Last Sunday After Pentecost
Therefore we also, from the day that we heard it, cease not to pray for you, and to beg that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will'... (Colossians 1:9-14)
Being filled with the knowledge of Gods will cannot be considered by itself apart from our personal relationship with Him. Many desire the gifts but not the Giver. If we long for guidance but do not thirst for God Himself, we shall not obtain the guidance we seek.
A person must be in fellowship with God in order to experience His guidance in his life. This implies, first of all, that he should have begun a vital relationship with Christ which comes with the new birth we receive at our baptism. But this alone is not enough. There are certain other essential conditions to be fulfilled if we are to know God's leading. These prerequisites are mentioned in two passages of Scripture, one in the Old Testament and the other in the New (Proverbs 3:5-6; Romans 12:1-2). Let us consider these passages in detail.
Have confidence in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not upon thy own prudence. In all thy ways think on him, and he will direct thy steps. (Proverbs 3:5-6).
There are many who never come to a knowledge of God's will, because they simply do not believe God will guide them. Faith is a prime prerequisite when we are seeking God's guidance. By faith we mean not merely a mental acceptance of truth but a confidence in God that comes through personal knowledge of Him.
When we lack wisdom (knowledge of God's mind in a certain situation) we are invited to ask God for this and we are promised that He will grant it to us in abundance - provided we ask in faith. The one who asks without faith invariably receives nothing (James 1:5-7).
Young believers may feel Divine guidance is available only to the mature who have grown in the knowledge of the Lord for several years. It is no doubt true that the more we walk with God, the better we can discern His mind. Nevertheless it is also true that God desires to guide all His children. What was said to Paul is true for all of us -
"God ....hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth." (Acts 22:14).
A father gladly reveals to his children his desires and plans for them - not only to the older ones but to the younger ones as well. It is the same with our Heavenly Father. God has said in His Word that in this day of the New Covenant (or Testament) all His children - "from the least to the greatest" - will know Him personally (Hebrews 8:10-11). Every one of us can then come to Him "with the full assurance of faith" that He delights to make His will known to His seeking children.
In Hebrews 11:6, we are told that without faith it is impossible to please God. The verse goes on to say that those who come to God must believe that He is a rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him. The evidence of a person's faith is found in his persistence in prayer. The one who doubts will stop praying very soon. But the one who believes will lay hold of God until he gets an answer. God honours earnestness because it is the product of a strong faith. We cannot receive anything precious from God without intensely desiring it first. "He satisfies (only) the longing soul" (Psalms 107:9). God has said, "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13). Is it not true that when seeking God's guidance we have often gone about it half-heartedly? When Jesus sought the Father's will in the garden of Gethsemane, He prayed again and again with desperate “supplications with strong crying and tears " (Hebrews 5:7 ). How casual our seeking is, when compared to that! We often seek God's will with no more earnestness than we would have when searching for a lost quarter! No wonder we don't find it. If we value the will of God as the greatest treasure on earth, we will seek it will all our hearts. Do we really believe that God rewards diligent seekers? Then our faith will manifest itself in persistence, almost annoying prayer. If we are consumed with earnest desire to fulfil His will in every area of our lives, God will undoubtedly reveal His mind to us. He cannot but honour a faith that lays hold of Him until it received an answer.
Faith, according to the scriptures, is often coupled with patience.
Both are necessary if we are to inherit God's promises (Hebrews 6:12-15). David exhorts us (no doubt from his own experience), to commit our way to the Lord, trusting in Him and waiting patiently for His time and we are assured that He will not let us down (Psalms 37:5,7). One of the greatest temptations when seeking God's guidance is to fret and become impatient. But the believing heart is a restful one.
There are some decisions for which we don't need to wait for a perfectly clear indication of the mind of the Lord. For example, if you are seeking the Lord's will as to whether you should commence a journey on the 15th or the 16th of the month, you need not wait indefinitely for a clear word from Him.
Yet there are some decisions for which we must wait until we are perfectly clear about the will of God. When considering marriage, for example, we cannot afford to be uncertain. We have to be perfectly sure of God's will before deciding. Such a decision is obviously of greater moment than the former one, because its effects are more far-reaching. The more important the decision, the longer we usually have to wait to be sure of God's will.
If we trust in the Lord, we won't be afraid to wait. We will not seek to grab for ourselves ahead of God's time out of fear that we might lose the best by waiting. God is well able to safeguard the best for us in every realm. When we grab impatiently, we invariably miss the Lord's best. The Bible says that "he who believes ....will not make haste" (Isaiah 28:16).
In the great "Guidance" Psalm - Psalm 25 - David speaks again and again of waiting on the Lord (verses 3, 5, 21). “From the beginning of the world they have not heard, nor perceived with the ears: the eye hath not seen, O God, besides thee, what things thou hast prepared for them that wait for thee." (Isaiah 64:4; cf. 49:23).
Often, it is only as we wait that God can make His mind clear to us. Sometimes you draw from the tap a glass of water which is muddy and cloudy. How do you clear it? You place the glass of muddy water on your table. Moment by moment the sediment deposits at the bottom of the glass. Gradually the water grows clearer. In a few moments it is so clear that you may distinguish objects through it. It has all been brought about simply by waiting. The law is the same in the realm of seeking Gods will. As we wait, the sediment slowly settles....The trifling things assume their proper subordinate place. The big things loom up into their proper importance. Waiting is the solution of it all....The vast majority of our mistakes come from neglect of it. Haste is more often a trap of Satan.
Sometimes our perplexity is so great that it seems no guidance will ever come. For such times the psalmist has a precious message in his word about the night-watchers. 'I am looking and waiting for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning' (Psalms 130:6). How do men, who wait in the night hours for the dawn, watch for the morning? The answer is four-fold:
They watch in darkness.
They watch for that which comes slowly.
They watch for that which is sure to come.
They watch for that which when it does come brings the light of day.
So it is with us who wait for guidance in knowing Gods will. Often our perplexity is so extreme that we seem to be waiting in total darkness. Often too as we wait, even as those who wait for the day, the first faint streaks of dawn seem to come, oh, so slowly! Then too, as there never yet has been a night of uncertainty as is sure to end in the dawn, so our night of uncertainty is sure to end in the dawning light of God's guidance. Lastly, as the slow-coming dawn, when it does arrive, brings light and blessing without measure, so when our God-given guidance at last breaks upon us it will so gladden our waiting souls and so illumine our beclouded path, we shall almost forget the long days when we waited in darkness.
Beware of being in a hurry. Impatience always stems from unbelief.
It was said of the Israelites in the wilderness that "they did not (earnestly) wait for His plans (to develop) respecting them" (Psalm 106:13). They missed God's best thereby. May God save us from such a tragedy.
Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Therefore we also, from the day that we heard it, cease not to pray for you, and to beg that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will'.
This is my prayer for you. Not only do I pray that you will receive knowledge for yourself. But for your family, and for our Parish.