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Do You Have a Green Light From God?

Do You Have a Green Light From God?

By David Jeremiah

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When American novelist and playwright William Goldman asked his two young daughters what he should write his next novel about, one said, “Write about a princess,” and the other said, “Write about a bride.” So he wrote The Princess Bride, published in 1973. Even though Goldman had won two Academy Awards for screenplays and wanted to sell his novel to a movie studio, The Princess Bride almost never made it to the big screen.

Goldman shopped his book around to studios and found several that were interested. But he never got a green light. The head of the first studio that agreed to do the movie was fired, and the project was dropped. The next studio that agreed went out of business. A third studio said “Yes,” but the head of that studio was also fired. A fourth agreement was reached with a famous producer but the money fell through. 

For fifteen years, William Goldman tried to find a studio to produce his movie—hoping that one of his many red lights would suddenly turn green. Finally, a young and naïve (now famous) director named Rob Reiner, who loved The Princess Bride as a novel, called Goldman to see why there was no movie version. They secured funding, the light turned green, and the movie was released in 1987—and has appeared on various “best movies” lists ever since.

When a project is “green lighted” in the movie business, it means a myriad of details have finally come together and an idea becomes reality. Sometimes, as Christians, it seems we spend a lot of time hoping and searching for a green light from God—for some indication of His blessing to pursue our dreams. Is there a better way—a biblical strategy—for seeking God’s permission and direction?

Asking Is Good…

Spending fifteen years asking for permission to have a movie made required great persistence and boldness! And it reminds me of an illustration Jesus used to teach His disciples how to ask for things from God.

Jesus told a parable about a man who had a guest arrive in the middle of the night, tired and hungry from his journey. The man had no food on hand to give to his guest, so he went to a neighbor and asked to borrow three loaves of bread. Roused from his bed, the neighbor was none too happy with his neighbor’s untimely request. He objected, but to no avail. He finally gave in “because of [the man’s] persistence” (Luke 11:1-8).

It’s important not to draw too fine a parallel between us and God and the persistent man and his neighbor. God is not a grumpy God who resents being called on in the middle of the night. On the other hand, Jesus commends the man’s persistence and his boldness. There was a legitimate need, the neighbor had the needed resources, and the man asked and asked—respectfully, apparently—and made his case until the answer came. In fact, it was persistence, Jesus said, not friendship, that resulted in the man’s request being granted.

Jesus went on to explain what persistence means: asking, seeking, and knocking (Luke 11:9-10). In Greek, each of those verbs is presented in a command form that suggests ongoing action. Jesus was saying, when you need an answer from God, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.“ And then He said, “For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:10, NLT).

So what is Jesus saying? He is saying that asking is good! I believe we can call ongoing asking in faith proactive patience. When seeking permission from God about something that is not specifically mentioned in Scripture, there will likely be waiting involved—just as the man seeking bread for his guest didn’t receive it immediately. But as you wait, exercise proactive patience by continuing to pray and seek God’s answer.

As you wait, exercise proactive patience by continuing to pray and seek God’s answer.

I believe sometimes God withholds His answer because He is building our faith or our maturity. And I also believe that His answer often comes during prayer and Bible study as we proactively and patiently seek Him and His will. Seeking God’s permission is not a matter of asking once and then going about our business. If the man in Jesus’ parable had done that, his guest would have gone hungry.

And Waiting Is Good…

Grace Hopper was a pioneer in the development of modern computing who died in 1992 at age 85 as a highly decorated Rear Admiral in the United States Navy. She described her legacy this way:

The most important thing I’ve accomplished . . . is training young people. They come to me, you know, and say, “Do you think we can do this?” I say, “Try it.” And I back ‘em up. They need that. I keep track of them as they get older and I stir ‘em up at intervals so they don’t forget to take chances.1

Based on those words, it’s easy to see why Admiral Hopper is credited with originating the phrase, “It is often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” But I would not recommend that approach when it comes to seeking permission from God. When it comes to asking God for His permission, it is far better to wait for His permission than to ask for His forgiveness.

When it comes to asking God for His permission, it is far better to wait for His permission than to ask for His forgiveness.

Too often, Christians take this perspective when faced with a decision: “We need to decide now; we don’t have time to wait for an answer from God. Besides, He will forgive us if we make the wrong decision.” In short, they’re saying, “God has to forgive us—it’s His job!”

God is certainly forgiving. But His job—or purpose, to use biblical terms—is to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). God’s answer, whatever it is, is based upon that purpose, the variables of which go far beyond our own understanding (Isaiah 55:8-9).

How to Ask and Wait

When a group of businessmen made plans to move to a new city and open a new, profitable business, a wise man asked them, “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:14-15, NLT).

So how do we discern the Lord’s will? How do we go about seeking His permission when we’re stuck in a slow place—when God has not yet said, “Go”?

Keep these steps in mind:

1. Be prepared. This applies in both directions: If it’s something you’re reluctant to do, be prepared for God to say “Go!” If it’s something you want to do, be prepared for God to say “No!” Jesus once told a group of religious leaders who doubted His words, “If anyone wills to do [God’s] will, he shall know” (John 7:17). Jesus was talking about doctrine, but the principle applies in broader ways. Why would God reveal something to us that He knows we’re not willing to hear?

2. Be persistent. This doesn’t mean that we hound God for an answer. Rather, it means we make ourselves available to Him—standing continually just outside His door—as we wait for permission. Searching for permission can be hard work (Proverbs 2:3-4). Just as asking for permission requires asking—and sometimes we have not because we ask not (James 4:2). Every time we ask God through prayer by faith (Luke 11:11), we make ourselves available to hear His counsel.

3. Be patient. We have to remember that God doesn’t view time like we do. A day to God is like a thousand years to us (2 Peter 3:8). In metaphorical terms, waiting one day for an answer from God can seem like a thousand years! But it’s not. Rest in His perfect timing.

4. Be purposeful. God’s permission, if it comes, is purposeful—and it should be to us as well. Whether God says “Go” or “No,” act on what He says. Calling Jesus “Lord” means doing what He says (Luke 6:46).

A “Go!” from God is great, but there is maturity to be gained from waiting for His timing.

A “Go!” from God is great, but there is maturity to be gained from waiting for His timing. Call to Him, and He will answer you (Jeremiah 33:3). Wait for permission rather than relying on forgiveness.

1http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper (accessed July 28, 2020).

This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Turning Points devotional magazine. Request your complimentary subscription today!

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