Knowing God's Will

"When I was crossing the Irish Channel on a starless night, I stood on the deck by the captain and asked him, 'How do you know Holyhead Harbor on so dark a night as this?' He said, 'Do you see those three lights? Those three lights must line up behind each other as one, and when we see them so united we know the exact position of the harbor's mouth.'

When we want to know God's will, there are three things that always concur: the inward impulse, the word of God, and the trend of circumstances. God in the heart, impelling you forward; God in His book corroborating whatever He says in the heart; and God in circumstances, which are always indicative of His will. Never start until all three agree."
-- F. B. Meyer

When it comes to knowing God's will, it would be really nice if there was some type of magic formula: "Say 10 Hail Marys, speak in three tongues, take 2 aspirin, and call God in the morning." But there isn't one. I propose that learning to know God's will is a process that you develop over a period of time. As mentioned in the above illustration, it involves three main facets.

The first light, the inward impulse, is one that must be treated with much caution. We have all heard about weirdoes who claim that God spoke to them in strange ways to do even stranger things that we know can't be true. Aside from the skepticism that this creates, we also know that every single inward urge we have experienced could not possibly have all come from God. Indeed, if we followed every inward impulse that we ever felt we would either be in prison or in an institution. That said, there are times when God tugs at our hearts with inward promptings. (For a personal example of this, see The Vanishing (and reappearing) Bible). The bottom line is that God CAN speak to us through our inward impulses, but having an inward impulse does not mean that it is necessarily God who is speaking. We must strive to develop our ability to hear the still small voice of God (1 Kings 19:11-12) and grow in our wisdom to discern the difference.

The second light, the trend of the circumstances, refers to the way life's particulars sometimes seem to point us in specific directions, or reveal God's mind. Sometimes things seem to fall into place in just the right way to make God's will appear unmistakable. (For a personal example of this, see The demise of Descent). Although it is true that God
CAN speak through the circumstance to help guide us, like inward impulses these can also be misread and alone do not necessarily show God's will.

There has to be a non-subjective way to balance these and keep them in check. This brings us to our third and final light: God's Word. The Bible is our anchor. It is the constant that does not change. God tells us that "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:16, NKJV). Elsewhere He says, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away" (Mark 13:31, ESV). Your urges and circumstances MUST agree with the Bible or they are not God telling you what to do. The most important thing that we can do to understand God's will for our lives is to read His Word. After we have done that, we need to be sure to read His Word. And when we've done that we need to read His Word even more. And all the while we need to listen. All the reading in the world will not help us if we have not learned to listen.

Sometimes listening is easy. Sometimes God screams, and it is not that we can't hear Him but that we are fighting our desire to do things our way. But other times it is more difficult. Sometimes if we don't listen real close we will miss it, because sometimes God whispers.

 

Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.”
And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore
into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord,
but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake,
but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire,
but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
(1 Kings 19:11-12, NKJV)

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