The following categories may be helpful as we approach God to learn how to learn from Him. These are by no means all-encompassing, which is not necessary, but will hopefully put God’s past activities in our lives into some perspective. It’s recommended that you take some time to reflect and let the Lord bring to your mind those areas you may have overlooked in which He was trying to give you guidance, but it was perhaps missed because it was misinterpreted.
There is an unconditional guidance in which God acts sovereignly without any requisite for such guidance, and regardless of our relationship with Him. ALL THINGS are under His complete control. This form of guidance is most obvious to us “after the fact,” looking back over our lives. This may be one reason so many find it difficult to reflect on their lives; they may be avoiding either the clear involvement of the Lord in their lives, or evidence of those times when they missed opportunities to seek the Lord’s help. But avoiding the past only prevents us from reaping its benefits, from learning its lessons; the best time to make course corrections is NOW! Whether we are aware of God’s providential and circumstantial guidance or not does not affect our identity as either sinner or saint.
Here are some general examples of providential leading:
* A negative aspect, in which God restrains us from following a certain course of action.
* A positive aspect, in which God confirms a certain course of action.
* Favorable circumstances are not necessarily an affirmation of being in the will of God.
* Unfavorable circumstances are not necessarily an indication of being out of the will of God.
* Providential leading may be found in the path of duty.
* It is possible to break down a wall of circumstantial restraint by the strength of self, but the consequences will be in proportion to the exertion of the flesh.
The law of the land, or social/cultural guidance, governs the natural realm in which we live, and the consequences of breaking the law are also natural. Likewise, morality is cultural; what is acceptable and “right” in one culture may not be acceptable in another. God is much less easily offended than we think He is. For instance, it is not necessary to ask God if it’s okay to steal our neighbor’s car. Both legally and culturally we know this is unacceptable, and if we do steal the car there will be consequences. Whether we fulfill the law and morality of our culture or not does not affect our identity as either sinner or saint.
Here is a conditional guidance in which our participation, awareness and enjoyment of the leading of God is contingent upon our compliance with certain conditions, i.e., having our senses tuned, response, waiting, seeking, relinquishing our rights, getting healed, etc. We learn to recognize and respond to His revealed will in three ways:
God instructs us about His Ways.
He imparts personal knowledge of His will by giving us personal understanding of a certain concept. For instance, we know God’s nature is to give, and that this is now our nature as well. So one of the ways we approach His guidance is by asking if an opportunity is reflective of His giving nature. “Is this a giving thing to do?”
God teaches us to apply His Ways.
He imparts the knowledge of His will by arranging experiences in which we can observe Him in action, to see how He does things, then upon reflection we know by experience how to respond in a certain situation. We miss out on many opportunities because we are overly concerned about making mistakes. Trial and error is an extremely valuable approach to learning to know God, and sometimes we don’t know what He’s teaching us until after we’ve learned it, if ever.
God tests us to reinforce His Ways.
He arranges circumstances, often stressful, that reveal to us how much of what we have been instructed and taught has actually become part of who we are. Through depending on Him, our soul and body are coming into alignment with our true spiritual nature, and taking the tests, as many times as necessary, prove both how much we have been healed, freed and become more like Him, and where we are still trying to retain control. We often continue to have to take these tests over and over again because we think we’ve “failed” because we didn’t learn the “right” thing or we didn’t try hard enough. Keeping God’s purpose in mind, we “failed” because somewhere along the line we didn’t depend on the Lord.
4. Knowing God
As we grow in dependence, we become more and more sensitive to the internal direction of His Personal Presence, and to recognize the assurance of the peace and confidence that only comes from abiding both with Him and in Him:
The assurance of His Personal Presence is not a mere absence of disturbance, emotional or otherwise, because of favorable circumstances, just as peace is not the absence of war, but the opportunity to live in freedom. For us, the assurance of His Personal Presence is living free from the encumbrance of the flesh, to live free to be joined to His purposes, regardless of circumstances.
The assurance of His Personal Presence is a conscious rest independent of circumstances, favorable or unfavorable. As our flesh is exposed and eventually consumed according to His schedule, we find ourselves reacting differently in familiar situations. Things that used to bother us don’t anymore, or as much, and we sense His encouragement and confidence, that He has made the change.
The assurance of His Personal Presence is a supernatural rest in the midst of unrest and therefore passes all understanding, because it has been tested both in the fires of adversity and the temptations of ease. We learn that His Personal Presence is reliable because we have relied on Him and He has come through for us.
The assurance of His Personal Presence is the peace OF God for all those who have made peace WITH God. When we know our identity, that as spirit beings we are loved, accepted and honored regardless of our behavior, we can objectively evaluate our behavior and observe with rejoicing and gratitude the changes as God makes them.
The assurance of His Personal Presence provides discernment and judgment. The peace of God is the arbitrator of our internal disputes. As we often struggle to determine what course to take, the more sensitive we are to both the assurance or the unrest and disquiet, even alarm of the Personal Presence, the more assuredly we will be able to make decisions, act, and have the fortitude to stand against opposition. When you know you have received your direction from the Lord, you can stand!
Regardless of the means or method of guidance, our response is always to take both the lesson and the application to the Lord for His review and feedback. As always, the goal is to learn dependence on Him rather than to figure out how to receive divine guidance or avoid mistakes. The Lord has laid out an obstacle course to train and prepare you for every challenge and blessing He has waiting for you in your future.
Adapted from Knowing God by Dianne Thomas