You can be a believer and forget God in your daily life. It is possible to love him but leave him out of the picture when it comes to planning your career or running your business or pursuing your goals. When you do that, in effect, you become a practical atheist. Rather, a first principle for you ought to be, “is this the Lord’s will?” Learn to ask that early and often—then wait until you have a solid answer.
Going Deep // Focus: 1 Kings 22:1-5
For three years there was no war between Aram and Israel. Then during the third year, King Jehoshaphat of Judah went to visit King Ahab of Israel. During the visit, the king of Israel said to his officials, “Do you realize that the town of Ramoth-gilead belongs to us? And yet we’ve done nothing to recapture it from the king of Aram!” Then he turned to Jehoshaphat and asked, “Will you join me in battle to recover Ramoth-gilead?” Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, “Why, of course! You and I are as one. My troops are your troops, and my horses are your horses.” Then Jehoshaphat added, “But first let’s find out what the Lord says.”
Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah was a very good and godly king. Ahab, the king of Israel, was a very awful and evil king—the most immoral in Israel’s history. The king of Judah had no business entering into an alliance with the King of Israel—even a politically expedient one.
Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. (2 Corinthians 6:114-16)
Jehoshaphat agreed to help Ahab militarily in a land dispute with Israel’s archenemy, Aram. Without thinking it through, without counting the cost, without looking at the motives behind Ahab’s request, without asking God first, Jehoshaphat agreed to go to war alongside an evil monarch that God had publically and roundly condemned—and it almost cost him his life.
A good and godly king made a foolish and deadly error. In fact, it is quite likely that not only was he a fool, he was a tool—Ahab was using Jehoshaphat to do his dirty work for him. How do I get that? Look at Ahab’s suggestion with how they should approach the battle: Hey, Jehoshaphat, while don’t you go out in kingly robes, ride in the golden chariot, lead the charge and take credit for the victory. I’ll sacrifice the moment, go in disguise, and hold off while you score the touchdown. I’ll back you up, man—like I’ll be way in the back.” Of course, that is my paraphrase, but read the text for yourself. That is essential what King Ahab said to the momentarily clueless King Jehoshaphat in 1 kings 22:29-33)
Jehoshaphat should have smelled a rat right away. But for whatever reason, his discernment was down and he got lured into Ahab’s scheme. Ahab buttered him up for help, and Jehoshaphat said, sure, “let’s do it.” It was only after he committed to it that he said, “by the way, shouldn’t we asked the Lord?” And when Ahab reluctantly brought in a true prophet of Yahweh, who again predicted divine judgment against the evil king, Jehoshaphat still didn’t catch on.
“Ready, fire, aim.” That was what King Jehoshaphat was guilty of, spiritually speaking. We are often guilty of that too, and that ought not to be—not ever. The first and continual response of our lives to the opportunities and challenges we face in life must be, “what does God think of this? What is the Lord’s will?” The second response ought to be to wait, until a clear indication comes. Third, when we understand the will of the Lord, then and only then should we pursue a course of action—an agreement, an open door, a partnership—with urgency and passion.
In the New Testament, James, the brother of our Lord, said it this way, “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:16) He is saying that one of the big mistakes we can make in life is to do our planning without God. He describes this kind of person in verse 13: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’” Did you notice there is not a single mention of God in this person’s planning? This guy knew what he wanted and how to get there, but he didn’t bother to check it out with God first.
That’s a pretty common sin. You can be a believer and forget God in your daily life. It is possible to love him but leave him out of the picture when it comes to planning your career or running your business or pursuing your goals. And when you do that, in effect, you become a practical atheist.
Rather, James insists, “you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:15) What a practical and powerful approach to living: put everything through the “if” filter:: “If” it is the Lord’s will.
These early Christians in James’ day began to order their lives by seeking the Lord’s will first. They came up with a Latin watchword to remind each other of the importance of actively putting all of life into God’s hand—of asking God first. It was Deo Volente, which meant, “if God wills.” In fact, in many periods of history, the believers would end their letters with “D.V.”, short for Deo Volente. Then they would respond to, “If God wills” with another phrase, “Carpe Diem,” which translated is, “seize the day.”
What a great way to live: “If the Lord wills, I will seize the day!” In hindsight, my guess is Jehoshaphat wishes he would have followed that principle of first order.