Over the past few years, I’ve been meditating on something a little different. I've been realizing how many wrong assumptions I make about God.

As human beings, we have to make assumptions based on facts in order to function. The sun has come up every day at around the same time for years and years. This is a fact. There are many scientific causes, but I don't need to know or understand them in order to recognize the facts as laid out by history. If we didn't assume that the sun would come up tomorrow, or that the ground would hold our weight, we wouldn't be able to go about our lives in a normal way. Instead, we would be immobilized, perpetually questioning everything, and unable to make new discoveries or inventions.

We make assumptions about people, their behaviour, and their motives. These may be accurate, but sometimes they might contain flaws. The problem is that when we've held an assumption for a long time, we sometimes forget its origin and start treating it like a fact. Then we build another conjecture on the 'facts', and another. Soon if we're not careful we end up with a very shaky tower of reasoning indeed! Perhaps it starts to look like the leaning tower of Pisa: it might threaten to tumble at any second.

I've found that one of the key ingredients to living a humble and godly lifestyle is to constantly re-evaluate my assumptions about God and people, submitting them to the authority of the scriptures and the Holy Spirit. Obviously, we don't constantly question and re-question Jesus' work on the cross and our own salvation. These things are facts, not assumptions. But what about our belief that we are following and obeying God right now?

I’ve been reading a book about cognitive biases, called “Thinking Fast, and Slow”, by a Nobel-winning psychologist. Daniel Kahneman and his contemporary, Amos Tversky, were at the top in the field of psychology. Many people believe they came up with their best work when collaborating together. They would eventually win the Nobel Prize and MacArthur Genius awards, but later their relationship would fall apart. Their relational problems would arguably stem from the same cognitive biases that they had spent their lives studying. [1]

Though tragic in its irony, this story highlights an important truth: the study of cognitive biases cannot help us to avoid them. It can only alert us to possible ways in which we might be wrong.

Doctors Kahneman and Tversky were two highly educated and extremely intelligent men—arguably some of the most intelligent of their time—who had dedicated their lives to studying cognitive biases. However, in the end, even they were not immune to the effects of their subject matter. This story puts the truth on display: humility, not knowledge, is most important for understanding other people, including God. It doesn't matter how much we know about bias, psychology, or the mind. Knowledge is only useful if it feeds our humility.

We can have all the knowledge in the world, have studied the Bible extensively, and know many interesting facts and details about God. But we would never expect someone to be able to discern where we’re going based on a single turn at a busy city stop light. So how can we assume that we know where God is going when we observe a small fragment of His work?

If we make too many assumptions, or if we make a few really faulty ones, our towers of Pisa may come tumbling down. I decided to write a two-part blog series about our assumptions this morning. By this evening, I’m up to four parts. Who knows how many there will be before I’m done? One thing I do know: we each need to approach our God with humility and ask Him to search our hearts, illuminate our error and arrogance, and purge our spirits of anything not of Him.

So here’s the first realization I’d like to share with you:

God may be using me, but that doesn't mean that I am obedient or pleasing Him.

I’ve just finished reading the story of Samson in my morning devotions. Now there was a deeply-flawed fellow. Dedicated by his parents from birth for God’s service, Sampson lived his life as though declaring to the world that such a dedication was not his idea of a good time. Yet God chose him to judge Israel for 20 years. Samson slept with prostitutes, tortured animals, killed thousands of men, cavorted with enemies of God, and yet God used him. He scorned the laws of God and took His presence and favour for granted. And yet, God used him. He broke his vow, allowed his hair to be cut, was maimed and enslaved. And yet God used him.

We are no better. We treasure lust in our hearts, are cruel to other people, treat fellow human beings as worthless, cavort with idols of wealth and materialism. We scorn the laws of God and think that His use of us means that He approves of our behaviour. Our hearts swell with pride. We break our vow to worship Him alone and are enslaved by our own pride and arrogance.

God will use whom He uses, and neither you nor I should fool ourselves into thinking that His using us means that He approves of our heart attitudes and actions.

Too often we puff ourselves up in pride and pat ourselves on the back, saying, "I must be doing something right because God is using me." But the truth is that I must be—for I always am—doing something wrong.

How important it is to humbly seek Him, and continually submit ourselves to His instruction, correction, and reproof.


[1] Daniel Stone, "The fiery partnership between two great psychologists can help explain why some relationships fall apart", Quartz, January 27, 2017, https://qz.com/896150/daniel-kahneman-and-amos-tversky-the-science-behind-the-fiery-partnership-between-two-great-psychologists/"

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