In Earth as it is in Heaven

Almost anyone in leading another individual to the Lord in salvation will include some phrase of surrender in which the new convert dedicates his life to serving the Lord; however, most of them will then walk away without attempting to impart any instruction on what it is that the new believer has surrendered to, or to help him understand how to know how he is actually going to serve the Lord.  In essence, we need to know how to grasp hold of the will of God and comprehend how to fulfill it.  In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructed us that one of the major elements of our prayer life should be to seek for His will to be done on earth as explicitly as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)  Paul taught us that part of the promised provision of our status in Christ is that we should understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 1:9, 5:17)  Therefore, it is appropriate that instruction in understanding and fulfilling the will of God should be considered among our cornerstones of faith.


 Becoming a Candidate for the Will of God

On the morning that I was to be married, someone asked, “Aren’t you nervous?”  I responded, “No, why should I be? I do this every day!”  The puzzled reaction was, “You don’t get married every day.”  I responded, “No, but I do the will of God every day.”  It truly is possible to walk in a daily assurance that you are living in His will.  The will of God is not something far out of our grasp or something difficult to get hold of. In fact, it is at our very fingertips.

 Possibly the one question that ministers are asked most often in counseling with people and in ministering on a one-to-one basis is, “How do I know God’s will?”  Many Christians are always frustrated and confused because there are things that they want to do and they have great visions of things that they could do for the Lord – but, they are afraid that these dreams may not be from God. Therefore, they sit back and do nothing.  Fear of doing something outside of God’s will has paralyzed them and stopped them from doing anything.

 As the days grow closer for the coming of the Lord, we need to be able to be in the center of God’s will.  We simply do not have time to waste.  We do not have time to sit back wondering about what to do and wondering about whether it will succeed or whether it will fail.  We have the whole world to win to the Lord, and we only have a short period of time.  The Body of Christ needs to know exactly where the Lord’s will is for us to be.  We need to know exactly what the Lord’s will is for us to do.  And we need to do it right now!

 The scriptures tell us very specifically many things about knowing God’s will.  We don’t have to “shoot in the dark” because the scriptures have some very specific ways for us to know God’s will.

 Paul described the will of God in Romans chapter twelve verse two: What is that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God.  First of all, we need to settle in our minds that there are not three wills of God.  There is not a good will, an acceptable will, and a perfect will.  I’m sure that we have all heard people say, “Well, I may not be in God’s perfect will, but I am doing something that is acceptable to Him.  At least I am doing something good.”  But, that’s not what the Holy Spirit meant when He inspired the apostle to write about a good and perfect and acceptable will.  There is only one will of God and that one will is good, acceptable, and perfect – all three.

 Paul tells us that we can prove what is the will of God, but if we carefully notice the verse, there is a little word inserted just before that phrase – “that.”  The word “that” links the phrase to the context of the prior verse by suggesting that we are not able to prove the acceptable, good, and perfect will of God without first meeting the conditions spelled out in those verses.  We may say that these are the prerequisites, or conditions, for knowing the will of God.  Let’s take a look.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Romans 12:1-3)

 Before we delve into these passages, let’s look over into the book of Ephesians where we will find more about the prerequisites for knowing the will of the Lord.

Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. (verses 5:14-21)

 In these two passages, we can immediately pick out some key words that are going to help us understand the prerequisites, or the conditions, we must meet before we are even candidates for knowing the will of the Lord.

In the Romans passage, Paul directs us to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God.  He tells us that it is because of the mercies of God that we can do such a thing.  In verses fifteen through twenty-three of chapter nine, the apostle has explained to us that we, as the clay, are subject to the will of the potter in fashioning our lives.  His mercy is what determines the quality of vessel He will fashion from our lives.  In verses thirty to thirty-two of chapter eleven, Paul continues his discussion of the mercy of God by saying that even those who were not originally predestined for the mercy of God through a good pattern on the potter’s wheel have now obtained the mercy of God and are eligible for good things from God.  Because of the mercies of God that have made us all targets for good things from God, it is easy for us to place our lives on God’s altar.  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. (Jeremiah 29:11)  Knowing that God will do only good with the clay that submits itself to the wheel, we can confidently climb onto the potter’s wheel and yield ourselves to His will.

Paul further states that we cannot be conformed to this world, but that we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  That means that we cannot live our lives with the same mental attitudes of the world.  The world thinks of how to use others to advance themselves.  Yet believers think totally differently.  We know that we must promote others and, in that, we get our own promotions.  We know that we must always do unto others as we would want them to do unto us.  This sort of thinking is so that our minds do not conform to the world’s ideas, but are totally transformed and renewed.  The old mental attitudes of the world will not allow us to find the will of God because God’s way of doing things is so far above our human thoughts that we cannot even see God’s plan when looking through human reasoning.  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

The Ephesians passage challenges us to awaken and arise from the dead.  When I read this passage, my mind often flashes back to a middle-of-the-night incident in the Bangkok International Airport.  A team of us who were returning home after a mission in Nepal had an all-night layover in Thailand.  Because of the complications of our arrival and departure times and the hassle with our luggage, we decided just to wait in the airport rather than going to a hotel.  Assessing the situation, one of the group members commented, “Well, I hope something exciting happens.  If I have to sit here all night, at least we could have some excitement – nobody getting killed or anything like that – just something to liven up the wait.”  Having made her request, she fell soundly asleep.  Shortly thereafter, a scream pierced the night’s silence as one man lunged at another, “I’m going to kill you!”  “Whoa,” I thought, “we’re getting the excitement she asked for and maybe even the killing, too.”  In the hustle of the passengers getting out of the way, the scramble of the security personnel securing the area, and the altercation between the two men, nothing woke my missionary assistant. Ironically, the one member of our team who wanted the excitement was the only one who slept through it!  Many times, our quest for the will of God is just that way.  We are too spiritually dull to see His will even when God places it right in front of us.  Many of us need to awake.  But some of us are even worse – we must arise from the dead.

Paul then gives the command that we walk circumspectly.  The word “circumspect” comes from two Latin words: circum which means “round” and spect which means “to look.”  We have to be looking around to see what the condition around us is.  We have to be looking around to make sure where we are and what the situation in the world is.  We must be aware of the situation in the kingdom of God and the situation in the church.  We have to really know where we are in relationship to what’s going on.  The person who just sits back in his dark corner, or in his closet, and never looks around will not be aware of the situation around him.  The Lord is never going to be able to speak to him and tell him what the real needs are.  As we get out and we see the needs of the people, the Lord is going to be able to speak to us and show us His will.  If we do not know that there are hungry people in the world, then we will not know that we are supposed to be involved in charity.  If we do not see that there are people who are starving for the Word of God, we will not be open to hear the Lord say, “I want you to go and preach.”  If we do not see the hurting people, we will not be open for the will of the Lord to come into us with the ministries of healing.  We must look around and see what the situation is.

On the other hand, a circumspect person does not step into mud puddles. If we are walking down the road with our heads in the clouds instead of watching where we are going, before long we are going to be up to our ankles, or maybe up to our knees, in mud, mire, muck, and even quicksand.  But, if we are looking around, we will see those pitfalls and be able to avoid them.  Walking circumspectly is vitally important.  We must continually make sure that we are avoiding things that definitely are not the Lord’s will.  Then it is easy to see what the Lord’s will is. 

Paul’s use of the word “walk” comes from his training as a Hebrew rabbi. The rabbis who interpreted the Old Testament Law for the Jewish community had two forms of teaching: Haggadah and Halakhah.  Haggada means storytelling.  If a rabbi wanted to teach about consistency and diligence with our work, he could tell us a story that might begin something like, “Once upon a time, there was a tortoise and a hare.” 

On other occasions, he might use the Halakha form of teaching which gets its name from the Hebrew word for “walk.”  Instead of bothering to go through some lengthy story, he would say, “OK, I’m going to tell you that the Law says to do this; so you do it.”  He would speak very directly.  We might think of this like the directions for baking a cake: 1) get the bowl, 2) break the eggs, 3) blend in the ingredients.  We follow the directions: step 1, 2, 3, etc.  With enough steps, we have “walked” through the procedure.  That is Halakha – putting one foot in front of the other until we finish all the directions.  This is the Hebrew idea that was in Paul’s mind as he told us to have a circumspect walk, a walk in which we look around as we follow all of God’s directions.  We cannot sit down and expect God to work.  We have to be walking, and we have to be looking.

In addition, we have to redeem the time.  This is the next thing that Paul tells us that we must do if we intend to be candidates for the will of the Lord.  Because the world is evil, we must be active agents of change in it.  We are in the world, but we are not of it. 

I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. (John 17:14-15)

We are here to change the world, not to be changed by it.  We are commissioned to redeem the time.  Here, Paul goes one step beyond what he said in Romans chapter twelve.  There, he said not to be affected by the world; here, he says that we are to have an effect on the world.  You can’t just sit back and say, “Well, in the Lord’s time, whatever is going to happen is going to happen.”  No, the Lord says that we are to redeem the time.  As we are going forward, trying to do whatever we feel is the Lord’s will, He is going to open our understanding to truly know His will.

The next thing He says is to be wise.  James 1:5 instructs us, If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.  Later, James describes that wisdom which God gives.  The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.  We must ask God for His wisdom.  We cannot do foolish things without God’s divine logic.  Instead, we must do things that have God’s wisdom in them.  The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of wisdom; He gives wisdom and revelation.  Paul has already prayed for the Ephesian church:

That the God of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power. (Ephesians 1:17-19)

Paul was praying for the church, that they would be open to that spirit of wisdom.  In God’s system, we can receive that spirit of wisdom even if we feel like we do not have a lot of intellect of our own.  Paul is not talking about human intellect; he is talking about spiritual wisdom.  I once knew a minister who had only a second-grade education; yet, he had the wisdom of God in him.  He had been a bicycle repairman and an alcoholic.  When the Lord saved him and called him, He also gave him a gift of teaching the Word of God with supernatural wisdom.  When this Spirit-filled bicycle repairman would minister, his audience would be full of college professors and other men with graduate degrees.  They all could read the words out of the Bible, but they didn’t have the wisdom of God like this little illiterate preacher.  He had no education, but he did possess the wisdom of God.  When the PhDs walked out of his meetings, they would all be shaking their heads in amazement at the profound truths they had just heard.  Another example would be Peter, the fisherman.  He probably had a very limited education, as is confirmed in Acts 4:13, Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.  Just read First and Second Peter, and you will find that his writings are very deep.

The next thing which Paul tells us to have is a positive attitude.  If we are afraid to do anything; if we are cowardly; and if we always say, “Oh, it probably won’t work,” we are never going to find the will of God.  God’s will is for us not to be negative.  Paul talked about having a positive attitude and having a renewed mind.  He empha­sized not only being renewed and positive but also being full of joy in having a positive attitude.  In Ephesians, Paul wrote about singing and being full of joy and of singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; he said nothing about singing the blues.  Paul told us to go out in joy and triumph, speaking to ourselves and to one another with songs of joy and victory.  We must not speak back and forth to one another with, “I don’t think this is going to work,” or “I am afraid we are going to fail,” or “I just don’t know if God is going to bless us.”  Instead, we must speak to one another with songs and hymns and spiritual songs like, Blessed is the man that trusteth in him.  Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. (Psalm 34:8, 37:4)  Speak back and forth very positively with very meaningful scriptures that really build faith. 

These are some of the keys that we have to have before we are even candidates to be able to see the will of the Lord.  But, there is one last thing.  We have to be submitted members of the Body of Christ.  This requirement is mentioned in both the Ephesian passage and in the Romans chapter.  The Lord will not bless a “Lone Ranger Christian” who thinks, “I’ve got all the revelation, and I don’t need the Body. I don’t need to be a part of the church. I don’t need to be working through and with other Christians.”  All of us need the Body.  When we begin to know the will of God, we need to confirm it through the Body of Christ and then execute it in harmony with the full Body. 

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.  And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27) 


The Thumb

There are five distinct ways that I have experienced the direction of God in my life. Each of them can be clearly represented by the fingers of our left hand.  First, let’s look at our thumb.  It is our most important finger and the only finger that can reach across and interact fully with all the rest.  Just as how the thumb works with all the other fingers to enable the entire hand to work as one, efficiently doing everything from strong gripping and fighting to the gentlest, most delicate precision work, the revelation of God’s will in the scripture is the enabler of all the other revelations.  The thumb’s unique function is different from that of any of the other fingers.  In like manner, the confirmed revelation of the scripture sets this form of direction apart from all others.  Of all the ways to hear from God, the Bible is first and foremost.  The Bible is God’s revealed will for mankind.  Second Peter 1:21 says that the scriptures were penned as holy men of God were moved by the Holy Spirit to write.  Second Timothy 3:16-17 expounds on that point by adding:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

God, who inspired the scriptures so many hundreds of years ago, has never changed and will not change His Word. (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17; Hebrews 6:17-18, 13:8)  Jesus summed up the whole matter when He said, Heaven and earth shall pass away but my words shall not pass away. (Matthew 24:35)  We may ask such a question as, “How is the Bible going to show me which person to marry?” Certainly, we can’t open the Bible and find his or her name spelled out for us.  However, the Bible will show us all the standards by which to choose a mate. For example, II Corinthians 6:14 warns us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers.  This is a major dividing line.  Many young ladies have married unbelievers with the hopes of converting them after marriage. Almost invariably, their hopes are crushed and the ladies are doomed to “hell on earth” in their marriages. 

We must develop a well-founded knowledge of God’s Word so that the Word hidden in our hearts will keep us from sin. (Psalm 119:11)  The Holy Spirit will bring that Word to our remembrance (John 14:26, I John 2:27) and will apply the Word of God as a litmus test to each situation, indicating whether it fits God’s will or not.  The Bible is God’s written will and plan for man in general and you specifically.  It can be applied to every question in life, but it must not be used as some spiritual “Ouija board.”  A humorous story is told of a man who decided to find God’s will by looking in the Bible.  He first flipped open his Bible, and his eyes fell on Matthew 27:5 that told him that Judas went out and hanged himself.  Next, he flipped to Luke 10:37, Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.  With one last desperate attempt, he landed on John 13:27 which instructed him, That thou doest, do quickly.  Here, he had a triple confirmation that he was to hang himself as quickly as possible.  This sort of scriptural roulette can and will be as dangerous and deadly as a game of Russian roulette with a loaded pistol to your temple.  However, the Word of God can be applied to every decision in life to find God’s direction. 

Once a gentleman challenged me, saying that the Word of God did not speak to him about whether or not to buy a new car.  I quickly responded that it was God’s will for him to own a Triumph because II Corinthians 2:14 says that God always causes us to have triumph; or that it would be acceptable for him to own a Honda because the apostles had their Accord with them on the Day of Pentecost.  On a more serious note, we began to turn to scriptures that talk about money.  When we had established that buying this new car would not interfere with his financial obligations to God in tithes, offerings, and alms, then we turned to other scriptures about letting material things come before God.  Having settled that issue, we discussed a few passages about God’s plan to bless his children with good gifts.  Finally, my friend looked up and said, “Yes, the Bible does say a lot about my decision to buy a new car!”  The scriptures had laid out a general pattern of life, and as he moved into that general flow, he could see his specific path emerging. 

Unfortunately, many people are begging God for personal direction in their lives when they are not even following the general instructions God has set forth for the Body as a whole. There are two Greek terms used in the New Testament that are both translated “word” in English. One is logos which speaks of the general idea behind a thing.  Our English term “logic” comes from this word – and it is easy to understand the connotation.  The logic or reasoning of any study is the general principle behind it.  The other term, which refers to a specific spoken word, is the Greek word rhema.  This term refers to God’s individual direction for each person at each juncture of his life.  It is important to live in the center of God’s logos word so that He can speak to you with His rhema word. The scriptures reveal enough general principles of the will of God to keep us so busy that we really need very little rhema direction.  In fact, we often find that God simply takes the logos and confirms to us that this is actually His rhema for us.


The Index Finger

Our index finger is our pointing finger that we use to give directions and indicate specific items.  God also has an index finger for showing us His will.  This is the inner witness. 

The inner witness is the second way God directs us into His will.  The Bible is full of examples of the Holy Spirit’s speaking to believers’ spirits concerning God’s direction.  Sometimes He says, “Go ahead with your plans” (Acts 11:12); sometimes He says, “Change your plans” (Acts 16:6-7); sometimes He says, “Here is the plan” (Acts 13:2).  How important it is to have an open communication with the Holy Spirit so that He can direct us in the minor and major decisions of life!  Developing the ability to hear this inner voice is not an overnight exercise.  Hosea told us that we can know the Lord if we follow on to know Him. (Hosea 6:3)  Jesus spoke about the sheep that know the voice of the shepherd and will not follow another voice. (John 10:2-5, 14)  It is significant that He used the term sheep, not lambs.  He was indicating that a maturation process is necessary before we will have the ability to recognize His voice every time.  This is obvious to us: when we pick up the phone, there are certain voices that need no introduction; the callers just start talking because we recognize them from repeated calls.  Just as we learn the voices of our friends by repeated conversation, so we learn the voice of God through repeated prayer and meditations.

Several years ago, I tuned in to a nature show on public television to find that the subject that day was elephant seals.  Honestly, these animals must be the most unattractive creatures on this planet.  Pardon my bluntness, but they are downright ugly.  I learned that these animals have no part to play in the human economy except that their droppings can be used for fertilizer.  What an insult – not only were they ugly, but their only contribution to society is that they go to the bathroom.  I was really puzzled as to why the television network had spent thousands of dollars to send a crew to the Falkland Islands to shoot the footage; why they were airing the show; and, most of all, why I was wasting my time viewing it. 

Suddenly, I saw something – these animals were excellent teachers on the subject of learning to hear God’s voice.  The cow elephant seals all give birth at the same time, and no mother will nurse another seal’s calf.  Thus, it is necessary for each cow and calf to establish a way of identifying one another.  This is done through honks and grunts that the mother and baby practice hour after hour.  When they are separated in the vast chaotic herd of thousands of these ugly beasts, the mother’s voice, though mingled with hundreds of other honks and grunts, beckons the calf back home.  The baby learns to distinguish that voice only after hours and hours of constant drill.  In the same way, we know God’s voice only after much time with Him.  If Christians will give themselves as much to prayer as they give to natural interests, they will never mistake a deceiving voice for the inner witness of God.

God’s Spirit can speak to our spirits with guidance and direction.  Halfway through my graduate program in a very specialized field of study, I began to feel uneasy in my spirit about my career choice.  Even though the degree would have placed me into an occupation which consistently rates as the most lucrative of all careers from my alma mater, and even though I had an ideal arrangement with a government grant that paid my tuition, books, fees, and living expenses, and even though I was already involved as a technician with a team of the leading research chemists in my field, I knew that I could not spend the rest of my life in this type of work.  In the natural order of things, I was foolish to walk away from guaranteed success.  My spirit man, however, heard another voice – the voice of God, not mammon.  That inner witness directed me to the most important decision in my life – to leave the secular and take up the sacred.  It eventually led me to seminary and to a fulfilling career in missions and Christian education. 

A missionary friend of mine in Korea was about his work in Seoul one day when the Holy Spirit began an inner witness that he was supposed to get a flight and go back to North Carolina immediately because his mother was going to die.  This was especially amazing because his mother had not been in ill health.  But when the Spirit began to say, “Get on a plane,” he bought his ticket and headed for Charlotte.  At the airport, he rented a car and headed directly for his mother’s house.  Only two hours later, his mother slipped into eternity.  The amazing twist to this story is that there were other children in the family living right there in the same state who did not get to her bedside before she passed away.  Because of the Holy Spirit’s inner witness, that man knew the will of the Lord and acted upon it to arrive at his mother’s deathbed before other people who could have known by natural means.

While I was working in Delaware between college semesters one summer, I began to develop a heavy burden on my heart concerning something.  One afternoon in the laboratory, as I carried out my daily chemical analyses, the Lord spoke to me, “Robert Tom, the South African evangelist, has a word for you about this situation.”  I was so excited because the Lord had spoken to me concerning my answer, but how in the world was I to find this brother with the special message for me?  He might be in South Africa or Israel or Brazil or any other spot on Planet Earth.  Within a couple of weeks, I finished my summer work in Delaware and headed back to school in North Carolina.  I arrived on Monday and that same Wednesday night I attended a prayer meeting in the home of a friend.  When I walked into the prayer meeting and I asked my host, “Have you heard from Robert Tom?”  His reply floored me, “Yes, he is going to be here in about ten minutes.  He’s passing through town and will be ministering at our prayer meeting tonight.”  This was the work of that index finger of the inner witness pointing me in God’s direction. 

I have found that relying on that inner witness is an absolute must for a victorious Christian life.  One dramatic occurrence when I was able to minister through this gift to a person in dire need occurred when I was hundreds of miles away from that individual.  While in the Catskill Mountains in upper New York state, I was supernaturally impressed to pray for an old friend whom I hadn’t seen for many months.  She was in South Carolina and I had no idea of any need in her life; yet the Holy Spirit expressly directed me that she had a great need that particular day.  Weeks later, I learned that my prayers were going up for her just at the time that she had lost her father in a premature death.

Time and time again, I have found that God has the most splendid ways of directing our paths. Once I was scheduled to be in the office of our campus fellowship in case someone came in for prayer.  The office hours were publicized on campus and many students did stop in during the posted times.  On this particular day, however, I just felt an uneasiness in my spirit.  Even though I didn’t want to neglect my responsibilities, I felt a stronger urge to stroll around campus – taking the longer way to the office and making a stop at the near-by post office.  On my walk, I met a couple of students whom I hadn’t seen for a while.  I casually talked with them and invited them to our fellowship meeting that evening.  I found out when they came that night that my steps had truly been ordered of the Lord.  One young lady had been backslidden for about six months and was working as a dancer in a topless bar.  She had been deliberately avoiding contact with Christians but my words were all it took to draw her back to fellowship and the Lord.  The other student had been going through a very serious temptation and just needed the encouragement of a brother.  He wouldn’t have come to me in the office for prayer, but the Lord had led me to him. 

This inner witness is God’s Holy Spirit speaking to our human spirits with information that our finite minds have not calculated.  It can be in the dramatic arenas of life, as I’ve just described, or in some very ordinary mundane areas.  Once when I was checking out of a hotel, I was presented with three options for settling the bill: cash, check, or credit card.  Since I wanted to keep my cash on me for the trip home, I thought, “I’ll write a check.”  As I took out the checkbook, my inner voice spoke up, “Use the card.”  My mind reasoned that since I had not used the card that month, I might as well write the check to the hotel instead of writing a check to the charge card company when I got home.  I deliberately ignored the voice of my spirit.  Shortly after arriving home, I received a notice from my bank that my checking account was overdrawn.  Grabbing my checkbook, I dug through all my transactions until I found the source of the overdraft – a check that had been entered into the deposit column, resulting in a double error by actually adding in the amount rather than subtracting it.  I learned that day that my spirit man knew more about my accounting than did my brain.  I also learned to be sensitive to the inner witness in every area of God’s direction.


The Middle Finger

The third way that God directs His children is by supernatural confirmation.  This factor is represented by your middle finger.  Notice that this is the longest finger of your hand; it sticks out beyond the others.  So it is with supernatural confirmation – it is dramatic and noticeable.  But, I must warn you that, just as we are careful not to point with our middle finger individually since that has become a universal sign of insult, we must never try to direct our lives solely upon this form of direction.  Note that this finger represents confirmation, and confirmation cannot stand alone!  It must be preceded by another form of direction.  Then, and only then, can the supernatural event occur to confirm the direction that is already in our spirits. 

In the book of Genesis, we find an excellent story of this supernatural confirmation.  When Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac, the servant asked for a sign from God that he was making the right choice.  Rebekah fulfilled the sign when she volunteered to water the servant’s ten camels, each of which could have taken as much as thirty gallons of water.  Let me hasten to point out one very important fact about those three hundred gallons of water.  Eliezer was not acting on the miraculous answer to this prayer alone when he chose Rebekah.  He was acting on the direction of God that had been given to him back in Canaan. (Genesis 24:4)  The supernatural sign was only a confirmation of what God had already told him. 

Many people in the church today are seeking for signs and prophecies as directives for their lives; yet, every biblical example of a miraculous intervention in the course of nature was only the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” on a direction, which God had already made clear to the believer.  Gideon’s fleeces (Judges 6:36-40) were only a confirmation of what God had already said to him. (Judges 6:16)  Agabus’ prophecy that Paul would be bound in Jerusalem (Acts 21:10-11) came as no new revelation; Paul had already received the inner message weeks before. (Acts 20:22-23)  The Bible nowhere directs believers to chart their lives by prophecies or signs; on the contrary, the signs are to follow believers rather than believers following the signs. (Mark 16:17)  Notice that the Bible says that these signs and wonders confirmed the word that had been spoken.  I have personally counseled with several couples whose lives are now in total chaos because they didn’t understand the meaning of signs and prophecies.  They have said to me, “We didn’t love each other; we didn’t want to marry each other; we knew when we were standing at the altar that it wasn’t right; but we thought we had to do it because we had been prophesied over.”  How tragic to have learned that lesson when it was too late.  Yes, God can, and will, send supernatural confirmations at the point of major decisions in life.  But, if the supernatural events are not confirmations to what He has already said in our hearts, we must not move. 

In Acts 21:11, there is a story about Paul on his last missionary journey.  As he was heading back to Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit was prophesying over him at each stop on his journey.  In every city, the same word came forth: when Paul arrived in Jerusalem, the Jews would bind him hand and foot and turn him over to the gentiles for persecution.  But on this occasion, as soon as the prophecy was given, all the people in the room said, “Paul, don’t go to Jerusalem.”  There was a spiritual prophecy – a spiritual confirmation – of God’s will in Paul’s life, but the people added to it with their own advice.  This is one important reason why supernatural events cannot stand alone; they may have a certain amount of the Spirit mixed with some human elements as well.  The prophet may want to go in a different direction and will, therefore, add or subtract.  We cannot plan our lives according to someone else’s prophecy because that person might have failed to tell us exactly what the word of the Lord was.  Prophecy must be a confirmation of what is already in our hearts.  Paul spoke about his direction to go to Jerusalem,

And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. (Acts 20: 22-23) 

Paul did not go unwarned, but he went being able to discern the difference between what was the true prophecy from the Lord and what was obviously people’s personal feelings about him. 

While considering a change from the master’s program in water pollution control to the seminary, I applied to a seminary that was nearby.  The location, tuition, and reputation of the school were very attractive to me, yet one factor held me back from making the decision to enroll – the school was not Charismatic.  I did not want to subject myself to teachings that would contradict my personal experience with the Holy Spirit.  Even though I was accepted into the program, I hesitated in submitting my registration.  I determined to make my decision a matter of personal prayer and had not discussed it with anyone.  One day after appearing on a Christian talk show on a local television station, I was invited into the chapel to pray over the requests that had been phoned in during the show.  When we gathered in the tiny sanctuary, one of the television engineers began to prophesy.  This man who had never seen me before in his life began to speak to me about things that only God could know.  He commanded me, “Do what is in your heart and don’t be afraid of the doctrines of men.”  There it was – a supernatural word from God telling me what to do!  No one, except God Himself, knew that a question of doctrine was holding me back from a very important decision.  In fact, no one even knew that I was torn with a decision.  I promptly enrolled at the seminary and found that my Pentecostal experience was not seriously challenged.  On the other hand, I found many students, and even faculty, hungry for the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  A charismatic fellowship grew out of my presence on campus and many ministers’ lives were changed because I had heard from God about attending that seminary. 

God will many times send the confirming signs in the form of dreams and visions.  With my head pounding and my mind spinning, I threw myself across the bed for a mid-afternoon nap.  I had just failed a test because the professor had surprised us by writing on the board rather than giving us printed copies at our desks.  One of my contact lenses was lost; and without glasses, I couldn’t read the questions.  I knew the material and could have done well, if only I had been able to read the board.  That was the last straw!  I had just about had it with this faith business.  It had been eight days since the lens had blown off my finger.  Just as I was inserting it into my eye, someone opened the bathroom door and the sudden rush of wind that funneled through the open door to the open window snatched my eyepiece and hurled it against the window screen.  Where it bounced, I had no idea.  I had crawled on the floor, patting every square inch, hoping to feel it.  I had disassembled the radiator thinking that it might have blown inside the cover.  I had searched in every crack and crevice, but no contact was to be found.  Now, more than a week later, my head was sore from eyestrain and my spirit was stretched to the limit.  I had been praying for the Lord to either return the lens or heal my eyes, but nothing positive had happened.  As I threw myself across the bed in hopes that a little rest would ease the eyestrain and console me after the devastating grade, I again reminded the Lord of my request.  After only a few minutes of rest, I awoke with the image of a dream vividly impressed upon my mind.  In my sleep, I had seen myself walk into the bathroom and pick up the missing lens.  I re-enacted the steps revealed in the dream, and within seconds had the precious vision aid in my hand.  For days I had sought it to no avail; yet, only a minute was needed to find it after the Lord had spoken to me in the dream.  The miracle is that eight students used that bathroom, and the custodian cleaned it on a regular basis, yet no one had stepped on it during its sojourn on the floor.  A quick wash and it was ready for use again; not even a scratch had been sustained.


The Ring Finger

A fourth way God speaks is one that is often overlooked, but it is a very significant part of His plan to communicate His will to believers.  This step is the witness of the Body of Christ.  By this I don’t mean the public opinion of just anybody in the church.  There are certain “little old ladies” in every congregation who just love weddings and “get a witness” on any couple who have the slightest romantic inclinations.  Paul called these women “church busybodies.” (I Timothy 5:13)  On the other hand, there are mature men and women in the church who can help us understand what God is doing in our lives.  These are people such as the pastor, the elders, Sunday School teachers, and our parents – sincere Christians who know us, our situation, and the Lord.  They will lovingly and prayerfully tell us the truth about what God is saying concerning our choices and directions.  This is the reason that the witness of the Body of Christ is related to the ring finger.  It must come from those who love us and are committed to us as is symbolized by the wedding band. 

In my own experience, the pastor, the elders, and my parents knew that my wife was the one God had sent for me long before we announced any intentions.  When we did talk with them, they were supportive and confirmed that we were in God’s will.  On the other hand, there have been several couples whom I have counseled concerning marriage and confronted them with the fact that I did not feel that it was God’s will for them.  Some claimed to have had signs.   Others had had prophecies.  Yet, in my spirit, I saw that they simply had human drives.  They were unwilling to receive God’s direction from an elder who loved them and cared more for their futures than for the excitement of the moment.  Within months of their trips to the altars, they were on the road to the divorce courts.  If a decision seems good to the Holy Ghost, it will also seem good to the church leadership. (Acts 15:28)

I was nearing college graduation, and marriage seemed to be a logical next step in life.  The Word of God confirmed that it was God’s will for a man to have a wife, Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord. (Proverbs 18:22)  A miraculous prophecy came forth in a meeting with a guest evangelist directing a Spirit-filled young lady and me together.  We had known each other for several years in college and had ministered with each other on campus, so it seemed a perfect match.  We moved quickly with the engagement, and soon she was wearing a diamond.  But the very night I placed the ring on her finger, that inner witness of God’s voice spoke that I was making a mistake.  Friends all around us felt a negative witness on our engagement, but all were too polite or too timid to face us with the honest truth.  Finally, one evening at a Bible study at the home of my friend Nicky Cruz, one of his staff members pulled me aside and asked to talk with me.  Charlie said that the Lord had been dealing with him that there was a problem in my life.  What he said was “right on the money.”  God had showed him that I was unsure about the marriage but couldn’t face up to the possibility that I had made a mistake in hearing God’s voice.  We prayed and peaceful assurance came over my spirit about the matter.  I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew that it was going to work out.  Within two days, my fiancée handed back the ring and broke the engagement.  God had set up the circumstances to save both of us from making the mistake of a lifetime.

The word is still true that finding a wife is good – I can attest to that from my marriage to Peggy.  The witness of the Body of Christ is true; unfortunately, not everyone was as honest as Charlie – but then, I may not have received instruction from others.  The inner witness was true.  I just had a hard time listening to it.  The circumstances of her decision to break the engagement were welcomed truth.  Only the supernatural confirmation was false – and in looking back, it’s easy to see that we were looking to signs for direction rather than confirmation.


The Pinkie

The last way God uses to show us His will is through circumstances.  Often, God works through the things that the world calls “coincidences” or “accidents” or “chance happenings” to direct us onto His paths.  Paul wrote that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes. (Romans 8:28)  The Psalmist affirmed that the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord. (Psalm 37:23)  Since God is so much in the business of changing our circumstances, this form of guidance should be considered the weakest and most unreliable of all indicators.  It is, therefore, best pictured by the weak little “pinkie” finger. 

As Mordecai challenged Esther, we should look at each circumstance in our lives as an indicator of God’s will for that specific moment.  Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14)

Many times, the circumstances in which we find ourselves will reveal the plan God has for us.  When I graduated from high school, I was offered scholarships at two different universities.  One scholarship was exactly twice the amount of the other.  In addition, the total tuition costs at that university were considerably less than the other.  The very circumstances seemed to dictate that this was the logical choice, and it was.   After enrolling there, I found that many more advantages and opportunities were available there than at the other school which, by the way, had been my long-time choice.  Since it was a state university rather than a church school, as my first choice had been, I found many more opportunities to win others to Christ. 

At North Carolina State University, we had begun a Bible study and prayer group that suddenly mushroomed beyond dorm room capacity.  In addition, we began to have co-eds who were becoming interested.  Since this was before the days of open dorms, girls and guys were strictly prohibited from entering the other’s dorms.  We tried a remote-control Bible study with the ladies on one end of the telephone while we passed the receiver around among the guys as we did our study and discussion on the other end.  Of course, that didn’t work very well; so, we decided to approach the college administration about using a classroom after hours.  The response was that we would be permitted to use any campus facility we needed if we were recognized as an official campus organization.  Only two things stood in our way of recognition – a constitution, bylaws, and a faculty advisor.  Now, the legal document was not a problem to write up, but where would we find a faculty member on our state university campus that believed in the Bible and in living in the Spirit?  We decided to dedicate two weeks of prayer to the matter.  In about the middle of our prayer vigil, I received a church newsletter from one of the local Pentecostal congregations.  One of the items was a welcome to their recent visitors, including their names.  One name leapt off the page.  It was a professor from the school!  Like a flash, a group of us were in his office to talk to him about the faculty advisor’s position.  It turned out that he had just recently accepted the professorship at our campus after completing his PhD work.  When job offers all over the country began to close for one reason or another, he began to feel that God had a special reason for sending him to Raleigh, NC, the only place still open.  Even though this was his last choice, he felt that it was God’s first choice for him.  Now, six months later, he was really struggling with why God had put him there.  What was His purpose?  Why hadn’t God shown him yet?  When we shared our story and our request, tears came to his eyes and he fell to his knees with uplifted hands to thank God for putting him in the right place at the right time.  We cannot lean to our own understanding, but if we trust in the Lord and acknowledge Him in all our ways, He will direct our paths. 

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)


Let me introduce you to some friends of mine.  I met the Tubbys in Wilmington, DE, where I spent one summer between college terms.  I had rented a room in their home and actually became almost like a member of the family for three months.  They were a delightful family, but there was one unusual thing about them.  “Mom” and “Pop” were pushing retirement age, yet their one child, a daughter, was only in high school.  I thought it a little strange but never felt it was my place to investigate why.  After dinner one evening, “Mom” Tubby asked if I was curious about the age span.  The story goes something like this: at age eighteen, “Mom” and “Pop” had been engaged to be married.  As the wedding date drew closer, they began to be more and more unsettled.  The problem was that she was struggling with what she perceived as a missionary call; yet, he had nothing in his heart for Africa.  How could their marriage be in God’s direction if they were headed for two different continents?  Finally, they decided to break the engagement so she could finish her nurse’s training and apply for a position at the mission hospital.

Only a few months later, her legs began to weaken and her physical strength began to vanish – she had been struck with an incurable arthritic condition.  She would not be able to be a medical missionary after all; yet, she had also lost her chance to marry the man she loved!  She set out to live her life as meaningfully as she could.  Meanwhile, he had moved away and deliberately broken contact with her – why hang on to something that was obviously not God’s will?  He did find another young lady and asked her to marry him, but just two weeks before the wedding date, he learned that she had been cheating on him; so, he asked her to return the engagement ring.  The years slipped by – eighteen to be exact – and neither of them was married.  Quite by happenstance, their paths crossed again and each was awestruck to hear the other’s story.  Finally, their teenage dreams were fulfilled as the two middle-aged sweethearts exchanged “I do’s.”  Their circumstances had led them back together and into God’s will.

One of the most comforting scriptures in all my Bible is Proverbs 16:33, The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.  At first glance, I guess that is more disturbing than it is comforting because it doesn’t seem to make sense.  Thank the Lord, The Amplified Bible explains it to us, Even the events that seem accidental are really ordered by Him.  Praise the Lord!  What reassurance!  There are no accidents in the kingdom of God.  In my Christian life, I’ve seen countless examples that prove the truth of Proverbs 16:33.  Let me share a few of them. 

Many years ago, the members of the Full Gospel Student Fellowship decided to buy a Christmas gift for the faculty advisor.  We took up an offering for the gift, and a couple of us headed down to the store to pick out a present.  The only gift that really seemed right was a wall plaque of the praying hands, but it left us with a little extra money.  Finally, we decided to have a personalized inscription added.  When the final bill was figured, it matched the offering to the penny!  Perhaps this seems to be a small example, but it is the sort of ground in which the seed of faith grows best.  It was small, but it was no accident.  That experience taught us to trust God’s provision for bigger, more important decisions.

One year, I was in charge of inviting the speakers for the North Carolina State University chapter of the Full Gospel Student Fellowship.  At the beginning of the year, I sat down, prayed about the speakers, and wrote out a list of those I wanted to invite.  Next to each name, I marked a possible date.  I then began to write letters inviting these men to come on these dates.  I accidentally marked the wrong date in one of the letters.  Well, rather than rewriting the letter, I shuffled the entire list of dates.  Would you believe that when the replies came, each speaker could come on the suggested date – and, almost every one of the men mentioned that this was the only date he was available!  How much red tape is saved when Jesus makes our “mistakes” rather than making real ones on our own!

At Pembroke State University, the Lord was ready to do a work, but it took a series of “coincidences” to make it happen.  Along with some of the Spirit-filled students from nearby St. Andrews University, I visited the campus to see just what it was that our Lord was about to do.  Not knowing any students, we went to the office of the Director of Student Affairs.  After explaining what was on our hearts, he resolved that he couldn’t allow outsiders to start any movement on campus.  Quite by accident, he happened to have met some students whom he felt might be interested in the organization so he sent us to their rooms.  Well, after several unfruitful attempts in the dorms, we wound up in the library.  The first person we saw in the library was reading a Bible.  Praise the Lord, an open door!  Within a few minutes we were in a heavy conversation about the Lord, and students at the nearby desks were straining to hear the conversation.  Soon, a couple asked if they could join.  One introduced himself as the biggest agnostic on campus.  A few minutes later, he was a believer!  The other turned out to be an art student who had dedicated her talents to the Lord just a couple of days before!  There were no accidents in our lives that day.  We had all been brought together by Jesus.  From the “accidental” meeting in the PSU library, a great movement began on the campus, and the Full Gospel Student Fellowship’s newspaper got a great art editor.

During exam week one semester, I found myself so busy with campus ministry work that I really couldn’t study for a mission exam.  The day for the test came and I found myself ill prepared.  That morning, another student and I got together to study.  In a quick review of the text, we ran across the listing of the characteristics of Chinese civilization a thousand years ago.  We read over the list and sort of got stuck there.  Finally, we wound up memorizing the list and letting some other facts go unstudied.  Well, when we got to the exam, the main question was, “Discuss the ancient civilization of China.”  Praise the Lord! 

I thought that it was just an authentic burrito dinner that led me to turn off the freeway and head for my friend’s Mexican restaurant.  Yet, when I arrived, I found the shop being tended by her young son and no one in the kitchen.  Looking around, I knew that he couldn’t possibly run the place single-handedly, so I asked where everyone was.  His reply was that his mom had gone home for a few minutes and left instructions for him to call if some customers came in.  A few minutes later, my friend arrived and the fixings of a great meal soon came together.  As we chatted, I questioned her about how things were going.  A tale of woe began to unravel as she related all her problems in the business, with her family, in their finances, and at their church.  “In fact,” she added, “I had just gotten to the point that I had walked out of the shop and gone home and locked myself in the bathroom to cry and pray.  I had no sooner latched the door and called on the Lord to send someone to help me, than the phone rang with my son’s message that you were here.”  Her sanity was saved and her spirit encouraged as I pushed the plate aside and clasped her hands in prayer. 

It makes the Christian life so much more natural and uncomplicated when we begin to realize that there are no accidents in God’s kingdom.  After all, are we not promised that all things will work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28) and that the Lord Himself orders the steps of His people (Psalm 37:23)?  How beautiful it would be if all Christians could develop what I call “the Joseph attitude.”  Joseph was sold as a slave by his brothers, thrown into prison by Potiphar, and betrayed by the butler; yet he was never rejected by God.  Finally, when everything was justified, Joseph proclaimed that everything – the accidental things and even the cruel events – were all steps in God’s plan for his life. 

I’ve found that God reveals Himself in circumstances that may be totally unrelated to His spiritual will for our lives.  Sometimes He simply wants to show us that He cares for the smallest details of our lives.  On two different occasions I’ve gotten lost or taken wrong exits on the way to taking my family to an amusement park for the day.  Meandering around trying to find my way back to the right road, I was a little less than sanctified as I complained about being lost, confused, and late – according to my schedule.  But in both instances, we were greeted in the parking lot by park visitors who had extra passes that they offered to us for free entry into the parks.  Instantly, I realized why the Lord directed my steps on the detour and delayed my arrival – I was there just on His schedule to receive an unexpected blessing.  Had I happened by one minute later or sooner, the passes would have gone to someone else and I would have paid full price!  No matter what your circumstances, always look for God to manifest Himself in them. 

Once, as I was leaving for Israel, I received a notice from the tenant in our rental house that she was being transferred and would be leaving within thirty days.  What a challenge – only a few days to rent the house and most of the time I was to be out of town!  On top of all that, it was the dead of winter, when there is little or no activity in the housing market in our far northern location.  Yet, we knew that it was God’s house and that He knew who the next tenant was to be.  Quite out of normal routine, my wife happened to be in the college library one afternoon while I was away on the Holy Land tour.  During her visit, she mentioned to the librarian that our house was coming open.  In the next aisle stood one of the church members who had stopped by the library for some reason, even though she was not a college student.  Overhearing the conversation, she introduced herself and became the next occupant of our – rather, the Lord’s – rental house.  The house didn’t stand vacant for even one day.

The next time that our house was to come vacant was even at a more inopportune time – it was graduation time, and I was up to my neck in preparation for the graduation: final exams to grade, grades to average, grade reports and transcripts to complete, diplomas to issue, graduation ceremonies to arrange, the graduation banquet to plan – plus a wedding to officiate and an immediate departure to the mission field of the Himalayas.  How in the world could I manage to get a new tenant into the house?  Again, my wife just happened to be talking with a lady who was baby-sitting for us.  It turned out that she and her husband were looking for a temporary place since they had to move out of their present location, but they had not located a permanent home.  They moved in the day that our other renters moved out and stayed long enough for us to get through the rush of graduation and the mission trip and get back to normal before finding the next person to lease the house.

One important truth to remember about circumstances is that they are almost always changeable.  They are very much like traffic signals which blink from red “stop” to green “go.” While driving through downtown in Raleigh, NC, late one night, the Lord spoke to me through – of all things – the traffic signals.  Since there was no other traffic around me, I could see that for blocks ahead lay a virtual obstacle course of traffic lights – some green, some yellow, but – worst of all – most were red.  For a while my mind dwelt on all those red lights, keeping me from getting home and putting my tired body to bed.  But every light I approached turned green, so I just kept driving along at the same speed all the way down the street.  The traffic system had been carefully programmed by a traffic engineer, and all the lights were synchronized.  By carefully observing the speed limit, I did not have to stop for a single signal.

There, in the middle of the street, in the middle of the night, the Lord spoke to me.  He assured me that He was the Traffic Engineer who had planned my life, and if I continued going steadily at His speed, each obstacle in my path would become a green light – an open door.  I was to concentrate on the green light close at hand and entrust the red lights of the future to His keeping.  Oh, how futile it would be to pass up any opportunity to do His bidding simply because some barrier might stop me later!  Through the red, the green, and the yellow lights, God had given me a modern-day parable: I was to take one step at a time and – in His continuing present guidance – one day at a time.

This was the lesson of encouragement I needed as I prepared for one of my mission trips to Sri Lanka.  While I was there the previous summer, God turned one red light after another to green.  He opened the door for the Full Gospel Student Fellowship ministry to begin there in Sri Lanka.  Miracles of timing occurred.  Even though my stay was short, in just a few days, a ministry was established under the direction of a national minister.  This could have taken months, or even years, to set up if God’s hand had not been on each moment of my visit.

As I was leaving, our national director suggested that we plan an island-wide youth conference for the following spring with me as one of the speakers.  Through all the following year, the desire to return grew in my heart; yet, I knew it would take divine financial intervention to make it happen.

One day, a Christian brother called to tell me that he had just gotten the job and salary increase for which we had prayed together.  The Lord had told him to use part of that increase to help send me to Sri Lanka.  He said that, if I still wanted to go, he would give me a thousand dollars toward the trip.  He then sent out letters to all the readers of our FGSF newspaper, asking them to join in the effort to send me to Sri Lanka.  Some time later, the Lord woke me up in the middle of the night with a burden for an urgently needed van for our Sri Lankan director.  I offered to cancel my trip to use the money for a van instead, but several brothers and sisters agreed that it was the Lord’s will that I go.  We decided to take on both projects, a great test of faith – but raising so much money in a few months seemed like an impossibility!  A few days later, I received a letter from Sri Lanka expressing the urgency of having some kind of transportation other than our director’s current motorcycle.  This letter was dated hours after the Lord had given me the burden in the dream.  This was the very first time he had asked for anything since he had come on staff.  It was the Lord’s confirmation – the Lord’s timing, assuring us that He is the one who would provide.

I began to schedule my flights to be at a youth conference in Japan in July, then to India and Sri Lanka, and then to Greece to see about establishing campus ministries in that country.  Every time I tried to work out an itinerary, the loose ends got all tangled up.  The rates were way up over that of the previous years.  Tehran, a major stop between India and Greece, was closed to American flights due to the breakdown of political relationships between the US and Iran which had occurred that year.  The youth conferences in Japan and Sri Lanka were both rescheduled for the same time slot.  It took a while, but I finally realized that God was giving me red lights for the trips to Japan and Greece but green lights for India and Sri Lanka only.

Finally, the itinerary was set.  Only one thing held me back – money!  I had no funds for travel expenses and was still five hundred dollars short of enough to buy the ticket before the airfare increase was to take effect.  Had I reached another red light?

No!  God performed another miracle.  He spoke to a friend of mine who was saving for a trip to Norway.  God said, “Red light on the trip to Norway; green light on Delron’s trip to Sri Lanka.”  How beautiful – God even used the same analogy of the traffic lights to speak to him as He had used with me.  From his mission account, he sent me the five hundred dollars I was short – and I was off to India and Sri Lanka. 

All these examples show us that God can be directing us in all the big and little aspects of our lives, but let me share just a couple more “accidents” that were only God’s circumstances leading toward His will – the salvation of mankind.  One Christmas vacation while I was in college, I was trying to get off campus and head home for the holidays.  It seemed as if everything that could go wrong did.  I had to turn in some papers at an office.  When I got there, the office was closed for the next two hours.  I had some books I needed to return to a lady in town.  When I got to her house, the women’s prayer band was meeting and I was delayed until a break in their meeting.  Well, one thing after another came up, but finally I was ready to leave – two or three hours behind schedule.  I guess I should say that I was behind my schedule because I was right on target on God’s timetable.  When I finally did leave school, I was only about half a mile from campus when I picked up a hitchhiker.  She was going only a short distance; but on that little ride, she began to pour out her soul to me.  Up until two weeks before, she had been an atheist.  But a big “accident” had changed all that.  She and some friends were tripping on LSD and everyone else came down, but her trip went on for a couple more hours.  During the whole time, she could tell that there was some real difference between her and her friends.  The only thing that made sense to her was that she must have died during the trip.  But she wanted so desperately to live.  Finally, her trip ended, and she knew that she was still alive.  From down in her innermost being – a place that she did not even know was in her – a voice cried out, “Thank God, I’m alive!”  At that moment, she knew that there was a God and that inside her was a spirit that was seeking for Him even when her mind refused Him.  Through all those things that seemed to me to be accidents, He had arranged that I be there at just the right moment to tell her that Jesus is the Lord she sought! 

Stu, a fellow I worked with in Yosemite National Park, came to know the Lord through a series of what seemed to us as accidents and coincidences.  He went to visit an old friend who had recently become a Christian.  When he walked into the house, a tape on deliverance from demon possession was playing.  Rather than turning off the tape, Stu’s friend invited him to sit down and listen.  Well, to me that was the first mistake; only a strong Christian, it would seem, should study about demons.  But, I guess God disagreed!  At any rate, they heard the tape to the end.  At the end of the tape was a prayer for all demons to be cast out.  Just when the name of Jesus was mentioned, the whole house began to shake.  The floors moved.  The walls rocked.  The light swung back and forth.  Pots and pans rattled.  And Stu repented!  Well, it turned out that it wasn’t demons leaving the house – it was the first in a series of earthquakes and tremors that hit northern California that summer!  Stu claims that it was all planned by God to bring him to Himself.  Praise the Lord! 

Not My Will But Thine be Done

On one of my trips to Jerusalem, I had a very powerful spiritual experience as I knelt where Jesus knelt – at the Rock of Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives.  I’m concerned that most Christians do not understand the importance of this place.  What an awesome revelation to understand how the destiny of eternity hung in the balances as Jesus agonized with the will of God – not so much in finding it, but in aligning Himself to do it.  Oh, what an awesome privilege to be allowed to kneel in that same spot – next to the stone etched with the grooves through which the precious olive oil was captured and upon which Jesus’ bloody sweat dropped – and yield myself afresh to God’s will for my life.  Oh, what an awesome responsibility to arise from that spot and walk away knowing that my life is no longer my own, but His; knowing that it is no longer my own will but His that is to be done in my life.  Jesus’ final words to those sleepy disciples, a re-emphasis of His first warning to them, rang again in my ears, Pray, lest you enter into temptation.  Having yielded myself to God’s will, I must now meet the challenge of fulfilling it.  I must not take the wrong fork in the road of life. 

So it is with all our lives.  The will of God is within our grasps – at our very fingertips.  Our challenge is not so much in knowing the will of God – but in actually doing it.  The scriptures confront us with the stark reality that not fulfilling God’s plan after having heard it is purely self-deception, But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (James 1:22)  Let us not disguise our un-willingness to do the will of God under the mask of uncertainty as to what His will actually is. 

Let us all come to that Garden of Gethsemane where our human will can be totally squeezed and submitted to God’s perfect will.  Then let us arise as Jesus did from the Rock of Agony with the same determinate words that He had on His sacred lips, Arise, let us go.  The book of Hebrews commands us to run with patience the race that is set before us. (verse 12:1)  Interestingly enough, the author chooses the Greek term agon (the source of the English word “agony”) for the word “race.”  To his mind – and the mind of God – the whole Christian lifestyle is a Garden of Gethsemane and Rock of Agony experience.  The apostle Paul described it as presenting ourselves on God’s altar as living sacrifices.  The end result being that we produce the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God in our lives!  The words, Thy will be done, seem to roll off the tip of my tongue so easily when reciting the Lord’s Prayer – but after kneeling at the Rock of Agony, they were transformed into a whole new dimension of gravity and soberness.


Step by Step

Even though God’s will is always at our fingertips, the paramount truth to remember is that our success stands or falls depending on how tightly we clasp our fingers around the hand of our Father God. We must depend on Him more than upon His plan. It is imperative that we follow Him, not just His direction.

My roommate had felt a call into the ministry and was really struggling with finding God’s direction – should he continue his secular college education, should he drop out and begin Bible college, or should he go immediately into evangelism?  So many questions and so few answers!  In the middle of his flood of questions, he was invited to speak at an out-of-town church for their Sunday evening service.  On his way back home that night, he continued to badger the Lord for some answers.  Suddenly, the Lord spoke to him with crystal clarity, “I could lay your whole life out before you with exact detail – just like the map you used to find this church today – but if I do, you’ll worship the road map rather than Me.”  The scriptures confirm that we must be led by the Lord in a step-by-step fashion – that’s what is meant by the Christian’s walk of faith.  It may be a bit more disturbing than having the whole thing spelled out in advance, but the faith walk certainly is interesting – and fun! 

In Hebrews 10:36, we find a wonderful conclusion to the topic of the will of God.  The Spirit of God inspired the author to write, For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.  If we patiently follow through with doing the will of God, then we will inherit the promise of God.  This is the same thing that he tells us in the verse about running the race of faith:  run patiently.  Too often, we get too eager to get to the finish line.  Too often, we forget to do the will of God in each step of our lives because we become too concerned with the finish line.  The promise of God is that, if we diligently take care of seeing that each step of every day is in God’s will, He will see that we make it successfully across the finish line.