In part 1 of this 4-part series on God’s will I said I would debunk a couple of myths many Christians, including myself, often buy into. In my experience of talking with others, it doesn’t seem to matter where you come from, you may live by these myths. And these lies we buy into have significant impact upon our walk with God.
There is a lot that can be said on this topic, so I have worked hard to be as concise as possible. Here we go…
Myth 1: “The Holy Spirit wants to make all your decisions for you by whispering them into your ear.”
Many of us view the Holy Spirit in this way, as a taskmaster who wants to make every decision for us by directly telling us what to do, what not to do, what to say, what not to say, or what kind of latté we should order at Starbucks. We read verses like, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25) and, with great intentions, assume that it means the Holy Spirit is a guide that wants to whisper in our ear the answer to every directional question we may have.
For years I was plagued by a constant anxiety over whether or not I was “in step with the Spirit.” I never knew if I was taking the right “steps”. I was constantly asking the question of whether or not what I was doing was what the Holy Spirit wanted me to do. It always came down to what it “felt” like God was directing me to do. Rarely did I ever have much confidence in what I felt.
Late in high school one day I felt like the Holy Spirit was telling me what to wear. Now, I’m not the most fashionable dude. I’d like to have more swag. But I do care about what I wear. One day, I remember “feeling” like I needed to wear this huge, oversized shirt. It was motivated by the fear that I was too self-centered and that the Holy Spirit was calling me to, essentially, humiliate myself. It was horrible. I felt like an idiot.
Nothing in me wanted to wear the shirt. But I didn’t want to “disobey” the Holy Spirit. If God was telling me to do this, I needed to obey. I was filled with anxiety over whether or not I was making the right decision. On top of that, I had no joy in the decision. I wasn’t joyfully serving God. I was submitting begrudgingly, and that is not glorifying to Jesus.
The rest of the day, I was probably thinking about what I was wearing, to the point that I probably was not very focused on loving Jesus or loving people (the 2 greatest commands). At the end of the day, if anything, I was even more self-consumed, just thinking about putting on a normal shirt.
What is my point? The myth that the Holy Spirit is like a slavedriver, standing behind you, telling you exactly what to do in every situation, down to which shoe you put on first, is simply exhausting. I don’t think I have met anyone who lives by this myth that does not deal with constant anxiety over whether or not they are making the right decisions. Most people I talk to who live this way feel exhausted by God. The Holy Spirit is not a near and dear friend to them, enabling them to know, love, and serve Jesus daily. The Holy Spirit is seen more as a master who is constantly spewing out seemingly pointless commands to be obeyed. The Holy Spirit is viewed as a distant commander, rather than an intimate friend. The Holy Spirit is viewed as cold, whose love and care is dependent on how obedient we can be. This myth turns God into a taskmaster, not a gracious father. It turns the Holy Spirit into a slavedriver, not a near and dear friend.
This myth isn’t biblical. In the Bible we do see God show up in people’s lives in direct ways, but this is not the norm in Scripture. It is not the norm for the Holy Spirit to show up in such direct and miraculous ways like he does in Acts 10, 13:2, or 18:9-10. Often we think these extra-ordinary ways should be ordinary in our lives. When they are not, we despair, wondering what we are doing wrong.
Here is a quote from the best book I’ve read on this topic, Just Do Something:
“God may guide us in these ways in rare instances, but we should not expect Him to.
We have no record in the New Testament of anyone anxious to hear God tell him what
to do. Paul never sought out special words of knowledge concerning his future…But
when he gets to a fork in the road, hesitating and pleading with God to know which
way to go seem completely foreign to the apostle.”
It is not that the Holy Spirit is not near to us, for we have been united to Christ by the Spirit. The truth is simply that God the Holy Spirit is not interested in being a taskmaster over you, constantly telling you what you should wear, whom you should date/marry, or what job you should take.
What God is interested in is living through you in a much bigger way than just telling you what to do. He doesn’t just want to be an outside commander. The Spirit wants to live in and through you (Gal. 5:20). The Spirit changes your desires, gives you new desires, and has made you unique, to live a unique life for His glory. You are free in Christ to make decisions according to your understanding of Scripture (Ps. 119:105), counsel from your church community (Prov. 11:14), counsel from church leaders (Heb. 13:17), and your own wisdom (Prov. 1:7). The Bible is clear that some decisions are just immoral, and we should always avoid them. We should also not break our consciences. Other than that, you are free to make decisions you see as most glorifying to Jesus. Trust God with the outcome. Soak it all in prayer.
You do not need to fret over whether or not the Holy Spirit is telling you to do one thing or another. Could the Holy Spirit break into your life in an extra-ordinary way? Sure. If he does, you will know. But you don’t need to wait for that or even expect it. God is glorified in your when you live according to the new desires and wisdom he gives you.
Your decisions do not gain or lose you acceptance before God. One decision has already determined that for you, if you are in Christ. Jesus’ decision to lay his life down for you and then to take it up again has bought for you complete acceptance and intimacy with God. Make all your decisions remembering and trusting in that decision that was made for you.
I want you to be free today to be the person God has made you to be. Go study your Bible, live in community, submit to church leadership, recognize your own gifts and uniqueness, and then just go do something for God’s glory.
Part 3 here.