We have a set of toy building blocks at our house that the grandkids often enjoy when they come over.
On such an occasion a few weeks ago one of our grandsons asked me to build a robot out of those interlocking pieces. I gladly complied, having constructed a variety of such figures in the past for their pleasure.
However, I didn't get far into the project when my grandson started helping me by adding his own blocks to my creation. He wanted to put some pieces in certain places that I knew would cause the robot to be lopsided and unable to stand up properly. I tried to tell my young building partner not to put the blocks there, but he insisted on doing it anyway, in spite of several warnings.
Certainly I could've forced the issue, after all, I am quite bigger than he is. Or I could've simply used my serious, authoritative adult voice to overrule his wishes. But I didn't. I allowed him to put the blocks where he insisted. And sure enough, it wasn't long before our creation tumbled over and fell apart.
God is certainly bigger and more powerful than us. He could easily force us to do His will. Or He could boom His instructions down to us in such a thunderous voice that it would make us quiver in fear at the thought of failing to do whatever He said.
However, God doesn't force anyone to acknowledge Him, worship Him, or follow His will. In Acts 14:16, Paul is talking about nations who refused to recognize and glorify God, instead choosing to make idols and worship them. The apostle says that God allowed those nations "to walk in their own ways." God allowed them to go the way they had chosen.
God still allows us to walk in our own ways. He shows us the truth, but it's up to us to acknowledge it. He offers us the opportunity to receive the gift of eternal life, but we have to reach out and receive it. In various aspects of our lives, God will show us the best way to build, if we'll listen. He'll direct us in the way we should go.
But if we insist on doing things our way, in the end He'll let us, although it will be to our detriment. Sooner or later that structure or life that we've built apart from Him will tumble over and fall apart.
However, Paul continues in that passage to say "nevertheless God did not leave Himself without a witness." Although God didn't force those nations to obey Him, out of love for them He left a witness or reminder to testify as to who He is. It says that He did good to them, giving them needed rain, fruitful crops, and filling them with food and gladness.
When we choose to walk in our own ways, God still leaves us a witness by showing His goodness and love to us in various ways. Those acts testify that there is a God who loves us -- a Father who wants us to come home to Him. They're like little post-it notes from God.
When we sit down to a table full of food, when we arrive safely at our destination on a trip, when we see the needed rain falling, those notes testify to the reality and goodness of God, in spite of our blindness or rebellion toward Him.
If we're insisting on walking in our own ways instead of following God's direction, let's respond to those ever-present reminders that our loving Father is calling us to turn back to Him. He won't make us do it His way, but there's no doubt that His way is best.
The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.