Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me. For You are the God of my salvation; On you I wait all the day. (Psalm 25:4-5, N.K.J.V.)
Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness. (Psalm 143:10, N.K.J.V.)
If I ever wrote a book in which I listed the spiritual exercises that have helped me the most in my walk with the Lord, there is one exercise that would unquestionably be on the list. This is an exercise I use anytime I want to do God’s will but am genuinely confused as to what that will is. The exercise goes like this: I talk to God in prayer about the various options I have before me concerning the situation, and I say, “Lord, if you called me up to heaven right now and told me that I had to pick one course of action right now, I would choose…”
In the practical application of this exercise, I’ve found that there are times when I feel pretty strongly about the choice that I voice to God. Other times, however, my choice comes as the result of a razor-thin 50.1 to 49.9 vote. It all depends upon how confused I am about the situation.
The important thing to remember, though, is that the exercise isn’t meant to produce a final decision anyway. Instead, it’s just a way for me to get my up-to-the-minute bearings regarding where my thinking currently stands about the situation. Then, once I have those bearings and understand which way I’m at least leaning, God can move the process of revealing His specific will further along by either confirming my correct leaning or fixing my faulty leaning.
You see, what I’m talking about is what we might call the process of God revealing His will to me about my situation. Rather than give me His answer in one fell swoop that only requires me to seek His guidance one time, God bleeds out the revealing of His will because He wants to spend even more time in intimate fellowship with me. It’s as if He reveals a little bit of His will during one prayer session and then says to me, “Come back later and I’ll reveal some more. I’m enjoying our times together.”
I think this is what David was getting at in both of our text passages when he asked God to teach him His paths and how to do His will. Typically, it takes multiple classes and multiple lessons for a student to truly learn a subject, doesn’t it? And, of course, the more complex the subject, the more classes and lessons are required to learn it.
So, in keeping with this analogy, those times when I put my spiritual exercise into practice become midterm exams that show me how well I’m currently doing at mastering the subject in question. If I’m already leaning toward choosing God’s path for me, He gives me a passing grade and says, “Well done, you’re on the right track. Keep following it until I make my will crystal clear to you and you’ve done it.” But if I’m already leaning toward choosing a path that God doesn’t want for me, He gives me a failing grade and says, “Okay, you’ve got some work to do, but you can still ace the subject in the end if you let Me teach you.”
Perhaps right now you are standing at a fork in the road and you are going to have to choose one road or the other very soon. Well, do you honestly want to choose the road that God has in mind for you? I ask that question because the cold, hard truth is that many people don’t! If, however, you are one of the minority who do want to choose God’s road, then I advise you to use the spiritual exercise I’ve described in this post. Be honest with God about which way you are leaning right now, and then listen carefully for that still, small voice of His as He grades your answer. If He lets you know that you are leaning the right way, then keep up the good work until you have completely mastered the subject and done His will in the matter. But, on the other hand, if He lets you know that you aren’t leaning the right way, then enroll yourself in even more class-time with Him and work even harder to learn what He is trying to teach you. Trust me, if you’ll do that you can still earn your PhD degree in the subject even though you failed your first test. God is, after all, the most loving, patient, and gracious teacher you will ever have.