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Circumstances and Hearing God's Voice

Excerpt from Seven Keys to Hearing God's Voice

One of the strongest man-made structures in the world is the suspension bridge. This modern engineering marvel can carry an amazing amount of weight and strain because of its unique design. On every suspension bridge there are two anchors at each end of the structure that bear the load of the bridge. Then giant copper cables are strung back and forth from one anchor to the other. The actual roadway is suspended in midair from these enormous cables. If there were a failure in one or the other anchor the entire structure would collapse. That is why the towers or mountains that support a suspension bridge need to be massive and incredibly strong.

But not only is it a practical part of our modern transportation system, the suspension bridge is also a thing of awe and beauty. When you think of some of the great man-made structures, suspension bridges like the Golden Gate and the Brooklyn Bridges come to mind.

A proper biblical worldview sometimes demands that we approach God's truth in a balanced fashion, weighing the Scriptures and opinions on both ends of an issue, and then coming to a balanced position in the middle - like the roadway on a suspension bridge. I call this philosophy "truths in tension," and you see numerous occasions where it is demonstrated throughout the Bible. For example, there are many scriptures that admonish the community of believers to take care of the poor. But the Bible also says if you don't work, you don't eat. The truth of how to respond to the poor among us is somewhere balanced between the two truths.

When considering how God uses circumstances to guide us, we should consider the balance of two truths: first, God can and does use circumstances to guide us into His will; and second, circumstances are not always an indication of God's plan for our lives.

It is probably easier to be swayed by circumstances than by any of the other keys to God's guidance. Circumstances are so real to us in the physical world. Anything that touches our person in this world is circumstance - joy, sorrow, hunger, pain, happiness, cold, heat, birth, death. When it comes to being led through circumstances, it seems that many Christians are clinging to one or the other end of the suspension bridge.

Some Christians are convinced that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, and God's willingness to speak to His children, ended with the death of the last apostle. These folks are hanging onto the anchor that God only leads through the Bible and circumstances. Then there are those who are on the other end of the bridge, believing that God leads only through supernatural signs and guidance, and not at all through circumstances.

The truth lies in a balance between both extremes. As we have already seen in our study, God does lead His children in many different ways: through Scripture, by speaking directly to their spirit, through godly counsel, and through other supernatural guidance like personal prophecy, signs, dreams, visions, and so forth. But He will also use the circumstances of our lives to direct us into His will.

Many "super-spiritual" believers have walked right out of God's will because they did not want to be bothered by the circumstances. The ramifications of this spiritual arrogance can lead to a major catastrophe in life. Other "grounded evangelicals" have ignored the voice of the Lord speaking to their heart and have focused only on the circumstances that they perceive with their natural senses. These folks are often either extremely limited in their impact for the kingdom of God, or they are completely blind to spiritual matters, like the perilous men described as having a form of godliness but denying its power whom Paul against in 2 Timothy 3:5.

The truth is that you are a spirit, you have a soul, and you live in a body. God can and will communicate with all aspects of who you are. He will use every means necessary to reach you with His message of love and grace.

God is Love - and Love Communicates.

God will often use the so-called "closed doors" in our life to mold our character and prepare us for the time when we will fulfill His destiny for our lives.

In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers explained that not everything that happens to us as Christians makes human sense. "To turn head faith into a personal possession is a fight always, not sometimes. God brings us into circumstances in order to exercise our faith."

Maturity comes to believers when they allow the Holy Spirit to break them of their vulnerability to circumstances in life. One of my favorite teachers, Larry Tomczak, said, "You're not under the circumstances; you're above the circumstances. You're not contending with the devil for a place of victory; you overcome the devil from your position of victory." Circumstances, taken apart from consideration of the Scriptures and the peace of God, can lead us astray.

We can learn to discern God's hand in both positive and negative circumstances. But neither favorable nor unfavorable circumstances can be taken alone as a sign that we are in or out of the will of God.

There are two types of circumstances that God will use to lead us - closed doors and open doors.

Closed doors restrain us from moving forward in our pursuits. This can be frustrating at times, and when it happens, it should force us to seek the Lord as to why the door appears to be closed, especially if we think we already have had clear guidance to move in that direction. Some Christians will automatically think that a closed door is Satan's attempt to prevent God's plan from happening in their lives. Others will believe the closed door is a sign that God is saying no to that pursuit. Both of these extremes can be dangerous, because they may be right, or they may be wrong. We need spiritual discernment to discover God's purpose in the closed doors of life - and that can be found in using all seven keys to hearing God's voice.

We often interpret the negative circumstances of life in one of four ways. We may say:

1. "God is putting me through a test;"

2. "I'm reaping the wages of my sin;"

3. "I'm being attacked by the devil;" or

4. "I'm being persecuted for righteousness' sake."

Any of these statements could be the true diagnosis of the situation. But it takes more than an analysis of circumstances to know:

· If the unfolding situation is a test from the Lord that you need to endure;

· If you are reaping something that you sowed and you should repent;

· If this is an attack by the enemy that should be resisted; or

· If it is merely persecution that should be endured with God's grace.

Just because a door is closed doesn't mean it will be closed forever. Sometimes the Lord puts us in a holding pattern while He works on our character, or while He is setting the stage for our later success. Always keep in mind the tremendous promise of Psalm 37:23 – The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way. The Bible and history show us innumerable instances of people persevering through difficulties and delays along the path to their destiny.

God can also lead us through the seemingly open doors that circumstances present. These potential open doors can be exciting and can seem like a clear indication of God's will for our lives. But one must beware. Not every open door is from God.

Blaine Smith classifies open doors into two categories - suggestive or confirming: "Suggestive circumstances imply possibilities. Receiving a scholarship would suggest the possibility of attending a particular college. But this circumstance should align with the other guidance factors of desire, ability, and counsel. Confirming circumstances merely confirm the choice, which we believe to be God's will. If you have already determined that you are to marry a particular person, then circumstances may simply confirm your decision."1

When things don't seem to be working out, or you're having a hard time with the circumstances in your life, it is not always because you're out of the plan of God. Often you are directly in His will! Sometimes circumstances can help you determine the will of God, but they should never be an ultimate indication of it. It is important to take everything you are hearing from God into account - and use all seven keys to evaluate the message.

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