Cloud and Fire

Sitting in a coffee shop late on a Friday afternoon with my friend Russ, I’m tired from a manic work week. I’m tired from all the little decisions I had to make. I’m tired of jumping from thing to thing to thing. I’m tired of doing so many little things that lack purpose or direction. So it’s the perfect time to sit and glean wisdom from a man who glows with it. He has no radio in his car because he’s always talking to God, and the effects of the habit show. It’s simple. You talk with God. You become more like God.

This day I’m talking about things I’m learning in my life, ways I’m being challenged by peers and sermons. As I describe some new personal goal I’m acting on (because a close friend challenged me to it), Russ stops me and asks me, “Are you letting God in on this?” I stop and think for a second and tell him how I sensed it seemed right to do, but I never did really ask God how to proceed. Now, I am a very action-oriented person. I get advice that seems good and I just go for it: like a squirrel after a nut. This sounds good, but I think it gets me into trouble sometimes because I find myself going before God. I make decisions based on instinct rather than on deep thought and prayer.

Coming out of Egypt, the Israelites found themselves being hotly pursued by the Egyptian army, who were furious that their endless supply of slave labor was running away. God showed his omnipotent faithfulness in being their guide:

By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
Exodus 13:21-22

They were desperately dependent on God for their guidance, and He lit their way for them as they escaped. Yet we see not too far later on as things seem less urgent, that they lose their focus on God. They even go so far as to make a new god for themselves in a golden calf. This makes me think, is it going to take an army pursuing me to make me cling to God for guidance? It seems more natural to seek His will in bigger matters but am I doing it in the smaller ones too? Am I doing it when life is easier?

It took Russ calling me out on it to realize how little I actually do seek God’s direction. It seems safe to simply jump into action when you hear something from a sermon or a friend you trust. And for those of you that are thinkers, you may do a lot of your own analyzing. But do we actually have the patience and the silence of heart to wait for the still small voice of God?

When you’re not sure if you should take that job or change your college major or date that guy or girl, it seems more natural for you to go to God in prayer. Please continue to do so. But what about in your day to day life? Father, should I talk to this person about the gospel? Who should I talk to while waiting for the church service to start: that pretty girl or the new guy who just walked in and looks a little lost? God, what movie would you have us watch tonight? Is this bounce house a necessary investment in my family’s future?

Why don’t we let God in on more things? He’s a pretty wise guy. He’s right there and if you have accepted Jesus into your life to take control of it, you have the Holy Spirit in you. Jesus described the Holy Spirit as a “Helper” to be with us always, even better than the physical presence of Christ with us (John 16:7). However, it may not be easy for you to jump right in and start hearing from God all the time. It takes practice to hear from God, and if you haven’t listened for His voice speaking in your life for a while, it may take some time for you to get your heart, soul and mind back in the right place. But then it gets easier.

Russ challenged me to meditate twice a week on these two questions, looking back on my day:

1. What did I do today on my own?
2. What did I do today as a result of God’s guidance?

We’ve got to get used to looking outside of ourselves and our self-sufficient agendas. Our ever-present Father would like a lot more input in our daily decisions than we would think. And He has much more to offer than we give Him credit for: His Word promises wisdom to anyone who asks for it (James 1:5) and He loves to talk with His children when they seek to be obedient to Him in both big and small matters. It’s time to stop fidgeting and worrying, but to slow down, train our eyes and look for His guidance, like a pillar of cloud by day, and like a pillar of fire by night.

Author: Jeff Oleson

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