Wouldn’t it be nice to know in advance what was going to happen in the future? Think about how easy it would be to make decisions in your personal life if you knew exactly what the future held for you. Think about what it would be like in sports if you knew your opponent’s next play in advance. Think about how different life would be if you really knew what was going to happen next week, next month or next year. While we can all agree that things would certainly be different, that doesn’t necessarily mean that things would really be better.
There seems to be no shortage of people who claim to be able to tell you what the future holds for you. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that such people often take advantage of those who are broke, lonely or grasping for some sort of hope that things will eventually get better.
Despite the claims of those who say that they are able to “foretell the future,” the fact is that the Bible warns us that such people are really doing no such thing at all. For example, Jeremiah 10:2 frankly tells us, “Don’t act like the people who make horoscopes and try to read their fate and future in the stars! Don’t be frightened by predictions such as theirs, for it is all a pack of lies. Their ways are futile and foolish…”
The truth is that God is only one who can foretell the future with 100% accuracy. In fact, God knows the future so well that He “…speaks of future events with as much certainty as though they were already past” (Romans 4:17). So why doesn’t God just tell each of us what’s going to happen so no one would ever have to worry or make a bad decision? Well, to answer that question, let’s look at the example of a man who was told by God to do something that didn’t seem to make much sense at first…
“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road– the desert road– that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza'” (Acts 8:26 NIV).
Philip was one of the seven guys who had the responsibility of helping out the less fortunate in the early church (see Acts 6:1-6 for the whole story). Now notice that Philip was given some specific directions: “Go south to the road– the desert road– that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” Notice that the instructions are very clear but Philip has no idea why he is going.
Gaza was the last town that a traveler would pass through when traveling from Jerusalem on the way to Egypt. Beyond Gaza was just a whole lot of wilderness. Given this bit of information, it’s easy to imagine that Philip may have thought, “It doesn’t make sense for me to leave an important job just to go out on some desert road. Besides, where am I going to?” At this point, it would have been really easy for Philip to say, “this just doesn’t make sense” and go back to doing the job that he was doing before.
Philip’s experience illustrates an important spiritual truth for us today. You see, people often seem to want God to provide them with every detail of His plan for their lives in advance, don’t they? So many of us want God to tell us exactly where we’ll go to school, who we’ll marry, where we’ll live and other important details of our lives before they happen. After all, if we knew God’s plan for our lives in advance then everything would really be much easier, wouldn’t it? All we’d have to do is sit back and wait for things to happen and then just follow the plan, right?
Well, that might be easier but it wouldn’t necessarily be better. You see, if we knew God’s entire plan for our lives in advance then there would be no need to have faith in God or put our trust in Him, would there? There would never be a need to ask Him for help, guidance or direction. Actually, there would really be little need for any contact with God at all when you think about it- we would simply live out a pre-programmed existence while waiting to check off the next item on God’s plan for our lives.
This would never work out because God’s foremost desire is to have an active, loving relationship with each of us (see Matthew 22:37-38). And besides, no one can ever be truly pleasing to God without faith (see Hebrews 11:6). This is why there may be times in our own lives when God will not spell out His plan for us in advance. God will impress on us something that He wants done but instead of giving us the whole plan at once, He’ll give it to us one step at a time.
We can find a good example of this by looking at the Old Testament experience of a man named Abraham. In Genesis 12:1 God said to him, “Leave your own country behind you, and your own people, and go to the land I will guide you to.” Once Abraham completed step one (leaving his country), God came through with step two and led him to the place where he needed to go.
Because of this, Abraham is honored today as a man who was faithful to God. In fact, Hebrews 11:8 says of him, “Abraham trusted God, and when God told him to leave home and go far away to another land that he promised to give him, Abraham obeyed. Away he went, not even knowing where he was going.” There would be no way for us to have this kind of faith if God told us His entire plan for us in advance.
So getting back to our story, we find that it was only after Philip got started on doing what God told him that God’s plan started to become clear. Here’s what happened next…
“So he did, and who should be coming down the road but the Treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen. He had gone to Jerusalem to worship and was now returning in his chariot, reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah.
The Holy Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over and walk along beside the chariot.’ Philip ran over and heard what he was reading and asked, ‘Do you understand it?’ ‘Of course not!’ the man replied. ‘How can I when there is no one to instruct me?’ And he begged Philip to come up into the chariot and sit with him” (Acts 8:27-31).
So Philip sets out and just happens to meet up with a high-ranking official from the Ethiopian government who just happens to be reading his Bible! Coincidence? No way- now the reason for Philip being there is starting to become clear. Philip may not have known why God led him to this desert road at first but he certainly does now.
You see, Philip was God’s agent for that particular situation and we’re later told that he took this opportunity -starting with the very passage of Scripture that the Ethiopian official was reading- to communicate the truth about Jesus the Messiah. God didn’t give Philip the whole plan up front but the whole plan became clear after he took the first step.
So the moral of the story is this: if you’re doing what God wants you to do right now then you can count on Him to make the next step clear for you when the time is right. And if you’re not doing what God wants you to do, then the time to start is now. Once you do that, you’ll begin to see for yourself how satisfying and fulfilling your life can be when you are where God wants you to be and doing what God wants you to do.