“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:15 NIV).
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV).
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5,6 NIV).
“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14 NIV).
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me” (Matthew 11:29, NIV).
These are not verses posted randomly. Assembled together, they are the way of wisdom for the Christian. Every question and dilemma in a believer’s life can be overcome by following these. There is one more verse we will apply, but we’ll get to it. For now, let me proffer these with a few comments.
Can God’s will for your life be summed up in just five verses, really? In a sense, yes (I’ll explain this, too, below.) If you will diligently apply yourself to these verses, you are showing yourself submitted to the Lord and his will for you life, and surrendering your own, and that is the mark of the maturing Christian.
However, it won’t be easy. At times it
may nearly will break you. If you haven’t already learned it, one day in your walk with the Lord you will become fully convinced that truly he alone is the only place from whence comes your help. That’s a blessing, and it will save you from folly. But then there will be times that you know you must hear from God about something, but then…Silence.
There will be times when you feel utterly crushed under the weight of your trials. (When trials come, it’s rarely just one.) The seeming lack of response from your Lord at the time you think you absolutely must have it may drive you to your knees in desperation and anguish. In your agony, the laments of the psalms will seem autobiographical. And when he doesn’t answer, his silence is deafeningly. Your feelings will tell you you are dreadfully, hopelessly alone.
(The good news: They’re lying. They’re absolutely lying. But they can be so intimidating and convincing you may even give in to temptation and temporarily believe them. But you are in the loving hands of the Good Shepherd. He will come to your aid. With his strong arms He will lift you out of the pit you strayed into.)
But not every decision or question comes from trials. Sometimes, you just need to know which way to go in a matter. An opportunity is presented but you’re not entirely sure how to respond; or you’re hoping for an opportunity and the wait is excruciating, etc.
Remember when I said that God’s will can be summed up in these five verses “in a sense”? Well, in the fullest sense the answer is actually No. These verses aren’t the Bible condensed. You and I need the whole counsel of God, cover to cover. These few verses point you to the whole Bible. Let me explain:
James 1:15. If you lack wisdom, Pray. Ask God for wisdom. Then get off your knees and go to the wisdom store and get yourself some wisdom. Where is that exactly, you ask?
2 Timothy 3:16. The Bible. All of it. Yes, even the books we sometimes struggle to read. Really? Yes. “All Scripture is God-breathed and [all Scripture] is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” Read your Bible cover-to-cover as often as you can. Live it. Breathe it. Reflect on it. Write journal notes about it. All of that will be functionally useless to you though if you don’t apply it to your life. Let me tell you a quick story:
This morning I needed a word from the Lord. I needed help to be calm when I was tempted to be either very angry about a situation that began the night before or, seeing the futility in it, very despairing by my circumstances. Either way, it wasn’t looking like it was going to be a good day. But I did what I do every morning: I woke up plenty early, made a cup of coffee, went into my study and closed the door to be alone with my Lord and my Bible. And I picked up where I left off yesterday, in Matthew. As I did, I came across the familiar passage, Matthew 11:28-30,
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (NIV).
And today the Holy Spirit helped me focus on, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…” I needed to submit myself into the yoke of my Lord. He helped remind me that today I needed to literally be teamed up with him, yoked with Jesus, so that he could show me how it’s done. I prayed about that. I’m not suggesting any kind of nutty vision stuff when I say this: As I prayed and reflected on this, I imagined myself under some kind of yoke with Jesus, and him showing me how to walk properly under it. (Yes, I know he was speaking metaphorically–it was more the idea of reflecting on the outward image as a template for my inward posture.)
Do you know what happened? My day somewhat improved, but then late in the day it went sideways big time! After driving 15 miles I was told to turn around and drive about 20 miles back to another site even farther the opposite direction of home! Then, when I got there I was told the problem was resolved, turn around and head back an hour’s drive (at least this was towards home)!
I was irritated by it all, and normally would’ve reacted very poorly. But by God’s grace, Matthew 11:29 and me being “yoked” with Jesus, getting led first this way, then that way, then this way all herky jerky…He was testing and teaching me!
I can’t explain the supernatural peace I had. I wasn’t happy about it all as it was happening, and I was praying every mile I drove here and there, but he heard my tired prayers and strengthened me. And then, when I got two miles from home, I got a call saying nevermind the last call, go home and we’d pick up again in the morning. Praise God!
Proverbs 3:5-6. Three points here. First, trust in the Lord, not your own understanding. How many times has your understanding of a situation been wrong because you didn’t have all the data? If you’re like me, many times. Second, submit your ways to him. You want that car? Submit the desire to him. You want that job? Submit that desire to him. You think the right way to go would be to do X? Defer to Jesus. He will make your path clear. Third, implied here is prayer, much and fervent. Seek God often. Go back and read in Luke 9 Jesus’ parable of the widow and the unjust judge. James 5:16 is beautiful in the King James, but the NIV nails it for simplicity and clarity here, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Psalm 27:14. He will make your path clear, yes, but in his time, not yours. I’m half-convinced that in heaven we will see that even the greatest saints spent more time waiting for the Lord’s direction than actually doing the things for which they waited for guidance. Waiting may take days, weeks, months, or even years. And there’s no shortcut. Don’t be like Saul and rush the sacrifice because Samuel hasn’t arrived. He was ruined by his haste. “Lean not on your own understanding…” If you haven’t seen God’s guidance yet, wait. You must, must wait. Trust me. Take it from someone who has really messed things up when he didn’t wait.
I told you there was one last verse for this list. Here it is:
“You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2 NIV).
Are you miserable right now? Anxious? Worried? Angry even? I don’t know your situation, but if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say you’re not doing one of the above. In other words, you’re either:
- Not praying for wisdom
- Not consistently reading and applying the Scriptures
- Not trusting God
- Not deferring to his will in the matter
- Leaning on your own understanding
- Not earnestly seeking God in prayer
- Not waiting long enough
Why am I so sure? Because I’ve been guilty of all of these. Conversely, I can also look back over my life and see the Lord’s guidance time and time again, even in how he worked in a poor decision or sinful response, redeeming it for his glory and my good.
I leave you with this powerful word I came across recently from Oswald Chambers:
Are you looking unto Jesus now, in the immediate matter that is pressing, and receiving peace from him? If so, he will be a gracious benediction of peace in and through you. But if you try to worry it out, you obliterate him and deserve all you get.