By Hannah Whitall Smith
Now you have begun the life of faith. You have given yourself to the Lord to be completely His. You are now entirely in His hands to be moulded according to His own divine purpose, into a vessel unto His honor. Your most earnest desire is to follow Him wherever He may lead you. You want to be pliable in His hands. You are trusting Him to "work in you to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Phillipians 2:13). But you find a great difficulty here. You have not yet learned to know His voice, and you are in great doubt and perplexity as to what really is His will for you.
Perhaps God seems to be calling you to certain paths. Perhaps friends who seem to be more mature in the Christian life have implied that you might be in error. You hesitate to disagree with them for fear of making them angry. In your heart you believe the Lord is telling you to do a particular thing, yet you are timid about doing that thing because friends do not approve. You find yourself plunged into great doubt and uneasiness. The fully surrendered soul has a way out of all these difficulties. I would repeat that the soul must be fully surrendered because if any part of the will is held back from God, it is almost impossible to find out the mind of God in reference to that point. There fore, you must first be sure that your purpose is truly to obey the Lord in every area of your life. If this is your purpose, your soul only needs to know the will of God in order to consent to it. Then you surely cannot doubt His willingness to make His will known and to guide you in the right paths. The Bible clearly states many promises in reference to this. For instance, John 10:3,4 says, "He calleth His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him: for they know his voice." John 14:26 says, "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." And James 1:5 tells us, "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."
With such declarations, we must believe that divine guidance is promised to us. Our faith must therefore confidently look for and expect it. This is most important. In James 1:6,7, we are told, "let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord." Study these scriptures and do not let the slightest doubt shake your firm faith that divine guidance has been promised. If you seek it, you are sure to receive it.
God Knows All
Next, you must remember that our God has all knowledge and all wisdom. Therefore, it is very possible that He may guide you into paths where He knows great blessings are waiting for you. Men cannot see what God sees. God knows all. His ways are not as man's ways. His thoughts are not as man's thoughts. He alone knows the end of things from the beginning and can judge what the results of any course of action may be. Thus, you might go against the loving wishes of even your dearest friends. Remember, the key is complete surrender of the will to God. Certainly, there are those friends who are mature Christians whom God will use at times to guide us. However, we must rely on God's Word first and foremost. We must surrender ourselves completely to God. We must hold nothing back. He is our guide first and foremost. His Word leads us to a closer walk with Him.
Study Luke 14:2633 and similar passages. Learn that in order to be a disciple and follower of your Lord, you may be called upon to inwardly forsake all that you have, even father or mother, or brother or sister, or husband or wife. You may even have to give up the way of life you once cherished. Unless this possibility is clearly recognized, you will likely get into difficulty. The child of God who enters upon this life of obedience is sooner or later led into paths which meet with the disapproval of those he loves best. And unless he is prepared for this, and can trust the Lord through it all, he will scarcely know what to do.
But, these points having all been settled, we now question how God's guidance comes to us, and how we will be able to know His voice. He reveals His will to us in four ways: through the Scriptures, through providential circumstances, through the convictions of our own higher judgement, and through the inward impressions of the Holy Spirit on our minds. It is safe to say that God speaks where these four are in harmony. I present this as a foundation principle. His voice will always be in harmony with itself, no matter how many different ways He may speak. There may be many voices, but there can be only one message. If God tells me in one voice to do something or not to do something, He cannot possibly tell me the opposite in another voice. If the voices contradict the speakers cannot be the same. My rule for distinguishing the voice of God would be to bring it to the test and see whether the four points beginning this chapter are in agreement.
Guidance From The Bible
Look first to the Bible. If you are in doubt about any subject, you must first consult the Bible and see whether there is any law there to direct you. Until you have found and obeyed God is will as it is revealed in His Word, you must not expect nor ask for a separate, direct, personal revelation. A great many mistakes are made in the matter of guidance overlooking this simple rule. Where the Father has given us a clearly written direction about something, He will not, of course, give us a special revelation about that thing. If we fail to search out and obey the Scripture rule and look instead for an inward voice, we will open ourselves to delusions, and will inevitably get into error. No man, for instance, could expect or need any direct personal revelation to tell him not to steal, because God has already plainly declared His will about stealing in the Bible, His Holy Word. However, I have frequently met with Christians who have gone off into fanaticism as the result.
It is true that the Bible does not always give a rule for every specific course of action, and in these cases we need and must expect guidance in other ways. But the Bible is more clear about details than most people think, and there are not many important things for which the Bible does not give clear direction.
The matter of dress is presented in 1 Peter 3:3,4, and in 1 Timothy 2:9. The matter of conversation is presented in Ephesians 4:29 and 5:4. The matter of vengeance and standing up for our rights is presented in Romans 12:1921, Matthew 5:3848, and 1 Peter 2:1921. The matter of forgiving one another is presented in Ephesians 4:32 and Mark 11:25,26. The matter of conformity to the world is presented in Romans 12: 2, 1 John 2: 1 5 17, and James 4:4. The matter of anxieties of every kind is
presented in Matthew 6:2534 and Philippians 4:67.
I only give these examples to show how full and practical Bible guidance is. If you find yourself confused about something, first search and see what it has to say on the subject. Ask God to make clear to you what is His mind by the power of His Spirit and through the Scriptures. You must obey what is clearly taught in the Bible. No special guidance will ever be given about a point on which the Scriptures are clear, nor could any guidance ever contradict the Scriptures.
It is important to remember that the Bible is a book of principles. We must be careful not to isolate Bible verses which may, in fact, go against Bible principles. Remember in the fourth chapter of Luke, Satan used isolated Bible verses to tempt Christ, while Christ resisted Satan by stating Bible principles.
If you do not find any principles in the Bible that will settle your special point of difficulty, you must then seek guidance in the other ways mentioned. God will surely present Himself to you, either by convicting your judgement, by providential circumstances, or by a clear inward impression. In all true guidance these four voices will agree for God cannot say in one voice what He contradicts in another. Therefore, if you have an impression of duty, you must see whether it agrees with Scripture, whether it agrees with your own higher judgement, and also whether a door opens to enable you to perform the duty.
Impressions In Guidance
If anyone of these tests fails, it is not safe to proceed. You must wait in quiet trust until the Lord shows you that His voice is speaking. Anything which is out of this divine harmony must be rejected as not coming from God. We must never forget that " impressions" can come from other sources as well as from the Holy Spirit. The strong personalities of those around us are the source of many of our impressions. Impressions also come out of our physical conditions. And finally, impressions come from Satan who tries to stop us from seeking a more mature Christian life. Ephesians 2:6 tells us that we are seated in "heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 6:12 tells us that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
These spiritual enemies, whoever or whatever they may be, must communicate with us by means of our spiritual faculties. Their voices will be, as the voice of God is, an inward impression made upon our spirits. Consequently, just as the Holy Spirit may tell us by impressions what the will of God is concerning us, these spiritual enemies will also tell us by impressions what their will is concerning us. They disguise themselves as "angels of light" who have come to lead us closer to God.
Many sincere children of God have been deluded into paths of extreme fanaticism, while thinking they were closely following the Lord the whole time. God, who sees the sincerity of all hearts, can and does, pity and forgive. Remember, it is not enough to have a "leading." We must find out the source of that leading before we give ourselves up to follow it. Be careful not to be deceived!
So we must first test our "leadings" by seeing if they agree with what the Bible says. When we study and meditate on God's Word, His laws are written on our hearts. Thus our judgement and common sense will be based on Biblical concepts. We must also test our "leadings" by this judgement and common sense that is enlightened by the Holy Spirit. This is "conviction."
Our impressions must also be tested by providential circumstances. If a "leading" is of God, the way will always open for it. Our Lord assures us of this when He says in John 10:4, "And when He putteth forth His own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him; for they know His voice." Notice here the expressions "goeth before," and "follow." The Lord goes before us to open a way, and we are to follow in the way opened to us. It is never a sign of a divine leading when the Christian insists on opening his own way, riding roughly over all opposing things. If the Lord "goes before" us, He will open the door for us. We will not need to batter down doors for ourselves.
A Desire Of The Heart
That God cares enough about us to desire to regulate the details of our lives is the strongest proof of love He could give. He lets us know just how to live and walk to please Him. We never care about the little details of people's lives unless we love them.
God's law, therefore, is only another name for God's love. The more that law descends into the details of our lives, the more sure we are of the depth and reality of the love. We can never know the full joy and privilege of the life hid with Christ in God until we have learned the lesson of a daily and hourly guidance.
God's promise is that He will work in us to will as well as to do His good pleasure. This means, that He will take possession of our will and work it for us. His suggestions will come to us, not so much as commands from the outside, but as desires springing up within us. They will originate in our will. We will feel as though we desired to do something not as though we must. In Hebrews 8:10 God says, "I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts."
Therefore, the way in which the Holy Spirit usually works in a full obedient soul, in regard to this direct guidance, is to impress upon the mind a wish or desire to do or to not do certain things. Our affection and understanding embrace God's laws and we are drawn to obey, instead of being driven to it. Ask Him to make His will clear to you._ _
Promise Him that you will obey Him. Be firm in the belief that He is guiding you according to His Word. When in doubt, wait for His clear direction. Look and listen for His voice continually.
Trust Him above all else. Trust Him to make you forget the "leading" if it is not His will. Faith is greatly needed here. He has promised to guide. You have asked Him to do it. Now you must believe that He does, and must take what comes as being His guidance. No earthly parent or master could guide his children or servants if they refuse to take his commands as really being the expression of his will. God cannot guide those souls who never trust Him enough to believe it.
Above all, do not be afraid of this blessed life, lived hour by hour and day by day under the guidance of your Lord! If He seeks to bring you out of the world and into a very close relationship with
Him, do not shrink from it. It is your most blessed privilege. Rejoice in it. Embrace it eagerly. Surrender all to the Lord so it can be yours.