On Tuesday I wrote about Frisbees. Flying that flat disc across the lawn is tough. If you throw it too hard, it flies off to the right. If you throw it too light, it falls short off to the left. It takes a nice balance between lift and drag to make the Frisbee fly flat and straight.
If we want to live our lives in pursuit of God, there has to be a balance between lift and drag there too. We can’t push too hard – thinking it’s all up to us – or we could overshoot the goal. But it we don’t push hard enough – thinking it’s all up to God – then we’ll surely come up short. It takes that nice balance. Oh, and you have to keep spinning, too.
Now, on Tuesday we didn’t solve the debate between God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom, but I hope I gave you some things to think about. Today, I want to give you an explanation and an example of what I’m talking about.
I’ve heard people say that God is in control of everything all the time. In fact, he’s even decided when we’re going to die! “God has numbered our days,” they say. “It’s in the Bible…somewhere.” Well, the Bible does say something like that, but I’m not sure it says what we think it says. Let’s take a look:
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
Okay, that sounds legit. There’s a book somewhere and God wrote down exactly how many days you would live. At the end of that time – like a kitchen timer going off – Bam! End of the line, you’re dead. But this Psalm is really talking about how God made us – in his perfect knowledge and wisdom. The poet comes up with this great line, “we are fearfully and wonderfully made.” In that act of personal creation, God put us together in just the right way to make us a masterpiece worthy of framing.
That’s a beautiful thought. But the point isn’t so much that God has planned out our future, as it is that he knows so much about us – he even knows how long we’ll live!
Take a look at a couple of other Psalms that talk about this same idea.
Show me, Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Here the poet is asking God for help in numbering our own days. We actually play a role in figuring that out, deciding how long we’re going to live, and comparing that realization to how great big God is!
An all-knowing God would know exactly how long we’ll live. But, knowing beforehand isn’t the same as deciding beforehand. We still play a part in that whole thing. Just like the lift and drag of day-to-day decisions.
Take a look at another verse, this time a Proverb.
In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the Lord establishes their steps.
At first, this looks like there’s no balance – it’s all up to God. Sure, we can make plans in our own hearts. But God has the last say! HE is the one that establishes our steps. But I’ve got a bone to pick with the translators. Hear me out on this for a second.
The word for “but” is a little bitty Hebrew letter “v”. Most of the time, that little letter is translated “and.” Sure, there are times when a more subtle translation is called for. But let’s go ahead and put “and” back in that verse. Then let’s see what it says.
In their hearts humans plan their course,
and the Lord establishes their steps.
Okay. Go with me on this. Let’s say this is the way the original Proverber meant this little saying. We plan our course – through prayer, through wisdom, through counsel – and because we’ve put so much care into it, God establishes our steps. That makes sense to me. Lift and drag. Perfect balance. Frisbees flying nice and flat and straight.
This means that God actually honors and rewards us for being diligent about planning out our days. I kind of like that. Now, if you go with the preferred translation, the “but”, does the opposite of that make sense? Would God honor and reward someone for not making plans? Would God honor and reward someone for being lazy when it came to decision making? Would God go out of his way to establish the steps of someone just coasting through life, and then frustrate the work of those who make to-do lists, plan ahead, map out strategies in case of disaster?
I think not.
So, there you go. That’s me tackling millennia old Bible translations to prove a point.
And what’s that point? Too often I think we sit back and think God’s got it all under control so we better not do anything to mess up his plans. Other times we feel the weight of every decision and let anxiety rule the day. It’s not a “but,” it’s an “and.” We plan out our days AND God establishes our steps.
Well, I kept rambling and didn’t get around to an example. Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you a story from one year ago about how I pushed hard enough and then watched God do some really amazing things.