Many, many years ago, when I was much younger and much more eager to please, I volunteered for a ministry organization. The man in charge of the organization had a real calling to see people brought to Christ. He was popular with everyone, wildly funny, but capable of coming into a level of seriousness and wisdom about the word that made people stop and listen. One of the things I did was work with the computers for the group and, one day, he called me in because his personal laptop had taken a dive just before he left town for a conference. It was one of those catastrophic blue-screen-of-death failures. Forget CPR… the hard drive was shot and the thing couldn’t be saved. And there was no money in the tiny little budget for a new one.
Well, we had some extra money at the time, so being the fixer that I was, I figured God wanted me to go out and get a new laptop. After all, this was for ministry. This was for people. This was for His work. So I went out and bought a machine.
If only I’d thought of Joshua and the Israelites beforehand. See, God had sent Israel into Canaan to claim the Promised Land. They were to inhabit the land and to essentially be His hand of judgment on a very rebellious people. They weren’t to make treaties or make peace. This was a time of war.
The Gibeonites were naturally afraid, so they concocted a plan and pretended to be travelers from far off. They showed up with moldy bread and worn out wineskins, claming to be from a nation far, far away, a nation scared of Israel and of God and
wanting to make peace. Joshua, who up ’til now had been a pretty squared away kind of guy, made a big mistake.
The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord.
-Joshua 9:14, italics mine (NIV)
Whoops. On the surface, everything looked good. The evidence backed up the story. God hadn’t said not to make treaties with distant countries, and it probably seemed a good way to keep the peace once Israel was all settled. Good idea, right? Problem was, it wasn’t a God idea. Joshua didn’t go to God and check with Him.
Neither did the leaders or the people. And they wound up not only breaking one of God’s orders to them, but they sowed the seeds of their own destruction by not making sure the land was clean.
So, providing a laptop for a ministry is a good idea, right? As it turns out, God would have put the breaks on that idea had I gone to Him. Much later, and much like the Israelites, I got the full story. For all the good the organization’s leader was doing, he had an addiction. An addiction fueled by the internet. And by replacing that laptop, I had given him the match needed to keep that addiction fully lit.
Good ideas are not always God ideas. We could all tell stories of good ideas gone bad, of things that looked like they exactly aligned wtih God’s plan but, in the end, were way off the mark. And they don’t always end up looking like my laptop error or Israel’s poorly designed treaty. Sometimes the good idea looks like a job or volunteer opportunity. We take it and we do okay… but the fact is we robbed someone else of the open door God had given them to serve by taking their place.
We should always, always seek God before we make a step. Always. We don’t see the whole story, but He does, and we have to trust Him to guide the plot.
How about you? Ever had a good idea turn out to NOT be a God idea?