An ‘Ishmael’ is something we build, birth, create in an attempt to fulfil God’s promise in our lives by our own power. It is a situation we create in our lives when we are impatient, go ahead of God to do something to protect ourselves from perceived or real life threats.
It is foolish to use your own hands, employ your own abilities and deploy your own resources to birth or create something that will cause you problems for the rest of your life.
There are two reasons why we go against God’s will, do our own thing and move in a direction of our own choosing thereby birthing an Ishmael in our lives. They are the instinct for self preservation and impatience.
The instinct for self preservation is what makes us move to protect ourselves from real or perceived, present or future threats. These threats may appear in the form of business, career or ministry failure, financial adversity, social or political adversity.
God gave us the instinct for self preservation to do something proactive when confronted with the possibility of harm, hurt, or impending calamity. This instinct for self preservation is what keeps us from walking in front of a fast moving vehicle or jumping of a cliff. It is what makes us choose a career that will set us on the path of financial and material success. We look at our options and choose what makes sense to us logically and move in that direction. This is all well and good.
However, the moment we receive Jesus Christ into our hearts and submit our lives to His guidance, leadership and Lordship, we should realise that the dynamics of our lives become different. Our lives are no longer ours to live as we please. We belong to the Lord spirit, soul and body. Everything we are, have or will ever be now belongs to the Lord. We now live to please The Lord, we live to do His pleasure and nothing else. We willingly yield to the master’s will because we know that He has our very best interests at heart. The good thing is that God knows you better than you know yourself. He knows the best combination of talents that will make your light shine bright. God knows the very best career for you to pursue that will bring you the highest possible fulfilment. He knows what businesses you can birth that will not only make you successful but enrich the lives of thousands and possibly millions of people who are connected to you.
God knows the future. He knows in what direction the economy is headed and where to position you so that you prosper in it. This is the reason why the safest place we can be is in the very centre of His will.
Our instinct for self preservation makes us think that the manifestation of our future is in our hands. We think the more we do things by our own power, the faster we move toward our future. We should understand that in life the race is not to the swift, the battle is not to the strong, bread is not to the wise nor riches to people of skill- Ecclestiastes 9:11. We cannot fulfil God’s will in our lives by our own power. For God’s will to find expression in our lives it must be by God’s own power, grace and ability at work in our lives.
It is presumptuous to think that we can help God or He needs our help in any manner or form to birth or fulfil His agenda in our lives. It was this sort of faulty thinking that made Sarai give Hagar to Abram her husband and they produced an Ishmael. It is arrogant to think that ‘things will go wrong in God’s plan if we don’t do something about it.’ You are too small to help God. You cannot help God to actualise His will or perfect His plan in your life. If it is God, then it must be by His own ability and grace and most importantly it must be at His own timing. It is this attempt to help God do what we requested in prayer that gets us into trouble. We try to hasten things along, press some buttons, knock down some doors in order to make things work but we just end up making things worse. We shouldn’t be deceived by the ‘success’ of what we are birthing by our own power. Having money in itself is not a sign that God is in what you are doing. Drug barons, criminals, corrupt politicians and compromised ministers of the gospel also have lots of money but that doesn’t mean the money ‘came from God’s favour.’ Riches and material possessions without God’s blessing and peace is a curse.
When we follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit we birth God’s will at His own divine timing. Anything born outside of divine timing, no matter how good it may seem, no matter how successful it looks, no matter how much money it may bring you will ultimately become an Ishmael to you, a bone stuck in your throat, a thorn in your flesh, a painful clog in the wheel of the progress of your life. When we are patient and wait for God’s timing everything will be in perfect alignment.
The Choice of a Life partner.
It is this instinct for self preservation that makes a single woman choose a life partner based on what she sees on the outside: handsome, rich and successful. You want the best for yourself so you choose a partner based on external qualities. These are good traits, however The Lord sees beyond every external quality of your intended partner. This is the reason why we should allow Him guide us to the right partner for us. The Lord knows this person more intimately than you will ever know him or her. More important than beauty, money and success, The Lord knows where this person’s heart is and what this person is capable of doing. The Lord knows if this person will abandon the pursuit of the kingdom tomorrow for the pursuit of mammon.
This is the reason why we should submit to The Lord and pray that He will sift out the wheat from the chaff and bring the right person into our lives. Our instinct for self preservation will make us choose a life partner by sight. You cannot know for certain what is hidden in a person’s heart by looking at their beauty, clothes, possessions or position in society. Only God can see into the hearts of men. Therefore we should ask The Lord to reveal the true nature of a brother or sister to us. Forget how nice they look, or well spoken, or educated, or exposed they are. All these things mean absolutely nothing if their hearts are not right. Therefore you should pray and let The Lord guide you to the right person.
Career and Business Decisions.
As a believer your education, career and business decisions should be subjected to The Lord in prayer before making them. You shouldn’t allow your instinct for self preservation make you jump at a lucrative job offer because ‘the money and perks of the job are good.’ You shouldn’t move your business in a new direction because ‘there’s money to be made in it.’ Money can be made in different areas of business. The Lord knows exactly what business you should get involved in that will glorify His name and enrich your life.
Your life belongs to The Lord. He is more interested in our success than we are. The Lord sees beyond our myopic view of reality. He sees decades into the future and can position you on a career and business path that will lead to true and lasting prosperity. If we push ourselves into places where we have not been sent or assigned by the Lord we will birth an Ishmael and end up creating problems for ourselves in future.
The primary reason you are pursuing a career or you are in business is to glorify The Lord Jesus Christ. Making money is secondary. The kingdom comes first. All our activities in business or in our career should align with God’s plan for His kingdom and dominion to spread all over the earth. The Lord wants us to glorify and represent Him wherever we find ourselves in society.
Consumed by our instinct for self preservation we totally miss the point of this scripture:
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
God is able to outdo our highest expectations, imagination, computation and prayers. He is able to manifest in our lives far beyond the very best thing that we want for ourselves.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on this. Think about the very best thing that you would want to happen to you in your career, business, family, ministry, finances. Now God is able and will outdo and go far above your expectations if only you let Him in and let His will, plan and purpose find expression in your life. To avoid birthing an Ishmael in our lives we should resist the urge to run ahead of the Master and align ourselves to His will and timing.