September 4, 2011

How do ya know?

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in The Journey

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When you’re faced with a decision, how do ya know what is GOD’S WILL for you and what is your will for you?  We know the Holy Spirit lives in the believer, why is it sometimes so difficult to know?

There are lots of potential answers to that question:

1. More experience relying on self than relying on the Spirit?

2. Haven’t asked God about it?

3. Can’t recognize God’s response?

4. Don’t like the answer God gave?

5. Afraid of the answer God might give?

Here’s what Francis Chan says in his book, “Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit”:

“The truth is that the Spirit of the living God is guaranteed to ask you to go somewhere or do something you wouldn’t normally want or choose to do.  The Spirit will lead you to the way of the cross, as He led Jesus to the cross, and that is definitely not a safe or pretty or comfortable place to be. The Holy Spirit of God will mold you into the person you were made to be.”

For me, a couple of things that get in the way of my understanding of GOD’S WILL is human logic and human results.  These two are closely related, the first leading right into the last.  What I mean is that I lay out the steps logically – if this, then that – and so on … and the path that gets the best results seems like the way to go.  I pray about it, I don’t feel at ease with one path or another, and I pray some more.  I then suspect something is wrong with the process and I retrace my steps and start the process over, but now I’m asking myself a couple of questions:

  • Are my motives pure and unselfish?
  • Are my “results” serving to build the Kingdom?

I realign and readjust as needed after dealing with the conviction from those two questions, and I’m back in prayer, and back to considering alternatives.  The “results” question can be particularly perplexing; do God and I look at results the same way?  By the time I’ve gone through the process half a dozen times, some things start to come clear:

  • Am I limiting God’s options?  I can’t put God in a box and give him limited options from which to choose.  I’m looking for a “go left” or “go right” answer and God may be telling me “go straight”, “back up”, or oftentimes, “be still”.
  • What result does God want?  God doesn’t look at results the same way I do in my worldly view.  God is more concerned about what He is doing in me than in what I’ll do for Him.  He doesn’t need me to do anything for Him.  He will be just fine without me.  His plan is to conform me in the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.
  • Does the plan depend on God?  Whatever the result, it must glorify God. Accomplishing something that I and everyone I know say, “Yeah, that’s Kevin” is not glorifying God.  The result must lead to people saying, “Yeah, that’s God!”

Hannah Whitall Smith describes “how ya know” in her book, “The Christian’s Secret Of A Happy Life”:

“There are four ways in which He reveals His will to us – through the Scriptures, through providential circumstances, through the convictions of our own higher judgment, and through the inward impressions of the Holy Spirit on our minds.  Where these four harmonize, it is safe to say that God speaks.”

Hannah suggests we start with the Bible, concluding, “Where our Father has written out for us a plain direction about anything, He will not of course make a special revelation to us about that thing.”  In a simple example, we don’t need to wonder or ask God about killing someone, His commandment is clear.  She also cautions us about impressions.  Is that the Holy Spirit impressing the matter on me?  Or is it impressions of others around me?  Could it be impressions from Satan disguised as an angel of help?  For our “higher judgment”, Hannah means our own common sense that is enlightened by the Holy Spirit.  And finally “providential circumstances” means has the way opened to carry out the matter.  Again, Hannah contends that when these are all working in harmony, you can know God is speaking.

Have you ever experienced that harmony and known God was speaking to you?  I have and it’s a feeling that is beyond description.  “Peace” comes to mind, but it falls short of the satisfaction, joy, warmth, love and confidence that joins with peace at those times you know you are obeying His direction.

Hannah also offered these words:

“If the suggestion is from Him, it will continue and strengthen; if it is not from Him, it will disappear…” (Hannah Whitall Smith)

I can testify to this one.  If you’re not sure that’s God directing you, just don’t act and see what happens.  If it’s God, and if you continue to seek His Will, that direction will come right back at you again and again.

So, taking it all in, here’s my September 2011 working draft of some questions I ask myself as I’m trying to figure out “how ya know”:

1. God is persistent.  Did one alternative come back to me again and again and again?

2. God wants the glory.  Does the path chosen glorify God?

3. God has one, unchanging result in mind.  Is the outcome likely to produce God’s result (conforming me to the image of His Son)?

4. God wants me to rely on Him.  Will the implementation push me outside my comfort zone?

5. God brings peace to my heart.  Having made the decision in my mind, do I feel the peace that comes from knowing I’m following God’s Will?

A closing thought from Francis:

“When I live by my own power and strength, relying solely on my natural talents to see me through, then people naturally praise me for how I am living. But when I am living in a way that requires me to depend on the Holy Spirit, people respond by praising my Father in heaven.” (Francis Chan)

Readers, please post a comment or send me an email on how you know … !

     Loving the Journey,

     Kevin

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