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has a plan.
That is one of the great affirmations of the Christian Faith.
that plan each of us has a part. All the world’s troubles
and all our own troubles arise from our failure to discover
that plan and our part in it. God’s plan is the only
one on which either society or my life will work.
we speak of God’s will we too often think of nothing
more than His wish that we should be good and conduct our
life on honest and unselfish principles. It does not occur
to us that all the detail of our life---what post we take,
how we spent this dollar, the use we make of this hour,
whom we make friends with, every decision taken on wages
or trade policy--are all significant for God, and will,
in a really God-controlled life, be consciously related
to His purpose for us and the world. Yet the God we see
in the Bible is emphatically not the kind of parent who
says to His children at the beginning of a day: ‘Now
you can go where you want and do what you like so long as
you don't get your feet wet and do come back in time for
dinner.’ God has a more positive programme for us
and a more intimate concern in our lives than that.
is not only important for Him that Abraham should be a good
man, but vital that he should leave his family home in Ur
of the Chaldees and go to live in another country. A whole
section of God’s plan depends on whether Ananias is
prepared to set aside his fear, and pay that call in Straight
Street, Damascus. It matters just as much to-day where John
Smith, who has handed over his business to God, builds his
new factory, or where Mr. and Mrs. Jones decide to live,
now that they are letting God use their home. For God is
an Architect, planning a building--a building of reconstructed
lives and reconstructed society; and the place of every
brick is of importance. God is a General directing a campaign--a
campaign against evil; and the movement of each soldier
is vital to His strategy. He does not want children who
will just behave themselves and give him no trouble. He
wants willing cooperators who will allow Him to direct their
lives in every detail, and to fit them together as a living
part of His plan of reconstruction. It is when we are prepared
to seek the will of God at this level that we shall find
the answer to all our own problems, and the world’s
problems as well.
are in great need of this discovery to-day.
have tried our hand at the architecture of world-peace,
and have failed. We are in the grip of economic forces which
we can no longer control. The social structures we have
built are crumbling. It is the hour of disillusion and helplessness
and growing fear.
all this lies the breakdown in countless individuals lives.
There are growing numbers of men and women who cannot adjust
themselves to the strains and demands of life to-day. They
are the victims of anxiety. They fail to solve the problems
of sex, marriage, and home life. They are oppressed by the
sense of futility in a life for which they have seen no
purpose. They cannot understand themselves and are ill-adjusted
to their surroundings and their work. Their real trouble
is that they have been trying to run their lives in their
own way, by their own wisdom, and in their own strength.
such a generation, and to such men and women, frightened
by the growing demonstration of their impotence, the message
that God has a plan--detailed, comprehensive, adequate for
every situation and every individual--is like a great shout
of hope! With this discovery God comes right back into our
lives as an active God who has an intimate concern in the
smallest detail of our programme. It is He who is at work
directing affairs; we are taking His orders.
how can we actually receive this direction from God?
must look for the answer to another of the great affirmations
of our faith: God speaks. That is the tremendous
fact around which both the Old and New Testaments are built--not
that man can and may speak to God, but that God can and
does speak to man.
of us, of course, believe that God speaks to us in a general
way through Nature, through conscience, through reason,
through circumstances, or through other people. But the
Bible shows us a God who also speaks in a much more intimate,
personal, and definite way to those who will listen and
obey. The Old Testament is the story of men and women who
believed that God told them what to do and what to say in
national affairs and personal dealings. In the New Testament
a full relationship to God is described by saying that ‘we
receive the Holy Spirit’. If that phrase is vague
to us, it was not vague to the writers of the New Testament.
To those first Christians that gift clearly meant, not only
the purifying and strengthening power of God within them,
but his directing voice as well. He is the One who dictates
their decisions in council. As their Master promised, they
are given the words to say when called on to witness. Peter
on the roof-top is told to go down and follow the messengers
of Cornelius; Philip to ‘get up and go south along
the road from Jerusalem to Gaza’; and Paul is directed
not to enter Bithynia. Here is a picture of men and women
moving obediently under the effective guidance of God.
God less able to guide us to-day?
there are thousands of men and women now who are making
the experiment of seeking the same guidance in all the affairs
of life, and are finding that, right out beyond their own
powers of judgment and reasoning; God is able to give them
an inward certainty as to what He wants them to do. And
the results are incomparably better than when they ran their
own lives in their own way.
is what the head of a big manufacturing firm says about
the results: 'My first revolutionary guidance was that I
had to make a new price list. God showed me that it was
wrong to use varying discounts and secret agreements. He
also gave me the power to obey, because, as far as I could
see it would cost me my business. All the customers who
at lunch had got a secret agreement, would go away. This
new price list was made June 1, 1935, with the following
Increase in sales by L 3,000; (b) Increase in profit by
twenty per cent; (c) More orders than before by letter,
as customers knew what the best prices were and did not
wait for our salesman to quote special prices; (d) No fear
of being away from my business, because the youngest girls
can now give anyone the prices and conditions.
learned that: It is not a burden, but a privilege to have
God with me in my business, because God knows more of real
business than I.'
results in other spheres of life are equally remarkable.
An author recently told me that, following his decision
to give his life to God, he found that he was doing twice
the work in half the time. Now his 'reader' says that he
must re-write five chapters written before his surrender,
in order to bring them up to the level of those written
is another of the truths we are needing to lay hold on afresh.
The last generation relied on the adequacy of human reason.
Even religious people talked as though reason was itself
the voice of God. For the present generation that claim
has been disproved by growing chaos. The Bible knows nothing
of the adequacy of man's unaided reason. Our judgement is
distorted. Our reasoning is very often only an elaborate
means of justifying what we want to do; our decisions are
dictated by fear, prejudice, feeling, and our disguised
lusts. And none of us can we. the issues involved in our
simplest act. If we are to fit into God's plan for us, we
again and again to take steps for which it impossible at
the time to see the real reasons. can only hope to live
a life fully effective, possessing a real sense of security
and peace, if truth that 'God speaks' can be tested and
f true by us.
if we can prove by experiment that Goda plan for European
relations, for the coal industry, for unemployment, and
that statesmen, industrialists, social workers can get in
touch with Him and learn it? What if He has a plan for my
home, for my children's education, for my business, for
my future? Then, not only is there the chance that I and
a lot of people like me will find the solution of our difficulties
and troubles, but there is a chance that God, through lives
more fully under His con will be able to build up the kind
of world-order He wants.
God has a plan. God speaks.
if He is to be heard and His plan is to be known and carried
out, man must listen.
means a new approach to God for many of us. Our attitude
when we have prayed has been, 'Listen, Lord, for Thy servant
speaketh.' Our prayer has been what Canon Streeter classifies
as 'pagan' prayer-the attempt to bend God to our desires
and make Him the servant of our needs. We have made our
plans and decisions first, and then sought God's blessing
and assistance. Prayer, when it consists of this one-sided
address by us to God, becomes increasingly unreal and is
eventually dropped or only formally retained. Christian
prayer begins with the desire to know God's will for us
and be brought under His control. The promise that our petitions
will be answered is only to those who have first placed
themselves in line with His will. If God is to become for
us the living, active God, at work directing our life and
the world's, it is vital that we should learn how to listen.
is one condition to be fulfilled before we begin. We must
be willing to hear anything God says to us. It is useless
to seek His guidance in one area of life when we are not
prepared for Him to talk to us about a certain other area
with which He needs to deal first. If we want guidance about
our family, we may have to listen to some things God has
to tell us about ourselves, our character and habits. If
it is personal problems, worries, or health for which we
need direction, we may have to face what God has to say
about the way we run our business, or about our attitude
to money. It is all or nothing. Before you begin to listen
to God, you must get rid of any known reservations.
remember a man who complained to me that he did not get
any guidance when he tried having a 'quiet time.' A few
questions brought out the fact that, actually, the name
of his sister kept coming into his mind, but he had not
given it any attention. A few more questions showed plainly
why the name kept recurring. God was telling him to remake
a long-broken relationship. He had wanted other guidance.
It is often so, but guidance must come along God's lines,
aim, remember, is to put our lives under God's control,
and find out whether He can speak clearly enough in our
hearts for us to know the steps He wants us to take. In
all probability there are things in our lives which will
have to be cleared up before God can really take control;
and the first word God says to us will be about these. At
any rate let us begin by sitting quietly for a few minutes
thinking of our life in the light of what we already know
of God's will.
summary of Christ's teaching under the headings of Absolute
Honesty, Absolute Purity, Absolute Unselfishness, Absolute
Love, will help us. We shall not have been quiet very long
before we know that God is putting His finger here, and
here, where there has got to be a change, or where we must
go and put matters straight with someone else. Perhaps a
few minutes more quiet will make us sure at any rate of
the first practical step to take. Our first experiment is
we want to go on with it we had better carry out these first
orders which have come to us, for God can only continue
to speak to us if we obey. Disobedience blocks the line.
our first `quiet times' will bring us mostly these personal
convictions and steps. The way between us and God needs
clearing. It also needs keeping clear, and every day we
shall first listen for God's correction.
we are trying to discover whether God can direct as well
as correct us. Let us now make the experiment of bringing
under review some of our practical concerns.
have certain decisions to make to-day in our business or
our home. Let us quietly turn over in our minds all the
factors we know which should influence our decision, setting
on one side the thoughts that are prompted by fear or pride
or self interest, letting the thought of what God would
want penetrate deeper into our judgement, waiting for the
growing conviction as to the right step to take. If we are
prepared to do this patiently and thoroughly and to bring
under review all areas of our life--our business, home,
leisure, money, time, relationships, health--we shall be
surprised at what comes to us, the new certainty in our
decisions, the new sense of direction, and the growing assurance
that God is in control. A very busy housewife with a husband,
three children, and a martyr-complex previously found life
complicated and wearying. She now says, `I found when I
began to spend an hour daily in quiet, that far from taking-
up precious time and adding to an already heavy programme,
that hour became the simplifying, unifying, time-saving
key to the whole day.'
are two practical ways in which we can experiment. The important
thing is for us to make, each for himself, the thrilling
discovery that God has spoken to us. Once we have made that
discovery, God will shape our `quiet times' and develop
them until they express a full personal relationship with
Him, and include our thanksgiving, worship, petition, intercession,
as part of our life with Him. We are only talking now of
how to begin.
can we expect as we grow more experienced in this listening
to God? Probably the first thing we realize will be that
the whole level of our thinking has been altered. We shall
see that what we took for sound reasoning before was just
our human thinking, dictated by self-will, prejudice, fear,
or limited by the fact that we were leaving God out of the
reckoning. The judgement of a surrendered man who listens
to God is something more than human reason. It may often
seem, as Paul says, sheer folly to other people.
does not mean that, when we have a 'quiet time,' we resign
our reasoning powers. The idea that listening to God means
making your mind a blank is a curious misconception which
has hindered many people. It does mean that you leave room
for God to lead you beyond your human thoughts, and tell
you things you could never know yourself.
next thing we shall find is that we are able better to interpret
God's other ways of speaking to us through circumstances,
through other people, through the Bible. We arc learning
to know His voice in our 'quiet time,' and we recognize
it better elsewhere.
shall probably find also that from time to time there come
to us clear suggestions about something we should do, or
somewhere we should go. Often they have a strong, impelling
force about them, and if we neglect them they come back
insistently. I remember one day, returning by car from a
friend's wedding, I found that I had two hours to spare.
There is no doubt about the way in which they would have
been spent before I discovered that God has a plan for every
minute. The open moors were near by, and it was June. A
`quiet time' by the roadside, however, brought the clear
guidance to call on the editor of a daily newspaper, whose
house was a few miles away. The result, two months later,
was a leading article which made a real contribution to
preparing public opinion for a Christian solution to national
problems. That God does guide us in this direct way has
been proved far too often to be doubted.
course, every thought that comes to us in the `quiet time'
is not God's guidance. We need to test the voices that come
to us along a line that has been so long disused or blocked.
We have immediate cause to reject promptings which conflict
with what we already know of His will. Nothing which is
unloving, impure, dishonest, or selfish comes from God.
Other suggestions which come to us may have to be talked
out with some experienced person who knows how to listen
to God. In other cases we may have to wait for clearer conviction
in our own minds. Sometimes the only test is to make the
venture and act. We shall make mistakes. But an honest mistake
is of far more use to God than the timid inaction which
makes no venture. God never fails to use an honest mistake,
so that we and others learn from it more of His will and
how to interpret that will better.
guided life is a growth. Through the continuous experiment
of listening to God, more and more of our thinking and action
is freed from the guidance of self, hate, fear, indulgence,
prejudice, ignorance, and all other forms of sin, and is
made available to God.
this guidance does work. That is its final confirmation.
Listening to God takes time. It takes a lot more time than
the brief address to God which we call `saying our prayers.'
takes time because God has to get down through so many layers
of our human, self-governed, sindulled thinking before He
can communicate His thoughts to us. It takes time because
God leads us in 'quiet time' into the thorough constructive
planning of our life in partnership with Him. It is true
that God intends us to live in such contact with Him that
He can speak to us at any time; but the men and women who
have known Him best have invariably found that they could
not maintain that constant touch without daily time spent
alone and quiet with Him. No one can live a full and vital
Christian life who does not set aside a daily period for
this quiet fellowship with God. Most of us, when we say
we have not time, are simply dishonest. Some of us have
not realized how much time later in the day is saved through
added efficiency, through clearer selection of what is important
and what should be left, through the greater strength and
peace which come when we have listened to God and received
His directions for our day.
morning is emphatically the best time. The opening of the
day with quiet thought, planning, and prayer, is so obviously
the right start for the Christian that it hardly needs the
backing of the universal experience of the men and women
who have lived nearest God in every century.
all the objections from men and women in normal health resolve
themselves into an objection to getting up earlier. Their
difficulty is either laziness, undisciplined lateness the
night before, or a sluggish physical condition which will
disappear in a few weeks of new discipline and more careful
attention to health. But we are on a quest which must not
be held up by such things as these. We arc seeking God-controlled
lives and a God-controlled world. No second-best in the
time we give to listening to God will suffice.
long ought we to spend? That is a question which will decide
itself for every honest adventurer in God-controlled living.
As God carries a man out into fuller action and responsibility
the question is turned round. It is now, `How much time
can I get?' not `How little will do?'
practical hint is well worth taking. Use a note-book and
pencil. Put down the thoughts which come in 'quiet time.'
A typist who appeared minus her note-book when her employer
wanted to dictate letters, would not hold her post long.
It would not help her to plead that she could remember everything
without taking it down. There is no reason why we should
be less efficient with God. The Chinese say that the strongest
memory is weaker than the palest ink.
are, being called to prove effectively for our world to-day
that God has a plan-for the world, for His Church, for me;
that He can communicate it in definite, detailed, adequate
guidance to those who are willing to obey; and that His
plan is the complete answer to chaos, whether public or
price is our willingness to listen.