‘Good ideas’ vs. the Holy Spirit’s leading

I have been learning in recent years the difference between a “good idea” and the Holy Spirit’s leading.  Sometimes we come up with something to do for ministry or otherwise that just sounds really good, or involves a perceived benefit that is consistent with scriptural principles.  But when we seek the Lord intently, His still small voice suggests a different direction.  The experience is often so surprising, that we need to pray again, and ask others with spiritual discernment to confirm it.  I have had two such experiences lately.

First, I was asked during this last school year to consider being a candidate for a spot on the board of directors of a national organization I belong to.  I was certainly honored by the invitation.  It would involve being flown to a couple meetings during the year, put up in a hotel, etc.  Moderate commitment, high honor.  Sounded like a great idea.  But as I went to the Lord in prayer, the Holy Spirit said that this opportunity would be a distraction for me, a fork in the road away from my calling.  So I politely declined, but that was hard.  I really wanted the honor and influence.

Second, this summer I had this great idea about leading a small group of former students and others in our circle of relationships.  In conjunction with the group, I was going to create a resource (small book) that would help those seeking God to understand what true relationship with God looks like.  The group was going to be awesome, with times of intimate worship, praying for each other, and sharing our hearts.  But when I went to the Lord more purposefully, He redirected me.  He gave me two specific things to be about this summer.  Neither one was to run this group.  Or write that book.

What if I had done either or both of these things?  Would the Lord have blessed them?  I don’t know.  God is constantly taking our Plan B’s and turning them back into Plan A’s, so he is gracious and merciful.  He works with us where we actually are, not where we should be in an ideal world.  So I personally believe he would have blessed both of these ventures, but to a limited extent.  In other words, I believe there would have been some fruit (good results) that would have come from both of these things.  But in the end, I believe they would have been a bit empty, leaving me wondering why God didn’t do more.  I think this is where many in ministry are at (including me): ‘why doesn’t God do more?’  I’m sure there are lots of answers to that question, but one answer may be that we are pursuing ‘good ideas’ rather than the H0ly Spirit’s leading.

In 2 Samuel chapter 7, David has a period of peace and rest, and wonders why he lives in a nice palace while the Ark of the Covenant and God’s presence among the people resides in a tent (the Tabernacle).  He wants to build a beautiful temple for the Lord.  Even the Lord’s prophet Nathan thought this to be a good idea, saying “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you.”  But that night, the Lord spoke to Nathan, and told him that it was to be David’s son, Solomon, who would build a temple for the Lord.  Interesting.  It sounded like such a good idea—so good that the “man after God’s own heart” and the Lord’s anointed prophet were about to go for it.  But for God’s own purposes, He had other ideas.  And this I know, God’s purposes always work out better than our own.  And I believe we would almost always choose them if we could see with His eyes.  But since we can’t, we must seek and trust.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

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