II. NOT SEEKING THE LORD’S WILL
BY TAKING THE SCRIPTURES OUT OF CONTEXT
God’s will has been fully declared in the Bible. All those who seek to know His will can find His intention concerning any matter through searching the Scriptures. But many believers take one or two verses and consider that to be God’s will and act accordingly. They do not care what the Bible as a whole has to say concerning this matter. This is very dangerous. Consider Matthew 4:7: "Jesus said to him, Again, it is written." Again! Again! Again it is written! The devil can tempt by quoting the Scriptures. If the Lord was like believers today, He would have considered the devil’s words the words of the Bible and followed them. Did He do this? No, He did not. He considered the teaching of the whole Bible. He said, "Again, it is written." Therefore, if we want to seek after God’s will, we must not take things out of context. We must not choose some verses randomly and think that they are the teaching of the Bible! We must always consider if there are other teachings in the Bible that have more to say about the matter in view and not decide in a rash way. The devil is the same today as he was then; he will use many isolated verses to deceive man, cause man to listen to one-sided truths, and do many things which are against the Bible and God’s will.
Some believers are quite peculiar in the way they quote verses out of context. For them, reading the Bible is a kind of fortune-telling. When something comes along and they do not know what to do, they open up the Bible and pray, "Lord, I am about to do something, and I do not know if this is according to Your will. I will open the Bible. The first verse that catches my eyes will be Your instruction to me." Some may say, "I will open the Bible, and whatever verse my finger points to will be Your will." Still others may say, "When I open the Bible, a certain number of verses down (or up) from my finger will be Your will." This kind of soothsaying style of seeking after God’s will is bound to be filled with errors. Satan can easily make our fingers slip to the wrong verse or wrong page. He can devise many ways and supply many opportunities for us to fall into his traps. It may be that we should stay in a place, but the devil can make us move away. It may be that we should say something, but the devil can make us shut up. It is entirely against God’s will to make the Bible a fortune-telling book. It is very difficult to know God’s will with a method that is far from His will! We should never seek after the Lord’s will this way. We have to spend much time in the Bible in our daily life so that we can know the teaching of the Bible concerning a certain matter. When things happen, we will not be caught by surprise and not pick a verse hastily, taking it as God’s will and acting accordingly.
III. NOT PROCEEDING WITH THINGS
THAT DO NOT BRING PEACE TO THE HEART
"And let the peace of Christ arbitrate in your hearts" (Col. 3:15). "You will keep the steadfast of mind / In perfect peace / Because he trusts in You" (Isa. 26:3). If we encounter some difficulty and do not know God’s will, a good principle is to consider if we will have the peace afterwards. If we will not have the peace, we should not do it. The meaning of peace is not a sensation of peace. It means an unchanging and normal calmness in our spirit. If by doing a certain thing, we will lose the calmness in our spirit, it is better that we do not do it. However, this is not an absolute indicator. Sometimes we feel peaceful when we do things that we ought not to do, and we are restless when we do not do them. Satan can work in our feelings to give us a false peace or false restlessness and cause us to do what he wants. Therefore, in considering if a matter is according to God’s will, we should regard the matter of peace as a partial factor for consideration and should not trust in it completely.
IV. NOT CONSIDERING SOMETHING AS GOD’S WILL
BASED ON CIRCUMSTANCES OR NEEDS
Many people consider their circumstances when they seek after God’s will. Their circumstances are their only guide. The result of this practice is confusion and failure. We can look at the story of Jonah. God’s will was for Jonah to go to Nineveh, but Jonah wanted to go to Tarshish. When he reached Joppa, he met a ship which was sailing for Tarshish, paid the fare, and went aboard. The Bible says, "But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah, and he went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare for it and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah" (Jonah 1:3). If Jonah had considered the circumstances, he surely would have thought that it was God’s will for him to go to Tarshish! Otherwise, why else would the circumstances have worked out so well for him? The first part of verse 3 says that he intended to go to Tarshish, and immediately there was a ship going there (v. 3b). He had money in his pocket and could pay the fare. The circumstances were absolutely favorable for taking this way. If a Christian was put in these circumstances, he would surely say that he was walking according to God’s will. "When I do this, my relatives agree with me, I do not lose my natural friendships, and I can serve the Lord. There is no need to spend too much time or money, and the accomplishments are great. I can go when I want to go and stop when I want to stop. There is no hindrance whatsoever in the environment. Is this not God’s leading for me?" Little does he realize that he has gone astray from God’s will. Truly I say, the ships to Tarshish are numerous, and money for the fare is plentiful! Yet neither the ship nor the money can guarantee that your journey to Tarshish is the right one. God’s will is for you to go to Nineveh. Therefore, in seeking after the Lord’s will, you must not merely consider the circumstance. Otherwise you will be led into the wrong path. Another great attracting force in the environment is certain needs. Many times, we think that there is a need or a lack, that we are well qualified to meet the need, and that we should go to render help to the situation. "I may be short of training in theology. But there is an opportunity to meet my need. Perhaps this is God’s provision for me." A common mistake of most believers today is to take the need in the environment as their indicator. Their slogan is, "We have to do it, because this matter has to be done." Little do they realize that what is needed may not be what God wants them to do.
Consider Paul and his companions: "Having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia...they tried to go into Bithynia, yet the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them" (Acts 16:6-7). Before verse 6 of this chapter, they did many works in many places. Believers were edified and sinners received salvation. They were going to go to Asia (which is today’s Asia Minor). It seemed as if there was a great need there. Many people had not heard the gospel of the Lord Jesus’ dying for man’s sin and on man’s behalf. There were so many needs. It seemed that God was leading them to go to Asia. Yet in reality this was not the case. The Spirit of the Lord did not allow them to go. The same was true when they wanted to go to Bithynia; the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. Therefore, in seeking after God’s will, we cannot depend too much on needs, and we cannot be attracted by them to the extent that we lose sight of God’s will.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 02: The Word of the Cross, Chapter 4, by Watchman Nee)