Thursday, January 10, 2008

The God of either/or.

A friend of mine recently started a ministry and he didn’t really tell anyone. When I talked to him a few weeks later, he told me his was confused that it hadn’t grown the way he intended. It didn’t explode and when I asked him how he felt he said, “I just thought God would kind of bring people there and kind of take care of everything.”

I think what ultimately happened with my friend is that, much like I do sometimes, he turned God into an “either/or God.” That is, when it came to launching his ministry he could either do it in his own way and advertise it and hustle and knock on some doors or he could not do anything and wait on the Lord to provide.

Have you ever done that? Has there ever been something you wanted to do, but you’re afraid that if you try too hard then maybe you’ll “get ahead” of God and he won’t be cool with that?

For me, both of my websites are like that. I am a relentless self promoter, constantly struggling with the urge to tell everyone on the planet about my writing, my ideas, my ministry thoughts etc. And if I either/or God, then I have two choices: 1. I pimp myself like crazy without God or 2. I play it quiet and hope that God grows it in his own way in his own time.

But here’s the thing, I don’t think God is either/or that way. I think he wants us to take risks. I think he wants us to jump out and take chances at the very same time that we’re trusting in him. What does that look like? It looks like Nehemiah.

Nehemiah was called to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem but when he did everybody got furious at him. In Nehemiah 4:7-9 we see how he handled the hate and risk involved in building the wall:

But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the men of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem's walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.

I love that last sentence. It’s not either/or, it’s the most beautiful example of “and.” In the first half, he says they prayed. In the second half, they posted a guard day and night to meet the threat. Nehemiah didn’t act like posting a guard was going to make it seem as if he didn’t trust in God. He knew that if someone was trying to kill him, it might be a good idea to pray but also to post a guard.

The story continues a few verses later:

From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.

Again, love the practicality of this. They carried a hammer in one hand and a sword in the other. They prayed a lot, they worshiped a lot, but they weren’t for a second going to hope that someone didn’t kill them while they were doing the work.

They didn’t make God either/or. They let Him be the “and God.” The God of prayer and practicality, worship and weapons.

Just don’t be surprised if tomorrow I pray for the ministry I want to start and then ask you to tell all your friends about my sites.


robyn collins said...

God is a more than you can imagine God... and I know that is what he's going to do with you...

susan said...

great insight. isn't it interesting that the more we try to not put God in a box (by opting for the hands off approach), we actually confine Him even more...resulting in the either/or scenario in our heads. and btw...your hint worked. my friend turned me on to your sites just this week!

CinnamonSiren said...

I love this post. I loved that you said God is AND, not either, or. I'm serving on a discernment committee for a Baptist pastor who is in process for ordination into the Episcopal church and that is something I think will be very helpful for him to hear. I hope more people get a chance to read it, in other words, I hope you shamelessly self promote it often. :)