By Norman P. Grubb
SUCH a bold use of the word of faith however must obviously raise one query in our minds which needs most careful examination. How and when can I, a mere mortal, dare to declare with certainty that God will do this or that? Must I not always add: "If it is His will?" And does not that immediately make such a declaration of faith impossible, for the whole essence of it is its certainty?
It is evident, from all the Scriptural examples already quoted, that these men knew some way of settling their doubts, for there is no sign whatever, in their declarations, of questioning whether God would do it or not, whether it was His will or not. Clearly they had resolved that problem. How?
We have reached the major problem in the use of prayer and faith in the daily life. How many people would be only too glad to be sure that their prayers are being answered and to be able to say so? What loads would be off people's hearts and minds. How infectious would be their joy and confidence - how keen their anticipations. Yet it is exactly what John says is to be our normal experience: that we are to have confidence because "if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us; and if we know that He hear us, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him," (1 John 5:14, 15) no matter what we have asked. Obviously, John implied that it should be a normal thing with us to ask according to His will, on which all the rest depends, and therefore that we should know how to discern what is His will before we ask. What then is the solution to the problem? There are two main categories in which God's will has to be sought and found; or rather, in very many cases, in which God has to get His will through to us when we are not looking an inch beyond our own noses. The first concerns the great moments of our lives, the major crises and choices.
It is obvious that in such matters we must know without a doubt, and there must be a way by which we can and do know. God, indeed, does have means of making a way so plain to us that neither man nor devil nor our own trembling hearts can shake our certainty. The ways in which the Lord "appeared" to many in the Bible and "spoke" to many are examples of this: Abraham bidden to leave his country; Moses at the burning bush; Gideon commanded to defeat Midian; David inquiring of the Lord and receiving answers; the prophet that gave God's word to Jehoshaphat after a day of national prayer and fasting, that he need not fight in the battle against the invading foe; Paul and Barnabas set apart by the Holy Ghost for the ministry; Paul summoned to Macedonia in a dream.
To find God's mind on such occasions, when there is time to seek it and when a clear understanding of it is a necessity, all depends on the determination not to act until one is certain. Patience is the key. And patience is not an elementary grace in the Christian life, but a sign of maturity. "Let patience have her perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing," says James. For patience means being emptied of all self-activity, having victory over the urge to make a snap decision, and refusing to be rushed into taking this or that to be God's way without the crystal clear assurance within that it really is so.
The issue is clear. Does God "speak" today to His sons as He did of old to His servants? The Old Testament particularly is dotted all over with instances of men declaring that "the Lord said" this or that to them, and there are equally clear incidents in the Acts. We may take it that, in the centuries before the Holy Ghost was poured forth at Pentecost and all believers henceforth knew the indwelling and inner witness, before it was revealed that God's people have the mind of Christ and an unction from the Holy One, by which they "know all things and need not that any man teach them," and before the written Scriptures were in our hands, God had to use more startling ways to convey His word to His servants. He would use visions, dreams, visual appearances, or some clear form of voice; or maybe the inner hearing of those outstanding souls who are the marked men of the Old Testament was unusually good - both because of their intimate walk with God in great surrounding darkness, and because their lack of other helps we have in Gospel days made their inner ear especially sensitive, just as the blind develop special ways of "seeing."
We cannot go with those who say that those days were peculiar, and that even the ways by which God spoke to His servants after Pentecost He has long since ceased to use, and that therefore today we must not expect God to convey His will to us in any more direct or personal form than by the general principles of His Word. Thousands and tens of thousands give the lie to this, who have humbly endeavored to live their lives by His direct leading.
But it is true to say that His ways of communicating His truth to man today are much more regularized and discernible. It is no longer, from man's point of view, a matter of sudden and uncertain revelation, such as the poet pictured:
Yet ever and anon a trumpet sounds
From the hid battlements of Eternity;
Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then
Round the half-glimpsed turrets slowly wash again.
What were unpredictable visitations from on high are now, by God's grace, the mind of Christ indwelling His people. God's voice in His people and in His Word is permanently present and always speaking. It is not a matter of waiting for a voice from Heaven, but of waiting for ourselves to be quiet enough to hear the ever-speaking voice within and glimpse the clearly manifested way.
God does speak as He spoke of old, but by somewhat different methods. Then He had to break through to man's mind as best He could. Now, through Christ, He indwells a man's mind and can turn it, when yielded and open, and, above all, when it recognizes the truth about His abiding presence, quietly, continually, certainly in the way of His planning. "It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us," wrote the Church in Jerusalem, and that is as good a description as can be of the co-operative guidance of the new creation, through the inter-action of God's mind and ours.
When, therefore, a major problem arises, the way of obtaining the guidance already there in the invisible is first to keep the track clear from the bias of our own thinking, our own willing. We are human. We are bound to have our own thoughts and desires, and for that very reason it often takes time to be free of them. Thought and desire are right and necessary if integrated with His thinking and His willing. To get the "I" and the "my" out of them, which may be opposed to Him, is the trouble.
That was Christ's battle at Gethsemane, and the greatest of all illustrations of what we mean. God's will was always there. The will which sent His beloved Son into the world. But in the blackness of that valley of the shadow which He was entering, with His soul exceeding sorrowful unto death, He cried out: "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt." It was the voice of human agony, which would not be human if it did not shrink from its ordeal, and for a time it clouded the clear apprehension of the Divine will by the human spirit. Three hours of intense travail so immersed the human in the divine that He was able to say: "The cup which My Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" The mind of the Father had never varied. The mind of the Son, oppressed by the greatest load that ever human heart was called to carry, had to fight its way through to a clear sight of and acquiescence in the appointed way.
To find God's mind does not mean an emptied human mind or a desire-less human heart, but that the mind and heart are exercised, not to cling to their own ways, but to yield them up, to die to them; then to substitute for them a search for God's way. Ponder over what indications there are of the way God is leading. Think and pray them over. Use the mind; it is given to reason, analyze, select. And the heart; it is given to have living desire, to quicken the will into action; but let it be set on delighting itself in the Lord and running the way of His commandments.
But, above all, let there be no confusion between our thinking and desiring, and His inspoken word. The difference between them is the difference between light and darkness. One issues from the human soul; the other breaks forth in the spirit. Only the spiritual, the Spiritborn, can tell the difference, but they can tell it-infallibly. Paul said that, when he told the Corinthians that the "natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual discerneth all things." Moses knew the difference when he told the Israelites on one occasion that they would see that day that the Lord had sent him to do all these works, "for I have not done them of my own mind." (Num. 16: 28)
It is here that the patience we spoke of above is needed. God is light and His word in our spirit is light: "like a clear heat after rain, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest." The least obscurity, the least vestige of doubt, the faintest element of drive or pressure in the spirit, is clear evidence that God's word has not yet shone fully into our hearts. The peace of God, says Paul, is to "sit as an umpire." (Col. 3:15 (Literal Translation) in our hearts; the peace, in other words, will be the clear verdict that "this is the way, walk ye in it." Till then, wait, and however hardly pressed, tell the Lord that we are His servants and that the servant is duty bound to obey, but first has the right to plain orders. Till he gets these, he cannot, and cannot be expected to, act.
The use of the Scriptures in getting God's mind may be two-fold. God may give us the light we seek by a verse in the course of our reading. We would expect this to be so, if we are those who continually soak our minds in His Word. There are instances by the thousand of this. It has, of course, its dangers, as the mind that is desiring a certain end can very easily see Scriptures that suit its outlook and claim them as a divine seal. The safeguard is to see that not only are there Scriptures which give encouragement along that certain line, but also that circumstances and the weighing up of evidence seem all to point in the same direction. Mature fellow Christians can also be consulted, not as if their word is final, but as additional confirmation if in agreement, or as warning against precipitancy if in disapproval.
But still the final word is .in the heart of the seeker. He has the mind of Christ and the unction from the Holy One, and the golden rule is to refuse to move, even if a dozen confirmations are asked for, until not a vestige of doubt remains. Humbly, yet boldly, we are to wait until we can say, as much as God's servants of old: "Thus saith the Lord to me."