It’s not unusual to meet sincere Christians confused about which course of action to take to fulfil the will of God in their lives. Through scanning the scriptures, and my own experience, I don’t believe such confusion is necessary. Even if in practice getting to such a state of assured guidance is not easy. Foundationally, many suffer from a fundamental confusion about what it means to “in Christ”.
Since salvation means we have become “partners in the divine nature” (2 Peter chapter 1 verse 4) and since “our lives are hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians chapter 3 verse 3), we may confidently anticipate guidance within our communion with Father, Son and Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians chapter 13 verse 14). Instead of trying to find a blueprint or road map for life, which can be quite stressful, we can trust God’s purposes for our fellowship with him are neither arbitrary nor far away (Romans chapter 10 verses 6-8) but dimensions of an abiding relationship (John chapter 15 verses 1-11 ).
Traditions of Guidance
Traditional Evangelical teaching on guidance emphasises familiarity with the moral teaching of the Bible, cultivating godly wisdom, observing God’s providential arrangement of circumstances and being open to the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. Openness to supernatural direction, such as dreams and visions, isn’t negated, but it is marginalised. My experience includes all these. I am concerned though when the call of God has been downplayed by removing today’s Church (cessationism) from the flow of biblical reality.
We may not be apostles and prophets, but the Spirit can speak as clearly to us in our gospel ventures as he did back then. “the Holy Spirit said….having been forbidden by the Spirit to speak” (Acts chapter 13 verse 2; chapter 16 verse 6). I know, for instance, that if my wife didn’t have a clear and distinct call of God to marry me, she would have found it very difficult to sustain our engagement, I was that ungodly for a time. Additionally, many missionary biographies attests to the strength and need of a “call” as real as that of an Isaiah or a Paul.
The Way of Jesus
Jesus testified to the priority of his relationship with his Father when it came to being in the will of God. “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (John chapter 5 verse 19). This wasn’t a function of his Godhead, but of the Sonship which we, by grace, now share. “you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons” (Rom 8:15). The language of the New Testament is specific, whereas “discipleship” dominates the Gospels, “sonship” is our primary status throughout its letters. Guidance is a privilege we have as sons of God. Why then do so many sincere believers fret about “getting it right with God” in the area of guidance?
Their stress testifies they do not believe in their fully justified relationship with the Father in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). The teaching that God’s peace can function “as an umpire” in our hearts revealing the will of God (see the Amplified Bible on this at Colossians chapter 3 verse 15), is valid only where the believer’s conscience is stable. More deeply, the average Christian today does not fulfil the condition laid out here: “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God…Do not be conformed to this…that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans chapter 12 verses 1-2). A willingness to suffer for God’s will is a precondition for the revelation of that will. The baptism scene of Luke chapter 3 verse 22, echoes the “beloved son” language of “the sacrifice of Isaac” Genesis chapter 22 verse 1. Because Christ put his life on the line from the beginning he was infallibly guided by his Father. Our pitiful guidance is a consequence of our unwillingness to suffer for the Lord.
When I first became a Christian guidance seemed easy, but for an “adolescent period” it became quite a stress. Today, I simply trust that if my Father wants me to know about something it will happen, through Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is a truly wonderful state of affairs, and it is all relational.
The Rev. Dr John Yates is an Anglican minister in Perth and has 5 children and 7 grandchildren. He spends time in praying, mentoring and writing.John Yates’s previous articles may be viewed athttp://www.pressserviceinternational.org/john-yates.html