This is an important subject. Many believers do not grow in their spiritual life because they do not know how to walk in God's will. They have many thoughts in their mind. This appears to be God's will, and that also appears to be God's will. They are lost concerning which way is the right way. Since they are not conforming to God's will in their walk, thoughts, and work, they do not grow spiritually. We would exhort those who are not seeking God's will to seek after God's will and to be free from self-confidence and self-will. God is our Redeemer, and He has the right to demand obedience from us. This is based on God's right; it is also based on His love for us. We are constrained to seek after His will because His love has touched our hearts. I would extend an invitation to those who do not know how to walk in God's will to read the following:
I. SEEKING FOR GOD'S EXPRESSED WILL INSTEAD OF HIS PERMITTED WILL
Source: Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 02: The Word of the Cross, by Watchman Nee
God's expressed will is the original will in His heart; God leads and guides us toward His original will. God's permitted will is what God permits as a result of man's pleading. For example, a father and mother may see a need for a picnic with their children and then take them on an outing. The children may be attracted by the country scenery and request another outing. The parents may not see the need for this, yet because of the request and their failure to dissuade the children, the parents grant the request. In the first case, the parents' expressed will was involved, while in the latter case, the parents' permitted will was involved. What a pity that many believers only ask God to permit them to do certain things, but do not come before Him to ask if He has expressly commanded them to do such things.
We can understand this point from a case in the Old Testament. In Numbers 22, Balak sent men to invite Balaam to curse the Israelites; he enticed Balaam with much gold and many benefits. Balaam was moved (Jude 11; 2 Pet. 2:15), and he wanted to go. Yet he feared God and thought that he ought to first inquire of Him before he should make any decision. God had told him clearly, "You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed" (Num. 22:12). This was God's expressed will. Balaam should have canceled his plans right there and refused to go. But he told the messengers, "Jehovah has refused to let me go with you" (v. 13). How reluctant was his expression refused to let me go! The reason for this reluctance was that he wanted to go, but the Lord would not allow him. When Balak baited him the second time with greater honor, Balaam again went to God. This was strange! Balaam, did God not clearly tell you His will the last time? Why are you asking God again? Has your heart been touched by the offer of honor? Has God been touched by the same thing? Do you think that God's will constantly changes? Do you not realize that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever? If Balaam was sincere in doing God's will, he should have told the messengers, "God clearly told me the last time that I should not go. Please go back. I will not go." But he was too greedy for gain, and he went to God again. The Lord then told him, "Rise, go with them" (Num. 22:20). This word means, "Since I cannot keep you back, go." Many people do not understand why the messenger of Jehovah tried to stop Balaam and kill him. They do not realize that his way before the Lord was a "crooked pathway." This is true of many Christians. They know the Lord's will in their heart concerning what they should not do. Yet their heart craves to do it. As soon as an opportunity arises, they bother God again. They may refrain for a while, but their heart is far away from the Lord. When they finally have the Lord's permission, they cannot escape the Lord's rebuke either. We should strive for the Lord's "best," not His "second best." If our heart is not in a matter, but we still pretend that we are seeking after the Lord's will, the result will be nothing but chastisement.
We have covered some conditions related to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Now for the sake of the weakness of God's children, we will say a few more words. Most of the time, the prompting of the Holy Spirit gives us an assurance. This means that when we are about to do something, God will give us the assurance that what we are about to do is according to His will. This kind of assurance comes in a calm way. When He gives us this assurance, He will put a calm peace in our heart and refresh our heart. This kind of assurance should be maintained by faith. If there is faith to maintain it, we will see this assurance always abiding; it will not change through time and place, and we will not doubt if this is God's will. In the initial stage of our Christian life, we should always remember that the prompting of the Holy Spirit is powerful, yet calm; it is gradual, yet never compelling. It always waits for the consent of our own will; it waits for us to act on our own and never oppresses or overrules us by some kind of force. We must also always remember that the prompting of the Holy Spirit operates from within; it works from the center to the circumference. It works within the spirit and then enlightens the mind, so that the mind understands. Only after we have given our consent, will it work itself out through our bodies.
HOW DOES GOD SHOW US HIS WILL?
There are three ways that God shows us His will. We must not consider or follow only one of these three ways. If we only consider one way, it will be easy for us to fall into Satan's snare. We should consider these three ways simultaneously. If we consider the three ways together, we will not fall into error. When the light is complete, we will be able to live in God's will in a complete way. The three ways are: the prompting of the Spirit, the teaching of the Bible, and the provisions in the environment. On his way back to England, while Dr. F.B. Meyer's ship was approaching the mouth of the Thames River, he asked the ship captain, "The sea is so big; how do you know that this is the right place to enter the river?" The captain answered, "I steer my ship until the three lighthouses line up in a straight line. At that point I know that I have arrived at the London harbor." Dr. Meyer said, "When we see the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and the environment line up in a straight line, we know that we are walking in God's will." Indeed, when all three things testify that we are standing on the right ground, we know that we are walking according to God's will.
1. The Prompting of the Holy Spirit
There is no one who walks completely according to his own will. Either he walks according to God's will, or he walks according to the devil's will. The evil spirits are "operating in the sons of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2). With those who obey and believe in God, "it is God who operates" (Phil. 2:13) in them. Within the heart of man, either an evil spirit is operating or God is operating. No one can be independent from these two things. Therefore, the conduct of every person is either the result of the operation of the Holy Spirit in his heart or the result of the operation of evil spirits in his heart. Even believers are no exceptions to this rule.
Most people act according to some kind of prompting. Sometimes they are prompted to a greater degree; sometimes they are prompted to a lesser degree. When the heart is motivated by promptings or impulses, a man acts accordingly.
It is unfortunate that most believers are ignorant of what it means to live a life in the Holy Spirit, or a life in which the Holy Spirit works. When their souls are stirred up, they think that it is the prompting of the Holy Spirit. They cannot differentiate between the prompting of the Holy Spirit and a stirring in the emotions. But, in reality, it is not that difficult to differentiate between the stirring in the soul and the prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is difficult for immature Christians to make such a distinction. But for mature saints, the distinction between the two things is like the distinction between the wheat and the tare.
Besides the confusion between a stirring in the soul and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the devil will many times disguise himself as the angel of light. He will say something to entice us and feign the voice of the Holy Spirit. Brothers and sisters who love the Lord, do not think that all of Satan's suggestions are evil, and do not think that all of his schemes and plans are unclean and base. We should realize that the ultimate goal of Satan is to distract us from God's will. Sometimes (in fact, many times) he will lead us to do good things and to think that doing good is God's will. But even though all of God's will is good, not all good things are God's will. The things may be good, but these good things may not be God's will. Satan is not afraid of our doing good things; he is only afraid of our doing God's will. As long as he can stop us from doing God's will, he is satisfied. In trying to understand God's will, we must not be overrun by any impulse and must not think that just because something is good and excellent, it is therefore God's will. We have to realize that this is not always true. A good thing may not be God's will. Even if it is, we still do not know if it is God's will for us.
Therefore, in seeking after God's will, we should distinguish between: (1) the prompting of the Holy Spirit, (2) the stirring in the soul, and (3) the impulses from Satan. The prompting of the Holy Spirit is an operation of God's Spirit within our spirit, which prompts us to know God's will. This kind of operation or prompting is quiet and lasting; it is not sudden or excitable. This kind of operation comes from God. Paul said, "I am going bound in the spirit to Jerusalem" (Acts 20:22). "While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he beheld that the city was full of idols" (17:16). When the Holy Spirit moved Paul, He moved his spirit; he was bound and not free. When the Holy Spirit prompted Paul to preach, He caused his spirit to become provoked and stirred up so that a great power operated within him and compelled him to obey.
It is a pity that believers do not know the human spirit. They do not know that man is tripartite, composed of the spirit, the soul, and the body (1 Thes. 5:23). They only know that man is composed of the soul and body. And although many believers know about the spirit and the soul in letter and know that there is a human spirit in addition to the Holy Spirit, they do not feel this spirit within them. They do not know what activity within them is the move of the spirit and what is the operation of the soul. Some have painfully mistaken the soul for the spirit! Because of such a handicap, it becomes difficult for them to know God's will.
Some believers make the mistake of regarding the mind as the spirit. The mind belongs to the soul; it does not belong to the spirit. Therefore, thoughts in the mind are unreliable. We should not consider these thoughts to be the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Soulish stirring is a work of the emotion. Sometimes, for no reason at all, we feel very happy and elated. At such times, we may have many plans to do this and that. Furthermore, the power in our emotion seems to be very strong, as if we cannot rest until we finish what we have resolved to do. If we want to distinguish between the stirring of the soul and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we have to remember a few things: the stirring in the soul is mainly caused by the environment. Sometimes when we are alone, we feel like sighing. Soulish stirrings cause us to have sudden feelings. It is as if a power within us is trying to subjugate us and dominate us. It is not calm; there is a kind of burning and confused urge within. If we stop immediately and wait for the emotional stirring to subside, we will find that what we considered as the Spirit's prompting and what we considered as a necessary thing to do was not according to God's will. One thing we know: what we "feel" to do when we are stirred up is merely an impression we have in our feelings; it does not result in any assurance on our part. God is patient; He is not hasty to accomplish what He wants to do. This is why He spoke through the prophet Isaiah, "He who believes will not hasten away" (Isa. 28:16). Therefore, He takes time to prompt us. Nine times out of ten, sudden feelings are not His will.
Impulses from Satan are in reality very different from the prompting of the Holy Spirit; the two are actually opposite each other. Outwardly, it is difficult for believers to differentiate between the two because Satan will not cause us to completely fall into sin; he will only turn us away from God's will. Sometimes he holds us back so that we fall short; at other times, he urges us on, so that we become too much. He disguises himself as the angel of light and speaks to our ears, confusing the small voice of the Holy Spirit. God's children should be experienced in distinguishing the suggestions of Satan from the revelations of the Holy Spirit. Satan's impulses always come suddenly. His way with Christians is to come in the way of a blitz. The prompting of the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, first gives us a revelation and then enlightens our mind. Satan's impulses put many reasons and methods into our mind before asking us to actually perform some tasks. His initial work is to inject seeds of thoughts into the believers' mind. These thoughts are sudden and always come with many reasonings. Many times, we think that this is the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit spreads out from within, while Satan's work breaks in from the outside. Therefore, as God's children, we should never consider sudden thoughts to be His will. We should be careful, steady, and wait until everything is settled before we do anything. As to outward sudden stirrings and promptings, we should be particularly careful, because nine times out of ten they are not promptings of the Holy Spirit.
2. The Teaching of the Bible
After a child of God thinks that something is the prompting of the Holy Spirit, for the sake of safety, he should verify what he is about to do with the biblical teaching. Biblical teaching does not refer to isolated verses in the Bible taken out of their context. Many believers act in a haphazard way; they read one or two verses and consider them to be God's ordained will for them. Sometimes they pray piously and then open the Bible to read a few verses randomly. If they come across a word that fits their circumstances, they consider that as God's will. They will move, stop, go, or turn based on these verses. If they unfortunately find some contrary indications, or if verses they read have nothing to do with their affairs, they think that God has not said anything to them, or they unnaturally interpret the passage to make it fit into their situation. Then they base their decisions on this method. This is very dangerous. It is difficult to expect a person who does not understand the Bible to be free from error!
What does it mean that a believer has to understand the teaching of the Bible when he does things? The teaching of the Bible refers to the common testimony of the whole Bible. One should consider how the whole Bible deals with the question at hand. Indeed, he should consider how it deals with all the problems that he encounters. One has to understand what the Old and New Testaments say about the matter. He has to understand how the question was dealt with in the age of the patriarchs, the age of the law, and the age of grace. It is by this that we know that we do not follow the judgment of the Old Testament, but the judgment of the New Testament. We do not follow the decision of the patriarchs or the law, but the instructions of grace. But is this not a very difficult thing to do? Who can know these distinctions unless he is a Bible scholar? This is one reason why we have to search the Scriptures. The Bible is a record of God's will for the whole world in all ages. If a believer wants to understand God's will, he must study (not just read) the Bible. The words of the Bible are easy to understand because they are revealed to babes (Matt. 11:25). The Bible is God's complete revelation. It has clear explanations concerning His plan, His ways, His will, and all other kinds of questions. God gave the Bible to His people with the expectation that they would understand all of His will. Therefore, if believers do not study the Bible and instead just complain that they do not understand God's will, they have no excuse.
Sometimes the matter may be great and difficult, and we cannot find the biblical teaching concerning it. At such times, we should consult spiritually matured believers. The Lord can often teach us through these ones. We should not overvalue man's words; we should still "discern" (1 Cor. 14:29) and decide if they are scriptural. If we do not search the Scriptures and do not consult with spiritual believers, it is very likely that we will fall into error if we only grasp one or two verses and consider them to be God's will and act accordingly.
The importance of obedience to the word of the Bible can be seen in a contrast between the temptation in the garden of Eden and the temptation in the wilderness. In those two temptations, one person was defeated while the other overcame. One factor decided whether or not there was defeat or victory. In the former case, there was disobedience to God's word, while in the latter case, there was obedience to His word. The failure in Eden, which was an insubordination of God's will, became the root of the world's rebellion. Our Lord, on the other hand, overcame the enemy and his temptation three times in the wilderness with the Scriptures. The devil's temptations appeared harmless; in fact they seemed to be very good. But the Lord Jesus cautiously abode by the word of the Scriptures. This is why He overcame completely in the end. Therefore, in our daily life, the most important rule is the Bible. If in everything, we seek the teaching of the Scriptures, we will not walk apart from God's will.
Whenever we sense the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we should ask if the prompting is scriptural. We should ask if what we consider to be the Holy Spirit's prompting is indeed His prompting. If we ask ourselves in this way, we will prove its authenticity. All Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the whole Bible reveals God's will. It is impossible for the Holy Spirit to inspire Scriptures in one way and prompt us in another way. It is impossible for God's will to be revealed in the Bible in one way and for the Holy Spirit to prompt us in another way. This can never happen. The prompting of the Holy Spirit will never contradict the teaching of the Bible. The Bible and the Holy Spirit forever walk and work together; they show us the way we ought to take. They are one in revealing God's will to us, and they never disagree. If we say that we have the prompting of the Holy Spirit concerning a certain matter, and yet the matter contradicts the Scriptures, our so-called prompting of the Holy Spirit must be a wrong one. We should remember this well. Whenever a prompting does not match the Scriptures, we should be quiet and not proceed. The best proof of whether or not a prompting is from the Holy Spirit is to see if the prompting contradicts the Scriptures. Sometimes, however, it seems as if the Scriptures do not say yes or no about a certain matter. For example, you may want to go to a certain place to preach. It is scriptural for you to go because the Bible has clear teaching encouraging this. But it can equally justify you not to go, because sometimes the Lord forbade His apostles from preaching in certain places. At such times, you have to be careful in distinguishing between the prompting of the Holy Spirit and other forces. If there is indeed the leading of the Holy Spirit, you can proceed.
3. The Provisions in the Environment
The environment is often the best instrument for the manifestation of God's will. This does not refer to man's reactions of approval or disapproval. It refers to God's provisions in our personal environment. We may walk in God's will and still encounter misunderstandings and oppositions from men. Human opposition is not a circumstantial indicator for us to stop doing a certain thing. Did not the apostles in the first churches find themselves opposed by many people? Were they not imprisoned often? Their environment indeed was against them. Yet did they not walk according to God's will? They said, "It is necessary to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). They obeyed God and were walking according to His will. This is why we say that the environment manifests God's will; we are not saying that everyone in our environment will always agree with what we do. We are saying that God makes "provisions" in our environment for us. If everyone opposes our work, it is all right, because that may be an instigation from Satan. Beyond men, God abides above all the circumstances and makes personal provisions for us. If God has called us to His work, He will certainly make provision for all our needs, so that we will have the physical strength as well as the financial means to accomplish the work. Sometimes He will even send angels to help us and facilitate our journey.
God's hand is often manifested through the environment. He is always behind the daily events around us. A mature Christian can often see the turning of God's hand in the environment. God is the God behind all causes. He is the source of everything and the destiny of everything. If a believer has learned to seek after God's will in the environment, he is blessed. A believer who has consecrated himself should, on the one hand, oppose everything that is from Satan, and should, on the other hand, accept his environment and consider it to be from God and part of God's provision. If God has not allowed it, we know that nothing can come upon us. We can see this in the book of Job. Although Satan was the source of all woes, God was behind Satan and restraining him. Satan was limited by God in everything. In the Bible we find that God's hand is sovereignly controlling and moving behind many events. This is true not only with big events, but with small events as well. God is the God of the great things, and He is also the God of the small things. If a believer's hairs are numbered, is there anything else that cannot be in God's hand? Blessed are those who know Romans 8:28: "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."
Therefore, after a believer has the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the teaching of the Bible, he should still consider God's provisions in his environment. If God wants him to do a certain thing, He will surely give him the opportunity, time, and strength (both physical and spiritual) to do such a thing. If he needs a co-worker, God will provide one. He will fully provide everything that he needs. Jehovah will provide! (Gen. 22:14). If we are truly walking in God's will, we will see many "coincidences" and many "accidental things" coming across our way. Actually, these are not "coincidences" and "accidents," but God's provisions. God puts all these matters together, and He helps and supplies us according to our need. Those who are truly walking according to His will need not struggle for outward things, because God causes all things to be the platform upon which He accomplishes His work for His servants and His maids. Although there may be oppositions, God will provide for all the needs.
God uses the above three things to manifest Himself. Every time God guides His children, He uses these three things. Moreover, these three things give the same testimony as to whether or not our acts are according to God's will. The Holy Spirit, the Bible, and the environment do not contradict one another. If there are contradictions, we can be assured that it is not God's will. In doing anything, we must remember these three things.
Sometimes there are special circumstances. There may be two opposing thoughts in the heart. It seems that doing a certain thing is God's will, and not doing it is also God's will. It is difficult to decide which is right and which is wrong. The teaching of the Bible does not forbid us from doing it or not doing it, and it is hard to decide what to do. The provisions in the environment are conducive both for doing and not doing it. All three factors have an ambivalent weight. Under such circumstances, the best thing to do is to adopt a stand against Satan. If we honestly desire to do God's will, we should resolve at such a time to have a firm attitude, to agree with everything that comes from God, and to oppose everything that is from Satan. Although we may not know as yet what is of God and what is not of God, we can adopt the attitude that we want everything that is from God and refuse everything that is not from Him. We can pray, "God! I want what You want. I do not want what You do not want. Please prove to me what is of You and what is not of You." If we are truly after God's will, He will soon show us what is of Him and what is not of Him. He will make us clear. We cannot emphasize this matter enough because it is very important. Sometimes Satan will try to confuse us and make us lost. If we continue to oppose Satan, and stand with the Father's will, sooner or later all the confusion will be dispersed.
NOT DOING WHAT WE DO NOT KNOW
Before we are clear about God's will, it is best that we not do what we are not clear about. We should absolutely wait before God until we are clear, and then act accordingly. Sometimes God sees that we will profit if He delays revealing His will to us. At such times, we should adopt the attitude that we will not do what we do not know. The psalmist said, "Neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me" (Psa. 131:1). Therefore, before we are clear, and when things are "too high" for us, we should not do anything lest we regret it later. Many mistakes and regrets come from hasty decisions. Our danger lies in being active and trying to act before we are clear about the Lord's will. The Lord wants us to wait on Him, to advance at His pace, and to move on only after we are clear about God's will. Unfortunately, we are often urged by our environment to do things rashly. When this happens, we do things outside God's will. We can be assured of one thing: when we do things rashly, eight out of ten times, we are not walking according to the Lord's will. When the Lord Jesus was on earth, He never did one thing rashly. We should imitate Him. Before we are absolutely clear of the Lord's will, we should not move presumptuously. We have to make up our mind not to initiate anything until we are clear about God's will.
Sometimes when we are stirred up or when we are pressured, we make promises to others. If we find out later that this was not God's will, what should we do? God's Word says, "Should he swear to his harm, / He does not change" (Psa. 15:4). This verse refers to the conduct of a believer. A believer should deal righteously with others. "Let your word be, Yes, yes; No, no" (Matt. 5:37); we should not be "yes and no" (2 Cor. 1:19). Therefore, we cannot break our promise. If we find ourselves in this situation, the only thing we can do is to confess the mistake of our promise before the Lord and pray that the Lord would cause the promise not to come into effect. He will open up the way. Perhaps through such a mistake, the Lord will show us some additional matters to which we should submit. Although it is a curse to make mistakes, the Lord can turn "the curse into a blessing" (Deut. 23:5). At these times we should be particularly patient and wait on the Lord.
Many busy activities are vain because what is done is not done according to God's will. If our work is done apart from God's will, the Lord whom we serve will not be happy. We may be busy from morning till evening, but the work we do may not reap spiritual benefit; we will not receive praise or reward from God for these works. If we are willing to work only after we are clear about God's will, we will save ourselves many unnecessary hours of busy work. We will not be busy from morning till evening, and we will have more quiet time before the Lord to fellowship with Him.
In our daily life, we should seek after the Lord's will this way in everything. If we seek after our own will and act carelessly in the small things of our daily life, and do not seek after the Lord's will until we encounter the great things, the Lord will seem very far away from us when we do seek after Him. This will appear to be God's will, and that will appear to be God's will. Every way will appear to be the right way. Then it is difficult to find God's will even though we try. We should seek after God's will in small things as well as in big things. We should familiarize ourselves with God's will every day so that when something suddenly happens to us, it will not be hard for us to know His will. We should be well acquainted with His will so that we build up for ourselves a habit of knowing His will. Then whatever happens, we will find ourselves knowing His will and acting according to His will. Of course, Satan is most crafty. Once he knows that we are seeking God's will in everything, he will raise many small suggestions in our mind and make us think that this or that is God's will. His suggestions are often contrary to common sense. For example, we may be walking down a road, and the proper way may be to take the main street. But he may tell us to take a winding and tortuous path. These things happen frequently. Every day he will try to counterfeit God's will. He will tell us many things. At these times we should take an opposing stand against Satan. We should do as was mentioned above—test to see if what we have encountered is God's will. At times it is possible for extraordinary things to happen; God may instruct us to take the circuitous way in order to protect us. Although God has His will in everything, God does not annul our reasoning in the small things. After our mind has been renewed by the Holy Spirit, God's Spirit leads us through our reasoning in all the small matters. Therefore, we must not be deceived by Satan in the small things. We should exercise our discernment to differentiate. Sometimes Satan will accuse us when we do not follow his counterfeit will, and tell us that we have gone off from God's will. At such times we have to withstand him. (Please note that this paragraph only applies to the small things.)
SEEKING AND PRACTICING
In seeking to know God's will, we have to be honest and practice what we know. True seeking is always accompanied by practice. It is for the sake of practicing God's will that we seek it. If we have no intention of practicing, what good does it do if we know His will? Knowing God's will without practicing it is offensive to God; it cultivates the flesh and allows it to survive. When the flesh realizes the hardship involved in doing God's will, it shrinks back. If we do not put to death the deeds of the flesh and do not walk according to God's will, our life will suffer a great blow. God wants us to do His will; He is not satisfied with us only knowing His will. He causes us to know His will in order that we will do His will. If we do not do His will, our knowledge is empty knowledge! God has no pleasure in anything other than His will. True knowledge is a matter of practice.
Here I should repeat what I have mentioned before: we should have no inclination, self-will, and cravings in our heart. Only then can we know God's will. If we do not have a heart to obey God willingly, He will not reveal to us His will. First there must be a willingness to do His will; then God will spontaneously show us His will.
NATURAL UNWILLINGNESS IN THE HEART
One frequent problem among us as God's children is that we are naturally unwilling to do God's will. Biases, cravings, and self-will unintentionally appear. It seems that the price of doing God's will is too great, that it contradicts our own will too much, and that it is too much of a hardship for the flesh and too uncomfortable for our own feeling. This does not mean that we do not want to know God's will; we do want to know God's will. But, at the same time, we have our own cravings. Many times we think that if we are willing, we will be finished and our life will be over. The way of deliverance for us is to repeatedly acknowledge God's right over us. We should meditate on the Lord's love, on how He died for us, how He suffered, saved, comforted, forbore, and cared for us. We should obey Him because He has a right over us, and we should be moved to follow Him because of His love. We should meditate on these things until our heart melts and our tears come down. The Lord's love will surely touch us. At the same time, we should ask ourselves, "Is it true that I am not willing to do God's will and that I have my own inclinations? Am I willing to allow God to work on me until I become willing and until I have no more inclinations?" This means that although we are not willing to do God's will, we are willing to allow God to make us willing to do His will. In other words, in ourselves, we are not willing to do His will in a direct sense. But in an indirect sense, we are willing to allow God to make us willing. To put it in still another way, if it is true that we have no willingness in ourselves to do His will, do we have a willingness to allow God to make us willing? We may not have the first willingness. But do we have the second willingness? If we do not have a willingness to do His will, and if we do not have a willingness to allow Him to make us willing, we will surely not know His will. Even if we know it, it will be useless to us. We will only fall according to our self-will. If we do not have a direct willingness, but have an indirect willingness, God will still work in our hearts or our environment to make us willing. It is amazing that God performs miracles to turn our hearts and make them willing. Sometimes this step takes time. God does not force us to do anything. If we feel that we cannot obey Him and are not willing to allow Him to make us willing, He will surely not work. Philippians 2:13 presents a great truth: "For it is God who operates in you both the willing and the working for His good pleasure." This does not say that God will do the willing for us. Rather, it says that God operates in us until we become willing. Therefore, if we are not willing to do God's will, we should have at least one kind of willingness—we should be willing to allow God to turn our unwillingness into willingness and operate in us until we become willing. If a man does not have even a little amount of willingness, what he does will certainly be outside God's will, and not be pleasing to God. But blessed are those who are attracted by God's love, who look forward to the coming glory, who have no reluctance in their hearts to do God's will, and who are always ready and waiting for His command. Happy are these ones!
THE CRUCIAL QUESTION
George Müller was a man experienced in prayer and in fellowship with the Lord. He said that every time he was about to do something, he always asked himself a few questions. The most important questions he asked were, "Is this God's will? Is this God's will for me? Is this God's time? and, Is this God's way?" He had to wait until he was completely clear about the answers to these questions before he would act. We should learn of him in this matter. If we act cautiously, we will not make mistakes.
Brothers, if we have indeed fully consecrated ourselves to the Lord, we will see Him restricting us in everything. Many things are excellent and proper in our eyes. We may want to do them, but because they are not God's will, we dare not proceed with them. There may be many works which we deem profitable and precious. We may want to do them, but because they are not God's will, we will not dare to do them. In our thoughts, we should drop everything that is not according to His will. We should do His will and please His heart, rather than please ourselves. Although many things may be precious and desirable to us, for the Lord's sake, we should willingly give them up. What a bondage! Blessed bondage! What restriction! Blessed restriction! What hindrance! Blessed hindrance! Daily we should consider our self-will and self-opinion as gone and shattered. Daily we should suffer the "undesirable" things. The restrictions in the Lord's hand are sweet indeed. Our heart magnifies the Lord. He must increase, and we must decrease. Our heart rejoices at seeing our self stripped and the Lord's will accomplished. May the Lord cause us to always know His will and do it. "Lord, when we suffer through our self being confined, we are truly happy, because You are happy!"
"That you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God" (Col. 4:12).