Assumption is rooted in faith. Presumption is rooted in arrogance. Is it possible for us, even unknowingly, to cross the line between faith and arrogance when we seek to do God’s will? It’s a bold statement and one carefully made. After all, aren’t we called to do God’s will? The problem comes when we presume to accomplish His will in our own wisdom and strength rather than to assume by faith that He will accomplish His own will through our obedience. But how do we know if we are presumptuous?
Assuming or Presuming?
To “assume” is to be confident that God is who He says He is and will act accordingly for His own glory. At its heart, faith is the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). We choose to trust God because He is faithful by His nature and to His Word. We place trust in His nature and decrees even when we cannot readily see the outcomes.
To “presume,” on the other hand, according to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, is to “take for granted” or to “be arrogant or impertinent enough to do something.” In other words, to presume on God is to take for granted that “if I do my part, He will do His.” It seems like a fine distinction, but how often do we cross the lexical line without even knowing it?
To “presume” is to place ourselves into the equation or outcome.
It’s a serious matter. Saul found out that “rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Samuel 15:23). David’s elder brother, Eliab, wrongly accused him of having a presumptuous heart in coming to see the battle between Israel and the Philistines against the giant, Goliath. On the battlefield, only David possessed God’s perspective. Eliab presumed wrongly and could have sabotaged God’s plan to rescue Israel through his youngest brother.
To “presume” is to place ourselves into the equation or outcome. It’s to put our actions on the table of outcomes. It’s to presume a quid pro quo. In other words, we expect God’s favor in return for our faithful obedience. Putting it that way, we would probably say, “May it never be!”
But what about when we determine church vision, set goals, or create and implement strategies to do God’s work? Of course, we are to follow God’s vision for His church. Setting proper goals and implementing strategies is part of exercising wisdom. But if we expect God to act because we have done our part, we commit the sin of presumption.
When We Pray…
What if we pray in passionate unity with hearts of faith? Does that mean God is obligated to act with favor? What if His response is suffering? What if His response is to act in ways we cannot anticipate? What if He remains silent?
But it seems that often the hardest thing about faith is that we are to follow obediently and to take our hands off the driver’s wheel.
What if we pray for prosperity and healing of our city, and instead, God allows suffering and the pains of unrighteousness to bring the necessary discipline that usually brings greater heart change than prosperity?
What if we pray for revival of His church and instead we receive greater manifestations of His people’s hardened hearts? That does not mean we should not pray. Neither does it mean that God turns a deaf ear. What it means is that by faith, we are obedient in prayer and action without presuming that God will answer in the ways we want or think He should.
Faith is the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” But it seems that often the hardest thing about faith is that we are to follow obediently and to take our hands off the driver’s wheel. We assume by faith that God is faithful to His nature and Word. We presume when we expect God do His part when we do ours.
Authored by Dr. David F. Ingrassia, Pastor at Charlotte Awake