THE SET OF THE SAIL
I find the greatest thing in this world not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving. To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it, but we sail, and not drift, nor live at anchor. -Oliver Wendall Holmes
How the Lord Leads
One of the problems most frequently encountered by serious-minded Christians is how to discover the will of God in a given situation.This is not a small matter. To countless thousands of Christians it is vitally important. Their peace of heart depends upon knowing that God is actually guiding them, and their failure to be sure that He is destroys their inward tranquility and fills them with uncertainty and fear. They must get help if they are to regain their confidence. Here is a modest effort to provide some help.
First, it is absolutely essential that we be completely dedicated to God's high honor and surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. God will not lead us except for His own glory and He cannot lead us if we resist His will. The shepherd cannot lead a stubborn sheep. The evil practice of using God must be abandoned. Instead of trying to employ God to achieve our ends we must submit ourselves joyously to God and let Him work through us to achieve His own ends.
Now, granted that we are wholly committed to God with every full intent to obey Him, we may expect actually to be led by Him. The Scriptures that teach this are so many that one scarcely knows where to begin quoting. It only remains for us to believe they mean what they say.
The many choices that we Christians must make from day to day involve only four kinds of things: Those concerning which God has said an emphatic no; those about which He has said an equally emphatic yes; those concerning which He wants us to consult our own sanctified preferences; and those few and rare matters about which we cannot acquire enough information to permit us to make intelligent decisions and which for that reason require some special guidance from the Lord to prevent us from making serious mistakes.
Regardless of what our "positive thinkers" have said, the Scriptures have much to say about things Christians are not to do. Every call to repentance is a call to negative as well as to positive moral action. "Cease to do evil; learn to do well" is a fair epitome of the moral teaching of the Bible.
Put this down as an unfailing rule: Never seek the leading of the Lord concerning an act that is forbidden in the Word of God. To do so is to convict our selves of insincerity.
Again, prophet, psalmist, apostle and our blessed Lord Himself join to point out the way of positive obedience. His yoke is easy, His burden is light and He giveth more grace, so let this be the second rule: Never seek the leading of the Lord concerning an act that has been commanded in the Scriptures.
Now, a happy truth too often overlooked in our anxious search for the will of God is that in the majority of decisions touching our earthly lives God expresses no choice, but leaves everything to our own preference. Some Christians walk under a cloud of uncertainty, worrying about which profession they should enter, which car they should drive, which school they should attend, where they should live and a dozen or score of other such matters, when their Lord has set them free to follow their own personal bent, guided only by their love for Him and for their fellow men.
On the surface it appears more spiritual to seek God's leading than just to go ahead and do the obvious thing. But it is not. If God gave you a watch would you honor Him more by asking Him for the time of day or by consulting the watch? If God gave a sailor a compass would the sailor please God more by kneeling in a frenzy of prayer to persuade God to show him which way to go or by steering according to the compass?
Except for those things that are specifically commanded or forbidden, it is God's will that we be free to exercise our own intelligent choice. The shepherd will lead the sheep but he does not wish to decide which tuft of grass the sheep shall nibble each moment of the day. In almost everything touching our common life on earth God is pleased when we are pleased. He wills that we be as free as birds to soar and sing our Maker's praise without anxiety. God's choice for us may not be one but any one of a score of possible choices. The man or woman who is wholly and joyously surrendered to Christ cannot make a wrong choice. Any choice will be the right one.
But what about those rare times when a great deal is at stake, we can discover no clear scriptural instruction and yet are forced to choose between two possible courses? In such a situation we have God's faithful promise to guide us aright. Here, for instance, are two passages from the Word of the Lord:
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering" James 1:5,6). "Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go" (Isaiah 48:17).
Take your problem to the Lord. Remind Him of these promises. Then get up and do what looks best to you. Either choice will be right. God will not permit you to make a mistake.