David inquired of God: “Shall I go?” The Lord answered him, “Go.” David inquired of God again, and God answered him, “Do not go…” (1 Chronicles 14:10, 14).
Do you get mixed messages from God?
No, I’m not committing heresy or expressing my disbelief in answered prayers. I am simply acknowledging that God moves in mysterious and, quite often, unexpected ways. We relish the times when He answers, “Yes, go for it!”
Then there are times when we fully expect Him to answer a certain way, to grant our reasonable requests, yet He surprises us with, “No, not just yet” or “I have a different plan of attack.” As King David found out, when we expect a certain answer, God sometimes surprises with the supernatural.
David was being attacked by the Philistines. So he asked God how he should respond. What an incredible first step! All believers should develop such a habit of asking God about every detail of life, even when developing their own logical action plan.
The first time David prayed, God affirmed his battle plan and gave him victory that day. But the enemy soon returned. So, David went back to God and asked if he should attack as he had done previously. I guess he figured, It worked last time; it’ll work again. God previously gave us the victory, so let’s approach the same situation in the same way. But God mixed things up a bit.
Instead of telling David to follow the same pattern of directly attacking his enemy, God had him circle around and attack from behind. Yet even that strategic military move came with a condition: David and his army had to delay their attack until they received a specific signal from God.
Imagine taking your army to the battlefield and telling them, We’re not proceeding until God gives me a sign. When He gives the thumbs up, we start fighting. A surprise attack, in stealth mode, yet waiting on an invisible God to interact in the physical realm by causing the wind to blow through the treetops. Risking your entire army takes some serious faith.
God’s victory required reliance on something outside David’s control. He understood military strategy. Frontal assaults and stealthy flank attacks were his domain. In the first battle, God allowed him to rely on what he knew and on the strength of his army. But in the second battle, he stretched David’s faith by exposing his strength to a step of faith in something intangible and uncontrollable.
As we grow in our faith, God may answer our prayers quickly and through methods we can understand or somewhat control. But as we mature, He may delay our answers or even answer in unexpected ways so we rely on Him more. A newborn baby gets more immediate attention than an adult. In cultivating a more intimate relationship with Him, God moves us from the expected result to anticipating the unexpected, unimaginable and supernatural.
Several times, I have asked God for what I thought were reasonable requests only to hear His silence, seeming delay or unexpected answer.
- A college friend died after enduring numerous medical treatments. A group of us prayed intensely for God’s healing, yet He remained silent. In the face of seeming tragedy, several people became believers at her funeral. God used her death to draw others to Him.
- After losing my job, I prayed earnestly for another opportunity to present itself quickly. After all, the bills do not stop when the job does. After six months and a personal crisis of faith, God brought a job that was tailor-made for me. He used that crucible to draw me closer to Him.
- After 10 years of praying for a spouse — and reviewing all potential “candidates” through the lenses of my own preference and criteria — God orchestrated the series of events that brought me my wife. She initially did not seem to “fit” the model constructed in my mind; yet, after giving it to God and seeking His will, I am now blessed far beyond my wildest expectations. God used that situation to deepen my reliance on Him.
The reality is that we ask and expect certain outcomes based on our limited perspective and reasoning. But behind the scenes, God sovereignly orchestrates every detail of humanity to fulfill His ultimate purpose. Whether He answers expectantly or intervenes supernaturally, we can take comfort in knowing that nothing is random. God sovereignly controls everything for our good and His glory.