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Saturday, October 13, 2012

When Plans Become Idols

The Lord continues to show me the areas of my life where I require formulas for security. These formulas become idols because I'm depending upon the formula rather than in abiding in Jesus and walking in obedience moment by moment as the Spirit leads. Jesus tells us in John 15:7:
"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me" (NASB).

Some time ago as I questioned God about a rocky and hurtful relationship, I was reading a book which seemed to inspire my thinking on how to respond to my friend. I took copious notes. I underlined passages that fit in with my plan. I envisioned the conversation I would have with her. I knew God's will and it included lots of boundaries and little grace. She must follow my guidelines in order to have a friendship with me.

Then, as if my eyes were opened, I saw the formula and how my formula would protect me from hurt, uncertainty, and confusion. It didn't require me to be open to Spirit-led responses in the moment, because I would have everything mapped out. It didn't require me to walk moment by moment in the Spirit's power because I would store up my ammunition and have the bullets already loaded in my spiritual gun. And there were no blanks allowed. 

There was nothing wrong with the book I was reading. The problem was my spiritual vision which processed an interpretation based upon my fearful heart. I will protect me and this is how. Protection was the filtering gauze through which I saw the friendship

Until the Holy Spirit tugged at my shoulder and God tore the gauze in two, prompting, "What would it be like to trust Me moment by moment as you interact with your friend, whom I love?"

Ah, formulas. They feed sin.

Francis Chan writes, "It is easy to use the phrase 'God's will for my life' as an excuse for inaction or even disobedience. It's much less demanding to think about God's will for your future than it is to ask Him what He wants you to do in the next ten minutes. It's safer to commit to following Him someday instead of this day.

"To be honest, I believe part of the desire to 'know God's will for my life' is birthed in fear and results in paralysis. We are scared to make mistakes, so we fret over figuring out God's will. We wonder what living according to His will would actually look and feel like, and we are scared to find out. We forget that we were never promised a twenty-year plan of action; instead God promises multiple times in Scripture never to leave or forsake us.

"God wants us to listen to His Spirit on a daily basis, and even throughout the day, as difficult and stretching moments arise, and in the midst of the mundane. My hope is that instead of searching for 'God's will for my life,' each of us would learn to seek hard after 'the Spirit's leading in my life today.'" (Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, David C. Cook, 2011).    

Pastor Chan goes on to clarify that God does have purposes and plans for each of us and He does want us to seek Him to know them. But God didn't give Abraham a map, He just said "Leave now and I'll show you where to go.

I do want to clarify that there are times when God directs us to set boundaries, to make plans, to have a mission statement, to have goals, and a variety of other things like that. But let's be open to whether that is truly God's leading or a self-protective sinful strategy.  

Because living moment by moment is scary. Formulas are safe
Living moment by moment is confusing. Formulas are clear.
Living moment by moment is ______________. Formulas are _____________. 
What words would you put in there? Would you be brave enough to share them in the comment section?

Which do you depend upon the most? 

Let's confess those idols of formulas and seek moment by moment dependence upon God. I have a feeling it'll be an exciting and adventurous ride.  

(Photo found at http://www.levimage.com/image/hspw/OpenBook.jpg)


  1. I say, "I trust you, God" but then I too often have a P.S., which can be a list of conditions, wishes, do's and don'ts. It is so hard sometimes to just let God work through me.
    So for me, living moment by moment is HARD. Formulas are OFTEN FALSE INSTRUCTION.
    Thank you for the insightful blog.

  2. Thank you Karen for sharing. Ah, yes, "hard" and "often false instruction." Great insight of yours too!

  3. This message touched a chord today, kathy. I have just left my job to pursue writing and speaking "full-time"...never finished my last week at the job because I broke my foot. So, I think the Lord is slowing me down to consider some of these things...and His path; where should I go next?

    He has my attention and I want to listen--yet I fall into the planning thing again.

    It's a day by day struggle and a day by day relationship. So for me, living moment by moment is a CHALLENGE. Formulas are PREDICTABLE.


    Jeanne Doyon

  4. Moment by moment is Trusting. Formulas are Betrayal Proof. I see by not opening myself to friendship and that means leaving myself availible to be possibly hurt, I am taking charge to fool proof myself, for those bullets that hit so hard when it's coming from someone you love and don't expect it from. But I'm not perfect, I am sure I must hurt others including friends, too, and I would hopr to be forgiven and loved in return. OUCH! Open my eyes Lord So I may see people with YOUR eyes, not mine. Thank you Kathy this was spot on.

    Respectfully, Shellie

  5. Here is a twist: Living moment by moment can be exciting and adventurous, living by formulas boring and predictable.

  6. Wow! Thank you everyone for such wonderful sharing and insights into the difference between living moment by moment and formulas. Love your thoughts. Thank you so much!

  7. Thank you Kathy for this relevant meditation. Ours is a walk of faith, communing with God moment by moment. I appreciate your insight. Blessings to you.

  8. There is a difference between following a 'formula' and setting boundaries for the friendships/relationships in one's life. I have ended friendships because they crossed a line; a boundary I set in place; to keep my focus on the LORD, not my own gain. My own guidelines revolve around His will, not mine. I never thought of using the word 'formula'; it had not occurred to me. Warrants some thinking...