In considering how I can know God’s will, Psalm 119 came at once to my mind. It is one of my favourites, and I think it conveys, not a method or a formula, but the importance of God’s Word, of studying it, knowing it, and obeying it, in relation to, as they say, “being in” the will of God. If we read it slowly, meditatively, we begin to understand that Truth has to be the beginning, and remain as the constant measuring stick, of our relationship with Jesus Christ.
In this Psalm, the Psalmist is saying that God’s will is revealed in His Word, through His
They are so precious to him. More precious than thousands of silver and gold, sweeter than honey to his lips. They are become his hope, strength, joy, peace. He seeks them with his whole heart. In the midst of trouble and persecution, he trusts in them, in God’s promises. They light his path, and he delights in them.
My Will Vs. His
But start with this. The thing is to have no will of your own. To have nothing lingering there to put up resistance to His. If my heart is “flat out” for Him, if I am so abiding in Him, that I have no will, no plans, no presumptions of my own, then His will becomes mine, is mine. I will be so receptive to it, that I will automatically be walking in it. I won’t be putting up a fight, trying to hold on to my own agenda or desires.
So much is already laid out for me in His Word. These few words say so much about His will for me. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) My sanctification. That is His will for me. My being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. That will be my end result, in glory. What stands in the way of that, in the meantime? Me. Myself. I must be chipped away at, as a sculptor chisels a block of stone. In his mind’s eye, he sees the finished product. He sees his masterpiece. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.
Am I content in this? Oh yes, in my spirit, I rejoice. As for my flesh, it flinches every time the chisel comes near. When I am reading this beautiful Psalm, as I meditate on it, my heart cries “Yes Lord! May it ever be so for me!” And then I get up from that place, and immediately my mind is at work, dallying where it should never go, seeking after self being satisfied. Turning to idols once more, so easily putting aside the precious truths I so recently feasted upon.
God is Sovereign
God is sovereign. God is God. He decides where I will work, whom I will marry, how many children I will have. Ultimately. I go through the motions, the decision making process, but I see this: “My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skilfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” (Psalm 139:15-17) And I know that everything in my life has a purpose, is part of His grand design. Even the pain, even the sin. He is working it all together for good.
Before I understood this, I thought that everything depended on me. On how good I was, on how obedient, on how “in tune” I was to His “voice”. But here is what He asks of me. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” He promises that if I seek Him first and His kingdom, that He will look after all the details.
This is framed over my desk at home, “The people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits.” (Dan.11:32) So I must make knowing Him my priority. Knowing, fearing (revering), loving, obeying. It happens in that order. Bit by bit, what He says matters more than what I want. Bit by bit, what He says becomes what I want. His will becomes mine. Even though the struggle is always there, and will always be. Increased obedience needs increased grace. Supply and demand. That’s how it works. There is never a shortage of His grace.
Does God still “speak” today? I believe He does. Through His Word, first and foremost. In it, He lays out the basic framework of His will. He shows me in it Who He is, and who I am. He tells me what His will is for me in all of my relationships and situations, including my relationship with Him. I am His, His child, His servant, His purchased possession.
So if things are getting complicated, if I seemingly “can’t see the forest for the trees,” then I must be looking in the wrong direction. I must be looking over the fence, for some greener grass. I have to come back to the beginning, back to Him, back to His Word. Begin at the bottom. Do I know my proper place in His scheme of things? Am I being faithful, am I being obedient, with what He has given me, where He has put me? In my situations, in my relationships? Am I content in these? If not, why not? What am I not content with? Do I want to change them, to run from them? I have to line everything up with Truth. I have to ask Him to search my heart, and show me my motives. I must ask Him to change my heart, to reveal Himself, and His love to me in a greater way. I must set my mind on things above, and learn to trust Him for the things below.
One Step at a Time
Are things not going according to plan, my plan? Should have known! My plans aren’t likely to line up often with His. Self wants the easy way, the short cut, the “no muss, no fuss” method of sanctification. But here is what He seems to do. He arranges things so that I must keep turning to Him. For strength. For guidance. For wisdom. For forgiveness. Over and over and over. That is His will for me. To rely on Him, for everything. To realize that it is Him leading the way. To help me to understand that I can’t make any long-range plans. He makes them all. And He only lets me see one step at a time. That is all He will trust me with. Good thing, too. If I knew more than that, I would start embellishing, and putting in my two cents worth. As if He needs my input! He doesn’t want me to try and figure everything out in advance. He wants me to trust Him with all my heart, not lean on my understanding, acknowledge Him in all my ways, and He will direct my path.
But must I pray specifically about every move, every decision that I make? No, I don’t believe that I do. For one thing, I have not yet reached the point where I am continually acknowledging Him in all of my ways. So much of the time, most of the time, I do lean on my own understanding, my own emotions, or the opinions of others. But still He does lead me. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the LORD upholds him with His hand.” (Psalm 37:23,24). Whew! I can count on God’s wisdom, His strength, and most of all, His grace, to uphold me while I stumble along in this life.
Like the hymn says “He leadeth me: O blessed thought! O words with heavenly comfort fraught! Whate’er I do, where’er I be, still ‘tis God’s hand that leadeth me.” When I seek Him, to know Him, to love and obey Him, with all of my heart, His grace is a net beneath me, and He sends angels to watch over me. If it were not so, how hopeless it all would be. Because I know that all of my own thoughts, plans, motives, and desires are tainted with sin, and always will be. But His purposes, His will, His grace overrides them, and somehow He will accomplish what He has set out to do, even in me. “The Lord will perfect that which concerns me. Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; do not forsake the works of Your hands.” (Psalm 138:8)
Heavenly To-Do Lists?
But how does He “lead” me in the day to day kinds of things? Do I hear a voice every morning, listing my instructions for the day? Is there some mysterious handwriting on the steamed up bathroom mirror? Hasn’t happened to me yet. But this has. On different occasions, I have been impressed so strongly to pray for a person, right then and there. And later, I have found out that at that exact time, they were going through a particularly difficult experience. And other times I have “been led” to give someone a particular book, or send them a note, or call them. At the time, it just seemed the thing to do, and I had no sense of expectation about it. But later, it would turn out that whatever I had done had a special significance for that person. And at other times, I have been “impressed” to talk to someone, to introduce myself to a person, to get to know them. It is like the Holy Spirit shines a spotlight on them, and says “that one. Talk to that one.” And usually it is someone that needed encouragement, or just needed a friend for a time.
Those are some of the ways that I think God “leads” us. He just drops ideas or thoughts into our minds, without any big fanfare. He does order our steps, kind of automatically. Not forcing, or ordering us to do things. But if we are abiding in Him, resting in Him, just going from moment to moment, being content in Him, and trusting Him, He makes straight paths for us. He steers us in the way we should go.
God is not limited in how He can operate, but that He won’t do anything that contradicts what He has said in His Word. I do believe I have “heard” God’s voice on occasion. If He chooses to speak that way, that is fine. But I would never seek it as a way to know His will. I must always begin and end with scripture. Begin with it as the foundation, the main channel through which I know and understand God’s will, and end with it as a plumb line against which I measure every other thought, emotion, and experience that I am tempted to use in addition to scripture.
When I consider the vast richness of God’s Word, the patient forbearance of the Holy Spirit in teaching us truth, and the grace that allows our continued perseverance in this race, I am incredibly grateful, and humbled, that this Most High God would allow us to understand even one iota of His Word, and to approach Him as our Heavenly Father, our Abba Daddy. He is captivating in His beauty and grace, and following Him one moment at a time can be our greatest joy.