“If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:17).
MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, THE THING THAT DETERMINES OUR DISCERNMENT OF GOD’S WILL IS OUR INTENT TO DO HIS WILL. It is an honorable and necessary thing to love the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10), but our love for God’s truth must be active rather than passive. We must not only desire to know the truth; we must actually intend to obey it. And when we study the Scriptures, this motive is the main thing that determines whether we get the right answers to our questions. If we’re honestly looking for information that will help us improve our own obedience, then we have God’s assurance that we’ll get the information we need. On the other hand, if we’re looking for any other reason, then we’ll probably not discern the Lord’s will even when it’s right in front of us. Paul wrote, “And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:11,12).
Obedience is not something that can safely be put off until we’ve learned everything there is to know about God’s will. In fact, if we don’t do what we should about what we know at present, it is not likely we’ll learn anything beyond that. As Louis Cassels observed, “Obedience leads to faith. Live faithfully by the little bit of light you now have, and you will be given more.”
But there is something else we need to understand, and that is the role of obedience in helping us to understand what we’ve already learned. It is one thing to know something in theory; it is quite another to know it in practical experience. With regard to God’s truth, it is only in obedience that we pass from theoretical knowledge to practical understanding. By going ahead and doing what God says, we come to see that His truth is really true after all, and the wisdom of the right path commends itself to us not as we sit and think about it, but as we get up and walk in it. “We learn more by five minutes’ obedience than by ten years’ study” (Oswald Chambers). If we would be discerners of His will, we must “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).
“Obedience is the eye of the spirit. Failure to obey dims and dulls the spiritual understanding” (Samuel Dickey Gordon).