By April Motl, Crosswalk.com
Living in God's Leading
When I was four, I came home from Sunday school and asked my mother how someone got to be in the Bible because I wanted in! She was rather taken aback by her little daughter's heretical request to alter Scripture and told me so. What my child's heart couldn't put into words was that I wanted to be part of God's plan, just like the people in the Bible! I wanted to see God work in my life desperately!
Thankfully, we don't need a special calling to be just as much part of God's plan as the individuals in the Bible. We also don't need to enact any heretical plans to weasel our way into His Holy Word to see His Word come alive in our lives!
Here are five general heart and life issues we can anchor in God's Word to experience His plans for our lives.
1. Faith in God's Word
In Genesis 12:1-7 we read about the Lord giving Abraham some pretty unique instructions - go forth to a land, and I will bless you. God directed Abraham to move but didn't tell him exactly where. Later in his life, God would continue to reveal blessings He had in store for Abraham, but He did not share the precise details of how or when these blessings would unfold. We read that Abraham's belief in God's promises to him was righteous in God's sight.
If we were to apply the experience of our spiritual founding Father's faith to our own faith journey, we would see that God is pleased when we believe His words. We would see that belief in God is the first step in walking with the Lord.
Paul echoes this passage from the Old Testament in Romans when he writes: For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Romans 4:3
Later Paul reminds us that walking with God means, "we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Is there something in your life you've been seeing with eyes of doubt over God's goodness? Is there a Scriptural instruction you haven't been acting on with faith? Prayerfully consider the places in your life that need a fresh washing of faith and lift them to the Lord. No matter how many years I walk with my Lord, there is always something I need to hand over to Him with purer, more devoted faith.
2. Fear and Reverence of God's Sovereign Power
Psalms 86:11 says:
Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.
Another one of those foundational qualities that aligns our life with God's desire for us is reverence for Him. Scripture most often uses the word "fear" to describe the respect we ought to have for God. Many of us struggle to understand why or how God would want us to fear Him because most of us don't want anyone to be afraid of us. In our modern context, we don't distinguish "fearing" someone from being "afraid" of someone. From the rest of Scripture, we can see that God isn't pleased with a faith that expects punishment and wrath from Him (Hebrews 11:6), so there's something different in our understanding of the fear God is talking about.
I've heard lots of Bible teachers weigh in on this topic of fearing God. Some say our fear of God is like the way you would be afraid to offend or disappoint someone you love. I've heard others say the fear of God is a gift because if we only care about His approval of our lives, it removes all the other fears of this life from us. And I've heard some say there's nothing wrong in fearing punishment for your wrongdoings.
The word for fear in Hebrew, "yare," is translated as not only fear/being afraid, but also reverence/revere, and awesome/to stand in awe. Sometimes, English doesn't capture the nuance of another language's details. In English, I can love my cat, tacos, and my husband. But other languages, like Spanish or Greek, use a distinct word for each kind of "love," so one does not make tacos and husbands sound like they receive the same level of adoration.
Sometimes, fearing God's punishment has indeed helped me walk closer to Him. More days, standing in awe of Him keeps me close to Him. My all-too-often tendency to set other people or pressures on the throne of my heart is answered by seeking God's approval alone. Fearing God can work all these blessings into our lives. As I walk more days with Him, I know I will learn more about His heart for this concept. But I do know fearing God doesn't have to be a thing that ties us up in knots; in fact, it shouldn't. Perhaps we all have room to grow in our understanding of how God means this to shape our lives, but we can know for certain it was meant for our freedom and good.
3. Face-Down Living
He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
But He gives a greater grace. Therefore, it says, "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." James 4:6
Humility isn't a flashy topic. But it is a necessary ingredient in our faith journeys. It's how we stay connected to our Lord so we can walk with Him through this life. It's a conduit of grace in our lives.
Whenever or wherever I find myself struggling with a sense that I deserve or am owed something, it is often a good time to check my heart about humility and pride. If I ever find myself expecting high marks of respect or compliments, it's also a good time to take stock of what is going on inside my soul. Sometimes, a specific circumstance stirs this attitude in me, and then it is wise for me to change how I engage with that situation. Like gravity that holds our feet to the ground, humility ties our feet to God's ways, and without humility, we can be sure we won't be walking out His best plans for us.
4. Freedom from Sin
Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Romans 6:4-7
Jesus went to the ends of the Earth to free you and me from the consequences of our sin but also to free us from the grip sin has on our daily experience. One of the central purposes of Christ coming to Earth was freedom - yours and mine, personally, deeply, truly. Freedom from sin isn't meant to be just something we experience in heaven. It's meant for our daily living right now.
This path looks different for all of us. I listened to testimonies for years of what I call "one-night-make-overs," where God released a person from addiction in a single night and changed their life forever. I love those testimonies! They are the Cinderella stories of Christian testimonies! My testimony has been a lot less instant. I used to wonder why God didn't work in my life with those exciting "one-night-make-overs." I used to think maybe He reserved those transformations for His really special and called children, and I just wasn't one of them. Sometimes, I wondered if He cared about my struggle and if He could see me. Over time, I realized God just worked a little differently in each of our lives. God has often called me to "walk around Jericho" in faith and trust Him through my struggles until He makes the walls fall down in His perfect timing. His work comes seemingly slower in my experience, but it has forced me to walk nearer Him, slow my pace, watch, and learn more intently than if He had blessed me with a quick transformation.
Regardless of how God works in your life, your freedom is paramount to Him! If it seems like He isn't working freedom into your life at the moment, rest assured He is - the timing or fashion just might be different than what you are expecting.
If there's something you know leads to bound-up living (a relationship that tempts you, a source of information like social media, TV, music, novels, the internet that tempts you away from following God's ways - anything like that), cut it out! Cement your choices and focus on the Lord's Word and his ways as best as you can. He will come and deliver you from the things that are "larger than life," but in the meantime, don't lose heart at His timetable; hold tight to your precious faith with all your heart and all your might. He cares deeply about your freedom!
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10
These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. John 15:11
After freedom from sin, Jesus' primary goal in coming to dwell among us was the fullness of spirit for each of us. He cares about our abundance of souls. He wants peace and joy to reign in our hearts. He wants HIS joy inside us!
There have been times in my ministry experience where the question "What does God want for my life?" would have been quickly answered with a list of New Testament commands. And while it isn't an incorrect answer, I think it isn't the whole answer. Yes! God wants a life of following and discipleship from and for us. Yes! Obedience brings joy and peace in ways we can't imagine before stepping onto the path of obedience. But beyond all the doing and activity, there's a simple, quiet, intimate space of "being" in Christ that is best sought before all the action.
Being joyful in Christ, peaceful in Christ, and whole and abundant in Him alone is terribly important to the rest of our actions to seek His kingdom first. My walk with God has always been much less troubled when I pursued the foundational perspective that comes when I seek my identity and satisfaction from Christ before I set my hand to a single task. Otherwise, I always end up messing up the task, or the task messes up me! This fullness of heart is an anchor for all our other spiritual activities and pursuits.
For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. Colossians 1:9-12
April Motl is a pastor’s wife, homeschool mom, and women’s ministry director. When she’s not waist-deep in the joys and jobs of motherhood, being a wife, and serving at church, she writes and teaches for women. You can find more encouraging resources from April here and here.