When we were in college together, John (not his real name) grew uneasy. Should he keep dating his long-time girlfriend, or did God have a better plan with some other lady?
My friend decided to seek a sign.
Since he and his girlfriend enjoyed playing cribbage, a card game, he prayed: “God, if you don’t want me to date Wendy (not her real name) anymore, give me a 29 hand.”
In cribbage, 29 is the most you can score with the five cards you hold. The odds of getting a perfect 29 hand in a 2 player game are 1 in 216,580.
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John got a 29.
Then John felt more confused. Was God giving a sign, in answer to his prayer? Or was it an against-all-odds coincidence? Was Satan involved? Neither of us knew.
We all should know that God A.) doesn’t have to tell sinners anything and B.) isn’t in the habit of providing direct verbal answers to prayers via, say, skywriting. (“John, break up with Wendy.”)
Yet couldn’t we ask God for a sign occasionally? Hasn’t God ever given signs? Yes:
n The LORD gave signs such as a staff that turned into a snake and a hand that turned leprous to help Moses reassure the Israelites (Exodus 4:1–9).
n Gideon asked and received a sign of a fleece that was dry while the ground all around it was wet with dew. The next morning the reverse happened (Judges 6:17,36–40).
n God showed King Hezekiah that he would not die from a dread disease; God made a shadow go backwards ten steps on a stairway (2 Kings 20:8–11).
On the other hand, Jesus orders us not to test God (Matthew 4:7). We should never demand a sign from God while thinking that if God fails to come through, we won’t honor him.
We must also never ask God for a sign about something he has forbidden. Don’t pray, for example, “God, if you want me to move in with my boyfriend before we’re married, please do X.”
n God keeps secrets. Many things he won’t tell, even if we ask.
n God uncovers much to us in the Bible. Confused? Facing a tough decision? Read/pray over God’s Word (Psalms 23 or 25 are great places to start).
n Whatever God uncovers in the Bible will lead us to obey all God has told us. No Bible verse or supposed special message from God will make us disobey God.
What happened to John and Wendy? They broke up. Both later wed other people and had children. Each remains happily married.
Above all, they trust Jesus as their risen Savior — for God’s main “sign” to you is Jesus’ crucifixion in your place.
Rev. Daniel A. Witte, pastor of Risen Savior Lutheran Church, can be contacted at 747-5564.