Thank you for letting me be a sister through the seasons and witness you grow in the maturity of your faith. I love seeing the work of God through you, and I praise God for who He is moulding you to be. I love how our conversations always revolve around Him and I pray that we may continue to “stir one another up in love and good works,” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Though He is God of all, He is nonetheless so intricately, intimately involved in our lives—even as insignificant as we are.
As you wrestle with the topic of discernment, I think great praise is due, as we are reminded of the God whom we worship. Though He is God of all, He is nonetheless so intricately, intimately involved in our lives—even as insignificant as we are. I pray that as we begin our discussions on the spiritual discipline of “discernment,” we may first be beckoned to deep worship, echoing the Psalmist who cries out: “who is man that You are mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4).
the Big God in the details
The current trend in Christianity, I think, is to often ask: “have you received Jesus to be your personal Savior?” And though I love that it focuses on Him being personal, I think we often undermine His lordship, His sovereignty over all. He surely is personal and relational—but we must never forget that He is so sovereign and that He transcends us in every capacity. He is King, He is Almighty, He is Lord.
Because what often happens is, if we forget of His “God-ness”, we make Him to be a sort of Genie in our lives, seeking Him to understand us and heed to our wishes and requests.
But the God we serve is a Big God…who cares about the details. We must first know who He is, before we find ourselves taken aback by what He does. And that is what ought to bring us to deep worship: to know Whom it is we serve (the Almighty, the Highest)…but to find ourselves being served by the Him, Creator of All.
If we forget of His “God-ness”, we make Him to be a sort of Genie in our lives…we must first know who He is, before we find ourselves taken aback by what He does.
If only, we pondered more deeply on this Truth—I think our desire would only be to live a life of praise. To present our lives as an offering before Him. And surely, it would change the way that we would seek discernment.
discerning God’s will
Many people pray to discern “God’s will over my life.” But often times, by this they mean to say, the big unrealized dreams that they believe they are destined for. How often do people think of God’s will over their lives, and consider the possibility of suffering or hardships?
But doesn’t the way of the Kingdom often contradict the way of the world? “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world,” (Romans 12:2) is what we read in Scripture. And so shall we not, as Christians, often find ourselves being persecuted by the world, for walking in the ways of Christ?
I. God calls you to Himself
For many seek God’s calling upon their lives, but neglect the Ultimate Call: and that is the call to God Himself. What is a Christian who is Christ-less? But the call of the Christian is first to rest upon the finished work of Christ, and to know one’s true acceptance/justification in Him…which would lead us to our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). “Be holy for I am holy,” (1 Peter 1:16) is God’s intention for mankind, who had from the beginning, created man in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
And hence our first call is to God Himself, to the depths of the Gospel, to Christlikeness, to holiness. So I pray that in all our seeking of discernment, we may always first and foremost discern this: what Gospel Truth may I learn in greater depth here, Lord?
If you are in a season of suffering, ponder upon the sufferings of Christ. And come to praise Him who bore it all for you. If you are in a season of celebration, ponder upon Him who calls you to rejoice in the day of your salvation. There is no greater joy than that. If you are in a season of abundance, ponder upon how Christ left His throne to serve those who rejected Him. Don’t find assurance in your great wealth. If you are in a season of loneliness, ponder upon how Christ prayed alone in Gethsemane, while His disciples slept. And remember that you have a Heavenly Father who hears you.
For many seek God’s calling upon their lives, but neglect the Ultimate Call: and that is the call to God Himself, to the depths of the Gospel, to Christlikeness, to holiness. So may we always discern this: what Gospel Truth may I learn in greater depth here, Lord?
Jesus never promised us a life of ease or comfort, but one where the Comforter shall be so enough. We serve a God who is Emmanuel: God with us (Matthew 1:22-23), and through all that He leads us to, He shall walk with us. One of my favorite Psalms is 139: “Even if I make my bed in Sheol [Hell], You are there,” (Psalm 139:8). It is a deep reassurance of how present God is, even in our stubbornness and rebellion against Him. I only pray that this knowledge shall always bring us to repentance.
II. God calls you to relationships
What people often wonder in regards to discernment are either one of two things: on vocation and on relationships. But let me put an emphasis on relationships for now.
Often times, we only seek discernment when we come to crossroads in romantic relationships: “is this person for me, God?” Well, certainly, the Lord does create us for relationships! But it is not necessarily one that is romantic. And so it is important for us to take a step back from thinking discerning relationships only refers to that of romance.
Again, we must always rest on the Biblical Truths:
- God created mankind for relationships because God Himself exists as the Trinity—He is in perfect relationship in Himself: “let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26);
- Relationships can be in the form of spiritual friendship, which has the goal of “stirring one another up in love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24-25);
- Of romance, with the purpose of living out the love of “Christ and the church,” (Ephesians 5:22-32);
- Of discipleship, with the goal of conversion and “teaching all that Jesus had commanded,” (Matthew 28:19-20);
- And of Christian witness and service, as we “love our neighbors as ourselves,” (Mark 12:30-31) as Jesus had taught.
Perhaps we may better discern the seasons where the Lord leads us to: be it seasons of deep friendship, loneliness, of dating/marriage, or singleness. Truly, we shall not experience the fullness of relationships before we meet the Lord face to face. There will be times where the Lord brings us to deep loneliness as He consecrates us—perhaps we must cut ties with the world, before we learn to love the world without loving the world (to love others without being tempted to walk in the flesh).
And there will be times of deep refreshment where He bestows upon us spiritual friendship that fosters our faith. Regardless, these all are times that we, too, must bring before the Lord—as we prayerfully ask Him, how are we to faithfully serve, and humbly learn from those He has (or has not) placed in our lives?
There will be times where the Lord brings us to deep loneliness…and there will be times of deep refreshment. Regardless, we must prayerfully ask Him, how are we to faithfully serve, and humbly learn from those He has (or has not) placed in our lives?
III. God calls you to work
Now, on vocation. How are we to discern where the Lord is leading us, especially in an age where “anything is possible”? Well firstly, if we return to the truth that the Lord ultimately calls us to Himself, we are reminded that our identity does not rest in our work. But that our work is simply a means of thanksgiving to Him who said, “it is finished,” (John 19:30).
With this in mind, truly, “with God, all things are possible,” (Matthew 19:26), but it is not to mean that we shall be successful in all that we do. He simply calls us to faithful work (Matthew 25:23), while He is the one who makes all things grow (1 Corinthians 3:7).
And faithfulness may look different in different seasons. There are times where being faithful to God’s call is simply to rest in Him, as He brings us to still waters (Psalm 23). Other times look like tough toiling with no results (Ecclesiastes 2:22), but we must rest in knowing that “your labor in the Lord is not in vain,” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
But what work does He call us to? This, too, may or may not be as straightforward as we would like it to be. The Lord indeed gives us talents that He kindly bestows for us to steward well (Matthew 25:24-30), and surely it is wise to look at what we already have in our hands.
Faithfulness may look different in different seasons. There are times where being faithful to God’s call is simply to rest in Him…other times look like tough toiling with no results.
Nonetheless, in all of Scripture we see God enabling people to do work they are truly unfit for—we see:
- Moses, a stutter, leading a people out of slavery (Exodus 4:10-13),
- Joshua, a young man, leading victorious battles (Exodus 33-35),
- David, a young shepherd boy becoming king (1 Samuel 16),
- Mary, a virgin carrying the Holy Child (Matthew 1:25),
- Paul, a persecutor of the churches to be an apostle and great missionary (Acts 8:3).
And so as Christians, as much as it is wise to see what we have graciously been given—in skills, in talents, in personality, in background story, in family heritage, in experiences—we also know that in discerning God’s will, He may call us to what truly contradicts with the natural. And so we must discern.
not my will, but Yours be done
The prayer we see Jesus teaching His disciples begins with “our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…” (Matthew 6:9-13)…and this we see exemplified in His own life, as He heeded to the will of God: “not My will, but Yours be done,” (Luke 22:42). And this posture, we must always follow.
Much of our discerning, of wrestling, with the Lord, ought to end in this plea—and this shall not be easy. But it is the call of the Christian: to lay down one’s life and take up the cross (Luke 9:23). We ought not be surprised at how much this prayer demands of us: of our heart, mind, strength (Luke 10:27), for that is how we love our God.
An excerpt I have taken dearly to heart is one where Amy Carmichael writes in “If“:
If I have not compassion on my fellowservant, even as my Lord had pity on me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I can easily discuss the shortcomings and the sins of any; if I can speak in a casual way even of a child’s misdoings, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If souls can suffer alongside, and I hardly know it, because the spirit of discernment is not in me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve around myself, if I am so occupied with myself I rarely have “a heart at leisure from itself,” then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I take offense easily; if I am content to continue in a cool unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If there be any reserve in my giving to Him who so loved that He gave His Dearest for me; if there be a secret “but” in my prayer, “anything but that, Lord,” then I know nothing of Calvary love.
discerning through the Eyes of Calvary Love
And so to this I shall end my letter to you, my dear friend and sister in Christ. I pray that we may wrestle with the Lord better, and discern His good and perfect will, looking diligently to Scripture—God’s Revealed, Written Word—at all times. To discern through the eyes of Calvary Love is all I shall ever ask of you:
- How does this make me ponder Calvary Love?
- How may I rest, even through such circumstances, on Calvary Love?
- How does knowing Calvary Love affect the way I react to this circumstance?
- How may others see Calvary Love through this?
And may in all your wrestling with Him, a mark He leaves you with, as when Jacob became Israel (Genesis 35)—a mark of Calvary Love.
With Deep Affections in Christ,