Need a Sign from God?

Sign from God

Signs of God’s Approval

By Grantley Morris

Tempted to quell your doubts by seeking a sign from God? Jesus was. “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread,” whispered the evil one (Luke 4:3, emphasis mine). It happened at the very time when Jesus felt especially empty, weak and vulnerable. He was literally starving. The temptation was intense. Nevertheless, Jesus refused to cave in. No matter how much he hungered for it, he saw seeking a sign and satisfying his craving as not only spiritual cowardice but a hideous temptation.

Undeterred, the tempter was relentless. He “took” (Matthew 4:5) Jesus to the top of the temple. Imagine that: the devil somehow “took” the holy Son of God where he wanted him and placed him in a precarious position. “If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down from here, for it is written . . .” (Luke 4:9, emphasis mine). He was even using Scripture now. It is no surprise that the deceiver has used the Bible to tempt and torment you, too; maliciously twisting God’s holy Word to fill you with doubt and fear.

Again, as weak and harassed as he was during this ordeal, Jesus saw through the deception. Quoting Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:16) himself, Jesus replied, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Luke 4:12, NIV). In other words, seeking proof or confirmation that he really was the Son of God was offensive to God.

Jesus spoke disapprovingly of those who sought signs:

    Matthew 12:39  . . . An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, but no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet.

Our Lord immediately explained what he meant by the “the sign of Jonah”:

    Matthew 12:40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the huge fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

In other words, the faith that saves, comes not from looking for signs but solely from trusting in the saving power of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Not many of them actually saw the risen Lord. The rest had to take it by sheer faith that he rose, thereby proving his power over sin and death. As Jesus told one of the few who saw the risen Lord, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed” (John 20:28).

So Jesus immediately moved from speaking of the sign of Jonah to the importance of simply believing what Jesus preaches:

    Matthew 12:41 The men of Nineveh will stand up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah ; and behold, someone greater than Jonah is here.

As Paul insisted:

    1 Corinthians 1:21-23  . . . it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save those who believe. For Jews ask for signs . . . but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews . . .

Salvation comes from refusing to look for signs and instead believing the preaching of Christ crucified.

Looking beyond the preaching of the cross for confirmation of God’s acceptance is having the audacity to think that you (or your sins) are so special that you can tell your Savior, “I have the right to disbelieve the power of your death and resurrection to save me, unless you prove it by giving me some special sign.” And what frustrates heaven even more, is that even if you received such a sign, your doubts would return within a few days. For example, you would sin and then start thinking, “God accepted me back then but now I need another sign to prove he has forgiven this new atrocity.”

Would you doubt your salvation if flocks of angels in white nighties, shiny halos and more feathers than a bird fight, landed on your roof and sang your praises? Literally hundreds of people have bared their hearts with me who would be certain that it would finally end all their doubts and give them the peace they crave. I know them well enough, however, to realize that within days (only hours, in some cases) they would be as riddled with doubts as ever. Soon they would be wondering if it were a hallucination, or someone’s attempt at a practical joke or maybe even demonic deception. If they somehow managed to beat off those doubts, they would eventually feel something – guilt, anxiety, emptiness, numbness – or experience something – a flying bird dumps a payload on them, their cat falls asleep when they are reading the Bible out loud, a huge pimple appears on their nose, or whatever – or, as is inevitable for us less-than-perfect beings, they would sin. Okay, I’ve added a little humor but they would not be laughing. Something would happen that they would falsely interpret as meaning that even if God had accepted them back when the celestial choir put on a free concert, God must have now surely abandoned them. Nevertheless, they would claim all they need is another sign and they would believe again.

When we ask for a sign, what we are really asking is for God to change his entire plan of salvation just for us, by giving us something that removes the necessity of living by raw faith that Jesus saves us.

Sign of God

The Sobering Truth About Real Christians

Regrettably, when asked to give a testimony, many Christians feel obligated to act like used car salesmen; suckering in the gullible by showing off the desirable and concealing the downsides. Some do not deliberately deceive but simply give their testimony before they themselves discover the full price of Christlikeness.

Either way, by stirring up envy and false expectations, selective truth-telling is spiritually dangerous. It gives a superficial impression of glorifying the God of truth, when it actually damages his kingdom: people of whom heaven is proud are left floundering, thinking themselves spiritually inferior, or even unfit to be called Christian, simply because their lives do not match the distorted tales of fellow believers. We are left tempted to tell God if he doesn’t do the same for us, we’ll no longer believe in his love and the power of the cross to cleanse us from all sin.

People often write to me, excited about how their problems with guilt and endless craving for assurance have miraculously vanished after a superficial reading of a few of my webpages. Some even want me to publish their glowing testimonies. I’ve seen this far too often to fall for it. Their feelings might have soared beyond cloud nine but they will return to earth with a sickening thud. Only after suffering many disappointments and ups and downs, do I consider these people worthy of giving testimonies. Only then might they have something of value to offer.

If you long to know how to have a successful marriage, do not consult honeymooners. They will seem to have all the answers. They will be the most excited and talkative and seem to have the best possible relationship. Nevertheless, those who are more sober but still enjoy each other after ten, twenty or more years – especially those who are not a particularly good match – are the ones who truly know how to make a marriage work. You can truly learn from them, provided they are ruthlessly honest. Likewise, spiritual honeymooners despite oozing confidence, have far less to offer than their giddy enthusiasm suggests.



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Sign of God
Years ago, hoping to help and inspire various addicts, I collected testimonies of people who had experienced miraculous, effortless and instantaneous deliverances from serious addictions. Through an act of God, their cravings and withdrawal symptoms simply vanished. As I kept these people talking, however, they inevitably ended up confessing that, to their frustration and bewilderment, they had another addiction that refused to budge.

What was going on? To have real answers for addicts, I needed to seek God about this mystery.

The Lord revealed that although miracles get all the attention, they only do a superficial work. Typically, they change behavior, but not hearts. People who stop a sin because it no longer satisfies a craving, are just as self-serving as ever. It is only through intense, prolonged battles, usually accompanied by many defeats, that one learns to truly hate sin and die to self.

Temptation did not miraculously disappear for Jesus. His sweat oozed like blood as he agonized over doing God’s will. Was he setting a poor example? Eventually, an angel turned up. Oh, wow! Am I envious! What was the upshot? The visitation led to more agonizing temptation (in fact, it preceded his blood-like sweat – Luke 22:43-44), followed by betrayal and the cross. If only you and I had such thrilling spiritual experiences.

Each of us is so unique that the exact details of our testimony will never be duplicated in anyone else’s life. For a general idea, however, of what the testimony of an exceptionally blessed Christian might look like, spy on the Apostle Paul. His life tells us that if super-Christians have spiritual highs we would give almost anything to experience, they also have lows that we would give almost anything to avoid.

Consider Paul’s Damascus Road experience. Who wouldn’t like to add that to their spiritual resume? But soon the Lord told Ananias, the man who ended up praying for Paul to regain his sight, “I will show him [Paul] how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). Not so many of us are queuing up for that part of the deal.

Then there was the time when Paul “was caught up into paradise and heard things too sacred to be put into words, things that a person is not permitted to speak” (2 Corinthians 12:4, NET). My enthusiasm wanes, however, when he goes on to say, “By reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations . . . a thorn in the flesh was given to me: a messenger of Satan to torment me, that I should not be exalted excessively” (2 Corinthians 12:7). The revelations and the torment were co-joined twins. It was so torturous that Paul pleaded with God over and over that it should end – and he was refused.

Do we envy Paul so confidently declaring, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13)? If so, we quickly lose interest when we read the rest of his testimony in which he explains that by “all things” he meant, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12, NIV).

Do you look at preachers in fancy clothes, flashy cars, and beautiful homes and wives, as examples of victorious Christian living? Or do you look to the writer of much of the New Testament and see him with no children, no marriage, back bleeding, feet in stocks, in too much pain to sleep, stirring himself to sing praises in the middle of the night in a Roman jail (Acts 16:23-25)?

Remember Paul’s shipwrecks? Jesus stilled the storm. As if to rub it in, the prophet of God wrote, “The Lord has his way in the whirlwind and in the storm” (Nahum 1:3). Yet Paul, in the very midst of devoting his every heartbeat to sacrificially serving God, was shipwrecked not once or twice but four times! (The ordeal described in Acts that was so terrifying that even hardened sailors barely ate for fourteen days [Acts 27:33] occurred after the three shipwrecks Paul mentioned in 2 Corinthians.) These disasters befalling Paul were not the acts of anti-Christian thugs but ‘acts of God’. How did even this extraordinary apostle get his head around that? Did he edit it out of his testimony? No.

We look with envy at people enjoying spiritual highs and think, “That’s just what I need to build my faith,” when what we really mean is, “That’s just what I want to avoid the need for faith.”

When we feel so very close to God and everything is going well, we call it a mountaintop experience. During such times people are given insight into everyday spiritual reality. The clouds lift a little and they are allowed a tiny glimpse of things as they really are. Other times the clouds return. When this happens, nothing has changed, except how much of spiritual reality we are allowed to see. That’s the very time when real faith begins; the time when heaven gets interested because we finally get a chance to do something praiseworthy.

    2 Corinthians 5:7  . . . we walk by faith, not by sight.

    2 Corinthians 4:18  . . . we don’t look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

    Romans 8:24-25  . . . For we were saved in hope, but hope that is seen is not hope. . . .

No matter how spectacular, having mountaintop experiences is like being a trainee pilot who has experienced perfect take-offs and landings but never with you at the controls. Having warm fuzzies abandon you, however, is like finally being entrusted with the controls. That’s when heaven gets ready to applaud you.

No matter how divinely blessed you are, how Spirit-filled, how great you are in heaven’s eyes and how spiritually powerful you become, you will either have times when you are assaulted by doubts, fears and worries, or you are fake.

Signs and feelings are not the savior they seem. Warm, gooey feelings and miraculous signs are cotton candy that entice spiritual infants but all too quickly become an enemy of spiritual health. To grow up spiritually one must be weaned off signs and feelings, and learn to live by raw faith, no matter how tough things get.

Sign of God

Grasping for a Different Type of ‘Proof’

Another type of sign we are foolishly tempted to crave is the approval of other Christians. We saw in the previous page, nevertheless, how often people arrogantly misjudge fellow believers. Shamefully many Christians foolishly presume that people having a torrid time must be making some fundamental spiritual mistake. In reality, those sneered at – people who tragically often even see themselves as spiritual failures – are often the very people who impress heaven.

Job is a glaring example. Blinded by over-inflated opinions of their own wisdom and spiritual understanding, his do-gooder, holier-than-thou, spiritual advisors were sure Job must have blundered. They had no clue that what they sincerely believed was helpful advice, was so off-track that their mistaken accusations angered God (Job 42:7). In fact, the Almighty would not forgive them unless Job intervened on their behalf (Job 42:8).

The man they had convinced themselves must be suffering divine judgment was seen by the Almighty as so exceptionally godly that on at least two different occasions the Holy One boasted about Job to Satan, saying, “For there is no one like him in the earth, a blameless and an upright man, one who fears God, and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8; 2:3). Even very many generations later, toward the end of the Old Testament, the Lord still rated Job as one of the most spiritually powerful, people ever to have lived. In Ezekiel 14:13-14 (repeated in Ezekiel 14:20), the Almighty Lord chose to include Job in his list of the three people who, in all previous human history, epitomized those who had the greatest ever influence with God. Still later, the New Testament puts Job on a pedestal as an example for all its readers to emulate (James 5:11).

Job suffered the indignity of being appallingly misjudged by those who knew him best – his wife (Job 2:9) and his closest friends. Not only were they so horribly wrong about this astonishing man of God, even today, despite all the advantages of hindsight and all the biblical affirmations of Job that his contemporaries lacked, staggeringly many know-alls still do not get it and instead prove how unbiblical and unspiritual they are by misjudging Job. Even many superstar preachers make this blunder. They are so embarrassed by God lavishing praise on someone who lost his wealth, health and social standing, that they side with those who angered God (Job 42:7) by being critical of Job. Respected preachers making this mistake dramatically demonstrate how utterly dependent all of us are upon the undeserved mercy of God. None of us has spiritual infallibility and (surprise, surprise) fame and riches do not change this fact.

Sign from God

Is All This Truly Biblical?

This page, about not seeking signs, the previous one, about ignoring feelings, the one before that, about doing nothing, are advocating the very opposite of what everything within you screams you should do. It’s as opposite as the divine and the human.

You are rightly looking for a very different approach to what you have been doing, because you have tried other ways over and over and they have not worked (otherwise, you would not be reading this). As it’s been said: the definition of insanity is to keep trying the same thing, expecting a different result. But is what these webpages advocate truly biblical?

Over and over, the Bible keeps stressing that salvation (divine cleansing from our every sin) can be neither attained nor sustained by our righteousness or efforts (‘works’) but solely through faith in God’s grace (his totally undeserved gift in which the perfect Son of God paid the full penalty for our every sin) Scriptures. This is what these pages have been about.

Saving faith is not the absence of doubt but choosing, no matter how many doubts rage within, to abandon faith in one’s own efforts and stubbornly returning to the biblical fact that God loves even his enemies, and Christ died for the sins of the [entire] world and forgives all who come to him, no matter how sordid they have been.

Biblical faith is choosing to believe that divine adequacy is greater than human inadequacy, and that God’s eagerness to save is greater than our atrocious sins and greater than our most powerfully convincing feelings.

The enemy of saving faith is the lie that salvation is not an undeserved gift but the result of one’s efforts to avoid certain sins, and the lie that the proof of salvation is not Christ’s death and resurrection but our feelings or special signs.

The opposite of faith in Christ is faith in self – whether it be faith in your ability to please God, or in your ability to feel saved, or your ability to manipulate God into you giving you signs instead of him expecting you to live by faith. Bitter experience has already convinced you of the biblical truth that your own efforts to save yourself and to feel saved and obtain special signs are totally inadequate. So stop trying to do the impossible. Cease letting yourself, or anyone else, try to judge or save you. Let God do what only God can do. And trust him to do it, without insulting his love and integrity by demanding he prove it by signs or feelings. Your almighty Savior does not yield to emotional blackmail. If he did, then salvation would cease to be by faith but by signs or feelings.

To stop looking to self instead of your Savior is so important that the Bible uses a wide range of terms for it, including denying yourself, dying to self, taking up your cross, mortifying yourself, crucifying the flesh, being buried with Christ (as symbolized by baptism) and so on.

I used to imagine that mentioning dying to self is of no use to people riddled with guilt. I thought their devastated self-esteem meant that they had already arrived, or even overshot the mark. I only recently discovered that it is actually precisely what these dear people need. This is because guilt feelings push even the most godly of us into looking inwards and becoming self-focused, rather than God-focused.

What’s Next?

If you often find yourself riddled with guilt feelings it is vital that you read the next page:

If you are free from guilt guilt feelings, see Index to select another important topic.

Not to be sold. © Copyright, 2020 Grantley Morris. Not to be copied in whole or in part without citing this entire paragraph. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings by Grantley Morris available free at the following internet site Freely you have received, freely give.

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