12So when he had washed their feed, taken up his cloak and reclined again, he said to them, “Do you know what I’ve done for you? 13You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’ and that’s good, because I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also should wash one each other’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, so that you should do just what I have done for you. 16I tell you the absolute truth, a servant is not greater than his master, and one who is sent out is not greater than the one who sent him. 17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. — John 13:12-17
Throughout this week I’ve been writing these devotionals in the morning and then sending them right out. Some of you will have noticed them showing up later than they have in the past. Normally I write them ahead of time, occasionally days in advance and save them in a folder where my wife can take a look at them and then post them or write her own. But our grandchildren are visiting, so things are a little bit out of the normal.
As I was thinking of the devotional this morning, I read this post, which includes an excellent discussion of the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification–helping us to do what we know. It also reminded me of the following, from my just finished book manuscript When People Speak for God:
Sometimes I add this to my list of testsâ€“the obedience test. If we set out to obey God with all our hearts and minds, we will not ultimately be led astray. When we are led astray, itâ€™s because in some sense we have kept an agenda other than finding divine wisdom. (page 173)
I recall when I first thought of applying this as a test. I was driving an Indian pastor around the Pensacola area, showing him the sights, and just out of the blue (or so it seemed), he said to me, “You know, brother Henry, if you want to hear from the Lord more, you have to obey. The more you obey, the more he will speak to you.”
Wow! Did that ever connect with my ministry experiences. Over and over I’ve spent time praying with someone who was seeking God’s will. They wanted to know what God’s plan is for them here and now. In many, many cases it turns out that the person already knows what God wants them to do, but they’re just hoping they’re wrong and that God will send some different guidance. I remember one prayer ministry time at a church altar rail with a large number of folks seeking prayer. As leader of the ministry team, I had to stay aware of what was going on around me, and I could see one woman watching me, waiting for me to be finished praying with other people. Then she dashed forward. “I need you to pray for me. I need guidance.” What she wanted was permission to divorce her husband. It was pretty clear, however, that she didn’t believe she had Biblical grounds to do so. I got my wife over as quickly as possible and we prayed with her, but I could tell she was dissatisfied.
I know that there was a time when I was struggling with the Lord over an issue and it was resolved not when God told me something new, but when I realized that I knew what was the right thing to do, and so I needed no guidance. My prayers could be compared to a child repeatedly asking his parents for permission to break the rules. As soon as I realized what I was doing and simply moved forward to do the thing that I knew, the situation began to resolve itself and things became much clearer.
I don’t mean to belittle those who do not, in fact, know what God wants them to do. I’ve been there too. There are those times when what you have to do is wait for the Lord’s guidance. What you need to make sure of is that you don’t already know, and that you aren’t letting your agenda get in the way. Then you just have to live with that horrible four letter word that starts with ‘W’–WAIT!. I wish I could tell you there was a way around that, but I know of note.
It’s not easy to get from “know” to “do.” It’s easy to point the path out to others; it’s just not easy to do yourself. But the blessing lies in obedience.