God's guidance is available in His book, the Bible. We can check our understanding of it through the Holy Spirit, the "Faithful Guide" who is present to instruct us. We can develop a submissive spirit to His guidance through prayer. But having done these things, we may still lack confidence and clarity in doing God's will. Some of our confusion may stem from differing interpretations of the truth or from untested principles. How shall we overcome confusion and respond to God's guidance with clear obedience to His will?
We will walk in the light we have
Read Ephesians 5:8. We must develop a curious and quick mind in Christ. We know that we do not have all of the answers, but we are committed to the One who does.
Walk in the light that you have. If you want to become a long-distance runner, begin by running short distances. If you want to speak a language fluently, learn a few words first.
Walking in the light does not mean that we always walk with perfect stability. But like a little child learning to walk, we shouldn't stop trying even when we fall down. Though we may stumble at first, with practice we will learn to walk.
We will test to prove what is acceptable unto the Lord
In school, tests are used as part of an evaluation process. Topics that are not understood can be clarified. Our conduct is tested to see if it is acceptable to the Lord. Through this testing, we experience clarity in guidance.
Where does this happen? Right out in the world where there is darkness. Out in the world, we are to rely on all of the testing devices at our disposal, beginning with the Bible and with the Holy Spirit's guidance. Read Philippians 2:13. In addition to the Word and the Spirit, there are at least four other testing devices.
A. The conscience of the person being tested. This inward computer stores the information we have received about what is right and what is wrong. As we make decisions, our conscience either affirms or warns against the attitudes or actions we are about to take. Though the conscience that has been exposed to the darkness is not fully trustworthy (seeTitus 1:15), yet when we have been taught the truth, the conscience will bear witness to the Holy Spirit (Rom. 9:1).
B. The counsel of other Christians. Believers are instructed to teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16). No believer is to become our highest authority on truth, yet more experienced believers who show by their lives obedience to the Word should be sought for advice on confusing issues.
C. Common sense. Titus 2:12 tells us we are to "live soberly," which means sensibly. But common sense is never to be accepted as complete sense. God frequently leads us in ways that do not seem sensible. We are to use our minds as we evaluate each situation.
D. Circumstances. At times, one's situation or circumstances may influence a decision. For example, let's imagine that based on your relationships with your children and the children in the church, you believe you should be a schoolteacher. Yet your education has not prepared you to teach, and you do not have a teaching certificate. You either have to go to school again or forget this vocational choice. Your circumstances influence your decision. Yet circumstances alone are never sufficient as a testing device.
These four aids, along with the inspiration of God's Word, may verify and clarify God's guidance.
We will reprove the unfruitful works of darkness
To reprove means to rebuke or to silence so as to bring out conviction or confession of guilt. We may do this by our words, but more significantly, by our conduct. God's guidance is offered to show us how to live and influence people in an evil world.
John Bunyan describes a minister as one who has "his back to the world, his face toward heaven, and a Book in his hand." However, it would seem a bit more precise to say, "He has the Book in his mind, his eyes on Jesus, and his body in the world." If we live in this manner, we demonstrate the truth and call others to it.
God is our refuge, and the church serves as our shelter from storms. But God's guidance must be tested in the world; here is where light and darkness meet. We may be frightened by the conflict, but all that God provides is more than enough as we walk in the light we have, as we test to prove what is acceptable to God, and as we reprove the unfruitful works of darkness by our words and deeds
Ezer Girotto is a retired pastor in Brazil.