When Our Will Conflicts with God’s Will
Those who are members of the military probably know about the MDMP (the Military Decision Making Process). Today I’d like to draw a spiritual lesson from it. The MDMP is tool for staffs at the battalion level – and higher – to plan and execute a mission. For leaders who tend to be more methodical in their approach to problem-solving, the MDMP is a life-saver. But to leaders who are more intuitive and creative, the MDMP can be tiresome and restrictive. Yet the military swears by it.
The MDMP begins when your organization’s staff receives a mission from higher headquarters. At this time your headquarters issues a warning order to your subordinate units – to give them a “heads up” that a mission is coming. This is the first step – Receipt of Mission.
The second step is Mission Analysis. In this step your staff examines the higher headquarter’s plans, gathers critical intelligence and information, and develops a problem statement, a proposed mission statement, and the commander’s guidance.
Then comes the third step. This is Course of Action (COA) Development. In this step the staff develops at least three courses of action – ways of accomplishing the mission – based on the following criteria. First, the COA must be feasible. It must accomplish the mission within the unit’s limitations. Second, the COA must be acceptable. It must balance cost and risk (e.g. loss of life and limb, damage/loss of materiel) with the advantage gained. Third, the COA must be suitable. It must accomplish the mission within the commander’s intent and planning guidance. And fourth, the COA must be distinguishable. It must differ significantly from other proposed COAs.
There are four more steps to the MDMP, but this is as far as I’d like to go with it. I want to focus on the need to develop multiple courses of action in addressing any problem. This step is extremely important because it is counter-intuitive to the way most people operate. When facing problems, tasks, and challenges we humans tend to see only one way to address them. Usually, it’s the COA that appears to be the most pragmatic, convenient, and easy.
But such COAs have painful limitations. Foremost among them is that they only “kill one bird with one stone.” They only address the one problem we see and do not take into consideration the many problems and tasks God sees. Consider this. As opposed to our ways of doing things, God wants to “kill multiple birds with one stone,” perhaps hundreds, thousands, or even millions. This is why our endeavors and God’s often conflict. We see only one COA. But God may see millions. Yet, we can be sure of this. The COA God settles on is the most perfect one possible. This is where God’s infinite mind, wisdom, and knowledge come into play. God always does things in the most perfect way to reach the most perfect end. Whatever COA God chooses for us, we can be sure that He’s thought it all through. He’s considered all COAs – and all possible outcomes – to address as many tasks and problems as possible – before He executes any plan in our lives.
But can you see how this will affect our own career plans, choices, and even our prayers? I may pursue certain opportunities that seem best to me. Yet, I’m only considering my own preferences, profit, and happiness. God is considering those things also. But if I’m a believer, He takes much, much more into account. God wants to save sinners (Luke 15:7; 19:10; John 3:16-17; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). He wants to hand-pick specific circumstances (disappointments, trials, adversity) which He deems essential for making me more like Jesus and fitting me for heaven (Romans 8:28-29; 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7, 13; 5:23-24; Hebrews 12:14). Plus, God has a plan for me to be a blessing to all people and to serve His church (Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 4:11-17). God has an infinitely complex plan in with millions of integrated COAs which each contribute to the others. Therefore, my plans and God’s will inevitably come into conflict.
Fortunately, if I’m a believer in Jesus, the Holy Spirit is at work in my heart. The Holy Spirit both creates in me the desire to do God’s will and empowers me to do it (Ezekiel 36:26-27; Philippians 2:13). The prophet Jeremiah said that God will write His law on our hearts – giving us both the knowledge of His will and the desire to do it (Jeremiah 31:33). The Holy Spirit’s activity in my heart helps close the gap between what I want and what God wants.
Now, I can certainly help God’s efforts by feeding more on His word (Colossians 3:16) and drinking more of His Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). I do this by spending more time reading the Bible and praying. These will help facilitate the Spirit’s activity in my heart.
And speaking of prayer, since God has already determined what is the very best course of action – choosing from among millions – my own prayers should be offered in an attitude of openness to God’s will. There’s nothing wrong with praying as Jesus did, “yet not My will but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42). The work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts will not fully erase the influence of self in our decisions and prayers. Even Jesus had to subdue self when it conflicted with God’s will – and He was sinless and uncorrupted by its effects.
Therefore, pray – as God so frequently commands us (e.g. Psalm 18:3,6; 34:15; 55:22; 148:18; Isaiah 55:6; Jeremiah 33:3; Philippians 4:16-17; 1Thessalonians 5:17; 1 Peter 5:7). But be mindful that God always has the very best idea on how those prayers should be answered. And when circumstances run counter to your prayers, plans, and efforts, then rest in God’s infinite wisdom and benevolent sovereignty. God knows what He’s doing and He’ll always arrive at the most perfect end in the most perfect way.
PRAYER: Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way, Thou art the potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after Thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still.
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way, search me and try me, Master, today! Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now, as in Thy presence humbly I bow.
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Hold o’re my being absolute sway! Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see Christ only, always, living in me. (Adelaide A. Pollard)