The Game of Life
You know what I’m talking about, right? You see something coming, and you try to say the right thing, do the right thing, or plant the right thought to foster your own desires instead of God’s. That’s called manipulation. Sometimes manipulation means trying to ‘make the right move’, and sometimes it means pretending you didn’t hear God say something when you know he did.
Manipulation is a double whammy:
- The act of manipulation makes me think I’m actually gaining something, when I’m really losing more than I can imagine. Because, no matter what I dream up, it cannot compete with what God wants for me. His blessings are so much greater, His moves are so much wiser, and His plan is so much grander than anything I could ever contemplate.
- Manipulation also leads me to think I am in control when, obviously, I am so not in control. Just thinking I’m in control causes me to worry about things. I worry about this move or that move and a million other trivial things that hinders me from focusing on God’s plan for me and working toward His goal for my life.
It’s a costly distraction.
Don’t think so? Check out the Book of Jonah in the Bible. When I’m feeling childish and not listening to God, Jonah reminds me of myself.
In Chapter 1, God speaks to Jonah and tells him to speak to the people of Nineveh. They were a rowdy bunch, and Jonah was rightfully afraid to go tell them God would destroy them. He was afraid of the beatings, stonings, and other nasty things that might happen to him. So, Jonah ran from God. He stowed away on a boat, where the men on board knew he was running from God, and they threw him overboard in an effort to save themselves. Subsequently, Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Three days and nights he was there, and he prayed to God and finally agreed with God.
Jonah 2: 7 “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. 8 “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. 9 But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.” 10 And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Do you ever try to make deals with God? Jonah said, “What I have vowed I will make good.” And, the Lord saves him. Then Jonah finally goes on to make good. He tells the people of Nineveh that God will destroy them in 40 days if they do not change. The people of Nineveh believe Jonah, and they fast for three days and cease all the wickedness and violence in hopes that God will spare them. God does spare them.
Then, after God’s mission is successful, Jonah behaves like a sulking teenager. In Jonah 4, he cries out to God and basically says, (and I’m paraphrasing here), “This is why I ran from you. I knew you weren’t going to destroy them. Now I look like a fool. Just kill me already.” In Jonah 4: 9 God asks Jonah, “Do you have any right to be angry?” and Jonah responds, “I do. I am angry enough to die.” I can picture Jonah sulking with his arms crossed, lounging around in his PJ’s, I-pod on full blast, rolling his eyes, and giving God the cold shoulder.
Jonah isn’t angry because God kept his word. He’s angry because Jonah did not get the glory of a city destroyed. The prophecy he passed on from God came true. The city repented and was saved. Jonah wanted pyrotechnics, but that didn’t happen. So, Jonah felt justified in running from God. Jonah was put out with God.
I think that attitude is what, more often than not, leads me to be manipulative. It’s the attitude that somehow I know better than God, or that I should get the glory, and God can just wait. It’s the quick fix, rather than following God’s path which is often tough, but has a way better ending then any path I map out.
Then there’s the sulking teenager in me that comes out when I do take a step in God’s plan for me, and I don’t see God’s wisdom immediately. I think, “Well that was useless, just kill me already. I knocked myself out for nothing.” God’s wisdom is there. I just don’t see it yet. And, maybe I’m not meant to.
The bottom line is: Partial obedience is still disobedience. Here’s to following God’s plan today, and getting out of His way.