Trusting God to Tell us What to Do

Many of us know someone who grew up in a Christian environment, but left the faith later in life. You may also know someone who was presented the gospel as an adult, but rejected it vehemently. Maybe, you too have struggled with your own faith, or even considered giving up on living for God. Why?

One of the reasons people often cite for leaving the Lord is that they want to be free to do things their own way. They may say phrases like “no one else can tell me how to live my own life,” or “I have to do what makes me happy,” or “I have to be free to be myself, and the Bible is holding me back.”

There may be some truth to the statement “no one can tell me how to live my own life.” After all, in most cases, no one is going to physically control us and micromanage all of our own choices against our will. At the end of the day, God grants us the right to do whatever it is that we want to do, even if that means to reject Him.

So maybe no one has the power to FORCE us to live a certain way, but surely we all recognize that sometimes it is wise to listen to people who know more than we do.

Most of us do not take our car to the mechanic only to insist on disregarding necessary repairs because “no one can tell me what to do.” Most of us do not pay for music lessons and then ignore everything the teacher says because “I just have to do what makes me happy.” Most of us do not go to the hospital in crippling pain but reject a necessary surgery because “that is just not what I want to do with my time.” We recognize that the path to wholeness often requires us to do things that we do not want to do, and may not even fully understand. But we trust those who can guide us to where we need to be.

The Bible describes the Christian life as a battle between the flesh and the Spirit. Oh, how easy it can seem to just throw in the towel and indulge our fleshly tendencies because we long to “be true to ourselves,” and “not let some ancient book control us.” But notice something about the flesh and the Spirit.

The flesh does not practice wisdom or discernment. For example, the body will crave an unhealthy diet with no regard for how much the “daily recommended amount” of sugar is. A body that is addicted to drugs or alcohol will crave those things with no regard for the wellbeing of the person who possesses it. A body will desire sexual relations with an attractive counterpart, even when the long-term outcome could be catastrophic.

The Spirit, on the other hand, is characterized by discernment, wisdom, and higher order thinking. It is informed, ultimately, by the God who designed the universe and knows intimately how it works. The Spirit encourages us to follow a path of moral development rather than simply “living in the moment.”

Often our feelings, being motivated by our flesh, will pull us in a direction that promises to be gratifying. That direction might be jealousy, outbursts of anger, pornography, consumerism, gluttony, or any other number of things. On the other hand, the Spirit steps in and “tells us what to do,” applying a long-term wisdom to our short-term decisions.

Yes, God does tell us what to do. Frequently. And we would do well to listen. A doctor knows how to help a physical body. A mechanic knows how to fix a car. A piano teacher knows how to play piano. And God knows how to fix YOU. And just maybe, if you do not understand every instruction given by your doctor, mechanic, or piano teacher, you might not understand every instruction given by your God either. That does not make Him wrong.

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An Ancient Story of Healing with a Powerful Message

The Bible tells us of an ancient army captain named Naaman. He was “a great man with his master, and highly respected,” and “a valiant warrior,” but he also suffered from the painful and debilitating disease of leprosy.

A little girl from Israel, who served as a maid, told Naaman’s wife about a prophet of God in Israel who could help him. So Naaman got permission from the king of his land, Aram, and went to the king of Israel with ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothes, hoping to use this wealth to buy healing for his disease.

Naaman did not even get to meet the prophet of God who could heal him, but the prophet, Elisha, did send word: “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.”

This is how he responded: “Naaman was furious and went away and said, ‘Behold, I thought, “He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.” Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ So he turned and went away in a rage.”

Naaman almost missed out on the chance to be healed, but luckily his servants came to him and said “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean?’”

Naaman almost missed out on God’s blessings because the means by which they were received seemed too commonplace to him to be taken seriously. Surely it was not by simply dipping in water that he would be healed! Surely it would be a big, meaningful, emotionally charged spectacle, instead!

Are we like Naaman today?

Do we take for granted the amazing opportunity to personally pray to God whenever and wherever we want, simply because it is so easy for us to do? Do we forget that for thousands of years, God’s throne could only be approached once a year, and even then, only by a High Priest? Do we forget that the veil in the old Jewish temple has finally been torn in two, so that now we can boldly come into God’s presence because of the blood of His Son?

Do we take for granted the amazing opportunity to open God’s word and read it whenever we want? Do we forget that these words came to Moses in a thick cloud of smoke and fire on top of a mountain, or to David the great king of Israel by the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit? Do we forget that for thousands of years, the Word of God could only be read by the scribes, while the people stood on their feet for hours at a time, desperate to hear what they could before the sun set and they had to go home? Do we forget that until very recently, scrolls were extremely expensive, and Bibles could not be taken out of the pulpit that they were chained to?

Do we take for granted to power that meets us in the waters of baptism? Do we realize that it is there that we come into contact with Jesus blood, which washes away our sins? That by such a simple and commonplace act as immersion in water, the kingdom of heaven is richly supplied to us?

Naaman failed to recognize the power of healing that was available to him because it came in such seemingly ordinary packaging. May we learn from his story. If the Lord had asked us to climb formidable mountains, practice mysterious rituals, or wear ourselves out in feats of impressive devotion, would we not do it? If therefore He tells us that He will meet us in common prayer, and common Bible study, and immersion in common water, let us go.