Signs are an incessant part of the driving experience: sharp curve ahead, do not enter, road closed, rest stop/gas/food ahead…
Even our vehicles give “signs” that shouldn’t be ignored: sputtering, smoke from the exhaust, and yes, that “check engine” light!
For the most part, signs are a huge blessing. Even when they signal something is wrong, that’s a potentially good thing because it allows us to address it and hopefully get it fixed. In fact, signs are considered such a good thing that we often ask God to provide them!
Believers and unbelievers alike ask God for signs. But, is it okay to ask God for a sign? If not, why not?
Signs demanded by hardened unbelievers are always disregarded by the Lord (see Matthew 16.1-4)
The kind of “heavenly sign” the Sadducees and Pharisees wanted is not specified. We can speculate that it must have been a request for something absolutely extraordinary. But their request was insincere. Their real desire was to disprove the power and preaching of Jesus.
They had already seen sign after sign, proving that Jesus’ power was irrefutable except to those with hard hearts who attributed it to Satan (Mt. 9.34). Like Pharaoh before Moses, the more they saw God’s power demonstrated, the more they hardened their hearts against Him.
The “sign of the prophet Jonah” was the final and ultimate sign Jesus gave to the world. It was the sign of His victory over sin, death, and Satan through His resurrection (see Mt. 12.38-40). Oh, and the religious leaders rejected that sign, too, bribing Roman soldiers to say that His body was stolen by His disciples (Mt. 28:11–15)!
Signs essential for sincere seekers are already displayed by the Lord
The “signs” in creation (see Rom. 1.19-20)
Theologian Augustus Strong wrote, “The Scriptures…both assume and declare that the knowledge that God is, is universal.” That’s because of the incredible complexity, intricacy, beauty, harmony and immensity of God’s creation!
The “signs” in our conscience (Rom. 2.14-15)
When people who are without knowledge of God’s Word do that which is outlined in God’s Word, it’s a “sign” indicating that they already have God’s law written in their hearts.
The “signs” in the canon (John 20.30-31)
The canon of Scripture contains wonderfully sufficient signs that testify of Jesus being the Messiah and Savior of any and all who believe!
Signs requested by genuine believers are often discouraging to the Lord
Some disregard God’s promises
Re-read the story of Gideon’s fleece-setting (Judges 6.36-40). Despite knowing the will of god, and being empowered by the Spirit of God, Gideon asked God for a sign. What audacity for Gideon to tell God what conditions He must meet before he would do what God told him to do! And please don’t think that, just because God granted Gideon’s request, He was pleased with Gideon…He most certainly was not!
“Lord, give me a sign of your presence.” He’s already said, “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13.5).
“Lord, give me a sign of your power.” He already does that every time a person is gloriously saved. He does that every time healing takes place and every time a baby is born.
“Lord, give me a sign of your love.” What more can He do to prove His love for you than what He’s already done in sending Jesus to pay your sin debt on Calvary!
Some discount God’s guidance
When I came to candidate at Unity back in 1990, I desperately wanted to be sure of God’s will. During the candidacy process it seemed incredibly clear that God was leading me to Unity. However, I was tempted to put out a fleece regarding the percentage of vote. I thought, “Lord, if I get at least 95 percent, that will be the ‘sign’ that it’s Your will.” Well, what would have happened if the vote were 94 percent? Would that have been a “sign” that it wasn’t God’s will when all the while God’s Spirit was telling me it was? Thankfully, I didn’t “put out a fleece,” and the vote ended up being 100 percent!