INTERPRETING GOD'S WILL IN LIFE'S EVENTS
Doors to Understanding
Misreading the Signs
Many years ago a young woman told me that what she had wanted for so long and which she had prayed for so earnestly had finally happened. Indeed, everything was going so wonderfully for her that she "knew" beyond a shadow of a doubt that God had given it to her and answered her prayers. But I told her, notwithstanding everything looked so fine, that what she was doing was wrong and that her dream would come to grief for one simple reason: to get what she wanted, she had to break one of the Ten Commandments. Oh yes, she had spiritual manifestations too -- visions, burnings in the heart, and the evidence of life events supporting her all along the way.
Several years later her dream world collapsed and her paradise turned into a hell. She believed, wrongly, that because everything in her immediate physical and spiritual environment fitted so neatly into place that she was doing God's will. And, alas, this is a mistake we all too often make. Like it or not, God's commandments are immutable, and He does not give us special dispensations to break them in order to satisfy our deepest yearnings.
When a commandment is broken not only is God offended but our fellow human beings are hurt. When we speak evil of another person we send out a spirit that must eventually return to us, like an echo, or ripples bouncing off a solid object.
Truth vs. Illusion
I don't know about you, but I know that most young people love the sensation of speed. Many people love diving -- the thrill of flying through the air before the final impact with the water. But the same thrill of flying through the air can just as easily meet with tragic results; not a few people have divided into empty swimming pools believing they were full of water. Most have suffered terrible injuries, even death.
When we reject the Word of God which has been given to us for our protection, we must expect serious consequences. Because the results are not always immediate, and may indeed not be felt until many years later, we have the tendency to assume that our misfortunes are related to something else. Because God does not reach down out of the sky and instantly punish us for wrong doing we na´vely assume that either God is not there or that what we are doing is, in fact, alright. Any alcoholic who has been cured will tell you the fallacy of such thinking; the thrill of alcohol initially blinds the one who drinks of it of the terrible fate that awaits him if he does not moderate his drinking or stop it altogether. Every action has consequences: "you reap what you sow" is not only a teaching of the Saviour but of all wise sages throughout the ages (e.g. 2 Cor.9:6).
The Vunerability of the Young
Young people are especially vulnerable to this form of thinking. Because they are active biologically, they interpret events only in local terms without the insight of knowing the long term consequences that is the reward of those who are older. Their self-assurance is made all the stronger by the indoctrination they receive from when they are young that they have "rights" equal to those of the older generation and that new (usually unproven) thinking is something to be encouraged, even if it sets aside the collective wisdom of the ages. Independence of thought, feeling and action is regarded as a mark of sophistication and maturity, especially when it spurns the council of the older whose wisdom has been acquired by struggling with the realities and paradoxes of life. Whilst this is not to give the older generation carte blanche, for they are often sincerely wrong, and whilst this is not to spurn every new idea of young people, it is the testimony of history that the wisdom of the elders is usually superior to that of the young, if for no other reason than they have had more experience.
Wisdom vs. Tradition
I say these things, however, not in a secular sense but a Biblical one, for the "wisdom" of the older generation is very often little more that the inherited traditions of man's false ways of thinking, feeling, and doing things. Clearly an older satanist is not much better than a young one, and probably worse; but an older man of God is, 99% of the time, likely to give the young advice that he is unlikely to know for himself, or think that he knows.
Let us beware how we interpret events around us. Things suddenly go well and we are often tempted to think that God's blessings have fallen upon us because of something we have done. But we must remember that we are not the only fish in the sea -- we share our environment with hundreds, thousands, and millions of other people, all of whom God is concerned to help as they are willing to obey and follow Him. The blessings around us may not necessarily be for us but for those with whom we share our environment. "The sun falls equally on the good and the wicked."
Don't Oversimplify the Complex
Remember also that sometimes we are led by the Spirit of God not because we have earned it but for the very opposite reason. Did not God prevail upon Pharaoh to let the children of Israel free? And did not the same God earlier prevail upon Pharaoh to do the opposite, so that the faith of Israel might be tested, and so that His mighty works might be revealed? We must be careful not to over-simplify God's activity in the world because we are so desperate to make sense of events in the context of our own inner world. Experience has taught me (and here you have an emerging "oldie" talking) that the events that surround us are rarely to be interpreted as simply as we think. God, in His omniscience, is aware of millions of different forces and events; we, in our limited capacity, are only aware of a few. We interpret life though the restricted lenses of our own experience.
In saying these things I would not wish people to think that I believe we cannot interpret anything accurately, or that our acts of righteousness do not have a major impact on our environment, because we likewise know from experience, not to mention the testimony of the Word of God, that they do, and that we can. But what we most assuredly need is what might be called a "long-view" understanding of things, a gift that only comes after considerable experience with people, with God, and with our inner realities. In scriptural parlance, this is called the prophetic.
Different Types of Prophecy
Prophecy is not necessarily a sudden and stunning vision, a voice speaking out of the dark, or some other supernatural (as the world would classify it) event. More often than not it is the ability to grasp events in the light of experience and an intimate understanding of the way people are. Having been in the ministry for many years now, and having divested myself of many na´ve ideas, I find that very often I can look at a person and "see", with prophetic hindsight, what kind of problems that person is going to face and the likely outcome of the choices that person makes. "Hindsight" is not, of course, enough, for we can often misjudge people and situations no matter how experienced we are. People, for one thing, are sometimes full of surprises, and do things that our neat psychological models of human nature cannot always account for. And the reason we cannot is because we cannot know how God is going to personally intervene in a person's life, unless that is specifically revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.
Another false assumption that Christians sometimes make is that so long as they live close to the Spirit God will reveal all about themselves and about others. But we know only too well that sometimes, if not, most of the time, God conceals both to develop our faith (which would not be possible were the future continually before our view) and well as to prevent us from the delusions of pride that often result from such "superior" knowledge. I myself in recent times received a sharp rebuke from the Lord for supposing that I would always have a certain spiritual gift; to teach me not to be so cocky, the Lord withdrew the gift and I made a false prediction. The chastisement has had many positive effects on me; for one, I have come to appreciate the unexpected entry into my life of a new force far more that I would have done if what I had expected had come to pass. That rebuke in its turn, has brought a whole chain of others, forcing me to re-examine the basis of almost everything I do and believe in. The results have been unbelievably enriching even though I must confess that there have been repercussions that I have not liked so much, such as a reduced self-confidence. But, as always, the Lord offers compensations far greater than the losses -- real or imagined -- we suppose we have suffered. I have learned to trust in Him far more than at any previous time in my life. The thrill of making new discoveries and entering into new personal relationships with my Lord and with my brethren and sisters has been a refreshing balm to my soul.
Short- vs. Long-Term
When I was young I invested in short-term desires -- to have a good wife, a happy family, and such things. Today, with my new perspective of God and His ways, I am far more focused in investing in eternity. The many failures on the material plane have made me realise that there are corresponding success stories in heaven, whose fruits we will reap by the by in practical, outward terms. For every outward failure in my life there have been enormous internal, spiritual benefits.
For one thing, our religious philosophy will determine how we look at these two realities. My former religious persuasions focused very much on righting wrongs in this world to the extent that the next was largely forgotten. Today I realise that everything we do here has immediate effects in the parallel spiritual world which are to be both enjoyed now as increased wisdom and love, and which are being put on deposit in God's Bank as a reward in the next world. Bringing a knowledge of a Saviour to the world is of infinite more importance than trying to right social wrongs by human means.
Jesus said: "Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven; ...for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matt.6:20-21, NIV). I suppose I have changed bank accounts somewhat in recent months. I have found the interest rates are more favourable in heaven than on earth (the earthly ones regularly go bust unlike the one in heaven).
"The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it" (Matt.13:45-46, NIV).
The Spirit of Compromise
Many people, when they come to Christ, want to keep the cheap, imitation jewels of their old way of life and add that one precious pearl to their collection. They soon fall away. Others get rid of the cheap stuff but decide they will keep other things precious to them, the pearls of a good family life, a successful business, friendships in the world, and so on. After a while they soon realise they can't afford the Pearl of the Kingdom -- they try to buy it on hire purchase and then discover they can't afford the payments. In the end, they have to give it back.
If you want that "pearl of great price" (AV) then what must you do? You must "sell everything you have". Not some things, not most things, but everything. Clearly, whatever you think is of value because it is lawful (in scriptural terms) cannot be retained if you want the Kingdom of our Lord. He requires of you that you surrender everything, the good as well as the bad, so that you may have a foundation -- a core -- that will only ever admit the good and always prevent the bad from ever rooting itself in your soul.
Over the years I have taught an all-or-nothing Gospel. I have no cause to change that position, however unpopular it may make me. (Only recently, one of our persecutors tried again to destroy my career by sending an article I had written about family idolatry to my employer).
Knowing God's Will and Presence
I say this in conjunction with my main theme, which is that we might come to know God's will and sense His activity and presence in our daily life. It is my testimony -- my clear, uncompromising testimony -- that we can never interpret events around us, nor know God's will sufficient to keep us in His Kingdom, until we have sold everything for His Kingdom -- until we have offered everything on the altar of sacrifice. Because without a 100% offer, the debt we have on His Holy Spirit dwelling in us will be called in. In other words, we must give up every thought and desire, every habit and possession -- everything -- before we can properly receive His fullest blessings.
If you are serious about heaven and not just playing with words when you say that is where you want to go and not to the "other place", you'd better get serious now. The New Jerusalem, our home in the heavenly world, has 12 gates, one for each of the 12 tribal families in Christ. (We are all adopted into one of the 12 tribes when we receive Christ -- more of this another time). Each gate is made of a single pearl (Rev.21:21). Of course, that pearl is not literal. It is the Kingdom -- the Kingdom we receive when we make our sacrifice here on earth -- the Spirit life we receive from the Lord when we dedicate our lives wholly to Him. Do not suppose that you can barter your way into heaven by presenting the Lord with a list of good deeds. He has made the condition of entry into His Kingdom clear -- sell everything, give your life 100% to Him. "Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads of life, and only a few find it" (Matt.7:14).
Making Sense of Difficult Circumstances
Do you want to make sense of life? If you do, ask yourself the question: Have I sold everything to receive the greatest gift on earth -- a gift that all of my post prized "possessions" could never pay for the tiniest fraction of? You may not manage it all in one go, though the Lord is certainly capable of giving you the Holy Spirit in enough abundance to enable you to, but you can certainly try and made a serious attempt to. If your faith is weak, know that you are not alone. Here, in the New Covenant Church, God has given us covenants and commandments to help us make this choice and stick by it. It's not hard, and it works. Come and ask those who have tried it and they will gladly share they experience with you to encourage you along the Way of Life. Amen.
This page was created on 10 Mayl 1998
Last updated on 10 May 1998
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