Obeying Whatever God Tells You to Do

Continued from here.

The final piece you need to know is that if you want to know God’s will, you must actually DO IT. God isn’t going to keep “speaking” to you unless you do what He tells you to do. As an example, let’s say my response to God’s invitation to lead a Bible study at a Christian transitional home was no. I am likely to find that God stops “speaking” to me until I obey.

Years ago, I told God that I was going to do X and wanted Him to bless this path. I felt conviction that this wasn’t His will, but I didn’t care and did it, anyhow. For one miserable year, I received no guidance from God. He did not begin “speaking” to me again until I obeyed Him by repenting of my rebellion and changing direction.

A primary purpose of God communicating with you is so you will know what His will is and do it. Per Priscilla Shirer in her book, Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When God is Speaking, God wants to speak to you: Why would He die for you but then refuse to talk to you? However, if you aren’t going to do it, then what’s the point of Him “speaking” to you? So don’t bother asking Him what His will is unless you intend to actually do what He tells you to do.

If you will pay attention to “coincidences” that are collectively an invitation to join God where He is already at work, pray for wisdom and discernment, and confirm that what you are hearing is consistent with God’s Word and character, then you can step forth boldly, confident that you are indeed walking in God’s will. And then when obstacles arise, you can continue to move forward boldly, knowing that the enemy is going to try to stop your progress. Don’t let the enemy shake your confidence. He might make the path very rocky, but your God is in control, and His purposes will be accomplished. Walk boldly and courageously, mighty warrior. May you one day find yourself walking into the Hall of Faith!

[Graphic: Cover of Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When God is Speaking. Courtesy Amazon.]


God’s Will is Bigger Than Your Role in It

Continued from here.

In his book, Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, Henry Blackaby made an interesting distinction that I had never before considered. He said that asking what God’s will is for your life is the wrong question. Instead, you need to ask what God’s will is and then join Him where He is already working. Blackaby says that God is always at work in the world around us. When we seek to do His will, He will open our eyes to an area where He is working. That is our invitation to join Him in His work.

For example, God’s will was not for Moses to lead His people out of slavery in that it wasn’t about Moses. Instead, God’s will was to free His people from slavery. God was already at work, and He invited Moses to join Him in this work. God had prepared Moses for the task, but if Moses had declined to join God where He was already working, then we would be reading about someone else instead of Moses.

The same dynamic holds true in the example I shared in my last blog entry about leading a Bible study at a Christian transitional home. God was already working at that home, and He opened my eyes to see His activity. That opening of my eyes was my invitation to join Him in that work. If I had declined, He would have invited someone else, and I would have missed out on an opportunity for which God had prepared me. Make no mistake – God’s activity does not hinge upon our participation. That being said, he chooses to partner with us in that activity, working through us to accomplish His will.

Thus, another way to know whether you are doing God’s will is simply to recognize that you have been invited to join Him where He is already working. This can unfold as a series of “coincidences,” as happened with me as God invited me to join Him in his work with the women at the Christian transitional home. When you feel a pull toward doing something that is consistent with His Word and that topic keeps arising – such as through words during your devotional time, a sermon, or something a Christian friend says, take notice! When God opens your eyes to where He is at work, that’s often an invitation to partner with Him.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, Revised and Expanded. Courtesy Amazon.]


God’s Will Comes with Confirmation

roger_thatContinued from here.

You have searched the Scriptures and feel confident that what you are feeling led to do is consistent with God’s Word and character. However, you still aren’t sure that God is specifically calling you to do it. Now what?

I pray for God to give me some sort of sign that I am to take action, which is consistent with God’s Word. I also tell God that I will do exactly as He is leading me to do: I’m simply asking for confirmation so I don’t embark upon a journey that falls outside of His will. The signs I have received have not been as dramatic as the confirmation that Gideon experienced, but I have seen God give some really obvious signs to other people. The signs of confirmation I receive are typically more subtle, but I have learned to recognize them.

Here’s a specific example: God led me to step down from leading a Bible study through my church that I started six years ago. I’ve missed leading a Bible study and felt a strong desire to lead another one, but I knew I needed to wait for God to show me when and where. I got a phone call from a woman who lives in a Christian transitional home, asking me to come to the thrift store that supports the ministry. While I was there, another woman from the transitional home asked to talk with me, and I felt strong compassion for her. Then, the conflict I had for attending a fundraiser for the transitional home was unexpectedly canceled. At the fundraiser, someone just happened to mention that the ministry had lost a teacher and that they needed a Bible study leader on Tuesday mornings. I had no question that God’s will was for me to fill that empty slot.

I have found that God’s will often makes no logical sense. I work on Tuesdays, so I had to shift my work hours around to free up my schedule. While I did have a strong desire to lead another Bible study, sometimes God’s will has me suddenly feeling a nudge to do something that I, quite frankly, would not typically want to do. A prime example is my sudden desire to work for a prison ministry when I had been resistant to prison ministry for most of my life. When I suddenly feel drawn to doing something that aligns with God’s Word and is something that I would not typically want to do, I know that’s God’s will.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace flying in a fighter plane under the words, “Roger that.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


God’s Will is Always Consistent with His Word

yes_sirContinued from here.

If what you believe God is leading you to do is inconsistent with Scripture, you are being deceived. God will never lead you to do something that expressly contradicts His Word. For example, it is never God’s will for you violate one of the Ten Commandments, such as to steal, commit adultery, or disrespect your parents. Jesus said that it violates God’s will even to do these things in our hearts, so, as an example, it’s never God’s will to lust after someone you aren’t married to.

So, let’s say you are a married woman who meets a Christian man with whom you feel a strong connection. It is not God’s will for you to pursue a friendship with this man. What might start out as an innocent friendship can rapidly transform into adultery, even if nothing physical ever takes place between them. While there is no Bible verse stating, “Thou shalt not be friends with a man with whom you are not married,” we can look at what the Bible does say and apply the principles to specific situations. The same holds true for the many issues we deal with today that are not specifically addressed in the Bible but are nevertheless covered by general biblical principles.

Not only is God’s will always consistent with His Word, but it’s also always consistent with His character, which is expressly explained in the Bible. For example, God has a heart the vulnerable in society, so standing up for those who are being exploited is always going to be within His will. Extending grace to those who don’t deserve it is also always going to be within His will. Being kind to others is always going to be in His will. Here’s a good rule of thumb for the bigger picture of behavior that is always squarely within the will of God:

And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’” ~ Zech. 7:8-10

We should pray for wisdom and discernment to know when God is calling us to administer justice versus mercy as there’s a time for both. Only God knows the heart and whether justice or mercy is appropriate in a particular situation.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace dressed as a soldier, standing in a tank, saluting, and saying, “Yes, sir!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


How Do I Know Whether This is God’s Will?

questionThe same question has popped up in several places in my life recently: “How do I know that what I am doing is God’s will?” Interestingly, while I’ve heard this question from people before embarking upon a new leg of their journey, I’m actually hearing it more frequently from people who have already committed to a course of action. They felt confident that God was directing them to do X when they started out. However, the road has been difficult, and the end has remained out of sight far longer than they ever imagined, causing them to question whether they are, in fact, walking in God’s will. After all, if they are walking in God’s will, why are they encountering so many obstacles?

Before launching into some ways for helping you verify whether you are correctly discerning God’s will, let me assure you that it is normal to encounter obstacles as you follow God’s will. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if my journey were to be completely smooth, that would cause me to question whether I am actually walking in God’s will. Whatever God has called me to do is furthering His Kingdom purposes, which Satan wants to thwart. Thus, I expect opposition whenever I am following God’s will.

Think about the obstacles that people in the Bible experienced as they were clearly walking in God’s will:

We don’t question whether any of these people were doing God’s will, and yet their situations got worse instead of better for a season. We cannot look to our circumstances for reassurance while we are in the middle of doing God’s will: we must remember as our circumstances get harder that opposition is to be expected. Ultimately, Pharaoh did let the Israelites slaves go, the Hebrew boys survived the furnace and did not even smell like smoke, Nehemiah did complete the wall around Jerusalem, and Jesus conquered death and hell!

Now that we know what not to look for as confirmation that we are doing God’s will, let’s discuss where we can find the reassurance we are looking for.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace under a large question mark. Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Discomfort as an Invitation to Spiritual Growth

healthy_livingContinued from here.

As part of my ponderings over this very uncomfortable topic (pun intended again), God led me to a different perspective: discomfort is actually God’s invitation to spiritual growth. Whenever I experience discomfort, whether it’s simply annoying to severely painful, God is inviting me to grow in my dependency upon Him. He’s inviting me to move away from where I have been comfortable and into a new place of deeper intimacy with him. Perhaps this is how Paul was able to say:

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (1 Cor. 12:10).

We only delight in weakness when we recognize that it drives us to deeper dependency upon God, who can be fully trusted. We must give up the illusion of being in control over anything and rest knowing that God will empower us to be strong in our weakness.

In his book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lews said,

The creature’s illusion of self-sufficiency must, for the creature’s sake, be shattered.”

Lewis goes on to say:

We cannot therefore know that we are acting at all, or primarily, for God’s sake, unless the material of the action is contrary to our inclinations, or (in other words) painful, and what we cannot know that we are choosing, we cannot choose. The full acting out of the self’s surrender to God therefore demands pain: this action, to be perfect, must be done from the pure will to obey, in the absence, or in the teeth, of inclination.”

To put this in simpler terms, restoration to a relationship with God requires us to let Him define what’s “good” rather than our own inclinations. To accomplish this, God must repeatedly place us in situations in which our inclinations differ from God’s will. It’s only when we choose His way over our own – when we forgive those who hurt us, for example – that we are restored to the place of restoration with God. My will must surrender to God’s will, even when it hurts. In this way, the discomfort I experience in my day-to-day life becomes an invitation to breaking my self-will, surrendering to God, and developing deeper dependence upon Him. As I do this, intimate relationship is restored between the Creator and the created.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace eating a salad over the words, “Healthy Living.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


The Role of Discomfort

Continued from here.

If God says that discomfort is “good” and should be my expectation, with comfort being an exception provided in the short-term to refresh me, then there must be more to discomfort than I’m seeing. (Not sure I would have received this message well on the tour bus after my fourth hour of nausea!) What positive role might discomfort serve in our lives?

I’m very comfortable in my bed at night. After a busy day of work, I relish curling up under my quilt and burrowing myself in my pillows. Left to my own devices, I would never leave the comfort of my bed in the morning. Why do I leave it? Because of the discomfort of my full bladder. The discomfort in my bladder when I awaken in the morning motivates me to leave the comfort of my bed. In other words, comfort lulls me to stay where I am whereas discomfort motivates me to move.

When I sin, I generally enjoy the immediate, selfish “benefits.” What motivates me to repent? The discomfort of conviction. If God let me remain comfortable in my sin, I would continue to do it because, quite frankly, it takes no effort to do whatever I feel like doing in the moment. However, it requires considerable effort (at least at first) to make countercultural and counterintuitive choices, such as blessing someone who wrongs me, obeying laws I don’t agree with (such as the speed limit), or humbling myself when everything within me wants to assert my rights.

In his book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lews said,

The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it…pain insists on being attended to … it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

In other words, discomfort is the cattle prod God uses to drive me toward spiritual growth. If God removes the cattle prod, I’m inclined to stay comfortably where I am … and as I am. Since God’s will for me is spiritual growth (transformation into Christlikeness), He must keep me uncomfortable to keep me motivated to change. Thus, discomfort is actually GOOD for me. (Again, I don’t like this message any more than you do!)

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of The Problem of Pain. Courtesy Amazon.


If God is Good, How Could He Want Me to be Uncomfortable?

fruitContinued from here.

If this topic is making you uncomfortable (pun intended), I’m right there with you. I’m not a natural martyr. I don’t like this concept any more than you do, but God pounded me with it in Ireland, immediately following up this revelation in my quiet time with a full day of motion sickness on the tour bus as we drove the Ring of Kerry for 8 bumpy, windy hours (with lots of photo stops). I did not pass the test. I’m still learning the lesson, which is one reason I am blogging about it.

Why would God want us to stay in a perpetual state of discomfort with only short seasons of comfort provided to refresh us? Isn’t God good? This is how the enemy attacks me. When God’s ways don’t align with what I want, I’m prone to question God’s goodness. I assume that whatever I want (in this case, comfort) is “good,” and since I’m not getting what I want, it must be “bad.” And since God is allowing the “bad,” perhaps He isn’t good after all … which is exactly what the enemy wants me to believe. If I doubt God’s goodness, then I’m more prone to disobey Him.

I have learned through experience that God’s ways are always best, no matter how I feel. Like Eve in the Garden of Eden, I am not capable of distinguishing “bad” from “good” because my perspective only considers how I am personally affected. God told Adam that the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was bad, but Eve didn’t take His word for it. The enemy lured her into questioning whether God was holding out on her, and she made up her own mind about whether the fruit was good. She saw a tasty piece of fruit that looked good to her and ate it. God had already warned her that the fruit was bad: He saw a broader perspective that Eve could not see. Eve’s comfort in eating one piece of fruit came with the cost of separation from God and Jesus’ sacrifice to restore us.

I am no different from Eve. I call “good” what looks pleasing to me (comfort) and “bad” what doesn’t (discomfort). How do I learn to adopt Paul’s perspective of actually delighting in discomfort?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling and leaning against a large peach. Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Why Do I Expect to be Comfortable?

cucumbersContinued from here.

Back to my quiet time in Ireland…After God asked why I have the expectation of being comfortable and I replied with, “Huh??,” God led me to examine the role of the Sabbath. God commands us to work for six days and rest for one. He asked what the purpose of the Sabbath is. My response was that it’s to rest, rejuvenate, and reconnect with Him so I have the energy to dive back into six more days of work. He asked why I don’t have the expectation of resting for six days and only working for one. My response was that he designed me to bear fruit, and that requires work. He led me to see that the Sabbath is a day set aside to enjoy the fruits of my labor, but it’s the exception, not the rule. He designed me for work, not rest. The purpose of rest is to prepare me for more work so that I may bear much fruit.

He then asked why I believe that comfort should be the rule rather than the exception. I again responded with, “Huh??” Comfort is so ingrained in me as part of the American culture that I had a very hard time following where God was seeking to lead me. (God knows that I can be rather hard-headed!) OF COURSE I want to be comfortable! Who in their right mind would choose discomfort?

God then placed on my heart that in addition to bearing much fruit, His will for me is to transform into the image of Christ. Transformation means change or growth. There’s a reason for the term growing pains — growth is painful. Not what I wanted to hear.

I once heard it said that there’s not much growth in a comfort zone or comfort in a growth zone. When I choose to stay comfortable, am I actually impeding my growth? As I seek out ways to be comfortable in how I spend my time, who I choose to associate with, and where to invest my energy in my day-to-day life, am I actually choosing NOT to grow into the image of Christ?

Perhaps comfort, like the Sabbath, is intended to be a brief respite that enables me to rest, rejuvenate, and reconnect with God before diving back into the next growth spurt. Might my pursuit of comfort actually be stunting my spiritual growth?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace lying on a pillow with cucumber slices over her eyes. Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Am I too Comfortable?

relaxWhen I was in Ireland, God placed an interesting question on my heart during my quiet time:

Why do you have the expectation of being comfortable?”

My response was pretty much, “Huh??” Of course, I want to be comfortable! I want to do X, Y, and Z in obedience to God and live happily ever after within His protection and comfort. What’s wrong with that? Apparently a lot, which is what I have been pondering as I wrestle with the question of whether I am too comfortable and why comfort is a problem.

Before I dive into the specifics, let me share something interesting I heard through a member of my local church. My church helped relocate some Montagnard families to North Carolina. (The link I provided is not to my local church, but it’s the same story.) In short, the Montagnard people were persecuted for practicing their Christian faith in Vietnam, so many relocated to the U.S. to freely worship God. After one Montagnard family had been in the United States for several years, someone asked whether it was easier to be a Christian in the U.S., fully expecting the answer to be yes. The answer surprised her, which is why she shared the story with me.

According to this Montagnard woman who had been persecuted in Vietnam and separated from some of her family members as they were brought over to the U.S. in stages, living out her faith in the U.S. is actually harder than in Vietnam. Why? Because the U.S. is so comfortable. In Vietnam, she had to hold onto God with both hands and depend upon Him for protection. Here in the U.S., where she can freely practice her faith, she has to resist the lull of complacency that was never an issue for her while she was being persecuted in Vietnam.

This perspective shocked me, but it’s biblical. King David stayed close to God all the years he was in hiding but committed his grievous sin with Bathsheba after living in the comfort of the palace for a number of years. Paul was given a thorn in his flesh to keep him from getting too comfortable, and after God refused to take the thorn away, he learned to stop seeking comfort and, instead, delight in hardships, which are, by definition, uncomfortable.

Am I too comfortable?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace relaxing on a large pillow. Courtesy Bitmoji.]