“Then said Abishai to David, God hath delivered thine enemy into thine hand this day: now therefore let me smite him, I pray thee, with the spear even to the earth at once, and I will not smite him the second time. And David said to Abishai, Destroy him not: for who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD’s anointed, and be guiltless?
-1 Samuel 26:8
How to Discern the Lord’s Will in Gospel Ministry
With my family and with others we have often discussed and sometimes vigorously discussed how to decipher the Lord’s will at certain points in one’s life. We discuss questions like, “What is the Lord’s will for my life?” and “Doesn’t an open door confirm the Lord’s direction in my life?”. I have often been the bad guy in these talks because my opinion in the matter is that its funny how the Lord’s will always seems to be whatever the individual person wants to do at the time. I think people who would sincerely follow the Lord’s will if they knew what it was, still look to things outside of God’s Word to decide the Lord’s will for their lives. Being baptist, I am amazed how charismatic we can be when it comes to deciding the Lord’s will for our lives. As baptist we deny that the Lord gives any revelation outside of His Word, but when it comes to deciding what a person should be doing, we leave it personal burdens and outside situations. It’s maddening.
I shouldn’t be the one to throw stones however, I am not particularly speaking against a certain person other than myself. I was 19 once full of burdens and great dreams. I allowed these dreams to speak for the Lord, rather than His Word. I barely knew anything about God’s Word then, (and now I dare not say I possess more than a novice’s knowledge) but being 19 turning 20 was a crucial point in my life because it is when I made a life long decision about the direction of my life, the direction in which I would participate in Gospel work. Hindsight doesn’t allow for ability to time travel and redo poor decisions according to the better knowledge I have now of God’s will, but hindsight does allow me to speak to the next 19 year old kid who thinks God’s will is whatever he or she is feeling at the time.
We convince ourselves these burdens are absolutely from the Holy Spirit and therefore as unquestionable as the 10 commandments. At this point someone will take to the extreme of what I am saying to make it sound as if God never uses burdens. Of course they will be a burden if the Lord is at work transforming a person to the conformity of Christ, but the starting point is not a burden, its God’s Word. As in my case, I followed a burden first and looked for verses second. We lead ourselves on into this belief that God’s Word is unable to be specific in choosing what a person should be doing for the Gospel’s sake. And so we consult our burdens before we consult God’s Word. This I’m afraid leads to several years of vain pursuit until the individual can conform their Gospel work to God’s Word.
At this junction in the conversation another point is brought up. “If the Lord has provided the means to do something, then that must mean He is approving my choice!” In other words a person has a burden and sooner or later the means to fulfill the burden comes into play and so the assumption is that it must be the Lord’s will. Not so fast. I wonder how many older saints could lend their wisdom now to a young kid who thinks this way. I wonder how many have in their past took a route based on it’s availability only to determine in their own hindsight that it wasn’t such a good idea to begin with. At the time, they were so determined it was the Lord’s will because the presence of a burden followed by God’s provisioning, but only to conclude at the end of a fruitless endeavor, “well perhaps that wasn’t the Lord’s will anyway.” I do not think the Lord’s purposes in someones life are so whimsical that He would leave the discernment of His will up to burdens and means. He left it do His Word.
David and Abishai
Consider the above passage where Abisha and David find themselve in the exact same circumstance but come up with two completely different conclusions about the Lord’s will. In 1 Samuel 26 Saul is pursuing David in attempt to take his life. At night however while everyone in Saul’s camp is sleeping, David and Abishai slip into the camp right into Saul’s tent being undetected. When Abishai sees the ease of their intrusion, he says in effect, “God has surely done this! God has surely given Saul into you hand David! Let me kill him now and be done with it!” To which David replies, “No, it wouldn’t be right to kill him. The Lord will see to his death if He wishes it, either in battle or of old age. But I will not do this thing, take his spear and water jug and lets be gone!” (see v8-11)
Abishai considered only his desire and the current favorable circumstance to carry out his desire, to have Saul killed. But David, the man after God’s own heart knows better. Despite the Lord having put the camp in a deep sleep with his supernatural power and provision (v12), David knows otherwise that it would not conform to God’s will to take matters into his own hands and kill Saul. We know that David was a man who “meditated in the law of the LORD day and night” (see Psalm 1:2). And therefore this fed his right decision to spare Saul’s life despite the favorable circumstances to take it. Despite having the opportunity to slay Saul, David presumed nothing about the Lord’s will that night, nothing beyond what the Lord has already expressed in His word–God’s Word before desires and circumstance.
Now why cannot we who say, we only accept the Bible has the Christians sole resource for faith and practice, conform to the same belief when it comes to carrying out Gospel directives? Are not the four gospels and the book of Acts followed by a collection of epistles to churches and church leaders enough information to come up with a detailed pattern for young men entering Gospel ministry? Isn’t the New Testament a how to book for the church and its workers in carrying out the Gospel? Of course even least knowledgable of the Scriptures would say so, but herein lies the challenge. Are you so full of God’s Word that you can “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God?” (see Romans 12:2).
Young man, young lady, there is a pattern for Gospel work in the Bible. I haven’t gone so far in this article to say more than it exists in the pages of the New Testament. I run the risk in summarizing now for you of being to reductionistic, because people define biblical terms differently, but here it is:
Make disciples of Jesus Christ.
Under that Gospel directive there has been an unmeasurable amount of thought given to its subject. For two thousand years the church as produced troves of written works on the subject. Making disciples of Christ needs to be the goal of anyone who wants to serve Christ. Someone might have many years already in the ministry, but let me ask you a toe stomping question that once bruised the daylight out my toes: “In all of your effort, have you have made a disciple of Christ?” In other words, have you ever taken a person from the point of unbelief to the point of maturity in Christ? This is not something that can be completed in a one-time 5 minute discussion with a lost person, though it could start there. But disciple making is more like parenting. As Paul mentioned that he birthed people into Christ. He was filled with agony whenever anything threatened the fledgling faith of his spiritual children.
Do you have any relationships like that? If not, then let me encourage you to the Word that directs Gospel work in this way. I would also point out that the biblical disciple makers such as Timothy and Titus had a spiritual father in Paul who trained them and loved them. Many young people entering Gospel work has never experienced training like this. Sadly, Christian training is considered to be going to school somewhere outside of the body of Christ. Alas, this is not a good place to end the conversation, many more things need to be said for the sake of young people entering Gospel work. But perhaps this article has raised awareness of the deficit we are experiencing in this area.