Monday, September 10, 2012

Discerning the Will of God

Christians who take the Bible seriously know that God has a plan for our lives. This includes the days of our lives (Psalm 139:16), our strengths and weaknesses (1 Cor. 12:12-19), and the deeds we are to perform (Eph. 2:10). He has even promised to guide us:

·        The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. (Psalm 23:1-3)

However, we remain anxious about discovering this plan. We worry, “Perhaps I’ve made the wrong decision and have removed myself out of the parameters of God’s plan and now have to settle for plan B?” And by the end of the week, we are wondering whether we will have to settle for plan X.

Many have written intelligently on this anxiety-ridden subject. Scripture is understandably identified as our first line of defense. It is the most reliable source to discover God’s will and plan for our lives. However, Scripture is easy to misinterpret. Therefore, we have to live it to know it:

·        But solid food [of the Scriptures] is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:14)

However, many of us are immature and are also blinded by our own experiences, fears and desires. Therefore, we seek counsel from others. But who can tell us, with any certainty, who to marry, where to live or what to buy or do? Scripture often lacks those coveted details.

Out of frustration, we resort to analyzing dreams, meditating on our feelings, supernatural events and even Bible-roulette to discern God’s leading. And then we wonder whether we are spiritual enough to discern His voice through them. Sometimes, we are left more confused than before.

Often, our anxiety results because we leave an important piece out of the discernment puzzle – the sovereignty of our God. Jesus taught that we are so thoroughly surrounded by God that we need not worry about our needs being met (Matthew 6:25-31). He explained that God cares about each hair on our heads:

·        Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:29-30)

According to our Savior, it is not simply that God knows how many hairs are on our heads. He actually sets the number. No detail is too small for Him; no concern is too insignificant; no tear passes from our eyes unnoticed.

Perhaps, then, it is not so important to be able to discern God’s detailed will. Perhaps, instead, it is sufficient to know that He is guiding us – whether we are aware of it or not – and is working all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). In fact, He seldom reveals to us the details of His plans beforehand:

·        A man's steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way? (Proverbs 20:24)

We can’t! Much is shrouded in mystery. We are very limited in terms of what we can see. Our senses have been calibrated to perceive only a limited range of things. We can see the movement of the clock’s second-hand; perhaps even the minute hand. However, we can’t perceive movement in the hour-hand, and if the second-hand was moving a thousand times faster, we wouldn’t even see it at all!

We are not only limited in seeing speed, we are also limited in seeing size and wave-lengths. We can’t see what the microscope sees or what the telescope sees. We can only see a very limited range of light and sound. We can’t hear what the dog or the whale hears. We can’t perceive what the bat perceives, nor can do we have the infrared sensing of a snake. And when it comes to the spirit-world, we are even more limited.

We certainly can’t imagine how God can be leading us without our ever sensing it. However, tells us that He leads even those who care nothing for Him or His will:

·        The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. (Proverbs 21:1)

Scripture gives us many examples of our God hardening the hearts of kings and even softening their hearts towards His people. Without the kings having even the slightest sense of His leading, He has led them against one nation or another to accomplish His purposes.

If He can do this with people who have no awareness of Him, how much more can He do this with us, who are seeking Him! Saul hadn’t been aware that God was infallibly leading him to the Prophet Samuel who God had instructed to anoint Saul king over Israel. Meanwhile, Saul had merely been trying to find his donkeys, searching from one town to another. He had no idea whatsoever that he had an appointment with destiny (1 Samuel 9).

So it is with us. We have no clue how God is guiding us by the moment, even the second! God brought Saul to Samuel at the very moment that He had determined.

God is omnipotent. He can do all of this. If a computer microchip can perform so many operations at one time, how much more the Creator of this entire universe who sustains every atom and all the laws of physics!

We understand our God too incompletely. However, when we understand His greatness – the power that is working in our lives – we have a basis for peace and cognitive rest. We no longer have to worry about whether or not we correct discern His leading. We don’t have to!

Understanding just a bit of His glory gives us the freedom to take our eyes off of our limitations, failures and doubts and to place our attention and adoration upon Him. What a relief!

I still worry. However, now, I have been handed an adequate reason not to worry, and that has made all the difference.

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