So David prayed, ‘Lord, turn Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness.’ 2 Samuel 15.31-34From David King
“With great power comes great responsibility” – these wise words are sometimes known as the “Peter Parker principle”. Its origins lie in the collected works of the great 20th century philosopher Peter Parker – otherwise known as Spiderman…
I want to expand it a bit today: “With God’s great power comes the Christian’s great responsibility.” (Okay it’s not quite so snappy!)
In theological circles there is a debate around whether belief in the sovereign power of God robs the Christian of the responsibility to act. That sounds quite highfaluting, but is much more practical than it first appears. So let’s think about it in a more down to earth way.
If I am going through a difficult time, should I trust God to rescue me or should I take action?
Trusting God will bring me peace, but does it mean that I don’t need to do anything or even that I shouldn’t do anything as that would show a lack of faith. On the other hand, taking action can quickly become godless – my life becomes indistinguishable from that the of the non-Christian. One feature of this is that I will set my goals too low. I will only take on things I think that I can manage. Prayer, if I remember to do it, becomes more of an insurance policy against unforeseen difficulties, than a pleading with God that he would act, believing that if he doesn’t there is no hope.
Refreshingly the Bible doesn’t try to give a detailed answer, instead it says, do both with all your heart. In fact, it doesn’t even tell us to do this – instead it shows us people doing it in a godly way. One example is David. The verse above comes from an episode in David’s life when everything goes wrong – and in large part it is his fault. Through poor parenting, David’s family has started to fall apart and his son Absalom has rebelled. One of those who has gone over to David’s camp is Ahithopel – the most gifted strategist in the kingdom. This turn of events promises disaster for David – so he prays. Of course he does, the situation is outside of his control – he has been weeping on the Mount of Olives – he has been reminded of how much he needs the Lord’s help. What he then does is send Hushai as an agent into Absalom’s camp to counter Ahithopel’s advice. To be honest, Absalom would be mad to ignore Ahithopel’s advice in favour of Hushai, but God then supercharges David’s action as his answer to David’s prayer.
Why does David send Hushai to frustrate Ahithopel’s advice, when he has asked God to do it? Surely if he believes that God is sovereign there’s no point in David doing anything and if he doesn’t believe God is sovereign there is no point in praying. The answer is surprising. It is because David believes that God is sovereign and good and loving towards him, that David takes action. It is confidence in the Lord’s power and faithfulness that gives him the courage to think that his actions, however inadequate, are not wasted.
So how do we live this out? When you are out of your depth, either because of circumstances outside of your control, or because of your obedience to his call, the answer is:
- Pray – knowing that God is still in control and he is for you (Romans 8.31-39). You will find greater intimacy with God and a deeper peace.
- When you can, take action. Even if the action is inadequate, or your strength seems weak, do not despair, you have placed your future in the hands of the one who has defeated death, so you can take risks and be bold in doing what he has called you to, knowing that you are safe.