No Formula

I met a church member earlier this year who asked for counsel regarding a particular situation. I shared with him what I felt the Lord was saying, and he looked at me and remarked, “Why is your counsel different for Person B even though we’re in the same situation?”

To which I simply replied, “Because our journey with the Lord is not about a formula, but a relationship.”

I do agree that many times I find myself wishing I had a formula book with all the answers and solutions to all kinds of pastoral issues and problems. Wouldn’t that be simpler?

Then I’m reminded about Samson in the Old Covenant. Judges 15:17 says: ‘As soon as he had finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone out of his hand.’

Samson used a jawbone to kill the enemies of the Lord, then discarded it. He didn’t publish a teaching or set up a training podcast on ‘Jawbone Warfare’.

Sometimes, we like to fall back on a ‘formula’. We think, just because a strategy worked for us, it should work for every season or for everyone else. But sometimes, there are mountain problems which need tearing down ‘high things’, and there are valley problems which require the Lord lifting things up.

What I’ve learnt is that no two issues are the same. Our journey with the Lord is not a one size fits all – and I’m grateful for that.

The beauty of our walk with God is that He’s constantly wooing us to draw near to Him and to discern His heart.

Don’t we all love to have a blueprint for life that solves all our issues? But the Lord gives us the best Helper – His Holy Spirit. Don’t fall back on a formula, but get to know the precious Helper.

Sometimes the Word is a sword; at other times, a hammer or scalpel. Sometimes the Word dismantles wrong values, does surgeries and exposes motives or it brings healing. The goal at the end of it is to sanctify us till we become more like Christ.

Biblical interpretation is not just about reading carefully, but reading submissively. We’re not meant to master the text, but rather, allow the text to master us. Obedience is part of right-interpretation.

I mentioned the donkey’s jawbone because Ps. Brian Bailey always asked: “Do you just want to be used or do you want to be approved by God?”

We don’t want to be used and then discarded by the Lord.

The precious thing about our spiritual journey is that God is always speaking, and we can learn to recognise His voice even though we’re imperfect.

Matthew 14:22 recounts a storm where Jesus appeared to His disciples while they were in the boat. Fear overtook them when they thought they saw a ghost.

I always found it funny that Peter would risk stepping out of the boat although he thought he saw a ghost! But the beauty of this account is that, when he heard the familiar voice that said “Come”, Peter obeyed and stepped out in confidence.

After spending nearly three years with Jesus, the disciples still did not know much about ministry. They had trouble understanding Jesus’ parables and lessons. Their hearts were still not fully-transformed, and they were far from perfect.

But, to their credit, they recognised their Master’s voice. They came to a place where His voice became known and recognisable – even in the storm.

Don’t ask for a formula for life, but allow the Holy Spirit to do His precious sanctifying work and lead you every step of the way.


Assistant Pastor Elijah Chan

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