Knowing and Following the Will of God – Can we???
September 10, 2017 - By: Rachel Buggs
"Is it a mystery to truly know the will of God as so many believe, OR can we honestly expect for God to direct our daily path as the Bible promises?" -r.b.
Is it a mystery to truly know the will of God as so many believe, OR can we honestly expect for God to direct our daily path as the Bible promises? This is a question that has been heavy on my heart lately and one I knew I needed to talk more to God about and share here. So many individuals in their Christian walks are intentionally trying to seek and follow God’s will in their lives (as they should!) but struggle to know if they are “hearing” God’s answer and direction. How can we knowwhat God wants us to do or say in a situation, and how can we trust what we think we are hearing? I have heard some say that God will make His will clear to you (or me) through His Word by affirming His answer with a Bible verse. While this may seem to be sound wisdom, is this always true? Can we hear from God without having a Bible verse to stand on? And what about those who are Christ followers but don’t know or have access to His written Word? Can they believe to “hear” God’s direction in their lives and trust what He is saying without His written Word to back it up? I believe these questions raise several important points that I would love to attempt to speak to here.
First, is God limited to His written Word to speak to us today? If we believe that this is the only way that God can communicate with us, do we deny how He originally communicated with the authors of His written Word? We learn through what we read in the Bible that God conveyed His message to be written on those pages via His audible voice, by His Spirit, through visions and dreams, and through the affirmation of others. If God is “unchanging” (Psalm 55:19; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8), then He is fully capable of communicating to us via these same methods today! Let us not then be so quick to dictate to God how we believe He must communicate to us in order for us to “trust” what He is saying. If the illiterate widow in India can come to God by faith, then she can, by this same faith, trust what God may tell her by His Spirit to hers and act upon it. She needs no Bible verse to prove to others that God has spoken to her!
When the prophet Elijah came to a low “valley” in his life, God spoke to him in the “sound of a low whisper” (1 Kings 19:12). Afterwards, when God got Elijah’s attention through His whisper, Elijah heard the audible voice of God telling him what to do next. In Acts 16:6-10, we see Paul receiving guidance of where NOT to go by the Holy Spirit and then his next steps are clearly directed through a vision from the Lord. It would have been ludicrous for Elijah’s friends or Paul’s companions to ask them what verse God had given them for affirmation of His communication and directions to them!
If my criticism seems harsh, I am simply speaking from a place of NOT wanting to put God in a box of our design and making. We can do so much damage by doing so – both to others and to ourselves. God most definitely wants to direct us and guide us. Jesus promises his followers in John 14-16 that this is one of the key roles of the Holy Spirit which God would send to ALL future believers upon Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus also said that he would leave his followers with peace (John 14:27). We need to remember this key verse, when wondering if we are hearing and following God’s will. We are promised His peace but certainly won’t have it if we are outside His will. We also need to understand that peace doesn’t necessarily equal confidence. Confidence will come as we step out in faith to obey what God is calling us to do. We may walk with shaky knees but still have complete peace that we are acting in accordance with God’s will.
I experienced this first hand when God called me to the teaching director’s role at Community Bible Study in Cumming, Georgia several years ago. I wasn’t even asking God, but He put it on my heart that this was His call for me as the previous teaching director was stepping down. I was terrified at the thought – this was definitely NOT my thought but God’s! I wrestled with this thought for a full week providing Him with every excuse in the book for why I was the wrong person for this role. But I would have NO peace until I said “yes!” I was still scared, BUT I knew it was God’s will. And my knees were shaking plenty when I delivered my first teaching in front of an audience of approximately 100 women, but He grew my confidence with my continued obedience to Him and by His faithfulness to me as I prepared each week.
Another point which should be made is that most Christians have not been adequately taught in this area of “hearing” and knowing God’s will. For example, I have also heard it said that if we seek God’s will regarding a matter, and we “hear” nothing from Him, then we can assume His answer is a “yes.” On the flip side, I have heard it said that if we seek God’s will regarding a matter, and we “hear” nothing from Him, then we can assume His answer is a “no.” Which assumption is correct??? Neither!!!! Why are we interpreting God’s silence at all? If we don’t hear an answer, then we need to continue to ask and wait for an answer. The problem is that most of us struggle to “be still” (Psalm 46:10) and hear God’s answer/voice. We may be asking God for direction, but how well do we sit silently in His presence to hear “the sound of a low whisper” which is His voice speaking directly to us? Perhaps, the waiting would also require us to fast and pray as we wait for God’s direction and will to be made clear. How many of us have put this into practice? It was certainly practiced in the accounts we read of in the Bible! (2 Samuel 12:16; Nehemiah 9:1; Jeremiah 36:9; Daniel 9:3; Acts 14:23)
So…can we believe to “hear” God’s voice beyond His written Word? King David writes in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” It seems here that David is speaking specifically about God’s written Word and “righteous rules” for living; however, in other passages of Psalms, David speaks about the power of God’s voice (Psalm 29; Psalm 68:33) and encourages the reader to NOT harden their hearts if they “hear” God’s voice (Psalm 95:6-8). Like so many examples in scripture, I believe we CAN expect to hear God’s voice, whether it is aloud and audible or a small, low whisper in our spirits. Let me caveat this by saying, what we “hear” from God should never be in contradiction to something we find in His written Word! That being said, we need to be careful as Christians NOT to cast doubt or judgement on those who are standing on what God has communicated to them. Yes, there is potential for error in the hearing, but we must begin trying!
The cornerstone verse for our ministry is Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you…” It is time that we as Christians endeavor to believe God at His Word!