Once in a while when I was a growing up, a Gospel magician would come to our church. As kids, we always loved these times because these guys could do the most amazing things. One visitor in particular showed us a piece of white cardboard that had black dots all over it. He asked us how many dots were on it, and when we answered, he turned it over and asked us how many were on the other side. Then, much to our surprise, when he turned it back over the number of dots on the first side had changed! Over and over he would ask us how many were on the other side, and when he showed us, it was always wrong.
Sometimes I’m afraid that we think the will of God is just like that. It’s almost as if we perceive God dangling His will out in front of us covered with a paper sack. Just as we are about to grab it to look inside, He yanks it away and says, “Gotcha!” Then He smirks as we flounder around trying to figure out what to do next.
If that is your perception of God’s will, let me ask you a question. Do you think God wants to hide His will from us?
This might seem like a strange subject for “the battle for your mind.” However, finding God’s will can sometimes seem like a battle. The enemy does everything he can to lead us down the wrong path or stop us in our tracks.
However, God wants us to follow His will. Doesn’t it make sense then that He will let us find out what His will is?
Do you hide your will from your children? I’ll bet you never sat at your kitchen table and thought, “I sure want the kids to come in for lunch, but I’m not going to tell them. However, if they don’t come in soon I’m going to whip them.”
What kind of a parent would you be? If you really want them to come in (and maybe you don’t) you call them, and if they’re tuned in to your voice and have learned to obey, they will come.
Well, guess what? God has some things for us to do and He’s not just sitting out in space somewhere hoping we eventually figure it out. He actually tells us what He wants us to do!
There are two ways He does this—general instructions and personal instructions. Let’s look at the general instructions first.
One way that God reveals His will is through a predetermined set of rules. These rules are the same for everyone.
If you are a parent, you have some general rules in your house. You do not (or should not) have to announce your wishes every time you want them done. For example, you expect your kids to brush their teeth before bed and make their bed in the morning. These are standing rules and if you have to remind them, someone is in trouble. You don’t have to tell the kids every time for it to be a command. It is the rule and they know it.
General instructions are applicable to everyone, all the time.
While I’m not sure that God commands us to brush our teeth or make our beds (don’t worry…I won’t tell your kids), He does have some general rules that we all need to follow.
There are two ways that He lets us know what these general rules are—the conscience and His Word.
God leads through the conscience
Everyone has a conscience. In fact, man had a conscience even before there was a Bible. While a conscience can be trained to be overly sensitive or not sensitive enough, there are some basic things that everyone knows to be wrong.
For example, somehow people know it is wrong to kill. How is it that all societies understand that? Not surprisingly, we find the answer in the book of Romans.
For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness…(Romans 2:14-15 NKJV)
Most societies, civilized or uncivilized, realize the need to worship something. Although they may not know enough about God to worship Him, they do inherently know about something bigger than they are.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20 NKJV)
It is important to note that we must be very careful when depending on our conscience. It can be sensitized, desensitized, and influenced.
Therefore, we need to balance out what our conscience says with what the Bible says.
God leads through His Word
Often times we go begging to God, imploring Him to show us His will for the future. If He doesn’t come through, maybe we should take a step back and ask a very important question: Have I obeyed what I already know to be His will?
Why would God give us more instructions when we have ignored the ones He has already given us? Where do we get off thinking that we can sift through His commands and choose the ones we want to obey?
I’m sure you could come up with plenty of general commands in the Bible, but just in case you’re having trouble, let me help you with a few.
First, how about the command to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19 NKJV) that we know as the Great Commission? If you’re not putting out at least some effort in spreading the news about Jesus Christ, don’t expect Him to reveal whom you should marry or what career path you should take.
Then there’s the command to “abstain from fornication” (I Thessalonians 4:3 KJV). That’s pretty clear. If you want further direction from God, keep yourself pure.
How about this one? “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thessalonians 5:18 KJV). Are you thanking God for everything? If not, better hold off on asking for further instructions.
Let me just take a minute here and point out something that should be quite obvious but apparently is not.
God will NEVER lead you to do something contrary to the Bible.
I don’t know how many times I have heard people claim to have peace about something that is explicitly forbidden in the Bible. That’s not how it works.
God’s general instructions are for everyone. However, He also gives us personal instructions that are tailored to what He wants each of us to do. We will take up that subject in the next section.
This is the fourteenth post in the “Battle for Your Mind” series. Click here to view the previous post.
Click here for the next article in this series: How to Know the Will of God – Part 2.