Highlands Blog

God is Not Zoltar

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Posted in Highlands Blog under Faith, Sovereignty, Trinity (Persons of)

Tom Hanks playing fortune telling game Zoltar in the movie Big.

Tom Hanks playing fortune telling game Zoltar in the movie Big.

Getting Your Fortune Told

Back in the days when pinball was popular, video games were in their infancy, and you had to go to arcades to play either one, there was one machine that stood out as unique. It had a major role in the Tom Hanks film Big. It was Zoltar, the fortune teller machine. You can actually buy one of the machines today for around ten thousand bucks. You stick in a coin, Zoltar’s eyes light up, and the machine spits out a card with your fortune.

Zoltar fortune telling game. (photo credit: Mark Kaletka @flickr)

Zoltar fortune telling game. (photo credit: Mark Kaletka @flickr)

God Isn’t Zoltar

It’s sadly common that we approach the task of making decisions, or seeking direction and guidance from God, as if He were a divine Zoltar machine. We don’t spend time mining God’s revealed Word in Scripture for His moral will. His word, which is the clearest expression of the character and desires of God for His people, doesn’t seem to hold the kind of pizazz for us that we are looking for. Why this is so, I can only guess. Possibly, it is because it is universal for all, instead of unique to ourselves. It could be because it is objective truth, not ruled by our subjective emotion. It could be because we don’t want to take the time to do the work of real study. Or, it could be that it’s a little boring and restrictive, because it is focused on our obedience to God or His desire that we love others as much as ourselves.

It seems much more exciting to attempt to delve into God’s decrees for the future, or what is sometimes described as the secret will of God. Well, there’s a reason why it is called the secret will of God. It’s because it’s—you guessed it—a secret. And, I hate to break this to you, but God doesn’t give out secrets in advance. You’re out of luck there.

Looking for Mystic Guidance

We wrongly look for special direction, a kind of mystic guidance. I’m not talking about wisdom which is a good thing to seek. We are clearly encouraged to ask God for wisdom in James 1:5. I mean some sort of special cosmic green light, treating God, like Kevin DeYoung so winsomely describes in his excellent little book Just Do Something, as if He were the Magic 8-Ball God. Shake Him up, turn Him over, and you get the go ahead, or the no-go signal. Who needs wisdom when you have that going for you?

It’s Simple, but Not Easy

God’s desires for His people are actually fairly simple—not easy, but simple. He wants us to be holy (1 Peter 1:16); to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18); to worship Him (John 4:24); to seek His kingdom before our own (Matthew 6:33); to bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23); to love our neighbor (Ephesians 5:1–2); to be humble (Philippians 2:5–8); to be compassionate and serve each other (John 15:9–17); and to be joyful (Philippians 4). Finally, He wants us to be like Him, and not the world (Romans 12:1–2).

If you are, by the grace of God, truly seeking to do these things, you are on the right track. Beyond that, obey His word where He has spoken, then humbly seek godly counsel and wisdom where He has not clearly spoken. After that, you can pretty much do whatever you want. But, with that freedom comes the reality that it is your decision to make and own. Don’t use God as your cop-out if you do something stupid.

The path you choose may not be the easy one; it might be extraordinarily difficult. However, if you are truly seeking after these things that I’ve mentioned above, you can be confident that the path is a good one. My confidence in saying that rests in the truth that our loving heavenly Father ordains all things that come to pass, and that He works all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Even if that means you happen to be one of those people whose life isn’t very long or perfectly comfortable. That fact is part of the secret things of God, something we can’t and aren’t meant to know. You can also rest in the truth that your role to play in winning the bigger war against the seed of the serpent has already been written. It might not be the center of the overall plot, but it is important nonetheless.

So, play it.


How can we stop treating God like our Magic 8-Ball? Leave us a comment below.

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