story of how he overwhelmingly directed a major change in moving me to Taos. One repeated response by readers dealt with the rarity of such clear direction. Though seldom for many of us, it does happen. But my time in Taos ended in a radically opposite form.
I’d spent a year in youth ministry a few years earlier, and upon getting fired, declared I’d rather drive a truck. Not long after, the manager of a parts house offered me a job—driving a truck. God has a nice sense of humor, but I should have said I’d preferred being a movie star!
In Taos, the First Baptist Church (the one on the road to the dance place, and remember, Baptists don’t dance) welcomed me into its arms. In our weekly men’s prayer breakfasts, a local optometrist, Dean Henbest, prayed, “Lord there’s a young man here who should be in ministry. You know who he is, and he knows who he is.” Being the only young man there, I was the target of his prayer, and Dean was the target of some dirty looks that he never saw with his eyes faithfully shut.
Truth be told, God had been gently wooing me back to ministry, but he’d met only resistance. But Dean’s prayers and God’s hints brought me to a crisis. I told God I loved him, that I was committed to him, that I would do whatever he told me to do. Notice that word “told.” I just wanted to follow him, not myself.
So, in the kitchen of my home on seven acres, I did what Christians should never do in seeking God’s guidance. “God, I’ll open the Bible at random, and let there be a verse there that tells me if you want me in ministry or not.” I closed my eyes, flipped the book, opened it to a page, and the only verse that could possible apply said, “He inquired of God, and God did not answer him.”
No help at all. Plan B was worse, but I wanted to avoid chance, “God, I’ll flip this coin three times. Let it be heads all three times if you want me in, tails all three if you want me out.”
Flip #1: tails.
Flip #2: tails.
As flip #3 was in the air, another prayer forced itself out, “God, please don’t let it be another tail.” The result, a noncommittal head. God didn’t seem to care. Or, did he not care about what I thought he should care about? Maybe his care went deeper.
My take on it? Realize, this is my take, not a clear determination from God. But I almost heard, “Tim, I love you whatever you do. I love you if you minister; I love you if you don’t. But, know your own heart.” You see, only with the coin in the air did I know my heart. Or, God didn’t determine the outcome this time. Two years earlier, he put me in the spot I could make a life-changing decision.
That’s biblical. In 2 Corinthians 2:12-13, Paul arrived in Troas and God opened a door to preach Jesus. But Paul didn’t find Titus there, felt uneasy, and went in another direction. The first time I read that, I expected verse 14 to tell us about a lightning bolt that made Paul a Post Toasty. Wrong. “But thanks be to God who always leads in triumphal procession.”
Get that? At times God does determine directions for us. Other times he lets us choose. How can we tell? Wish I knew. Just remember, though, make the best decision we seem to be able to make, and trust in God to lead triumphantly.
Kick Starting the Discussion
Where do you come down on the blend of God determining and allowing us to choose? What causes you to take that position? What values do you use in making a decision on a spiritual issue? Have you used values before that led to a bad decision? Were the values inappropriate, or was the decision flawed, or did an outside factor determine it? Love to hear your thoughts.