Monday, July 1, 2013

Knowing the Will of God

~Published in the Charleston Gazette, June 30, 2013~
Some people say discovering God’s will is like trying to catch a butterfly that’s always just out of reach. Others feel it’s like fishing – casting a lure and hoping for the best. Neither guarantees that we can know God’s will. But, thankfully, the Father gives believers His Holy Spirit to reveal His purpose for each one.
Scripture is our principal means of communication. The Bible is our instruction book for living. It is a vital revelation for all believers, and its precepts and ideals clearly give us the answers to most questions about the will of God.
Communication with God requires a regular time of reading the Bible with an open heart and mind. We sometimes find this difficult. The busyness of our lives leaves little time to study the scriptures or spend time with God. Many Christians say they are concerned about knowing the will of God, but how many of them spend even five minutes a day asking Him for wisdom and direction?
While God speaks primarily through His Word, He also speaks through the Holy Spirit to our consciences, through circumstances, and through other people. Once we commit our lives to God and the Holy Spirit comes to live in us, it’s difficult to do wrong because we have this nagging influence inside that lets us know when we are about to do something we shouldn’t. We’ve all heard the still, small voice.
By applying what we hear to the Scriptures, we can learn to recognize His voice.
Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). These are the sheep who hear and recognize His voice, because they know Him as their Shepherd. If we are to recognize God's voice, we must belong to Him. And that means following His direction.
But when life becomes complicated, we sometimes struggle to handle our problems ourselves or we rely on the opinions of others. It’s easy to feel that the quickest way to fix things is to ask the advice of fellow Christians, or even unbelievers who seem wise. Our instinct is to withdraw from the source of stress or pain. At such times, our need to remove discomfort from our life can take precedence over the Lord’s plan. We assume He could not possibly want us to feel this way so we take action and then hope we are in His will. This places the emphasis on ourselves rather than on God’s purposes.
However, God causes "all things to work together for good" in the lives of His children, even though the things that happen sometimes do not seem best at the moment. To clarify this, C. S. Lewis used the illustration of a dog whose leash got wrapped around a pole. As the dog pulled to get free, the owner found it necessary to move it in precisely the opposite direction in order to free it from the pole. We are often like that dog, straining to do things our way instead of waiting for God’s will, but our heavenly Father loves us and knows what is best for us. Therefore, the path to our ultimate release will sometimes be painful, but we can delight in His will, knowing the glorious destiny that lies ahead of us.
If we want to know and experience God's will, we must communicate with Him regularly through prayer and Scripture. Living a Christian life apart from a steady diet of His Word is impossible.