In a previous post called “Connecting the dots…“, I suggested that Scripture gives us certain points of reference, but does not always draw a complete picture as to how we should live, or perhaps even what we should believe. Similarly, in the post “Adding more dots…“, I suggested that we should make a distinction between Scriptural points of reference and man-made points of reference that we often find in creeds, confessions, and systems of theology. These two posts build a foundation in order to answer the question, “How do we live between the dots?” I answered this question in the post “Living between the dots…” We live between the dots just as we live near the dots, by living in the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
While I have already discussed the differences between scriptural points of reference (“dots”) and man-made points of reference, it is important to recognize the significance of the distinction. At any time in our lives, there are many voices screaming at us – different voices that want us to follow different paths. There are voices of Scripture, but there are also voices of tradition, experience, reason, friends, enemies, and, of course, spirits – both the Holy Spirit and evil spirits. And, we can’t forget what is perhaps the loudest voice of all: our own human nature. It is this natural human voice that tells us that we can do it, we can understand it, we need to be efficient and practical, we need to control things, we need to be right, we need to tell other people how to do things…
Which voice will we respond to as we live “between the dots”? The difference in listening to the voice of God over and against all other voices is not simply a matter of making a good choice. It is a matter of authority. Jesus said that His sheep hear his voice. Thus, when there are multiple voices screaming at us, we know that we can hear the voice of Jesus (assuming that Jesus is correct, and I do assume this). We know that Jesus is speaking and we can hear Him speaking… but, we can hear the other voices also, and perhaps their answers sound better, more natural, more practical, more pleasing…
So, at times, the dots seem to blur because of these various voices. As I said previously, there are both scriptural dots and man-made dots. But, this is not the only way that the dots are blurred. Those voices that are not God’s voices can also blur the dots. The point that we often miss (that is, the point that I often miss) is that the other voices – those voices that are not God’s voice – often sound better to us than God’s voice. Thus, it takes an active – not passive – perspective on our part to differentiate between God’s voice and all other voices.
For example, the children of Israel often looked for answers in the surrounding nations without considering what God was telling them through His Spirit:
“Ah, stubborn children,” declares the LORD, “who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation.” (Isaiah 30:1-3 ESV)
In this case, the Israelites did not listen to God’s voice, but instead listened to other, more practical, voices. They went with the strength of Egypt – which they could see – instead of the strength of God – which was spiritual, but just as real.
Even Paul heard the voice of his own human nature. But, with Paul, there was a difference. He refused to follow that voice and instead followed the voice of God, even though God’s plan was contrary to Paul’s own plan:
And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16:7-10 ESV)
Paul wanted to go to Bithynia, just as he had previously wanted to go to Asia (Acts 16:6). But, instead, he followed the Spirit as He led Paul to Macedonia.
Sometimes, the dots become blurred. It becomes difficult to tell the difference between scriptural points of reference and man-made points of reference. It becomes difficult to hear the voice of God over the other voices, including our own human voice. When the dots become blurred, this is the time to focus even more on the voice of God and living by the Spirit of God. This is when we should recognize that the practical, efficient, traditional, normal, expedient, logical, or obvious path may not be the path on which God is leading us. What are going to do? Are we going to following God and His Spirit, or not? Are we going to usurp God’s authority and His rightful claim on our lives or are we going to listen to His voice and surrender to His will? And, if we cannot hear His voice, or if we cannot differentiate His voice from other voices, are we willing wait on God?
In this context, the familiar words of this Scripture takes on even more meaning:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)
Can we trust the Lord to lead us between the dots and near the dots? Can we lean on Him when His way differs from what human nature tells us to do? Do we believe that He will lead us on the straight path, even if it looks crooked from our vantage point?
Have there ever been times when the dots have become blurred in your life? What happened when you moved ahead without waiting to hear God’s voice? What happened when you waited for Him and obeyed His voice?
“Connecting the Dots” Series: