I read this excerpt from a letter John Newton wrote to a friend about discerning the will of God in our lives. How many of us want to know His will without having read His Word. In other words, we want a "Reader's Digest" version.
Let's face it, most of us have welcomed being able to microwave a frozen entree as opposed to cooking a meal from scratch. Cooking a meal from scratch requires that you actually plan ahead: create a grocery shopping list; make a trip to the grocery store; spend time in the lines at the grocery store; spend (sometimes) a great deal of time in the preparation of the ingredients; cook the meal; finally get to sit down and eat the meal; and then, you not only have the dishes that you ate off of to wash; but, all the pots and pans and utensils that you used in the preparation of the meal. Even if a home cooked meal tastes a thousand times better than a frozen entree; and, with a home cooked meal, you usually have lots of left overs to enjoy for another few days--most of us would prefer a quick microwaved frozen entree. Yes?
I can already hear someone saying, "Well, that all depends on who's doing the cooking and the cleaning up afterwards". Ah yes, it is those same people, who would say, "If you have read the Bible, I'll just go to you for answers to all my problems". You get my point, I'm sure.
We are products of our culture. Technology has made us lazy and creatures who desire immediate gratification with less effort, even if the end result is inferior. I fear we apply this same mentality to the Word of God and our own spiritual growth.
When we are faced with a life decision, we flip open the bible and look for guidance based on the concordance. We go to all of the passages that speak to a particular topic, without ever being familiar with the "big picture" the "whole counsel of God". Oh, how dangerous a practice this is.
Read this excerpt and see if it does not shed a great deal of light on how pathetic most of us are. It is amazing how God blesses and gives spiritual discernment to those who love His Word enough to actually read it from cover to cover, even when their life is going smoothly and they are not turning to it for "immediate answers".
They know the Word of God; they have read it--many. many times. They chew on it, they digest it, they love it and it feeds their souls. They may not have it all memorized, but when faced with life decisions, the Spirit of God can spark recall because it was once read.
Read this and see what you think. It blessed me tremendously. God's Word is a precious treasure. Let us never fall prey to wanting a "Reader's Digest"version or a microwaved substitute.
Upon the whole, though the Lord may give to some persons, upon some occasions, a hint or encouragement out of the common way; yet expressly to look for and seek his direction in such things as I have mentioned, is unscriptural and ensnaring. I could fill many sheets with a detail of the inconveniences and evils which have followed such a dependence, within the course of my own observation.
I have seen some presuming they were doing God service, while acting in contradiction to his express commands. I have known others infatuated to believe a lie, declaring themselves assured, beyond the shadow of a doubt, of things which, after all, never came to pass; and when at length disappointed, Satan has improved the occasion to make them doubt of the plainest and most important truths, and to account their whole former experience a delusion. By these things weak believers have been stumbled, cavils and offences against the Gospel multiplied, and the ways of truth evil spoken of.
But how then may the Lord's guidance be expected? After what has been premised negatively, the question may be answered in a few words. In general, he guides and directs his people, by affording them, in answer to prayer, the light of his Holy Spirit, which enables them to understand and to love the Scriptures. The word of God is not to be used as a lottery; nor is it designed to instruct us by shreds and scraps, which, detached from their proper places, have no determinate import; but it is to furnish us with just principles, right apprehensions to regulate our judgements and affections, and thereby to influence and direct our conduct.
They who study the Scriptures, in an humble dependence upon divine teaching, are convinced of their own weakness, are taught to make a true estimate of everything around them, are gradually formed into a spirit of submission to the will of God; discover the nature and duties of their several situations and relations in life, and the snares and temptations to which they are exposed.
The word of God dwells richly in them, is a preservative from error, a light to their feet, and a spring of strength and consolation. By treasuring up the doctrines, precepts, promises, examples, and exhortations of Scripture, in their minds, and daily comparing themselves with the rule by which they walk, they grow into an habitual frame of spiritual wisdom, and acquire a gracious taste, which enables them to judge of right and wrong with a degree of readiness and certainty, as a musical ear judges of sounds. And they are seldom mistaken, because they are influenced by the love of Christ, which rules in their hearts, and a regard to the glory of God, which is the great object they have in view.