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What does God mean when He tells you something? Does it mean what He says? Of course He does! But the problem comes in that we often add assumptions to what we hear God say, and He doesn't always mean the assumptions that we add to what He actually said. Let me give you a recent example from my own life to illustrate this.
A little over a week ago, on a Saturday, my husband and I took our dogs to the park to give them a good run. We take them to this baseball diamond, which is a fenced off area where we can let them run an not worry about them running into oncoming traffic on the street. We usually park the van by the gate and I go over to them and call them just as Ed opens the van door. Then they run straight into the fenced off area, which is about ten feet from where we park.
We have two dogs. One of them is very big, weighing over 90 pounds, and he is a bit on the clumsy side. He is smart and he is very pretty, but he is not that well physically coordinated. He was excited as he came out of the van and started running towards me as I called them. He usually runs past me and into the fenced-off area. But this time, his judgment was of and he ended up trying to go through me instead of around me, bumping his large and bony head into my left knee cap. One second I saw him running toward me and the next second I was in excruciating pain.
We waited about 10 to 15 minutes to see if the pain would go down but it did not. I could not walk unassisted. If I put weight on my leg and tried to bend it at the same time, terrible pain would shoot through my leg. In fact, it hurt something awful to try to bend it at all. It was a struggle to get me back to the car.
The really odd thing was that despite all this pain, there was not much discoloration or swelling. My ankle swelled up a little, which was probably swelling from my knee running down my leg to my ankle. But my knee looked weird. It did not see to be shaped quite right, but we couldn't exactly tell what was wrong with the shape. We did not think it was a break because there was not much swelling or discoloration. We tried to decide whether to go to an emergency clinic or go home first and keep an eye on it. (I know a lot about first aid, so we decided to go home. On the way home we stopped at a local pharmacy and get a cold pack because it is important to ice an injury as soon as possible to reduce swelling, etc.
I sat in the car while Ed ran into the store for the cold pack. I moved my leg slightly and my knee popped. When it popped, the pain when down from almost excruciating to a bad ache. The impact must have dislocated the kneecap and it popped back into place when I moved it a bit. I was relieved that the pain went down. It was still very uncomfortable but it did not feel unbearable any more. We got home and I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening on the sofa with my leg elevated and an ice pack on it.
The next morning my knee was still sore, but at least I could walk -- as long as I walked slowly and carefully. I decided to go to church. As I was driving there, this odd thought ran through my mind. I usually kneel at church during worship. What if God asked me to kneel as I worshipped Him? My first reaction was to think, "Oh, He wouldn't do that! He knows my knee is sore and He is not mean."
Then I heard the Lord's voice speaking to me and He asked me, "But what if I did command you to knee before Me this morning? Would you?"
"God, I can't imagine you asking me to do something like that when I have a sore knee."
"But if I did command you to do that, would you obey Me?"
I thought about if for a few minutes then decided that I had to obey Him no matter what He commanded. If He asked me to kneel and that caused excruciating pain, then I would have to knee anyhow. He was my Lord and I was committed to obey Him no matter what He commanded.
God heard my thoughts and commented on them. "Teresa, yes, you would be obligated to obey Me whatever I command. But you also know that I am good. I would never command you to do something simply torment you. Didn't it occur to you that if I commanded you to kneel on an injured knee, that I would heal your knee as you obeyed Me?"
Actually, no, that had not occurred to me.
Then God asked me "Why not? Don't you know that I am a healing God?" The conversation went on a bit longer and what I took away from it was that if God commanded me to kneel in service that day, then He would be obligated to heal my knee, because He had promised to.
About half way through the worship, God asked me to kneel. I think I would have preferred if He had just let me remain standing, because my knee was already sore. What if that had been my imagination in the car and not really God talking to me? Then I would kneel and make myself hurt a lot more? I wish I could tell you that great faith welled up in me at that instant, but it did not.
What welled up inside of me was the commitment I'd made to obey God. I had entered into a covenant with Jesus that He would be My Lord and whatever He commanded me to do, I would do that, and further more, I would do it with a heart of love. I would obey Him because I loved Him, as per John 14:15.
So I knelt down and worshipped on my knees for a song or two. You know, it is odd, but I did not think about my knee at all, I was thinking about God and very conscious of Him. At one point, I sort of became aware of what was going on around me and my focus did not remain on the Lord. Since I was not lost in worship any more, I decided it did not make sense to keep kneeling. I stood up, and when I did, my knee hurt. It hurt worse than it did before I had kneeled.
"Lord," I said, "What is going on? I thought You said that if You asked me to kneel and I obeyed You, then You'd heal my knee."
Many thoughts ran through my mind at the same time and I was not positive which one was God's voice. One said, "Yes, but I did not promise I'd heal you instantly. Remember that many times in the bible when Jesus prayed for people, they were healed 'from that very hour' or gradually." Another thought was, "Yes, God promised the healing, but maybe you have to war for it, to stand in faith believing for Him to keep His word even when you are not seeing evidences of that healing." A third thought was, "Maybe He did not really promise that. Maybe there was presumption on your part. You are obligated to obey God because He is God, not because you want Him to do a favor for you."
I decided to rebuke the pain in my knee, just in case I had to "war" for my healing. I placed my hand lightly on the knee and did so, but it did not help noticeably. Then I stopped again and asked God what happened. I had assumed that if He commanded me to kneel down, I would be healed by the time I stood up.
"Teresa, " the Lord said, "some assumption on your part has entered into this."
I responded with my usual brilliant, "Huh, Lord?"
God went on to explain that He'd promised to heal my knee, but He never put any time frame on it. I had added that part myself. I had assumed that if I knelt and He healed me, it would be an instant healing. God had never said that it would be instant, and He was not going to be constrained by my assumption. He was going to do it, but He was going to do it His way.
My knee still hurt when I left service that morning. It still hurt the next day when I got up. I had to be very careful about it and limit my walking and skip working out at the gym. I could tell this was not something that was going to go away quickly and it was painful. I began to think that maybe I needed to go see a doctor after all, and planned to make an appointment on Tuesday morning.
Monday night I ministered on the prophetic team at church. When I got home from that, I was going to watch TV after I spent a bit of time with my husband. God asked me not to turn on the TV but to pray instead. So I did.
I was not in a particularly godly or holy mood, but I did want to honor and obey Him. As long as I was talking to Him, I asked Him about my knee again. What was going on with that? Why hadn't He healed me like He said He would? As I prayed, my knee got very hot and I knew God was doing something. By the time my knee cooled down, it did not hurt any more. In fact, I could not make it hurt no matter how I moved it around, applied pressure, etc. God had kept His word. He healed my knee just like He said He would! He just did it in a different timeframe and a different way than I expected Him to.
God is a God who keeps His promises. When He gives us His word, He always keeps His word. The problem is that often we unconsciously add our own assumptions to what He says to us, and that can throw us off. It can cause us to expect Him to do it a certain way when He always intended to do it a different way. It can cause us to expect one time frame when He has a totally different time frame in mind.
The next time that you think that God has broken a promise to you, why don't you go back and see if you can remember precisely what it was that He promised you. Chances are very good that you have added some of your own assumptions into what He said. God will always keep His word to you, but He usually won't do it the way you assume He will.