Getting What You Want from God

Getting What You Want from God

Have you ever asked God for direction in your life and felt confused or unsure of His answer? Most of us have, or we will at some time in the future.

There are three dynamics that should be considered when determining God’s will for a given situation. (1) The leading of the Holy Spirit. It might be a dream or a vision, but usually, it is that intuitive prompting of the Lord in your spirit (2) the Word of God—principles already revealed in Scripture about the will of God for our lives—revelations about the character of God, His purposes, and His ways (3) circumstances—God in His providence going before us and preparing the way so that He sets before us an open door. There is safety in considering all three of these dynamics as we endeavor to hear God about a decision in life.

However, there are also many other voices causing confusion: the opinions others, demonic spirits, and ourselves. The most crucial issue any of us face in hearing God is the motive of our own hearts. We can know our Bible backwards and forwards, but if the primary pursuit of our hearts is not right, we will have trouble hearing the voice of God. We will have trouble getting clear direction for our lives.

James calls it double mindedness. James 1:5-8 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

On one hand, we want God and His blessings. On the other hand, we want our own way. Here is the danger we face: that we would be asking God to tell us what to do—but at the same time be insisting upon certain things we are unwilling to surrender to God.

For instance, we pray, “God, give me a ministry. Use me for your glory.” Then God lays something before us and that’s not what we want to do. So we keep praying and praying and praying even though the answer has come. We just didn’t like the answer He gave, so we are in reality trying to get Him to give us another answer. And when we are in that position, God can become very silent. Did you do the last thing God told you to do? If not, why should God speak to you again?

One of the best examples of this problem is found in Numbers 22.

One thing about Balaam is certain—he is very spiritual. He hears God speak to him. He has dreams and visions. His problem is not a lack of spirituality. He knows the true God of Israel.

Balaam seems to get off to a good start. He knows enough to seek God for direction. Sometimes we fail to get God’s guidance simply because we don’t ask for it.

The answer God gives Balaam is loud and clear. “Do not go with them.” That’s not hard to understand. “You must not put a curse on those people...” That’s simple enough. God tells Balaam “Don’t go with them and don’t curse Israel.” God even goes a step further and tells him why—“because they are blessed.” At that point Balaam has clear guidance from the Lord.

But now watch how Balaam begins to get confused about what God wants him to do because he does not like the answer. He is going to miss out on a divination fee. So, the next morning he gets up and tells Balak’s princes to “Go back to your own country...” Now hear his reason, “for the LORD has refused to let me go with you.” He has just left the door open for temptation and confusion. He should have told them that these people are blessed of God and they need to abandon their efforts to curse them and he would have nothing to do with it. Instead, he sounds like a disappointed teenager who wants to go somewhere with his friends but Dad and Mom won’t let him—the LORD has refused to let me go with you.

Now, if we can't obey God with joy in our heart, then we are asking for trouble. If our response is, “I'd really like to go, but the Lord won't let me,” we need to see how wicked that is, and realize that we are opening ourselves up for all sorts of attack. If the devil knows we are convinced that God is the wisest, and that we know it's best to follow His counsel, then he doesn't have a point of attack. But if he knows we lack conviction, then all he's got to do is get us to believe that our opinions are better, smarter, or more pleasing than God's principles. There's a big difference between just obeying God on the outside, and obeying from a thankful, joyful, agreeable heart, that loves God.

When Balak hears Balaam’s answer he does not hear an unequivocal “no.” He hears “I want to, but God won’t let me.” So Balak sends a greater temptation: more numerous and more distinguished princes and a big incentive payment for coming.

At first, Balaam seems to make a good stand. However, he makes his next mistake when he asks Balak’s delegation to stay while he seeks guidance from the LORD. At this point, he does not need to seek guidance from the LORD! He already has God’s guidance! All he needs to do is obey it, but Balaam replies, “I will find out what else the LORD will tell me.”

Balaam should have commanded, “Go away! Get thee behind me! Scram! I won't do this, and I don't even want to be tempted with a large gift!”

James 4:7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Instead, Balaam is essentially saying to these guys, “Hang out here and let me go talk to God. Maybe God will change His mind by the morning.” Now we are getting indications that Balaam’s prayers for guidance may have become more of an effort to persuade God to see it his way than to simply hear and obey. What is motivating this man? Is his one motivation to do the will of the Father? No, if that were the case he would simply do it.

Peter comments on this issue of motivation in 2 Peter 2:15-16They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey-a beast without speech-who spoke with a man’s voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.”

The way of Balaam—he loved the wages of wickedness. The wages of sin is death, but we don’t think about that, do we? Neither did Balaam. He wanted the money. Balaam wanted God to say something that would earn him a big reward. When God said something different, then he just kept coming back hoping to get the answer he wanted. He kept “praying about it.”

How many people have disobeyed God by “praying about it”, saying, “Well, I really have a burden for this,” or “I really feel led to do that?” Many people say, “Well, I've really prayed about it...” but what did God tell them? Praying about something is not spiritual. Mormons pray. Muslims pray. Buddhists pray. Hearing from God and doing what God says is spiritual. Don't ever say, “Well, I'm going to do this, because I've really prayed about it,” unless you can finish the statement: “I prayed about it, and God has answered me. He told me I'm supposed to do this.” It doesn't impress God that we prayed about it, because the most selfish prayer is a one-way prayer. It's like picking up the phone, dialing a number, and asking to do something - then hanging up before the person can reply.

This is why Jesus taught us to pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done...” We should pray with an attitude that is submitted to the will of the Father. But that’s not Balaam’s attitude. He has prayed and prayed until he got what he wanted. He wants to go with these guys and God lets him. Now what has he done to himself. He has put himself in the arena of temptation. Had he just obeyed God from the beginning, he could have avoided the temptations that Balak is going to throw at him.

When we are insisting on having our own way, sometimes God corrects us by letting us have what we’ve demanded and suffering the consequences. While in the wilderness, Israel complained about the manna God was miraculously providing for them. Listen to what God says to them in Numbers 11:18-20 "Tell the people: 'Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The LORD heard you when you wailed, "If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!" Now the LORD will give you meat, and you will eat it. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month--until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it--because you have rejected the LORD, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, "Why did we ever leave Egypt?" ' "

What is it about our nature that leans in this direction—wanting to have what we cannot have? “The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence” they say. This is a big trap when it comes to hearing God.

If we are insisting on the desires of our flesh—coveting things God is not giving us—thinking that by praying long enough and hard enough we can persuade God to see it our way—if that is what’s going on in our heart, we are going to have all kinds of problems hearing God. Why?—because even when He does speak to us, we not satisfied with that. We are only satisfied when He tells us what we want to hear.

Here is Balaam proceeding with what he has determined to be God’s will for the situation. No doubt he is excited about the guidance he has gotten from God. He wants to go to Balak and God has said that he could. He has prayed and gotten an answer from God—finally, the one he wanted to hear. He is up the next morning and on his way. But then his reliable donkey gives all kind of trouble. He gets so mad he beats the donkey and has a very strange conversation with the beast. Finally, Balaam’s eyes are opened and he sees what the donkey has been seeing—the angel of the LORD obstructing his path. “Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, "I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back."

Now, when I first read Balaam's statement here, my impression was that he had a pretty good attitude. It showed that he was willing to turn back. But it's actually a wicked answer. Why did he say, “If it is displeasing to you”?! What more evidence do you need, Balaam? Your donkey is talking to you, and you've got the angel of the Lord Himself standing before you, ready to stop you by killing you with a sword, telling you that your way is reckless, and you're saying, “If you are displeased, I will turn back”!

He should have said, “God, forgive me! I've sinned. I'm repenting. You told me not to go, and I'm turning back right now.” But he doesn't say these things nor repent. He doesn’t want God’s will. He still wants to go and God lets him have what he wants.

What blinded Balaam to the will of God when it seemed so obvious? What part of “No” did he not understand? His own carnal desires—his pursuit of his own will—caused him to not be able to clearly discern God’s will. Balaam says lots of fine, religious things. He is even used by God to speak blessings on Israel and prophesy her future in chapters 23 and 24. By the end of chapter 24, we might think Balaam came out alright after all. But that is not the end of the story. Chapter 25 tells how Israel was seduced into sexual immorality and idolatry which did bring a curse upon them.

There it is, folks. Balaam would not curse Israel, but he offered Balak a little friendly advice: “If you want to know how to curse them, send your hookers, send your daughters, send your loose women down there to entice them and tempt them and intermarry with them. Then invite them over to your religious services, to your gods, and you'll steal their hearts away from their God.” Balaam in effect said, “I can't curse them because God won't let me. But sin will curse them.”

Balak followed Balaam’s advice and as a result, a plague broke out that killed 24,000 Israelites. How do we know Balaam was responsible for this? Jesus made reference to it in Rev 2:14Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality.”

Balaam got what he wanted after all. He used his spiritual knowledge in a diabolical way. Only one thing could bring judgment on Israel—sin. Even though Balaam could not get his money by speaking a curse on Israel, he could get it by showing Balak how to lead them into sin, which would bring a curse upon them.

Here is an extremely spiritual man who prophesies of the coming Messiah and says wonderful things by the Spirit in his oracles—yet he misses the will of God for his life. At times he seems to be repentant, but the repentance proves to be superficial, and he reverts back to pursuing his own lust.

The error of Balaam was twofold: He used the gift and calling of God for his own selfish gain, and he asked God a second time after God had already said “No” the first time. Balaam did his best to find a way around being obedient to God. He spoke God's words, but he didn't have God's heart.

That is the key ingredient, Brothers and Sisters. If we don't share God's heart, we might think we are doing what He wants us to do, but we will only be going through outward motions of obedience. We might read our Bible, say our prayers, keep the rules, and preach to others, yet in our heart be a wicked servant. We must know His heart and His attitudes, share His hatred toward sin, and His love for souls.

Are you willing to hear and obey any answer God may give you? How do we deal the “Balaam” attitude—getting what we want from God—in our lives?

The best example is Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. There He is facing the unthinkable—bearing the sins of the world. How does He deal with the struggle?

Matt 26:39 “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’”

It is alright to petition God (“if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me”). But our petitions must always be tempered with an absolute commitment to the will of the Father (“Yet not as I will, but as you will.”) There is a time to be persistent in prayer. But that persistence is for accomplishing the known will of God, not in somehow getting our own way in prayer.

If you’re having trouble hearing God—if there’s confusion about what the will of God is for a matter—take time to deal with the motives of your own heart. We need the help of the Holy Spirit in doing that. Fortunately, He has come as the Divine Helper and He will help us if we ask.

Phil 2:13 “It is God who works in you both to will and do His good pleasure.”

If you’re not sure that you’re willing to do God’s will, then just be honest about that, and ask God to make you willing. Ask Him to change your heart so that His will becomes your will.

Ps 25:9 “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.”

Hear God’s voice this morning. If you have never surrendered your life to Christ—He is calling you to do that. He opens His arms and calls you to come to Him today. Confess your sins and believe Jesus died for those sins to save you. Repent and give Him your life in baptism. He will give you His life, the Holy Spirit, who is the voice of God convicting you, calling you, and He will lead you and comfort you all the days of your life.