Yesterday, we talked about submitting ourselves and our plans to God because He ultimately control over them. As I had mentioned before, this probably should be the first post of this series, but I am writing this as He inspires! It is a lesson I constantly have to keep before myself. Before we make any plans, let us make sure our hearts are teachable. He longs to guide and lead us in His ways if we let Him. That's probably the rub. There may be things that I want that I do not want Him to be a part of. So I make plans without Him, bulldozing my own path, irregardless of what He wants for me. (Anyone with me? Guilty as charged.)
Prov. 20:18 tells us to "Make plans by seeking advice; if you wage war, obtain guidance." I think this verse is referring to people, but how much more should we be seeking God? When our plans line up with His, it doesn't mean that they will automatically unfold without a hitch. We need to expect that there will be challenges---some from within us, some from without. But if we have the confidence that this is God's plans for us, He will make them come to pass, somehow, in His time.
However, one of the questions I have is How do I know if this is God's plan or mine? How can I tell if I'm making my own plans and then superimposing God's will on top?
That's a good question. And honestly, I cannot tell you where the state of your heart is or what your motivation is. As I look back on my list that I had shared earlier, I am trusting that those are God's plans for me and that I heard Him correctly. There are some things that He is clear about, like spending time loving Him and nurturing my marriage and caring for my children. He doesn't mind me earning an honest living through my work. This is why I started with His priorities and not just my personal desires.
Yes, there are some goals that are on my list that the Bible isn't explicit about, but that is where I believe He allows us to participate in the process of our sanctifcation and growth. No, the Bible isn't going to tell me that I need to lose weight.
But God does expect me to steward my body. This goal was created because I have been noticing that I have been getting sick far more often (4 times between mid-August and the new year!). We are expecting a special needs child. On top of that, I have three other children to pour into. There is a ministry that is under development. How can I be of use to Him if I am unhealthy? I want to take care of myself so that I am free to serve Him as He wills. Carrying excess weight that is diminishing my health is not going to help. Skipping exercise and eating junk food is not going to help. Perhaps I should re-write those goals to focus on cultivating healthy habits. I am trusting that the weight loss will be a side benefit.
Another example: No, He isn't going to tell me to clean up my garage. But I believe it is His will for me to be free from earthly clutter so my heart can be simply devoted to Him. He knows that I have been holding on to the stuff in my life and it is becoming a burden. My possessions are meant to bless my home and others, and once it starts getting to be a drain on me, then they have lost their purpose. Time to get rid of it!
I believe that while there are universal principles that need to govern our lives, God isn't going to micromanage our days to the second. We are not robots, nor does He desire us to be. But He does want me to bring my goals and plans to him and seek His counsel. When I do, He shows me how to live them out in the realities and the context of my life, my particular circumstances. I believe that after I have consulted Him, He guides me to articulate plans that are in keeping with the more eternal principles of Scripture.
How do I do this? Again, by starting with His priorities. From there, I then ask Him, "How do you want me to make this priority a reality in my life at this point in time?" And then I sit. And wait. And sometimes wait some more. There are times you can't rush in. Just as in a conversation, you cannot force another person to answer you on your timetable, there are times when I need to just let God have His. When I am patient, the answer will emerge. And because I have asked in the form of a question instead of making a statement, I am going to have faith that the "voice in my head" is from Him.
As with all my goals, I make them, but hold them loosely. If they are from God, He can change them at any time. When I keep the purpose and the priority before me, I am realizing that He can change how He wants to fulfill them at any time. I often get so set on the goal that I forget why I'm doing it. This is not to say that every little deterrent means that it is not His will. But I do keep the door open for Him to step in and move in a different way than what I originally thought.
How do you listen to the Lord? How do you know when a goal comes from Him or not? I'd love to hear your thoughts!