I see it all the time. If you hang around church people, odds are, you do too. I’m talking about FGS. If my experience is indicative, it is one of the most prolific, unhealthy and damaging conditions in all of the Christian community.
Like a chronic health condition we learn to ignore, the signs of FGS are subtle and seemingly benign to those desensitized by years of exposure. To the unconditioned non-Christian or the sensitive believer, however, the manifestations are alarming, confusing, and can result in observer’s attempts to avoid God and His followers completely.
The infection begins as a simple thought or feeling. It is usually contracted through some kind of emotional experience. This may take place in a large gathering, while watching a sermon on YouTube or even while alone in prayer or reading scripture. At this point there is only potential for FGS to take root. The syndrome will only develop if certain unhealthy behaviors are exercised.
The progression works something like this:
1. A person feels, senses or thinks that God is promising or telling them to do something
2. The person announces God’s direction to others with great sincerity and conviction
3. The person may or may not begin to act on the direction they think or believe they have heard from God
4. The person abandons the thing they believe God told them to do
Unfortunately, it is not until stage four that FGS can be reliably diagnosed. During stage three inactivity can be explained away. Perhaps the timing is not right or maybe the person is working through a building of their faith. At stage four, however, the person shows clear signs of duplicity and it is obvious that the person no longer believes what they believed in stage one.
Sadly, in my experience, most are unwilling to admit the possibility that they misrepresented God or lacked the faith to see it through. Instead they will often point to others or circumstances as the reason why things didn’t work out. They fail to realize that if God set the agenda in the first place, He is certainly aware of potential pitfalls along the path to its fulfillment. And, if He is aware of those pitfalls, He has a plan to overcome them.
When God made His covenant with Abraham, He knew Abraham would face many challenges along the way. God knew Sarah was infertile, He knew Abraham would lie – twice! He knew the “Father of Faith” would take matters into his own hand, and end up with Ishmael. God knew that Abraham’s own Father would die on the journey, Lot’s clan would clash with Abraham’s, and that enemies would rob and pillage him.
When God swore His promise to Abraham, He had no one greater by which to swear. Knowing that Abraham would not be able to keep his end of the bargain, God swore by the one person who would never fail or break the deal – Himself (Hebrews 6:13). Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:20 that all of God’s promises in Christ are “Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” It is clear in scripture that when God gives us a directive or a promise, He intends to see it through to the end. He is “not a man who lies, or a son of man who changes His mind. Does He speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19) He is the same God today He was yesterday and He will always be the same. (Hebrews 13:8)
Since a disease is a divergence from a normal healthy system, it is easy to see how FGS distorts the nature of God to the world around the infected person and indeed to the person themselves. It illustrates behavior which is inconsistent of the very nature of who God is and who He will always be. Thus it is obvious where FGS gets its name: Fickle God Syndrome.
When non-believers and young Christians see these kinds of behavior in other Christians, it is easy for them to get the wrong ideas about God. If God changes His mind for those seen as serious or mature Christians, how can we ever really know anything about God? Might He change His mind about His love for us or His plan of salvation?
With such a serious cost to ourselves and others, it is essential that we diagnose and treat early. Here are a few preventative measures we can take to avoid the condition altogether:
1. Avoid phrases similar to “God said,” or “I am absolutely convinced…” unless unreservedly certain that a directive is from God and not last night’s Pizza or an emotional event.
2. Instead choose phrases such as, “I’m exploring this path to see if God confirms it is the right direction for me,” or “I think God might be telling me…”
3. Take some time to make sure it is not a fleeting feeling or thought.
4. Ask God for confirmation before announcing it to others. Like Gideon, ask God to clarify and verify what He is saying to you. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” (Matthew 5:37)
5. If absolutely certain that it is of the Lord, stick with it at all cost. Do not waver and do not give up. Stay the course until God fulfills His promise or clearly reveals how and where His voice was misinterpreted. This is valuable exercise in learning to hear His voice clearly and accurately. (John 10:27)
If you do discover you missed it, welcome to the human race. We are all vulnerable to mistakes and even failure. Don’t cover it up or act like it is someone else’s fault. Own up to it. Let people know that you messed up. This will encourage the young in Christ that we are all growing, and will show the world that Christians make mistakes – which is better than being flakes – and will testify that God is NOT fickle. We are sometimes, but He never is.
Yes, Fickle God Syndrome is both avoidable and curable. Let’s show the world that when God speaks, they can take His Word to the bank. Together we can end FGS!
Selah (Think on these things.)