Scripture: 2 Chronicles 6:28 “If there is famine in the land, if there is plague, blight, mildew, locust, or caterpillar; if their enemies besiege them in any of the settlements of the lands; whatever suffering, whatever sickness there is; 29 whatever prayer, whatever plea from any individual or from all your people Israel, all knowing their own suffering and their own sorrows so that they stretch out their hands toward this house; 30 may you hear from heaven, your dwelling place, forgive, and render to all whose heart you know, according to all their ways, for only you know the human heart.”
Observation: This is a prayer spoken by King Solomon over the entirety of God’s people after the temple was completed. The passage above includes a number of hardships that might afflict the people at some point. But in each case the assumption is that the people will have sinned if these things happen and so will repent and turn to the Lord. With such obvious cause=effect thinking, it wouldn’t be hard to know when the people had fallen into sin. Were it that simple for you and me.
Application: Some sin is obvious. We know about it. We’re aware we’re doing it, yet we do it anyway. But sometimes things aren’t so obvious. There are situations in which a person of faith can honestly be confused about what is and isn’t according to the will and ways of God. This has happened to me many times as I expect is true for you. We can deliberate and pray and discuss and search the scriptures – and still not be clear. I do not propose to offer a definitive solution to this problem, but I have learned a few things over the years I’d like to share with you. Some of you may not find this helpful at all, but some of you might. So, here are two important questions to ask yourself when discerning the will of God in a given situation:
1. Do I have peace about my actions? I’m not asking if a particular action is “easy”, I’m asking if you have peace on the inside about your path. Galatians 5 says that peace is one of the “fruits of the Spirit”. In other words, peace is something that blossoms on the inside of believers as we grow in grace by the power of the Spirit. The world can be a complete mess outside, but God continues to do a work on the inside of us as we pursue the Lord – however imperfectly. If you are continually conflicted about your path, feeling heavy burdens and/or guilt, that’s often a signal you are NOT on the right track. Not always, but often. Pay attention to your inner self.
2. Do I feel the need to hide? One of the first things that Adam and Eve did (in the book of Genesis) when they fell into sin is that they hid from God. On some level they were ashamed. They felt exposed – literally. They began to wear clothing to compensate for this. When we are regularly feeling the need to hide our actions from others, especially those closest to us, that should be a red flag for us. Again, it’s not always an indicator we are in sin, but it certainly can be.
So why should we be concerned at all? Isn’t “sin” an old fashioned idea – so last century? Aren’t we God’s children by grace alone, through Christ alone? Then what’s the big deal? The big deal is that, while we don’t derive our identity from our actions, our experience of life is massively influenced by the choices we make. God’s ways are often – on a very practical level – life-giving. Life just works better when we honor the will and ways of God. We avoid lots of “land mines” of life when we follow God’s commands.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we live in a complex world in which there are often no simple answers. It can be difficult to know if the way we’ve chosen is the right way. Give us grace to listen for your leading, choosing to follow as you would have us go. We ask this in your holy name. Amen.