Monday, January 21, 2013

God Moving?

First of all, happy Martin Luther King Day.  He was a great man and a great man of God.  And he heard from God in the things he fought for.  Which, maybe, makes this post appropriate for today.

Peter Watt posted a link on Google+ to a blog post about recognizing God leading by circumstances.  In the post, he gave a list of things that we can check to be sure we’re following God’s leading.  But, as I look at the list, I recall situations where subjective interpretation made those very steps less than perfect.  The list itself is correct.  But how we use it may not be.  Let’s take a look.

He wrote:
“Every year at our church, we do a short series on how to know if God is speaking to us.  There are five bullets to this which include:
  1. Biblical - is the event supported by the Bible
  2. Holy Spirit - am I sensing His presence in the situation
  3. Godly Advice - either sought or freely given, do Godly advisors support what I am feeling
  4. God's Silence - am I hearing God in the situation
  5. Confirming Circumstances - are the events in my life leading me in the direction”

I’m going to take these out of sequence because the two things that seem to get the most “airplay” are sensing the Spirit’s leading and confirmation.

Am I sensing the Holy Spirit?  Am I really sensing a spirit that may not be so holy?  Am I tricking myself into believing it’s Holy Spirit led because it’s something I want to happen?  How about a hormonally healthy young man telling people that God showed him this very hot female was intended to be his wife?  Only God never seems to tell her.  It’s not so likely that he’s being led by the Spirit, is it?

How about those confirming circumstances?  Let’s take that same young man.  He’s praying for confirmation that the hottie really is destined to be with him.  And he goes so far as to ask God to confirm his future marital bliss by having her sit in the same section of seats as where he’s sitting, in the next church service.  She arrives late and finds a seat, not only in the same section, but two rows in front of him.  And he ignores the fact that, because of his attraction to her, for months he’s moved where he normally sits to the area where she normally sits.  Does that make her choice, this time, confirmation or the young man consciously or unconsciously manipulating the situation to seem like confirmation?

What about Biblical support?  When I look for an answer in the Word, I’ve been trained enough to know that I need to look at a verse in context of other verses on the subject and in the context of the surrounding verses.  But I can think of instances where I was told that someone intended to take some step in their life, supported by a verse that God “gave them”.  When I looked up the verse, later, it’s context was something far less positive than it was being used for.  Biblical confirmation?

Godly advice.  This is also important.  But I know there have been times where I “knew I was right” and either kept asking people till I got the answer I thought was right or, if I knew I’d get a specific answer from someone, I’d skip all the others and go to them.  Was I getting the right advice?  Not necessarily.

What about God speaking or being silent in our spirit? There’s a saying going around that God always answers – the answer can be “yes”, “not yet”, or “I have something better”.  In essence, God always answers, even with His silence.  And that’s true.  But I wonder how much our condition blocks our recognizing His answer.  Can we subjectively ignore a sinful state and determine God is silent when it’s really that sin has blocked our spiritual “ears”?  Or can we be subjectively looking for a particular answer, so we ignore what God is showing us, taking His answer as coming from somewhere else?

I’m not picking apart Peter Watt’s post or that 5 point list.  Both are great.  But it made me realize that I’ve seen people twist those points to fit circumstances.  I think we all have done it, some more, some less.  What hit me, this time, was the realization that, after 30+ years of being a Christian, I wasn’t sure I could explain to someone else how to recognize when we’re perverting those steps.  Because, if we need to explain that, the person we are explaining to already has an argument all revved up as to why they’re using those steps properly when they’re really headed down the wrong path.

So, I’m posting this on the blog and, in full, on Google+ and Facebook.  I’d like some answers.  And, there may be a followup post with some of the best answers.  Because these are things we all ought to be able to recognize and discuss clearly.


  1. Great post Bill. It really is hard to see when it is from God or not. Sometimes Hindsight is the best thing. Something interesting I've noticed in my limited experience of this thing called life. There have been moments where things went wrong and I decided they "weren't of God" but really years down the line I saw that actually it had prepared me for something else and made me who I am. We always like to say that good things are from God...but rarely the bad.

  2. Hi, Chris. You hit the nail right on the head. It's easy to figure it all out with 20/20 hindsight. But trying to counsel someone (including myself) beforehand, it's not all that easy to verbalize the mechanism that years of study and experience have put in place. Most of the time, I understand how I reach certain conclusions. But, as good as I can be with words, it's hard to fully explain the difference between using those 5 steps and misusing them with self interpretation.