Knowing and Doing God’s Will
How Can I Be Sure?
Judges 6, 7 and 8 (Gideon)
 
Have you ever wished you could have lunch with Jesus? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you got a phone call from heaven saying that the Lord Jesus Christ would like to meet you for lunch next Thursday? Suppose that happened. What would you talk to Jesus about? I’m sure the first impulse would be to fall on your face at his feet and worship Him. But suppose the Lord of heaven said, “Rise, my child. Let’s share a meal together.” What would you say then? Most of us somewhere along the way would say something like this. “Lord Jesus, I love you and more than anything else, I want to please you. Lord, am I doing what you want me to do? Is there anything else you want to me to do because if there is, if you want to change my direction, please let me know.”
 
All of us have moments when we want to hear God’s voice or receive some definite sign regarding a relationship, a business decision, a career choice, or a major expenditure. Our decisions really do matter. We make our decisions and our decisions turn around and make us. We face so many questions:
 
* Should I get married? If the answer is yes, then who should I marry?
 
* Should I go to college? If so, then where?
 
* I’ve been offered a new job. It’s a good job. But I’ve got a good job. Should I take the new job or hold onto what I have?
 
* We have two children. We’re thinking about having a third. Should we have another one? Or should we think about adopting?
 
* Is God calling me to the mission field? How can I be sure? Three mission boards are interested in me. How do I know which one to choose?
 
I’ve often thought it would be lot easier if you could simply open the door one evening and be greeted by a chorus of angels chanting, “No more kids!  No more kids!”
 
Or if you got a special delivery letter from heaven that said, “You are to attend Murray State College and become a veterinarian.  Love, God.”
 
That would make it a lot easier, wouldn’t it?  But it usually doesn’t happen that way. In fact, those who are always talking about God “telling” them to do something make me sort of nervous!  Especially when a few weeks or months later, God is “telling” them to do something just the opposite of what He “told” them to do the first time!
 
Most of the time we research, study, narrow the options, talk it over with trusted friends, pray about it, wait on the Lord, and then in the end, we make our choice and hope for the best.
 
That, I think, raises the central issue for most people regarding God’s will. We would like someone else to make the decision for us. If God would only tell us what he wanted in a given situation, we would do it. But most of the time we’re left with something less than 100% certainty.
So how can I be sure I’m doing the right thing, or better yet, the thing God wants me to do?  Let me share an important principle with you, and I believe it with all my heart.  God wants you to know his will more than you want to know it, therefore he takes personal responsibility to see that you discover it.
 
Knowing God’s will is ultimately God’s problem, not yours. Let that last thought sink into your mind for a moment. You’ve probably never heard it put that way before.  But to reinforce that thought, listen to these verses:
 
Proverbs 16:9-“In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”
 
Pay attention to the wording.  Here the emphasis is not on directing his steps as it is in Proverbs 3:6, but rather that God determines his steps.
 
It’s a very strong word that speaks of God’s control of every detail in the universe. You can make all your plans, in fact you can have your life mapped out step by step, but in the end, God determines every step you take.
 
Proverbs 16:33-“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”
 
Most of us don’t understand the concept of “casting lots.” In the Old Testament, the Jews often used this method to determine God’s will. It sometimes involved using different colored balls or rocks, mixing them together, and then seeing which one fell out of the bag first.
 
In that sense casting lots is like rolling dice. It appears to be a random act of chance. But God is behind those colored stones. He determines which one falls out of the bag first. This means that there are no “accidents” in life, no “random” events, and no such thing as “luck.” Even seemingly meaningless things fit into his plan. To paraphrase Forest Gump, ’Life is like a roll of the dice, but God is in charge of how the numbers come up.”
 
Proverbs 19:21-“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”
 
Let me give you a paraphrase of this verse: “You can make all the plans you like, but God gets the last word.” His purpose always prevails. Some translations say that God’s purpose shall stand. Most of our plans don’t stand.
 
They are like the leaves that blow away in the autumn wind. But when God determines to do something, it’s going to happen. You can write it down and take it to the bank. You can make all the speeches you want and announce your long-range plans, your ten-year goals, and your personal objectives, but just remember this. When you are finished, God always gets the last word.
 
Proverbs 20:24-“A man’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand his own way?”
 
There is something hidden in the Hebrew text that you wouldn’t know simply from reading the English translation. The word translated “man’s” in the first phrase comes from a Hebrew word that refers to a mighty warrior or ruler.
Solomon is saying that even the steps of a mighty man are ordained by God. The word “anyone” in the second phrase comes from the word which is the generic word for mankind. The meaning is, “If God directs the steps of the mighty, how then can an ordinary man understand his own way?”
 
The answer is, he can’t! That’s the whole point of the verse. We’re like a man stumbling around in the darkness, bumping into things, tripping over ourselves, trying to find our way forward. We can’t say for sure where we’ve come from, where we are right now, or where we’re going to be tomorrow. Only God can see the big picture of life.
 
And if we will successfully know and do God’s will, we need to begin here, especially when we think we are in control, and everything depends on us.  We obsess and hyperventilate and try to control everything and everyone around us.  We worry over all our decisions and spend hours fussing over the minutiae of life.  What a relief to realize that God is God and you’re not. That will let you sleep at night!
 
Let me suggest what this really means:
 
He can put you exactly where he wants you to be.
 
He can arrange all the details years in advance.
 
He can open doors that seem shut tight.
 
He can remove any obstacle that stands in your way.
 
He can take your choices and fit them into his plan so that you end up at the right place at just the right time.
He can even take your mistakes and bring good out of them.
 
He can take tragedy and use it for your good and his glory.
 
All he needs, in fact the only thing he requires, is a willing heart. He just needs you to cooperate with him. This doesn’t mean that you won’t have to make decisions.  But it does take the pressure off, because it means that you can trust God to take your decisions and use them to accomplish his will in your life.
 
We’ve been looking at some of the more well-known names in the Old Testament to illustrate our truths about knowing and doing God’s will.  So far we’ve looked at Job who did God’s will and Jonah who didn’t do God’s will.  Today I want to look at the life of a man named Gideon who helps us with how to be sure we’re making the right decision.
 
1. Israel’s Situation
 
His story is found in the book of Judges at chapter 6. When we talk about a judge, we immediately have images of the courtroom in our mind. We think about a court of Law with jurors hearing cases and listening to attorneys and a judge who presides. But that is nothing at all like the judges in the biblical book of Judges.
 
In the history of Israel, after the time of Moses and Joshua, and before the reign of the kings, there is a window of time that is known as the time of the judges.
 
The Hebrew term that is rendered “judge” is a word that actually deliverer. The kind of judge that we’re talking about here was someone who was chosen by God to protect, to preserve, and to deliver or rescue Israel from its enemies.
 
So the judges aren’t legal experts or lawyers who were known for their brilliance. They really were known for their military feats and their ability, by the power of God to conquer the enemies and protect the people of Israel. They do some governing and leading, but more like the general of an army than any politician or monarch.
 
And the book of Judges is a record of Israelite history during the time when judges were ruling.  It is a 350 year period of time when Israel lives side by with idolaters in a cycle of rebellion, punishment, deliverance; rebellion, punishment, deliverance. In fact, in the book of Judges, that happens seven times.  It happens to every generation.
 
Over and over Israel falls away from the Lord; they are punished by the Lord, and then return to the Lord.  Every time, that return is initiated by a deliverer.  By the way, they are all pictures of the coming Messiah Who will one day come and return them unto Himself.  That is the role of the judges.
 
There is a characterization of the whole period given in the last verse of Judges.
 
Judges, 21:25
 
There we find one of the keys to understanding the book of Judges.  Everybody was doing what they thought was right in their own eyes.
But what they were doing was wrong in the Lord's eyes.  This means that Israel had moved its center of authority.   Instead of looking to God as their final and fixed authority they had made a shift in their thinking and they had come to the position that every man was his own authority and that absolute standards of right and wrong no longer existed.  Or to put it another way, they were not doing God’s will.  They were doing their will.
 
As result of this, Israel found itself engulfed and swarmed by a Canaanite culture.  There is a New Testament warning of that danger in Romans 12:1-2 where we are reminded to not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our mind, demonstrating the good, perfect and acceptable will of God.
 
So everyone is doing what they want to do and they become corrupted with the pagan culture around them and as a result, all through the book of Judges we see the decline, the collapse and the fall of the Children of Israel.
 
Now we discover in the first few verses of chapter six that for seven years they were bordered by the Midianites and Amalekites.  That means for seven years there had been this constant terrorizing onslaught coming from these two groups of people.
 
They raided Israel’s land. They destroyed their crops. They stole their livestock. They killed people. They were so formidable a threat that the people wound up hiding from them in the mountains and in caves.
 
 
They would have to do their daily work in some hidden place because they would be raided by these people. And this perpetual dread had gone on for seven years. Finally they cry out to God for help. “We need help.” And help comes.  At verse 11, the focus moves from the big picture to a close-up shot of a man named Gideon.
 
2. Gideon’s Confirmation
 
verse 11
 
The Angel of the Lord came. Now I would say, “That’s help at the highest level!  The Angel of the Lord appears to him.  By the way, whenever you see an appearance of the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament, it is generally a reference to God appearing in the flesh.
 
It is what is known in theology as a “Christophany”, a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ.  This is God in the flesh long before Jesus was ever born into the earth.  He appears as a man.   I say that because Gideon doesn’t seem to be shocked or panicked.  As he is working, there is suddenly a man there in the winepress with him and he has a conversation with him.
 
And there in the winepress, the Lord selects Gideon to be the answer to deliver Israel from the Midianites and the Amalekites.  Now there are all kinds of things that are unusual about that statement.  First of all, the Lord appears to Gideon in the winepress while he is winnowing wheat.
 
A winepress is an enclosed area, a deep pit where you stamp out grapes. You don’t winnow wheat in a winepress because you winnow wheat on a hilltop.
You need to be out in the open air so you can throw the grain in the air and let the wind drive the chaff away. What is he doing trying to sift wheat in a winepress?
 
Notice verse 11
 
He’s doing it in order to save it from the Midianites.
He can’t even do his work where he can be seen or he will be raided and they will steal his wheat. So he goes down into this winepress and tries to do his work there, fearing the enemy who is always on the horizon trying to spot him, and if need be kill him and take away his wheat.
 
So he’s in an odd place.  Then notice what the Lord says to him in verse 12
 
Now that surely got a snicker out of him, “O valiant warrior.”  Some valiant warrior!  He’s hiding in a hole in the ground trying to winnow his wheat because he’s so afraid of his enemies!
 
Well, Gideon doesn’t get it.  Notice what he says in
 
verse 13
 
“If the Lord is with us”, then why has this all happened to us and where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about like the miracles of Egypt, the plagues, parting The Red Sea, water out of the rock and manna? Where are the miracles?
 
Now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian. If the Lord is with us, something isn’t right here. And then he says in verse 15, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the weakest in my father’s house?”
 
Obviously, this is not a man with great faith. He is the farthest thing in the country from a valiant warrior.  This is a man of weakness; yet the angel calls him a man of valor, not because of what he was, but it’s what he would become.
 
And in verse 16, “The angel of the Lord says, ‘Surely I shall be with you and you will defeat the Midianites as one man.’” In other words, collectively, all of them as one, you will defeat.  Well, Gideon is a doubting coward, so he demands a sign fom God.
 
verses 17-23
 
After a time of personal cleansing and sacrifice and assurance, Gideon asks God for another sign, a reassurance that he is doing what he is supposed to be doing.  He still has some doubt.  He’s not sure about this thing.  So he asks God for a confirmation.
 
Verses 36-40
 
This is the concept called “laying a fleece” before the Lord.  Now for those who want to do God’s will, there is something very appealing about that story.  I have
a feeling that if you've been a Christian for any period of time, probably you have already done this.
You've put out the fleece.  It’s basically asking God to help you make a decision by fulfilling a certain condition.
"Lord, if you want me to have this job I pray that the phone will ring when I get home from church tonight."   How many of you have ever done that?
 
"If this is what you want me to do, let this happen."  "If it rains in the morning I'll know that you are not in it."  Ever done that?  Most Christians have done that.  There's something appealing about that.
 
Putting out the fleece kind of gets things in the realm of the seen and tangible.  You can see this.  Now I want to remind you, the Bible says we walk not by sight, but by faith.  But we sure do enjoy it better when we can see it.  We feel a little more comfortable.
  
I think that thing I like about fleeces is that they let me kind of retain control.  We can tell the Lord what to do.  We're in control.  "Lord, you do this and thus and I'll..."   You're running things. There's something appealing about that.  But let me point out a couple of things from Gideon’s experience that we need to keep in mind.
 
Gideon had already been told what to do.  Did you notice what he said in verse 36?  There was no question about what God wanted Gideon to do. It was crystal clear.  God doesn’t stutter.  God had already spoken.  He already had God's word on it.  In fact, it had already been confirmed with fire.
 
Shouldn’t God’s word be enough to guide you, no questions asked?  Do you really need circumstances, which are unreliable at best, to tell you what you should do in a given situation?
 
 
It's dangerous when you start depending on outward circumstances or happenings to be your guide to discern the will of God.  Some old boy says, "Lord, I need a wife.  Real bad.  How about you at church tonight, sending the girl I'm supposed to marry and have her to come right down here and sit right down by me."
 
Sure enough in a little while here comes Esmerelda Bumgartner, all 300 pounds of her, level-headed farm girl that she is, with snuff running out both corners of her mouth, with a pimple on her nose  and if you could bottle her b.o. you could win a third world war, and she sits down right beside you.  You say, "Lord, let's try it over on this other side."
 
How can you ever be sure when all you have to go by is a fleece of wool or some circumstance?  You have to have more than that to go on.  You don't want to go by outward circumstances that don't give you a great deal of assurance when God has already given His Word on the matter.
 
Now, I’ll give Gideon the benefit of the doubt, Gideon hadn’t known God very long and he just wanted to make sure he got it right. And there is a companion thought to all of this that that is very assuring.
 
3.  God’s Affirmation
 
God did what Gideon asked.  In fact, over and over and over again, He gives Gideon affirmations of His instruction.  Sometimes God does that!  Sometimes God will just stoop to our level of faith.  Sometimes God just knows our frame and remembers we are dust.  Sometimes God will step down to our level.
 
I'm not recommending the method but sometimes God will just accommodate himself to our weak faith.
But here’s the point:  why should you need the fleece when you already have seen the fire?  Why should you need God to fulfill some circumstance or condition when He has already sent His Son Jesus and already given you a wonderful book - the Bible.
 
You have a guide book.  The Bible says "He will guide you by his counsel."  The Bible says, "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path."  You have a guidebook.  In this book He will sometimes give you definite commands and other times he will give you general principles.  Study the Word and find out what the Lord has said. You have a guide book.  But as a born-again child of God you not only have a guide book, but you also have a guide.  Jesus said in John 16:13 - "When he the spirit of truth shall come, he will guide you into all truth."
 
We have a guide book and we have a personal guide on the inside and when you get the Bible and the Holy Spirit together then God will arrange the circumstances and lead you in His perfect will.  So how can we know for sure we’re making the right decision?  Obviously God doesn’t come down and visit it us personally as He did with Gideon.  Let me wrap up this message by sharing four simple principles that can help you as you seek to do God’s will.
 
4.  Practical Application
 
Principle #1: Use all the resources you have available to make wise decisions.
 
Sometimes people talk as if you shouldn’t use your brain at all but should wait for some mystical sign from God. I know the Bible says, “lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5), but that doesn’t mean to throw your brain away either.
 
It simply means that after doing all your research on a given decision, submit it to God and ask for his help. If you need to make a major decision, don’t wait for the angels to knock on your door. Use your head, study the situation, gather the facts, talk to your friends, seek godly counsel, and then submit it all to the Lord.
 
Principle #2: Since you can’t know the future, you’ll rarely have 100% certainty about most decisions.
 
I’ve already mentioned that this is perhaps our greatest stumbling block because we want 100% certainty, but in a fallen world that’s hard to come by. Many people believe they must be 100% certain of God’s will before they make a decision. I can understand their thinking.
 
After all, if you are facing a life-changing decision like marriage or a career change or whether or not to begin chemotherapy, you’d like to know in advance beyond any doubt that you are doing what God wants you to do.
 
All too often that leaves us paralyzed by an inability to make up our minds. Some decisions are so important they can’t be left to chance. As the popular saying goes, “When in doubt, don’t.”
 
If you aren’t sure about the new job, don’t take it, don’t make the move, don’t say yes, don’t make any decision with less than total certainty.  But is that good advice? Is it realistic? Is that the way God normally works?
 
Did Noah know all about the flood? No, but he built the ark anyway.
 
Did Abraham have a road map? No, but he left Ur of the Chaldees anyway.
 
Did Moses understand what it meant to lead God’s people out of Egypt? No, but he said yes when the Lord called him.
 
Did Joshua know how the walls were going to come tumbling down? No, but he marched around Jericho anyway.
 
Did young David have a clue of what was to come when Samuel said to Jesse, “This is the one"? No, but the Spirit of the Lord came upon him anyway.
 
Did Jehoshaphat know how God was going to defeat the Ammonites? No, but he put the singers at the front of the army and sent them out to battle anyway.
 
We could add a hundred other examples from the Bible! Did the three Hebrew children know how they would be delivered? Was Daniel totally sure the lions would welcome him dropping in on them? Did Peter know he could walk on water? Did Paul know what would happen when he finally got to Rome?
 
Did Gideon fully grasp God’s plan to defeat the Midianites? No, he doubted it from the beginning, but God delivered his people anyway.
 
Read the rest of the story and you will discover, God did some amazing things with Gideon’s willingness.  Had God given Gideon all the details in advance, I daresay he would have never been obedient.
 
When he hears that the Midianite invaders have returned, Gideon summons the men of Israel to fight and 32,000 men respond.
 
No doubt they had some men who worked out a battle strategy; he was a farmer, after all. But he is going to be the general of this occasion because God is going to put him in that position and mightily strengthen him. God has a different strategy, however.
 
I don’t know what they planned, we don’t know; it’s not revealed in Scripture. But they are camped across the valley from their enemies when the Lord comes to Gideon.
 
7:2-3
 
Why did they come in the first place? Probably peer pressure. Father and his sons, brothers, uncles, relatives were all going and when they were given an out; 22,000 of them took it and 10,000 remained.
 
So now God is limiting the army down from 32,000 to 10,000. Downsize the army and get ready for victory. Strange strategy.  So now he has 10,000 warriors.  But at least they have chosen to be there.
But God says that’s too many.
Verses 4-5
 
Of the 10,000 remaining warriors, 9,700 of them knelt to drink.
 
Verse 7
 
What is the significance? I have no idea. I don’t think it has any spiritual significance. It doesn’t have any military significance. It doesn’t have any kind of significance. That’s all I can say. The point is not what that meant; the point is that there were 300 people who didn’t do it the conventional way, and that’s how God got down to the 300.
 
Well, Gideon is seriously terrified by this. His power has been reduced from 32,000 to 300. That’s a significant kind of reduction. So a third time God gives him a sign to calm his cowardly nerves.
 
Here’s what God tells him to do: Sneak into the Midianite camp. Whoa! That is asking a lot out of a cowardly farmer!  It’s a frightening demand but he does it and he overhears two enemy soldiers, and they’re having a conversation in the dark.
 
First soldier tells about a weird dream he had the night before in which a loaf of bread rolls down into the Midianite camp and knocks down a tent. That’s what he dreamt about. And the second soldier gives an interpretation.
 
chapter 7:14
 
These guys are scared to death all because of a loaf of bread rolling down the hill!
 
After hearing the dream and the terror in the enemy soldier’s voice, Gideon sneaks back and now begins to really believe the Lord is going to give them the victory.
 
In the deep darkness of the night, Gideon’s 300 men are divided into three companies of one hundred, one hundred and one hundred, and they’re instructed to take their weapons which are trumpets, torches and empty pitchers, surround the Midianite camp on the hills above them, blow the trumpets, smash the pitchers to the ground, and hold up the blazing torches in the night. And then they are to shout, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon.”
 
And they did it. And with the cry, the silent stillness of the black night is shattered with blasting trumpets, smashing pitchers, blazing torches, yelling soldiers. And it appears to the Midianites as if every one of those 300 is at the head of an entire battalion. Beyond that, the noise, the shock in the middle of the night--they are dazed; they are disoriented; they are half asleep; and the Midianites panic and they think the soldiers are pouring into their camp.
 
And in the depth of the darkness of the Midianite camp, unable to distinguish friend from enemy, they grab their swords and they slash the path of escape through their own army and they slaughter their own army.
 
chapter 7:21-22
 
And the rest of Judges 7 and 8 describes the victorious pursuit of Gideon as he and the three hundred drive the Midianites out of Israel for good.
In fact, for the rest of the lifetime of Gideon there was peace for the Hebrew nation.
 
Judges 8:28
 
Amazing what God did with a weak coward, isn’t it?
 
Now here is what I notice about the story of Gideon.  His trust in God was an ever-evolving and growing commodity.  He asks for signs and confirmations and he has doubts and he is far from certain but God got him to the place of victory.
 
That happens in our life as well as we grow and mature and learn to trust God.  That’s why I’ve said to you time and time again, we must return to our foundational truths:  There is a God and He is good and He can be trusted.  He is in control of every detail of every circumstance.  We don’t have to know everything about everything because we know He does!
 
Do you have to have absolute certainty about every decision you make?  The answer is always no. The life of faith means living with uncertainty even in the midst of doing God’s will. That’s the whole point of Hebrews 11.
 
Those great men and women didn’t know the future, but they trusted God anyway, sometimes in the face of great personal suffering. And because they kept on believing when circumstances turned against them, they received a great reward.
Too many people want what God has never promised–100% certainty before they will act. So they wait and hesitate and ruminate. And they refuse to go forward because they are waiting for 100% certainty. That leads me to this important observation: It is rarely God’s will to give you 100% certainty before you make an important decision.
 
Principle #3: God wants guidable people who will trust him with the details of life.
 
Guidable people look to God and not to themselves. That is, they understand that after they have done all they can, it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Like young Samuel, they say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
 
Like Isaiah they cry out, “Here am I, Lord, send me.” Like the Lord Jesus they pray, “Not my will but thine be done.”
 
Let me share a secret with you. Guidable people always receive guidance from God. Always. Why? Because God always speaks loud enough for a willing ear to hear.
 
Did you ever stop to think about how far God brought Gideon?  When they first meet, Gideon is a cowardly farmer hiding in the cellar!  By the time the experience is over, the people want to make him king!  How did that happen?  He let God guide him.
 
Are you a guidable Christian? Or do you still feel like you have to be in the driver’s seat of life? If you are struggling with this, let me suggest these two simple prayers:
 
1) “Lord, let your will be done even if it means that my will is not done.”
 
2) “Lord, right now I’m not sure I want to do your will. But I am willing to be made willing. Do whatever is necessary to change my heart. Amen.”
 
Principle #4: When the time comes, make the best decision you can and leave the results with God.
 
When the time to decide comes, when you’ve thought about it, prayed about it, talked it over, sought godly counsel, researched your options, looked at the circumstances, searched the Scriptures, and waited on the Lord, when you’ve done everything you know how to do and the moment of truth comes, take a deep breath, close your eyes if you need to, and then just go ahead and make the best decision you can make.
 
When you’ve done that, there’s one other thing to do-leave the results with God. Remember he’s God and you’re not. His purposes will stand.  Ultimately, Gideon had to leave the cellar.  He had to step out in faith.  He had to sneak to the enemy’s camp.  He had to trust there was victory in breaking pitchers and waving torches.
 
I’ve already said that he wants you to know his will more than you want to know it. Knowing God’s will is his problem, not yours. If you truly want to do God’s will, you will do it.
 
Listen to this quote I came across:  “God has enough trouble getting us to do his will, without making it hard to find.”
If you are willing to be guided by God, you will discover that he will lead you step by step by step. In the end you will be what he wants you to be, you will go where he wants you to go, and you will do what he wants you to do. This is God’s promise to guidable Christians who are willing to do his will.
 
Dallas Willard began teaching philosophy at USC back in 1965.  He was a conservative Christian who wrote and spoke extensively on what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  He died in May of this year.
 
A pastor attended a conference where Dallas Willard was speaking. This pastor met Dallas Willard and they chatted for a while. After the conference was over, his decided to write and thank him for his messages. To his surprise, he got back a nice letter of thanks. And that led to an occasional correspondence between the two of them. Not a lot of letters—just now and then staying in touch.
 
There came a time when the pastor was going through great difficulty in his ministry. People were unhappy about this or that, they were talking and sniping at each other.
 
And everything the pastor tried to do seemed to be stymied by the criticism of people inside the church.
He decided to go away for a personal retreat. While he was on the retreat, he resolved to write Dallas Willard and ask for his advice. So he started to write the letter.
 
Evidently he really got into it because he wrote page after page, just pouring out his heart, sharing the details about all the problems of the church.
He explained it thoroughly so that Dallas Willard could understand it in depth.  As the pastor told the story, he said, “I knew I was writing too much, but I just couldn’t stop.” He wrote and wrote and wrote. Finally his epistle was finished.
 
The moment he dropped his letter into the mailbox, he had doubts. And in fact he thought about trying to get his letter back but he knew he couldn’t. He hoped he hadn’t offended the great man whom he held in such high esteem by writing at such great length.
 
Days passed. Then a week. Then another week. And the pastor beat himself up mentally. “Stupid! I was stupid to write such a long letter. I’ll never hear from Dallas Willard again.” More time passed. A month came and went. Finally the pastor forgot all about it.
 
Then one day he got a letter in the mail from Dallas Willard. It came in a very thin envelope. When he opened it, there was only one page inside. And the letter itself contained only two sentences. It read like this:
 
Dear Friend,
    Thank you for writing. I think you should get up every day and do whatever you believe God wants you to do and not worry so much about what other people think.  In Christ,
 
    Dallas Willard
 
The pastor who told that story said that short answer told him everything he needed to know. It is a great advance spiritually to come to the place where you can do what you believe God wants you to do without worrying about what other people think.
 
Sometimes we just need to take the next step and let God take care of everything else. Life is a mysterious journey, full of unexpected twists and turns. The path ahead is a mystery to us all. No one can say for sure what is around the next bend.
 
It may be a smooth road through a lovely valley or we may discover that the bridge is washed out and we have to find a way to cross a deep river. Often the road will seem to disappear or it may suddenly seem to go in three different directions and we won’t know which way to go.
 
But there is One who knows the way because the past, present, and future are all the same to Him and the darkness is as the light of day. He knows the way we should go. He promised to direct your path and He will do it. You can count on it.
 
Let’s pray.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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