‘ASK-LISTEN-ACT’ is a summary of an account of one of David’s exploits in 2 Samuel 5:22-25. It is a useful reminder of what the genuine Christian life should do, in active communion with a Holy Lord who watches over us every moment we are on this earth. And, if only we are willing, this communion is interactive.
BMW cars have a computerized system that continuously adjusts the engine several thousand times a second! It ‘reads’ what is going on and sends signals to various parts, altering settings as the car is running. Really, our Christian lives ought to be like that – always looking to the Lord to see what He wants us to do and how to do it. Sadly, many Christians are more like fish, solid in the freezer but not edifying until they are thawed! The Biblical Christian is one who is constantly updating and upgrading his life, always seeking God’s guidance, always reforming. He is willing to do whatever, however, whenever. The Christian who does not want to be disturbed is a very dull person, and he usually moans that life isn’t exciting!
The passage in 2 Samuel 5 is a perfect blueprint for those who are serious about their walk with God. It shows us the answer to the question “How do we know what God’s will is?” The answer is very simple: JUST DO IT! What do I mean? I mean that we discover what God’s will is as we live an obedient Christian life. This is because God has already given us His general will for our lives: His word. Once we live that out, He shows us His specific will. It is not a fixed blueprint though… His will for our individual lives is tailored for each of us. The text in Samuel shows us steps to finding and doing God’s will in our lives. Indeed, it is a classic text for this purpose.
A brief outline of this historical account shows the basic principles…
David was out in the field of battle. He and his men were hidden on a wooded hill, overlooking the dreaded Philistine army and wondering what to do next. Time and again, throughout their history, this heathen horde fell on the Hebrews
As they watched in silence, David asked God if he should engage the enemy in battle. God told him to sit tight. David was told to change his position and to wait underneath some balsam trees. He had to wait until he heard the tops of the trees rustling. They would rustle because God would make them do so and not because of a breeze. David had to remember that: he must not confuse the action of the wind with what God would do.
When David heard the rustling, then he could attack. Only THEN, at that precise moment, would victory be assured. A moment before, or after, and all would be lost – God’s timing is as exact as that. So, what did David do?
Firstly, he ASKED God what he was to do
Secondly, he LISTENED for the promised guidance.
Thirdly, when he heard the evidence of God moving, he ACTED.
The result was a huge victory and the enemy was smitten from Geba to Gazer!
Sounds very simple, doesn’t it? Yes, it is, IF we do things God’s way. What makes it all so difficult is… US! We always know better, don’t we? We think God needs our input, to help the situation. I suggest that those who seriously take God at His word offer no input at all. They suffer pain, persecution or death; they starve or know poverty; they have no private source of power or strength to fall back on. They just rely solely on God.
Most Christians I have ever come across are happy to ASK God for all manner of things, many of them legitimate. They ACT… but, don’t bother to LISTEN. Then they wonder what has gone wrong, or why God has not answered them.
It is highly probable that God has answered them, but they were not listening. Or, they were only listening for an answer that they themselves perceived to be the correct one. In my own life I can testify that God has taken me through some amazing turns and twists! Often, they have been completely unexpected. Take the time I asked God to guide me to a new job – the next moment I was in a job I would never have chosen, starting a new career. Why? I promised God that I would do whatever job He told me to do! And so He told me what to do: I didn’t like it, but I did it. I deliberately listened for His answer, and it was so outrageous (in my eyes) that I could easily have missed it or ignored it.
What about things going wrong, after asking God for something? It could be that we have asked the wrong thing of God. God promises that He will always answer if we “pray aright”. At times, He probably ignores prayers because they are not “aright”. Things often go wrong (again, I can testify to this!) when we ask and listen, but then we do something different, as though we thought God must have made a mistake.
No, He doesn’t make mistakes and yes, sometimes He tells us to do something that seems completely odd to us. But, He expects us to obey. Not tomorrow or maybe, but today and for sure. If we go our own way, especially after asking for guidance, then we can expect things to go wrong, because we are going off the path given to us. We then enter wild country, blighted by the thorns and briars of sin. As we continue walking our own path, we moan and groan to God that we are in pain, when the answer is very simple: just get out of the thorns and briars and onto the true path!
Things can also appear to ‘go wrong’ even when we follow the path given to us, the answer given by God. But, we ought to reflect a moment. If we are sure that we are doing what is right after we have asked for guidance, then the Lord will not let us down. It may very well be that what we think is ‘going wrong’ is actually what God intended. But, it seems to be ‘wrong’ to our own human, selfish eyes.
The best thing to remember is that God does what He does primarily for His own Glory, NOT primarily for our own perceived benefit. Think of Daniel’s three friends being thrown into the fiery furnace! There is no way they would have asked for it to happen. But, that was how God ordained it, because it displayed His Glory. They had a benefit later, but I am sure it was not all that clear to them at the time.
The main thing is this: when we ask God for something, we must listen for the answer. But listening is no good unless we act out what He tells us. Only when we obey in this way (ASK, LISTEN and ACT) will we know God’s blessing in our lives.
Al Christians are hot on asking, lukewarm on listening, and stone cold on doing what God says. Where are you on this continuum?
(Note: God does NOT answer the prayers of the unsaved, nor does He listen to them. Even the ‘prayer of faith’ is itself a gift from God, but only after regeneration).