Monday, July 8, 2013

Staying in God's Will

What a place of peace it is to stay continually in God's will each minute of every day.  Sound difficult?  It is actually not.  It's all of our own planning and self-prescribed work/expectations that puts stress and confusion on ourselves!  Here is an excellent excerpt from J.R. Miller that can help.  It's called "Finding Our Duties." It  is a restful way to live.  It means giving God your to-do list--all of it--and only doing each present duty as He gives it to you. One tiny thing at a time.  (Remember "Baby Steps" from the movie What about Bob?)  This little chapter was emailed to me by a friend and it helped me so much in learning how to rest in the Lord, give Him all my burden, and only do what He presents to me one little thing at a time!  Note:  I actually had this included in a prior blog post (Suggestions for New Year's Resolutions), but it was so long, it needed its own space.

Finding Our Duties: 

Some people have trouble in discovering God's guidance in everyday life. Perhaps the trouble is that they look for the direction in some unusual way, whereas, ordinarily, it is shown to them very simply. Duty never is a haphazard thing. There never are a half dozen things any one of which we may fitly do at any particular time; there is some one definite thing in the divine thought for each moment. In writing music, no composer strews the notes along the staff just as they happen to fall on this line or that space; he sets them in harmonious order and succession, so that they will make sweet music when played or sung. The builder does not fling the beams or stones into the edifice without plan; every block of wood, or stone, or iron, and every brick have its place, and the building rises in graceful beauty. The days are like the lines and spaces in the musical staff, and duties are the notes; each life is meant to make a harmony and in order to do this, each single duty must have its own proper place. One thing done out of its time and place makes discord in the music of life, just as one note misplaced on the musical staff makes discord. Each life is a building, and the little acts are the materials used; the whole is congruous and beautiful only when every act is in its own true place. The art of true living therefore, consists largely in doing always those things which belongs to the moment.

But to know what is the duty of each moment is the question which, to, many people is full of perplexity. Yet it would be easy if our obedience were but more simple. We have only to take the duty which comes next to our hand. Our duty never is some far away thing. We do not have to search for it— but it is always close at hand and easily found. The trouble is that we complicate the question of duty for ourselves by our way of looking at life, and then get our feet entangled in the meshes which our own hands have woven. Much of this confusion arises from taking too long views. We try to settle our duty in long sections. We think of years rather than of moments, of a whole life work rather than of individual acts. It is hard to plan a year's duty; it is easy to plan just for one short day. No shoulder can bear up the burden of a year's cares, all gathered into one load— but the weakest shoulder can carry without weariness what really belongs to one little day. In trying to grasp the whole year's work, we are apt to overlook and to miss that of the present hour, just as one, in gazing at a far off mountain top, is likely not to see the little flower blooming at his feet, and even tread it down as he stumbles along. There is another way in which people complicate the question of duty. They try to reach decisions today, on matters which really are not before them today, and which will not be before them for months— but possibly for years.

There is another way in which people complicate the question of duty. They try to reach decisions today, on matters which really are not before them today, and which will not be before them for months— but possibly for years. For example, a young man came to his pastor in very sore perplexity over a question of duty. He said he could not decide whether he ought to go as a foreign missionary or devote his life to work in some home field. Yet the young man had only closed his freshman year at college. It would require him three years more to complete his college course, and then he would have to spend three years in a theological seminary. Six years hence he would be ready for his work as a minister, and it was concerning his choice of field then that the young man was now in such perplexity. He said that often he passed hours on his knees at prayer, seeking for light— but no light had come. He had even tried fasting— but without avail. The matter had so taken possession of his mind that he had scarcely been able to study during the last term, and he had fallen behind in his classes. His health, too, he felt, was being endangered, as he often lay awake much of the night, thinking about the momentous question of his duty, as between home and foreign work. It is very easy to see what this young man's mistake was— he was trying to settle now a question with which he had nothing whatever to do at the present time. If he is spared to complete his course of training, the question will emerge as a really practical one, several years hence. It is folly now to compel a decision which he cannot make intelligently and without perplexity. It is very evident therefore that this decision is no part of his present duty. He wonders that he can get no light on the matter— but that even in answer to agonizing prayer, the perplexity does not grow less. But is there any ground to expect God to throw light on a man's path so far in advance? Is there any promise that prayer for guidance at a point so remote should be answered today? Why should it be? Will it not be time enough for the answer to come when the decision must really be made? It is right, no doubt, for the young man to pray about the matter— but his present request should be that God would direct his preparation, so that he may be fitted for the work, whatever it may be, that in the divine purpose is waiting for him, and that, at the proper time, God would lead him to his allotted field. "Lord, prepare me for what you are preparing for me," was the daily prayer of one young life. This would have been a fitting prayer for this young student; but to pray that he may know where the Lord will send him to labor when he is ready, six years hence, is certainly an unwarranted asking which is little short of presumption and of impertinent human intermeddling with divine things.

Another obvious element of mistake in this man's case is that he is neglecting his present duty, or failing to do it well, while he is perplexing himself with what his duty will be years hence. Thus he is hindering the divine purpose in the work his Master has planned for him. Life is not an hour too long. It requires every moment of our time to work out the divine plan for our lives. The preparatory years are enough, if they are faithfully used, in which to prepare for the years of life work which come after. But every hour we waste, leaves its own flaw in the preparation. Many people go halting and stumbling all through their later years, missing opportunities, and continually failing where they ought to have succeeded, because they neglected their duty in the preparatory years. There are more people who, like this student, worry about matters that belong altogether to the future, than there are those who are anxious to do well the duty for the present moment. If we would simply do always the next thing, we would be relieved of all perplexity.

The law of divine guidance is, step by step. One who carries a lantern on a country road at night, sees only one step before him. If he takes that step, however, he carries his lantern forward and this makes another step plain. At length he reaches his destination without once stepping into the darkness. The whole way has been made light for him, though only a step at a time. This is the usual method of God's guidance. The Bible is represented as a lamp unto the feet. It is a lamp, or lantern— but not a blazing sun, nor even a lighthouse— but a plain, common lantern, which one can carry about in his hand. It is a lamp unto the feet, not throwing its beams afar, not illumining a whole hemisphere— but shining only on the bit of road on which the pilgrim's feet are walking. If this is the way God guides us, it ought never to be hard for us to find our duty. It never lies far away, inaccessible to us, it is always "the next thing." It never lies out of sight, in the darkness, for God never puts our duty where we cannot see it. The thing we think may be our duty— but which is still lying in obscurity, is not yet our duty, whatever it may be a little farther on. The duty for the moment is always perfectly clear— and that is as far as we need concern ourselves. When we do the little which is plain to us, we will carry the light on, and it will shine on the next moment's step. If not even one little step of duty is plain to us, "the next thing" is to wait a little. Sometimes that is God's will for us for the moment. At least, it never is his will that we should take a step into the darkness. He never hurries us. We had better always wait than rush on as if we were not quite sure of the way. Often, in our impatience, we do hasten things, which we find after a little while, were not God's next things for us at all. That was Peter's mistake when he cut off a man's ear in the Garden, and it led to sore trouble and humiliation a little later. There are many quick, impulsive people, who are continually doing wrong next things, and who then find their next thing trying to undo the last. We should always wait for God, and should never take a step which he has not made light for us. Yet we must not be too slow. This is as great a danger as being too quick. The people of Israel were never to march until the pillar moved— but they were neither to run ahead nor to lag behind God. Indolence is as bad as rashness.

Being too late is as bad as being too soon. There are some people who are never on time. They never do things just when they ought to be done. They are continually in perplexity which of several things they ought to do first. The trouble is, they are forever putting off or neglecting or forgetting things, and consequently each morning finds them not only facing that day's duties— but the omitted duties of past days as well. There never really are two duties for the same moment, and if everything is done in its own time, there never will be any perplexity about what special right thing to do next. It is an immeasurable comfort that our duties are not the accidents of any undirected flow of circumstances. We are clearly assured that if we acknowledge the Lord in all our ways, he will direct our paths. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will guide you on the right paths." Proverbs 3: 5-6. That is, if we keep eye and heart ever turned toward God, we never shall be left to grope after the path, for it will be made plain to us. We are authorized to pray that God would order our steps. What direction in duty could be minuter than this? "He who follows me shall not walk in the darkness," said the Master (John 8: 12). "He who follows me." We must not run on ahead of him, neither must we lag behind; in either case we shall find darkness, just as deep darkness in advance of our Guide, if we will not wait for him, as it is behind him, if we will not keep close up to him. Prompt, unquestioning, undoubting following of Christ— takes all perplexity out of Christian life, and gives unbroken peace.

There is something for every moment, and duty is always "the next thing." It may sometimes be an interruption, setting aside a cherished plan of our own, breaking into a pleasant rest we had arranged, or taking us away from some favorite occupation. It may be to meet a disappointment, to take up a cross, to endure a sorrow or to pass through a trial. It may be to go upstairs into our room and be sick for a time, letting go our hold upon all active life. Or it may be just the plainest, commonest bit of routine work in the home, in the office, on the farm, at school. Most of us find the greater number of our "next things" in the tasks that are the same day after day, yet even in the interstices, amid these set tasks, there come a thousand little things of kindness, patience, gentleness, thoughtfulness, obligingness, like the sweet flowers which grow in the crevices upon the cold, and we should be ready always for these as we hurry along, as well as for the sterner duties that our common calling brings to us. There never is a moment without duty, and if we are living near to Christ and following him closely, we never shall be left in ignorance of what he wants us to do. If there is nothing, absolutely nothing, we can do, at any particular time, and then we may be sure that the Master wants us to rest. For he is not a hard Master, and besides, rest is as needful in its time, as work. So we must not worry when there come moments which seem to have no task for our hands. "The next thing" then, is to sit down and wait.

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