There is a lot of really bad teaching and practice out there regarding how to find and know the will of God. One of the worst culprits, at least in my area, is the idea of listening prayer. Over the next 4 posts I want to explore what the Bible really says about the will of God.
Hebrew and the Will of God
John Flavel, one of the great English puritans wrote that “The providence of God is like Hebrew words – it can be read only backwards.” (Note: Hebrew is read from right to left). Is this really true? Is it only possible for me to know what God has done in my life, but not what he will do in my life? Is it possible for me to know beforehand what God wants me to do in the particular events and decisions that occur every moment of my life? Is there some way to listen to God or to hear God tell me what I should do, before I am called to do it? Does God have a plan for my life? Can I be outside the will of God? Does God speak to us outside of his word? If God spoke to Moses, Isaiah, and the apostles, can he not speak also to me? Is it possible to really know what God wants me to do in a particular situation? Is it possible to figure out why things are going the way they are in my life (or in the life of another)? How can we know if and where God is working in a particular situation in my life?
These questions, and others like them, have plagued the Christian mind for centuries, but are a particular preoccupation of recent North American Christianity. We have become, in a lot of ways, obsessed with the unknown, hidden aspects of God’s dealings in our world. Our fear of stepping outside of ‘God’s will,’ or of doing something contrary to God’s ‘will for my life’ have often locked people into fear of doing anything at all. It is an obsession that, in a lot of respects, grows out of a lack of biblical and theological knowledge and understanding, and thus hinders our growth in the “grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) Often such preoccupations suffocate the godliness and contentment we are commanded to have (1 Tim 6:6). Is there a way to deal with this? I believe there is, but it won’t be quick and easy.
Over the next number of blogs, I will try to delve into the topic of knowing God’s will and hearing God so that you will have a better, (read Biblical) understanding of these things. I trust that what we will discover together will stimulate further study of Scripture, will grant us increased fellowship, but most of all will give us a deeper faith in God – “the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Rev 22:13)
I want to get one thing out of the way before we start anything. This study is not intended to trash any one, or any church, or any book in particular. It is not intended to smack down any of these things. I am not ignorant of what has been said and practised on this topic within our community, but I do not desire to focus on who is right, but on what is right. My intention is to expose and answer any of the false teaching, false applications and false actions that are put forward by many preachers, teachers and churches IF they stand outside of the Scriptures. As the shepherd of my flock (you) it is my God-given, actually God-demanded, responsibility to protect you against that which threatens your relationship with Jesus Christ (1 Tim 1:3-5; et. al.). Let me say one more thing – if I stand outside of Scripture at any point in this discussion, then it is your responsibility to bring it to my attention as well. In this way we will all be contending for the truth of our common salvation (Jude 2-3). My goal in this, as in all of my teaching, is that together we will be able to “destroy strongholds. . . destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Cor 10:3-4)
Now that you know what we are going to be doing and why, let me show you how we will do it. We will be covering topics such as – What is prayer?; Hearing God and the Bible; Hearing God and the Holy Spirit; God and his will – among others, and not necessarily in this order. Please pray as we commence this study that God will give me a mind that is informed by, and overflowing with his word, and that he will give all of us an openness and a willingness to “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge and after the image of its creator.” (Col 3:10, italics added)
Soli Deo Gloria