Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.” Genesis 6:3
Sir Thomas More used to tell about a friend who was an addicted gambler. Concerned for him and his family, More used to plead with him to stop his gambling and start supporting his family. “But I always win in the end,” he used to say. Pressing him, More countered, “But what if you die suddenly?”
“Oh, I’ll take that risk,” he replied, adding, “Luck is always on my side,” adding, “If it ever came to that, there are three little words I could rely on to save me. I would have at least time to say, ‘Lord, forgive me,’ and I should be forgiven.”
One day, More and his friend were riding towards their homes, and as they crossed a bridge, the friend’s horse reared and flung the rider, throwing him into a stone guard rail. In recounting the story Sir Thomas used to tell how his gambler friend cried three words, but not, “Lord, forgive me.” Instead he retorted, “What the devil!” and died.
There is a myth which is widely believed today by more than a few that goes like this: “God will always be there, and no matter what I do, I can count on him to bail me out.”
It’s called the sin of presumption. It’s true that the Lord is a stronghold in the day of trouble and knows them that trust in Him. Scripture tells us this repeatedly. But the question which has to be faced is this: Can I disregard God and His plan and purpose for my life and assume that He’ll be there when I decide to play my trump card and ask Him to save or deliver me?
Matthew Henry, a godly man whose commentaries are still widely read, used to say that deathbed conversions are seldom true and true conversions are seldom deathbed ones.
The Old Testament book of Judges records the folly of a man who was guilty of the sin of presumption. His name: Samson, the one whose feats of strength exceeded his wisdom. Samson was strong. There was no denying that. The record tells how he seized the gates of a Philistine city and carried them a considerable distance.
Reading Judges 13 through 16, which chronicles his life, you repeatedly find the phrase, “Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power,” and what follows is an extraordinary feat of physical strength of one kind or another. Yes, he was comfortable with what he knew he could do. He was sure God would always be there when He needed Him. And that was true until he crossed the line of no return, and then, says the record, “He awoke from his sleep and thought, ‘I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the LORD had left him” (Judges 16:20).
There is a point of no return, and it is both presumption and folly to think that once you have crossed that line you can cut deals with God on your terms and timetable. He is not an office boy who does your bidding but the sovereign Lord of the Universe.
How do you know when you are pushing the envelope of safety? Simply put, when you knowingly and deliberately do wrong–and you know clearly in your heart that what you are doing is contrary to His word and purpose in your life–whether it is your marriage, your business, your moral life, your integrity or whatever, you are committing the sin of presumption.
When God told Noah, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal,” He was drawing a line–an invisible one, but it’s there nonetheless–and when you cross that line, you are gambling that God will be there to bail you out. It’s a dangerous presumption.
Resource reading: Judges 16.