Orde Wingate, son of Colonel George Wingate, was a brilliant and unorthodox military leader during WWII. Orde was a somewhat independent and willful person, but he remained faithful to the fine traditions of family. One day a friend asked him, “Orde, when you say one man is good and another is bad, what exactly do you mean?” Orde replied, “Well I use these words in the Biblical sense. When I say one man is good, I mean he lives to fulfill the purposes of God. When I say another man is bad, I mean he lives to frustrate the purposes of God.”
In Psalms 78:41 the Psalmist is reflecting upon the conduct of the people of Israel at a particular point in Biblical history, “Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.” At this time the people of Israel seemed completely involved in the purposes of God and appeared to be an instrument in His hand. But when we read their story, it is marked by rebellion which was reflected by their continually getting in God’s way. The basis of it all lay in the weakness of their faith, and their inadequate understanding of God’s power and grace. This is evidenced at the very beginning of Israel’s journey, when they saw the Red Sea ahead of them and heard the chariots of the Egyptian army behind them. They cried to Moses, “It were better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in this wilderness.” They failed to realize how big God was as compared with their small, stumbling faith. Another evidence occurred just 6 weeks out of Egypt when their food was gone, they asked, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?” It was because of this attitude of the people of Israel that the Psalmist put down this unusual verdict, “They limited the Holy One of Israel.” They limited God!
The words of Orde Wingate and the Psalmist both describe two distinct types of persons whose natures are clearly defined by the fact that while one attempts to do the will of God, the other gets in God’s way. All this may be dismissed by some as a chapter of ancient history, but the principle involved is very much up-to-date. Even a quick glance at the way people are living today prove that they still limit God. They still get in His way and fence God in. Human interference in God’s divine plan is real. Humans interfere with God when they place limits on His love, His purposes, and His power. The most grievous evidence of limiting God is when we permit the size of our lives to determine the size of our God. God has a high purpose and intention for all of us as a nation, as a church, and as individuals. Should we then dare get in His way?
Ways we get in God’s way:
We get in God’s way when we limit the boundaries of His influence.
Lord Melbourne, Queen Victoria’s first prime minister, was heard murmuring one Sunday morning on his way out of Church, “Religion is all very well, but it is going a bit far when it claims to interfere with a person’s private life.” This is our most frequent and common way of limiting God. We are willing to let God have His way with us for one hour on Sunday morning, but all too often we cut Him off after the benediction. The rest of the week our philosophy is, “Business is business and Religion is religion, and never should the two meet. We limit God when we fail to see that religion is not merely worship, but worship that influences us in the way to mold and shape our daily life. What our world longs to see today is not a God who is confined within the walls of any one church, but a God who is active in the home, in the business world, and in the areas of education, and that because we have encountered His holy being in a meaningful act of worship in the church. The matter also goes deeper than this. We try to make this God we worship in church into one of our own pet patterns, and claim Him exclusively as our own. As soon as we think of the only true Christian as a Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Church of God, or other denomination, we get in God’s way and we create a situation the religious pioneers of our country had to fight against. We also create a situation by our minds and attitudes that our Lord Himself had to fight against. The Jews saw God as their personal God and tried to limit Him.
We get in God’s way when we refuse to give Him His chance with us.
In any poll concerning religious convictions, most Americans will say that they believe in God, but the quality and integrity of that belief is shown in the degree to which they permit God to exercise His presence in their lives. There are those who call on God quickly when in a crisis situation, but the rest of the time they prefer to run their life their own way. There are those who believe in God for what they can receive from Him. Like the children of Israel, they hold on to God when things are going well, but when their weak faith does not pay off, they shake their fist in God’s face. There are also those superficial Christians who acknowledge God’s everyday attributes; His love, power, and grace, but when they are facing life’s demands they worry and fret.
Now all these have one thing in common. They do not let God have a place or action in their lives. They get in God’s way either by their ego and pride, or whimpering complaints. This all points to a major flaw in the exercise of our religious belief today. God has become something to be possessed and used for personal advantage. In this thinking we fail to see that life consists not in our possessions but in our being possessed. We flaunt our high standard of living and say, “all belongs to us” but we don’t go further and ask the question, “To what do we belong?”
To allow God to have His chance with us involves openness of mind and heart. This begins when we seriously ask ourselves, “what claims my life? To what do I give the highest allegiance of my soul and will?” The Apostle Paul testifies, “I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me”, Galatians 2:20.
We get in God’s way when we limit the greatness of His love.
In the great crises and tragedies of life, like the children of Israel, we are all to ready to conclude that God’s love has run out; that He has ceased to care. But God is never the author of tragedy. He stands faithfully within each tragedy where He can uphold His own. God’s love is like any other love. It can always be measured by the amount it is ready to give. And God gave everything, because no one is beyond the scope of His love.
There is a recent song sung by Melissa Jo Elliot entitled Keep Me In Your Will. The best part of the lyrics say, “Lord keep me in your will, so I won’t be in your way”. If we are not going to get in God’s way, we must stay within His will for our lives. The song also says, “Put me where you want me, not where I want to be.” We need to pray that God will place us where He wants us, and we will not allow our pride and stubbornness to cause us to resist and take us where we would rather be.
Is your faith strong enough to keep you where God wants you? If it isn’t it will be easy to get in His way.
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