Rules For Guidance
THE MOST important question of all is whether or not I have been born again. Jesus declared to Nicodemus that the new birth is essential: "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). When I come before God the one question will be whether or not I have been born again. If I have, all will be well. If I have not, nothing will be well with me. All properly instructed Christians agree to the correctness of this proposition.
The next question of importance, after that pertaining to the new birth has been answered satisfactorily, is: How may I know that I am in the center of God's holy, directive will? We are not to choose our own way or walk in our own paths, but we, belonging to the Lord, must know His will and walk in the steps of the Master. l have for years called attention to three rules of guidance which are as follows:
1) See whether or not the thing which is under consideration is in accordance with the Scriptures. If it is, then it is proper to consider the thing under consideration. If it is not, one should dismiss the matter.
2)The second thing is to interpret providential circumstances.
God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, those who are called according to His purpose. Since He is thus providentially controlling all things that come into the life of the Christian, the one who wants to do the will of God should look at providential circumstances and thus read His will in current events. The Apostle Paul did this when he came to Troas. While he and his company were still in the central part of Asia Minor, Paul wanted to turn northward into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not permit his doing that. Then a little later he wanted to go due west to the little province of Asia, of which Ephesus was the capital. But the Holy Spirit on this occasion prohibited his doing that. Since he and his company had evangelized the territory behind them, since they were under marching orders, and since they could turn neither to the right hand nor the left, there was but one thing for them to do, namely, to go forward on the road which they were traveling, and which brought them to Troas. When they arrived in that Seaport, a vision was granted to the Apostle Paul, in which he saw a man of Macedonia crying and saying, "Come over into Macedonia and help us." Luke, who was on the spot, and who by the Spirit of God recorded the account in the sixteenth chapter of Acts, said: "... we sought to go forth into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel unto them" (Acts 16:10). Paul and his company put all things together and saw the index finger of God's invisible hand pointing to Macedonia as the place to which they should go. Thus we are to look at His overruling providential acts in our lives to detect, if possible, His finger pointing in a given direction.
3) The third rule which I have always pointed out is found in Colossians 3:15 which says, And let the peace of Christ rule [or arbitrate] in your hearts...."
In other words, let the peace of Christ arbitrate in your heart as a referee, as an umpire, who renders decisions with reference to the game which he is directing. As he renders a decision with reference to every movement or play, he thus controls the game. His word is final. In a manner analogous to this, the peace of Christ in the heart, which He puts there with reference to any proposition, is to be the final arbiter in determining what the Christian should do. I have found these three principles to be very helpful indeed. I believe that they have also helped others very materially, for which fact I am thankful.
Recently Miss Aurora Fluker, one of the secretaries, my wife, and I have been reading the life of George Muller, of Bristol, England. Soon after my wife and I were married, we read the autobiography of George Muller, which proved a determining factor in our lives. Through out the years I have been promising myself that I would re-read his life story, but have never had the opportunity of doing so until this spring and summer. We three have met together and have read one of these books through and are now reading another. Though the second one is very similar to the first and narrates many of the same incidents, yet the second book is just as fresh as if we had never known anything about the life of this marvelous man whom God raised up, and whom he used in one of the most unusual ministries in modern times. The re-reading of the life of faith of Mr. Muller has been the greatest inspiration to me of any biography which I have ever read. There is nothing that has inspired me more--except reading God's Word itself--than the study and perusal of this life of trust, this life of faith. I wish that every Christian throughout the nation could and would read one of the books on the life of George Muller, of Bristol, England. The message is such a dynamic one that it grips the heart of every truly born-again person and has an impact upon his spiritual life which is of inestimable value, both for time and for eternity. I therefore recommend to all of my readers that, if they have not read the life of George Muller, that they should do so at once.
Mr. Muller, in response to the question concerning guidance, stated that there are six principles which he had discovered to be essential if a person is to be in the center of God's holy, directive will--in all matters, in little things as in large and stupendous affairs. These six principles are so very, very important that I wish to quote them and comment briefly on each one. The first one, in Mr. Muller's own language, is this:
1. "I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord's will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is."
As I see things new, I am convinced that Mr. Muller is right in stating that the first and primary thing for a person to do is to search his heart and have the Lord to search him in order that he might be absolutely and completely surrendered to do the will of God in regard to everything; in other words, that he has made his will God's will. If we wish to put it in another form, let us be indifferent to any and everything, and simply have a burning passion and desire to do God's will in the thing under consideration--and in all other matters. Mr. Muller, therefore, was right when he said that the majority of difficulties will be immediately removed whenever our hearts are brought into this condition. Of course, that which brings us into this condition is our surrender to do the will of God and being filled with the Spirit of God. The second item as laid down by Mr. Muller is this:
2. "Having done this, I do not leave the results to feeling or simple impressions. If so, I make myself liable to great delusions."
Our feelings fluctuate and are unreliable. Mr. Muller is right in saying that we lay ourselves open to delusions and misguidings if we depend upon feelings. Some are more or less of a temperamental nature than others. Misinterpretation, as well as truth and information, affect the feelings. Thus if one depends upon feelings, when such emotions are stirred by misinformation, misdirection, then there can be no proper guidance. We must go by faith, which is grounded upon a plain "Thus saith the Lord." The third item in his list is:
3. "I seek the will of the Spirit of God through or in connection with the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also."
Here Mr. Muller is absolutely, unequivocally right. A person must seek the will of God through, and in connection with, the Word of God. If he should attempt to depend entirely upon the Spirit of God, apart from a plain "Thus saith the Lord," Satan would take advantage of him and would mislead him. Let us always remember that Satan transforms himself into an angel of light and deceives even those who are aware of his tactics (II Cor. 11:14). He would counterfeit the work of the Spirit of God in order to deceive. Thus it be comes absolutely essential that one depend upon the Written Word. The fourth step in Mr. Muller's list is put in the following words:
4. "Next I take into account providential circumstances. These plainly indicate God's will in connection with His Word and Spirit."
Since God is working all things together for the good of those who know Him and who love Him, a person cannot afford to overlook what transpires in his life. God is thus indicating His will for and His guidance of the individual.
The next principle of guidance is expressed thus:
5. "I ask God in prayer to reveal His will to me aright."
God does impart in a miraculous manner His will to the heart that is thoroughly surrendered to His will. He speaks, not only in the still small voice, as in the case of Elijah, but also in the manner in which He laid upon the heart of Titus an earnest care in behalf of the Corinthians. Hear what Paul said: "But thanks be to God, who putteth the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus" (II Cor. 8:16). God today does the same, thus revealing His will to His people. In answer to the prayer of faith offered in full surrender, God does open the eyes of the believer as Paul prayed in Ephesians, chapter 1: "For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you, and the love which ye show toward all the saints, 16 cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; ..." (vs. 15 ff.).
The sixth and last principle set forth by Mr. Muller is stated in these words:
6. "Thus through prayer to God, the study of the Word and reflection, I come to a deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly. In trivial matters and in transactions involving most important issues, I found this method always effective."
If the reader will meditate upon these things, and will pray God from the depths of his heart to lead him to appreciate and to understand the value of these fundamental principles of guidance, the Lord will show him how very important and necessary they are. These principles are basic to the spiritual life and development of the child of God. The Lord never fails to honor and respect the one thus seeking His face and guidance. And did this plan work? We will let Mr. Muller's own testimony answer: "I never remember," he wrote three years before his death, "in all my Christian course, a period now (in March, 1895) of sixty-nine years and four months, that I ever SINCERELY AND PATIENTLY sought to know the will of God by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, through the instrumentality of the Word of God, but I have been ALWAYS directed rightly. But if honesty of heart and uprightness before God were lacking, or if I did not patiently wait upon God for instruction, or if I preferred the counsel of my fellow men to the declarations of the Word of the living God, I made great mistakes."
This is a wonderful and marvelous testimony of this servant of God who served Him faithfully during all the vicissitudes of his busy and fruitful life. He trusted the Almighty God in all things, and God never failed him! May we, too, trust Him wholly. If we do, we will find Him indeed "wholly true." May we, like George Muller, of Bristol, trust our Heavenly Father as we follow the Lord Jesus Christ, His Son and our Savior!