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God Is Not Your Personal GPS

As a teenager and in my early twenties, I absolutely loved contemporary Christian music and rarely listened to any secular songs. In fact, I owed a lot of my spiritual maturity as a teen to many CCM groups and their youth-oriented ministry. The older I got, however, the more I realized that not every song that climbed the charts on Christian radio had biblical lyrics.

Now, I’m not the type to judge an artist’s walk with God based on one or two lines in their songs, but I am a lot more wary about what I allow to influence my relationship with the Lord. What I’m about to share is not an indictment on anyone’s personal salvation, but merely an observation.

In 2012, tobyMac released his Grammy-award winning album, Eye On It. The title track of the album contains the following lyrics:


“I’ve got a new passenger to help me navigate the way

So when my heart hits the floor I can re-calibrate…”

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Chris Stevens / Mike Woods / Toby McKeehan
Eye On It lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

The “new passenger” here is undoubtedly a reference to God. I was about 20 at the time this song came out, and no longer a naive teen who would accept anything “spiritual” at face value. I knew there was something off about this line, because God isn’t the passenger along for a ride in my car – He’s the driver. I don’t tell God where to go, He tells me where to go. I ignored this errant verse and continued to listen to the song anyway.

Nearly eight years later, I have to disagree not just with Toby, but even my own “correction” to his lyrics. God, and His Word, aren’t merely GPS systems that tell me where to go at every road’s bend.

The very last words Jesus spoke to His disciples are recorded in Acts 1: 7 – 8. His words were in response to the disciples’ question about when He would return.

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1: 7 -8 (HCSB)

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.

There are three takeaways in Jesus’ message.

  1. It is not for us to know God’s plans (such as the timing).
  2. We will receive power when the Spirit comes upon us.
  3. We will be His witnesses throughout the Earth.

When most of us read the Great Commission, we tend to focus on #2 and #3, and rarely on #1. The Great Commission was essentially Jesus’ response to His disciples’ question about when God will establish and accomplish His plans – a question that most of us ask Him everyday. The difference is that our questions are often more worldly in nature.

How many of us have agonized over which job offer to take, or which man to marry? When will these things happen? Are we destined to be unemployed or forever single? We express frustration and live under stress because we can’t seem to grasp why God doesn’t work within the confines of our schedules according to our carefully crafted schemes. The reality is that Jesus wants us to live by the Spirit and walk by faith, not agonize over why we don’t know the things we aren’t meant to.

This failure to comply with the Lord’s desires go back to the garden. When the serpent tried to convince Eve to eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he was unsuccessful until he told Eve that consuming it would reveal the mysteries of God.

“No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. – Genesis 3: 4 – 7 (HCSB)

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.

The first sin that led to the fall of the human race is about so much more than turning a deaf ear to an explicit stipulation. Our original parents sought what was outside of their jurisdiction – an authority that belonged to God alone. But what is so wrong about wanting to be like God? Isn’t that the goal of the Christian life (1 Peter 2:21)? Yes, but Eve didn’t desire God’s holiness and righteousness. She wanted to know the things that separated God from mortal men.

Desiring wisdom isn’t sin (James 1:5, Proverbs 8: 11 -12, Proverbs 3:13), but Eve didn’t want wisdom to grow closer to God. There is a difference between wanting God and wanting to be God. To demand to know the inner working of God’s mind is to be at war with His sovereignty and omnipotence. God doesn’t leave us completely in the dark – He gave us His Word, and His Spirit. Dissatisfaction with either should call into question one’s dedication to the Lord.

What got me thinking about all this was an observation made by Warren Wiersbe regarding Noah’s ark in his Genesis commentary BE Basic. Wiersbe notes that Noah’s ark was not a vehicle designed for transportation, but was rather more like a lifeboat. When the rains came down and threatened the lives of Noah and his family, God instructed them not by providing a map, but instructions for shelter.

“This vessel was designed for flotation, not navigation. It was a huge wooden box that could float on the water and keep the contents safe and dry.”

God didn’t remove His people from the flood, nor did He take the flood away for their sake. God gave Noah and his clan tangible protection, but not overt guidance, even in the midst of an unprecedented storm. Why do we assume that things are different now when we have what Noah didn’t – written Scripture and the indwelling of the Spirit?

Viewing the Bible as a road map is unwise on so many levels. For one, there are plenty of things in the Bible that we should not emulate such as plunder, violence, rape and murder. Secondly, there are many issues that the Bible does not directly address. If you are torn between two majors, or wondering when the right time to settle down to have a child is, poring over Scriptures will not yield a specific answer to your problem. This is not to diminish the authority or veracity of God’s Word. Far be it! Rather, we need to rethink what it means to “hear from God.”

The problem with the 21st century Christian is His desire to be led by the flesh and live as the world lives rather than pursuing the will of God. The modern Christian wants God to assuage his fears about his career, marriage and perhaps even ministry when none of these things are directly linked to being a Christian (remember, Judas did ministry alongside Jesus). Many are under the mistaken impression that being family-oriented and voting for a conservative political party makes us right with God, when Jesus says otherwise. There are two defining characteristics of a Christian – the two greatest commandments as stated by Jesus:

37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” – Matthew 22: 37 – 40 (HCSB)

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.

I think the problem that plagues a lot of believers, even mature ones, is the false conflation of doing God’s will with the unfolding of the specific trajectory of our lives. His will is outlined above, and this is all the direction we need to live the Christian life. As a guide, the Holy Spirit was sent to prompt and lead us. Nevertheless, many of us worry about the specific decisions we make and whether our resolve could ever land ourselves outside of God’s intended paths for us. As His Word says:

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.” – Proverbs 16: 9 (HCSB)

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.

I once heard a comparison made between the confused Christian’s indecisiveness and the classic game show Let’s Make A Deal. Some believers act as if once they reach a confounding fork in the road, where neither option is clearly more godly than the other, that they’ve reached the ‘Big Deal’ of life (also known as the Monty Hall problem). In this part of the show, the contestant is presented with three doors, behind one of which is the grand prize of the day (usually an automobile). The other two doors are lesser rewards, or even booby prizes. The path to elation or disappointment all hangs on the contestant’s choice.

The Famous “Monty Hall Problem”
Source: Medium

We sometimes behave as if our lives operate in the same fashion. Is God’s will behind door 1, 2, or 3, and what will happen if I choose incorrectly? The reality is that God’s will for our lives cannot be overturned by our well-intended choices. What does Scripture say?

“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8: 28 (HCSB)

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.

As a believer who tries to love the Lord and others wholeheartedly, who makes every decision with prayerful consideration, I know that He is always working things together for my good. Even my willful disobedience cannot deter God’s sovereign plans. At the end of the day, no matter which door I open, I will always be where He wants me to be because I am His child. A.W Tozer explains it best:

“Perhaps a homely illustration might help us to understand. An ocean liner leaves New York bound for Liverpool. Its destination has been determined by proper authorities. Nothing can change it. This is at least a faint picture of sovereignty.

On board the liner are several scores of passengers. These are not in chains, neither are their activities determined for them by decree. They are completely free to move about as they will. They eat, sleep, play, lounge about on the deck, read, talk, altogether as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onward toward a predetermined port.”

Tozer, A W. The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life. Harrisburg, Pa: Christian Publications, 1961

We are all on different paths, but serve the same God. We worship in different sanctuaries, pursue different vocations. Some of us marry and have children, and some remain unattached forever. Many drink alcohol, and others don’t. A middle class Christian in the west struggling to make car payments would be viewed as living in the lap of luxury by believers in other parts of the world. What is right and wrong isn’t always black or white. Each believer may have a differing opinion on the same issue, so asking others for advice on confusing matters may aggravate frustration rather than defuse it. Regardless, we are all on God’s ocean liner and He knows its destination.

Sometimes, it may seem difficult to comprehend how what seems so obviously bad could ever be for our benefit. There seems to be a never-ending pursuit by the church to ascertain why God would allow His children to be bombarded with so many hardships. The answer isn’t easy, but He addresses this issue directly:

 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,

and your ways are not My ways.”

This is the Lord’s declaration.

 “For as heaven is higher than earth,

so My ways are higher than your ways,

and My thoughts than your thoughts.

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.

I don’t need a burning bush, vivid dream or prophecy to tell me which way to go. I may not always understand it, but if I truly believe that God is all knowing and all powerful, then I should be able to accept that His wisdom is beyond my comprehension. To reduce God to my personal GPS would be an affront to the plenitude of mercies He has credited me so far. The Lord doesn’t ask me to know where each of my steps are headed, because only He is privy to that.

Our Western lifestyle places insurmountable demands on us, and we often hurt ourselves trying to pursue the things we feel that we are supposed to. Jesus asks us to love Him and others – that’s it. He offers to do the rest:

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. – Matthew 11: 28 – 29 (HCSB)

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.

The One who asks for your love also asks for your problems and worries. God wants us to empty our hands of our burdens and to fill our hearts with His Spirit. You can pray for hours and still not know what path to choose, but just know that He is with you wherever you go. Instead of asking God, “When?” and “Why?”, focus on the power of His Spirit, and sharing the gospel.

So, don’t stress over where your ark is headed – just be grateful that it floats.

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