IV. THE PATHWAY OF KNOWING THE WILL OF GOD
We have seen the definition of God’s will and the means by which God reveals His will. Now we will consider the pathway or the procedure leading to the knowing of God’s will. In other words, how can we understand God’s will? We will cover this pathway by the following eight steps.
A. Present Yourself as a Sacrifice
The first step is to present ourselves as a sacrifice.
The first two verses of Romans 12 show the clearest way to know God’s will: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God…that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Here, both the presenting of our bodies and the knowing of His will are joined together in one passage, because the presenting of ourselves as a sacrifice is the primary condition for knowing God’s will. When a man presents himself as a sacrifice, he becomes qualified and has the ground to know God’s will.
Why must a man present himself as a sacrifice in order to know God’s will? When a person has not yet presented himself as a sacrifice, he himself is the center of his life and the motivating factor of all his behavior and activities. He naturally thinks of himself and loves himself; even his slightest pursuing in the spiritual realm is for his own pleasure and enjoyment, of for his future reward. However, he is oblivious to what God desires to do in this universe and never inquires into the purpose of God’s salvation for him. Apparently, he seems to be seeking God’s will but actually he is wishing that God’s will would fulfill his own satisfaction. When he is sick, he asks God whether he should go to a doctor, because he believes that if his going to a doctor is God’s will, his sickness should soon be healed. Before going on a business trip, he asks God whether he should go, because he thinks that if the trip is God’s will, he will be blessed and everything will go well. These people can only understand their own will and not the will of God; much less can they understand His lofty and eternal will. Therefore, if one desires to know God’s will, he must first put himself and his all on the altar as a consecrated sacrifice to God. He is not for himself, but for God. He lays down his own career and enters into God’s economy. In this way it is possible for him to know God’s will. The altar is the only place and the only ground upon which man can understand God’s will.
Our experience of following the Lord involves two different stages of consecration. In the first stage, consecration is usually the result of our being touched and constrained by the Lord’s love. As far as emotion is concerned, this kind of consecration is correct and acceptable to the Lord, but, as far as consecration itself is concerned, it is insufficient. Since the consecration in this primary stage is mostly a matter of the emotion, it changes according to our mood. Therefore, it is not dependable or stable.
Only after a certain period of time, when our life has grown, our spirit is enlightened, and our view is broadened, will we gradually see the plan of God in this universe and recognize the working of God in this age. Then, naturally, we will have a deeper consecration by placing ourselves in His plan and work in order to meet His need and answer His call for this age. This is the second stage of consecration; it is deeper and higher than the first. It goes beyond our emotion and brings us into the reality of consecration. If we wish to understand God’s will, we need this deeper kind of consecration. Man must see God’s need concerning His plan and work and consecrate himself to God; then he has the ground to understand God’s will.
This is the kind of consecration that Romans 12 speaks about, that is, to present our bodies to God. This is the practical side of consecration. Because our being exists in the body, we must present the body so that our whole being may be given over to God in a practical way. Many people have a heart to consecrate themselves, but because their physical body has not been offered, their consecration is useless. Real consecration means that our body has been presented; it is neither a mere desire nor a verbal yieldedness, but a giving of ourselves entirely and practically to God.
The purpose of presenting our body is to become a living sacrifice. Negatively, this means to be cut off from all our past activities. For example, before an ox in the Old Testament was brought as a sacrifice, he was in his own place and acted according to his own will. Once he was placed on the altar, he no longer moved by his own will, and his activities ceased. The principle is identical when we become a living sacrifice. Before we were consecrated to God, we were like a wild ox or sheep living in the mountain wilds; we acted completely by our own will. Only when we become a living sacrifice to God do we cease from our own activities in order to await God’s command.
The positive meaning of a living sacrifice is to live for God and be used by God. Once the sacrificial animal in the Old Testament became a sacrifice, it was killed and then burned completely. We may say that it was a dead sacrifice. However, in our case, after we consecrate ourselves, we are still alive; we are a living sacrifice. The difference is that in the past we lived for ourselves, but now we live for God. Before, we sought after our own benefit; now we seek His pleasure. Formerly, we were interested in our own affairs; now our concern is about God’s work.
If a person consecrates himself as a living sacrifice and lives for God, it is then God’s good pleasure to reveal His will in him so that he can understand His will.
(The Experience of Life, Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)