Written by: Dr Japie Malan
Article source: JOY! Magazine

Someone once said: “The detour is always worse than the main road.” A detour is a deviation from the direct course or the usual procedure. We can all testify about painful detours in our Christian walk – spiritual detours that bring conflict, not only into our homes, but also into the space around us. The present COVID-19 pandemic gives many opportunities to take detours. Most of the time a spiritual detour is the result of depending on our wisdom instead of “walking by faith” and “waiting for God” to fulfil His promises in His way and in His time. It is extremely dangerous to depend on your own wisdom.

Reasons for taking detours
Waiting often makes us frustrated. Most people don’t like to wait. But it’s through “faith and patience [that we] inherit the promises…” – Hebrews 6:12. God has a perfect timetable for all He wants to do, but we often take a detour because our sense of time differs from God’s, and we become impatient. Why is God taking so long? Many times, God wants us to reach our end, as in Abraham and Sarah’s case, to be “as good as dead” (Heb 11:12), so that God alone receives the glory.

How to handle situations
Whatever is truly done by faith is done for the glory of God (Rom 4:20) and not for the praise of man. A willingness to wait upon the Lord is evidence that we’re walking by faith. “He that believeth shall not make haste” – Isaiah 28:16. When we stop trusting God, we often start to “make haste” in the wrong direction, and we end up being ashamed.
But faith is trusting and acting on the authority of God’s Word (Rom 10:17). If we’re obeying what God says in His Word, we won’t take the detour. Hebrews 11 records the mighty acts of ordinary people who dared to believe God’s promises, obey His rules, and trust His timing.

So the evidence of true faith is that we’re willing to wait: we’re concerned primarily for God’s glory; we’re obeying God’s Word; and we have God’s joy and peace in our choices.

A willingness to wait upon the Lord is evidence that we’re walking by faith.

Wrong schemes, wrong actions
True faith is based on the Word of God and not on the wisdom of man (Prov 3:5-6). It’s living without trusting in our own schemes. We may scheme that a specific thing will be good, but without any assurance from God on which to base our actions, it may lead to tragic results.

Our scheming may also lead to disappointment with God, even blaming Him or thinking we know better. But God’s delays are not necessarily God’s denials. Satan whispers to us, “God is holding out on you! If He loved you, things would be different! Accuse Him!” – Genesis 3:1-6. Then we’re tempted to stop waiting on the Lord and to rush ahead with our plans. Although we may begin in the Spirit when we put our faith in the Lord, many times we turn to the flesh for help.

Right confession, right actions
When we realise we have turned onto a detour, we must confess our sins and receive His gracious forgiveness. Once we stop fighting with God and ourselves, we’ll have an easier time not fighting with others.

But sometimes, we continue further down the detour: we harden our hearts against God and continue trying to solve our problems on our own. Yet, “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” – James 4:6. Therefore, we must submit to God and trust Him to work things out for our good and His glory.

We must submit to God and trust Him to work all things out for our good and to His glory.

Our actions, in faith, must bring glory to God
We will destroy ourselves if we allow unbelief, impatience, anger, pride, or indifference to take over. We must live our lives by yielding to God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Satan wants us to think that our disobedience detours must become the permanent road for the rest of our lives. But this is a lie. We can confess our sins, accept God’s cleansing (1 John 1:9), and then learn to live with our mistakes. Yes, there will be pain and regret; but God’s grace will overcome in the end.

God overcomes our detours
“For whatsoever is not of faith is sin” – Romans 14:23. Be sure that your plans and procedures can pass the “test of faith”. People may agree with you, and the law may defend you; but if God cannot bless you, then don’t do it! Let God accomplish His will in His way and in His time. When we try to run ahead of God, we often create problems that will be with us for life.
Yet God’s grace is larger than man’s sin; it can achieve God’s best, even when men do their worst. In grace, God saw our needs; and He comes to us to meet our needs. He can even use our mistakes and wrong choices. From the human viewpoint, our detours are often a disaster. However, from God’s divine point of view, He’s never caught by surprise. When He cannot rule, He overrules; and He always accomplishes His purposes.


Dr Japie Malan is the Academic Dean at Mukhanyo Theological College. He has served as the leader of several churches and community development ministries for more than 35 years.

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