Amongst the most common questions I get as a pastor, I can’t think of any that top questions about knowing the will of God. What bothers me the most however, is when people have become confused and befuddled by misguided advice.
In our previous posts, we looked at how the Scripture expects the will of God to be obvious to the believer (link). Then we looked at the very practical perspective that we need to grow in this, as in everything else in the Christian life (link). Now we want to consider some of the hazards that can get us off course as we mature in understanding God’s desires and directions for our lives and decision. In a key text on the will of God, Jesus warns that there is a danger of being “led astray” by wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:14-20). We are all susceptible to various “wolfish” thoughts. There are several “wolfish” thoughts regarding God’s floating around the church world. Here is a small selection of some popular, but misleading thinking about God’s Will:
Wolfish Thought One: God’s Will, it is thought, should be understood as a form of enlightenment, where in a sort of Buddhist reality, we become one with Ultimate reality and see everything as it really it is. From this vantage point, we understand why A leads to B and not C. We know exactly where to go. This is seen in Star Wars, were one must simply follow the flow of the force, and he will always be right were he needs to be.
Wolfish Thought Two: God’s Will is also though to be a form of mysticism, where a sort of Pagan omen system is followed. Believers look for signs in all sorts of events and conversations. Like ancient Roman generals watching the direction of a flying Eagle to determine the direction of attack, believers look for the “waves” of what God is doing in the world and try to jump in.
Wolfish Thought Three: God’s Will, it is also often thought is a revelation, where a spirit guide view of God is espoused. Believers are looking for “a still small voice” or “a dream” or a “word of prophecy” through which to learn God’s will.
We all know the Bible has illustrations of God leading and speaking in various different ways. A sovereign God can communicate however he wishes. But that is the point, he communicates however he wishes, not as we wish. We also know that many people have experiences they have interpreted as the leading of God. Certainly these experiences may originiate with God, or on the other hand they may not.
How can one know the validity of any human experience? For example, if one follows the path of Wolfish Thought One, and seeks by their feelings to be guided to the “right thing” how can they know that the feeling is not indigestion? If one follows path Two and assumes God “closes one door and opens another” through some experience, how do they know that it is not Satan, putting a door between them and God’s will? If one follows path three, how does one know it is not Satan, disguised as an “angel of light” deceiving him?
The answer is, that we must measure all our experienced against what we know God has said. We must measure all experiences by the Scripture. We know that through the Scriptures God speaks to us. The Scriptures are the words of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21, 2 Timothy 3:16). By heeding the Scriptures, the believer is made: “competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17). This must surely include the Will of God, to which we are called, since this is the basic distinction that marks a Christian apart from an unbeliever. So, what do the Scriptures, that is to say, what does God’s own testimony say concerning His Will? Look for part four soon (also see our earlier posts, part one, and part two, part three).