May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us. Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the Lord our God. (Jeremiah 42:5-6)
If you are in the habit of buying online, you are probably familiar with “on approval” purchasing. This is an agreement in which items are provided to a prospective customer for a pre-purchase trial; if the buyer is not totally happy with the product, he or she can return it within a specified time period.
Sadly, many in the church today view God’s will in much the same way. They pray for God’s will in a certain set of circumstances, and when they sense they have received it, they decide whether they want to follow it or not. In other words, they believe God’s will is “on approval,” and if they are not totally happy with God’s plan, they devise their own.
You see this demonstrated in today’s passage. The people of Israel who survived the fall of Jerusalem came to the prophet Jeremiah and asked him to pray and ask the Lord to show them His will, promising to do whatever the Lord revealed whether favorable or unfavorable. But they had already decided in advance to flee to Egypt to escape the Babylonian invaders, and were merely looking to God to endorse their will, rather than reveal His will. When Jeremiah revealed that it was God’s will for His people to stay in the land of Judah rather than running to Egypt, the people received the Word of the Lord “on approval” and ignored it. “They entered Egypt in disobedience to the Lord” (Jeremiah 43:7). Deciding to receive God’s will “on approval” proved disastrous for Israel, just as it always proves disastrous for us today as well.
In all my years as a pastor, I do not think there is any prayer more difficult to pray and act on than “Thy will be done!” Have you been wrestling with God in prayer regarding an important decision recently? Perhaps He has already made it clear what He wants you to do, but you have not acted, because you are actually seeking God’s will “on approval” and are waiting until His will meets your approval?
Remember, pray without ceasing, but pray having decided in advance not to follow your predetermined plans, but to follow wherever God is leading you. The true disciple of Christ trusts Him even when he or she cannot trace Him, regardless of the cost or circumstance. May the confession of our lives be that which is commanded in Proverbs 3:5-6 —
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
When we live and pray in this way, we will receive God’s will obediently, not “on approval.”
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!