When William Goldman asked his daughters what to write his next novel about, one said, “A princess,” and the other said, “A bride.” So he wrote The Princess Bride, published in 1973. For fifteen years, Goldman searched for a studio to produce his movie—hoping for a green light. Finally, a young director named Rob Reiner secured funding, the light turned green, and the movie, released in 1987, has appeared on “best movies” lists ever since.

            When a project is “green lighted” in the movie business, it means details have come together—an idea becomes reality. Christians often spend a lot of time hoping and searching for a green light from God. But is there a biblical strategy for seeking God’s permission and direction?


Asking Is Good

            Spending fifteen years asking to make a movie required persistence and boldness! It reminds me of a parable Jesus used to teach His disciples how to ask for things from God.

            A man had a guest arrive in the middle of the night, but the man had no food to give him. He woke a neighbor to borrow bread. The neighbor objected but gave in “because of [the man’s] persistence” (Luke 11:1-8). Unlike the neighbor, God does not resent being called on at any time. And Jesus commends the man’s persistence. There was a legitimate need, the neighbor had resources, and the man kept asking—respectfully—making his case until the answer came. Persistence, not friendship, resulted in the request being granted.

            Persistence means asking, seeking, and knocking. He said, “Those who keep asking will receive, those who keep seeking will find, and to those who keep on knocking, the door will be opened” (Luke 11:10, paraphrase). Ongoing asking in faith is called proactive patience. When seeking permission from God about something not specifically mentioned in Scripture, waiting may be involved. Continue to pray and seek God’s answer with proactive patience.

            Sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers immediately. He might be building our faith or maturity. His answer often comes as we are proactively and patiently seeking Him and His will. Seeking God’s permission isn’t asking once, then giving up. If the man in Jesus’ parable did that, his guest would have gone hungry.


Waiting Is Good

            Grace Hopper, modern computing pioneer, died in 1992 a highly decorated Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy. She described her legacy this way: “The most important thing I’ve accomplished... is training young people. They…. say, ‘Do you think we can do this?’ I say, ‘Try it.’ And I back ‘em up…. I stir ‘em up at intervals so they don’t forget to take chances.”

            She’s credited with originating the phrase, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.” But when seeking permission from God, it’s better to wait for His permission than ask for His forgiveness. Christians often think: “We need to decide—no time to wait for God’s answer. He’ll forgive us if we make the wrong decision.” God is certainly forgiving. But His purpose is to conform us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). God’s answer is based upon that purpose, which we may not understand (Isaiah 55:8-9).


How to Ask and Wait

            Some businessmen planned to open a profitable business in a new city. A wise man asked, “What do you know about what tomorrow holds? Before you rush off you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (see James 4:13-16, paraphrased).

            How do we seek His permission when God’s traffic light isn’t green?

            Be prepared. If it’s something you’re reluctant to do, be prepared for God to say “Go!” If it’s something you want to do, be prepared for God to say “No!”

            Be persistent. Asking for permission requires asking—sometimes we have not because we ask not (James 4:2). When we ask God through prayer by faith (Luke 11:11), we make ourselves available to hear His counsel.

            Be patient. A day to God is like a thousand years to us (2 Peter 3:8). Rest in His perfect timing.

            Be purposeful. God’s permission is purposeful—and it should be to us as well. Whether God says “Go” or “No,” calling Jesus “Lord” means doing what He says (Luke 6:46).

            A green light from God is great, but there is maturity to be gained from waiting for it. Call Him, and He will answer you (Jeremiah 33:3). Better to ask for permission than forgiveness.


David Jeremiah is the senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church and the founder and host of Turning Point for God. For more information about Dr. Jeremiah or Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org.