Imagine that you’re a combatant involved with many thousands of others in a great war. Battles come and go, and you’re involved in many. At most times you have clear orders. Despite the intense danger involved, you know what you’ve been asked to do. This is your calling and duty, and you fight toward your current objective even if it costs your life.
Imagine the same scenario, only this time you’re not sure about your objective. You don’t have clear orders, and you’re not exactly sure what to do. You’re not clear where the enemy is, and how to effectively fight him. Having clear orders, in other words being clearly led, makes all the difference. It helps cut through the fog of war and allows you to give everything you have to overcome the enemy.
The fact is, every Christ follower is a combatant involved in a great war. We face the most powerful enemy the world has ever known. This war is primarily spiritual in nature, yet it has it’s physical aspects as well. In order to fight battles effectively, we need to be clear about our orders. We need clear leading so that we can give everything we have in order to overcome the enemy.
I’ve spoken to Christ followers over the years who long for a clear sense of direction. It’s as if they’re standing on a battle field in the midst of an epic war and don’t know where to turn or to fight. This can be frustrating and confusing. So how do we discover the Lord’s will for us, and how do we know the battles he would have us fight? These are not always easy questions to answer.
I suspect that an important part of knowing the Lord’s will for us is the realization that his will is both general and specific. His general will is the same for every human being. 1 Timothy 2:4 makes it clear that God wants every human being to come to a knowledge of the truth, and to be saved. In other words, the Lord’s will is that each of us confess our sin, our need for Jesus as our Savior, and accept the free gift of salvation through Jesus. Those who do are reconciled to God and receive the Holy Spirit.
The Lord’s general will for us all is further developed as the Spirit leads us through God’s word, the Bible. This is the instruction manual for life in Christ. The Bible teaches us how to live in order to please God. In it we’re taught about the battles we are to fight. We’re also taught about the nature of our enemy, our fallen sinful nature that we must overcome, and how people are naturally inclined to follow the ways of this world. In the Scripture we clearly see that every Christ follower has plenty to focus on in terms of spiritual warfare as we strive to draw closer to God and to overcome anything that would create distance between us and our Lord. The most important part, then, of clearly knowing God’s will for our lives is to be continually refreshed in and led by God’s word.
As we read and listen to the Bible, and quietly reflect on what we learn and how it applies to our own lives, we begin to see clearly more and more the Lord’s will for us, his specific as well as his general will. Psalm 119:105 (ESV) reflects this truth in the following words:
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
At the time this was written there were no 5,000 lumen flashlights. The Lord often leads us into his will and reveals his battle orders to us a few steps at a time. As he does so it’s up to us to be faithful. It seems to be a general principle that the more faithful we are as we’re led, the more clear things become as we’re led further. In other words, it seems that as we grow in following the Lord’s general will, he’ll show us more about his specific will.
Earlier in Psalm 119, in verses 10-16, the author writes:
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
It’s important to realize that when this was written there was no New Testament. We now have so much more than the author of Psalm 119 had in order to know God’s will. It’s every bit as important for us to be devoted to God through his word now as it was for the those who lived before Jesus came as the long-awaited Messiah.
As we seek to know God’s general and specific will for our lives, and as we seek to be guided by his word with the leading of the Holy Spirit, let’s not forget an important principle. In James 4:2-3 we’re reminded that sometimes we don’t have something because we don’t ask God for it, and often even when we do ask we don’t receive what we desire because we ask with impure motives.
Prayer plays a vital role in our knowing the Lord’s will for our lives. There is still so much I still have to learn about the Lord, and I’m seeking to grow closer to him every moment of every day. Like everyone else, I have a long way to go, and I look forward to when we shall one day see him face to face. One thing the Lord did lead me to do very early on in my walk with him was to ask him for clear orders. I vividly recall praying something very much like:
“Lord, please lead me clearly so that I may follow you faithfully.”
The Lord has honored that prayer for these 40 years. I often don’t see clearly very far down the path, yet God has been faithful to show me the next steps. This has allowed me to know where I am to walk, and what battles he would have me fight. I pray that prayer often. It’s become the song of my heart as I seek to be ever closer to the Lord and to please him. As I noted, I have a long way to go. As we travel this path together, I’d encourage you to pray in the same way if the Lord leads you to do so. After all, there’s nothing better in this life to know that we’re being clearly led and are walking in God’s will.