SEEKING GOD’S WILL

Scripture Reading: John 7:17; Matt. 10:29-31; 18:15-20; Rom. 8:14; Psa. 119:105; 1 John 2:27

If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. (John 7:17)

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31)

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:15-20)

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.  (Romans 8:14)

NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.  (Psalms 119:105)

But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.  (1 John 2:27)

 

I. THE NEED TO OBEY GOD’S WILL

Before we were saved, we did everything according to our own will. At that time we served ourselves and did everything to please ourselves. We would do anything as long as it pleased us or made us happy. However, now we have believed in the Lord and have accepted Christ Jesus as our Savior. We have acknowledged Him as our Master, the One whom we serve. We have acknowledged that He has redeemed us. We belong to Him and are of Him, and we are here to serve Him. For this reason, we need a fundamental change. We no longer should walk according to our preference; we must walk according to God’s will. After we believe in the Lord, the focus of our living changes. The focus is no longer ourselves, but the Lord. The first thing we should do after we are saved is ask, “What shall I do, Lord?” Paul asked this question in Acts 22:10, and we should ask the same question. Whenever we come across a situation, we should say, “Lord, not as I will, but as You will.” In making decisions or in choosing our paths, we should always say to the Lord, “Not as I will, but as You will.”

The life we possess has one basic demand—to walk according to God’s will. The more we obey God’s will, the happier we become within. The more we deny our own will, the straighter our pathway will be before God. If we walk according to our own will as we once did, we will not feel happy. Instead, we will suffer. After we are saved, the more we walk according to our own will, the more suffering and the less joy we will have. But the more we walk according to the new life and the more we obey God’s will, the more peace and joy we will have. This is a wonderful change. We should not think that we will be happy if we walk according to our own will. After becoming Christians, we will find our path filled with peace and joy if we do not walk according to our own will but learn to submit to and obey God’s will. Christian joy has to do with obeying God’s will, not with walking according to our own will.

Once we become Christians, we have to learn to accept God’s will and be governed by it. If a person can submit humbly to God’s will, he will spare himself many needless detours. Many fail and stop growing in life because they walk according to their own will. The result of walking according to our own will is nothing but sorrow and poverty. In the end we still have to walk according to God’s will. God always subdues us through things, circumstances, and the environment. If we have not been chosen by God, He will let us walk as we wish. But since we have been chosen by God, He will lead us to the way of obedience according to His way. Disobedience will only cost us unnecessary detours. In the end we will still have to obey.  (The desire to do the will of God is linked to the intrinsic value of who God is and the love that He has for us as He wants the very best for our lives.  God always has the good of being or the very best end for all his family which we have become a part of the day we were saved.  He has what is called disinterested benevolence which is love that wants nothing in return as a payback but his love has only one ending goal, the best possible life that we can ever have.  In short, God loves you and me with an everlasting love and even when we don’t respond to that love, he will always try to work things out in our life to give us an expected happy ending.  That happy ending is the will of God that we are speaking about.  It is not the will of a tyrant like some false religions such as Islam where Allah demands that his subjects sacrifice their lives in some kind of suicide bombing or fighting Jihad.  With Christians, the Will of God is never the foundation of our obedience to Him.  Instead, it is the Love of God that is the foundation.  So as you read this lesson about the will of God, don’t think of it as the same as the will of Allah, but like a loving father that is gently leading you into a life that will have the best possible results at the end.)

II. HOW TO KNOW GOD’S WILL

Our question now is how do we know God’s will. We often think that mortals like us could never understand God’s will. However, we should have the assurance that not only do we want to obey God’s will, but God Himself also wants us to obey His will. Not only do we seek to know His will, but God Himself also wants us to know His will. If God wants us to obey His will, He must first enable us to know His will. Therefore, it is God’s business to reveal His will to us. None of God’s children need to worry and say, “Since I cannot know God’s will, how can I obey it?” This concern is unnecessary because God always has a way to show us His will (Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.  Hebrews 13:21). We have to believe that God will always show us His will through the proper means. It is God’s responsibility to tell us His will. If we are submissive in our attitude and intention, we will surely know His will. All of us must learn to believe that God is eager to reveal His will to man.

What are the ways to know God’s will? A Christian must pay attention to three things in order to know God’s will. If these three things are in agreement with one another, we can be quite sure that it is God’s will. These three things are: (1) arrangements in the environment, (2) the leading of the Holy Spirit, and (3) the teachings of the Scripture. These three things are not mentioned according to the order of their importance. They do not necessarily have to be in sequential order. We are simply stating that these three things help us know God’s will. When the testimonies of these three things are in agreement with one another, we can be assured that we know God’s will. If one of these three things is not in agreement with the other two, we still need to wait. We must wait until all three agree with one another before we go ahead.

A. Arrangements in the Environment

Luke 12:6 says, “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?” Matthew 10:29 says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.” If one farthing could buy two sparrows, then by right two farthings should only buy four sparrows. But the Lord said two farthings could buy five sparrows. One farthing buys two, and two farthings buy four plus an additional one. This shows us the cheapness of a sparrow. However, even a cheap thing such as a sparrow is not allowed to fall to the earth if God forbids it. Although the fifth sparrow is an extra one that is given for free, no sparrow is forgotten by God. If our God does not allow it, no sparrow can fall to the earth. This clearly shows us that everything happens under God’s permission. If our heavenly Father forbids it, even a sparrow will not fall to the earth. (This helps us see the intrinsic value of the love of God.  His benevolence is that even with a sparrow there will be a best end.)

It is difficult to number a person’s hairs. However, the Lord said, “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matt. 10:30). No one knows how many hairs he has, and no one can count his own hairs, but God has counted and numbered our hairs. Our God is so fine and so exact!  (Can’t you just see the love of a God who even knows the number of your hairs?)

If God takes care of a seemingly worthless creature such as a sparrow, how much more will He take care of His children! If God takes care of something as minute as a hair, how much more will He take care of other things! Once we believe in the Lord, we need to learn to know His will through the environment. Nothing that happens to us is a coincidence. Everything is measured by the Lord. Our career, spouse, parents, children, relatives, friends, and everything have been ordained by God. Behind everything that happens to us each day is God’s sovereign arrangement. Therefore, we have to learn to read God’s will (as created by His love) in the environment. A new believer may not be that experienced in the leading of the Spirit, and he may not know that much of the teaching of the Scripture. But at least he can see God’s hand in the environment. This is a believer’s most basic lesson. (Look around you and when you consider the love of God, you can’t help but see his handiwork in all of creation and in the seemingly natural events of life, even in the environment around you.)

Psalm 32:9 says, “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.” Many times we are just like a horse or a mule, without understanding, and must be harnessed with outward bit and bridle by God before we can avoid mistakes. Have you ever seen a duck farmer? He has a long stick in his hand. When the ducks wander to the left or to the right, he herds them back with his stick. The ducks have no choice but to take the right path. In the same way, we can commit ourselves to the Lord and tell Him, “Lord, I am truly like a horse or a mule that has no understanding. But I do not want to make mistakes. I want to know Your will. Please harness me with Your bit and pull me with Your bridle. Once You let go of me, I will take the wrong way. Please guard me with Your will and direct me into Your will. If I wander away, I want You to stop me. I do not know many things, but I know what pain feels like. When I reject Your will, please come in and stop me!” Brothers and sisters, we must never belittle God’s arrangement in the environment. Even though we may have fallen into shame and may have become like a horse or a mule, we often can still count on God’s mercy to bridle us in time. God uses the environment to stop us from making mistakes. He forces us to have no alternative but to follow Him.

B. The Leading of the Holy Spirit

God’s hand is seen through the environment. But He is not happy to always guide us like senseless horses or mules. He wants to guide us from within. Romans 8:14 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” We are God’s children and God’s life is within us. God not only guides us through the environment but also speaks to us and guides us from within through His Spirit. The Spirit dwells within us, and God’s will is revealed to us through our innermost being.

The book of Ezekiel tells us that God will “put a new spirit within you” (11:19). Again it says, “A new spirit will I put within you…I will put my Spirit within you” (36:26-27). We must distinguish between “a new spirit” and “my Spirit.” “My Spirit” refers to the Spirit of God, whereas “a new spirit” refers to our spirit at the time of our regeneration. This new spirit is like a temple, a home where the Spirit of God dwells. If we did not have a new spirit within us, God would not have given us His Spirit, and the Holy Spirit could not have dwelt within us. Throughout the ages God has been trying to give man His Spirit. However, man’s spirit was defiled, sin-ridden, dead, and fallen in the old creation. It was impossible for the Spirit of God to dwell in man even though this was His desire. Man has to receive a new spirit through regeneration before he can be in the position to receive God’s Spirit and before God can dwell in him.

Once a new believer has a new spirit, the Spirit of God dwells in him. The Spirit of God spontaneously communicates to him His will; he spontaneously has an inner sense. Not only is he able to discern God’s provision in the environment, but he also now possesses an inward knowledge and inward assurance. We should learn to trust not only in God’s sovereignty in the environment but also in the leading of the Holy Spirit within. At the right time and when the need arises, the Spirit of God will enlighten us within. He will give us a sense and show us what is of God and what is not of God. (Many times this inner sense is stronger than our five senses because we just “know” that God has spoken to us in our spirit.  It is much like the day you were saved.  You knew that you were a sinner.  You knew that the penalty for sin was death.  You knew inside that Jesus loved you and died for you.  Then when you prayed to ask Jesus to save you, you know that he heard you even though you could not see, hear, or touch him.  It was the inner sense in your spirit that gave you this knowledge.  It is the same with the leading of God through the Holy Spirit.  As God begins to lead you, it will be a strong sense and a “rest” that will come as you have no doubt that it is God’s Spirit leading you through that “still small voice” inside your spirit.)

One brother loved to drink before he became a believer. Every winter, he would drink much wine. He even made his own wine. Later, both he and his wife were saved. He was not very literate and could not read the Bible very well. One day he prepared some food and wine and was going to drink as before. After thanking the Lord for the food, he asked his wife, “Can a Christian drink wine?” His wife said, “I do not know.” He said, “Too bad no one is here to tell us.” His wife said, “The wine and the food are ready. Let us go ahead today and ask others afterward.” He gave thanks again but felt that something was not right. He thought that, as a Christian, he should find out whether Christians can take wine. He asked his wife to take out the Bible, but he did not know where to turn. He was stuck. Later, he met someone and told him about this incident. His friend asked whether or not he drank the wine that day. He answered, “In the end I did not drink it, because the householder within would not allow me. I did not drink the wine.”

If a man has the desire to obey God’s will, he will find out what this will is. Only those who are callous about their inner sense will remain in darkness. As long as one has the intention to obey God’s will, the “householder within” will guide him. The householder that our brother spoke of is actually the Holy Spirit. When a person believes in the Lord, the Holy Spirit dwells within him. He guides the believer and becomes his Master. God reveals His will not only through the environment but also through the “householder within.”

There are two kinds of leading of the Holy Spirit. The first is an inner urging, as in Acts 8:29 when “…. the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.” and in Acts 10:19-20 when the Holy Spirit said to Peter, “Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.” These are inner urgings. The second kind of leading is an inner forbidding, as mentioned in Acts 16:6-7: “were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,  After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.” This is the inner forbidding. The story of the “householder within” is a case of inner forbidding.

In order to know God’s will, a new believer should be somewhat familiar with the inner sense. The Spirit of God dwells in the innermost part of man. Hence, the feeling of the Spirit is not something shallow or outward; it issues from the deepest part of man’s being. It is a voice that is not quite a voice, a feeling that is not quite a feeling. The Spirit of God within shows us whether something is according to His will. Provided we have the divine life within, we will feel right when we act according to this life, and we will feel terrible and uneasy within if we disobey and deviate slightly from this life. A believer should live a life that yields to this life. We must not do things that will take away our inner peace. Whenever we sense any unrest, we should realize that the Holy Spirit within is displeased with what we are doing; He is grieved. If we do something that is contrary to the Lord, we will surely have no peace within. The more we go ahead with it, the less peace and joy we will have. If something is of the Lord, spontaneously we will have peace and joy.

However, do not over-analyze your inward feelings. If you keep analyzing whether or not something is right, you will be totally confused. Some people continue to ask what the feeling of the Holy Spirit is and what the feeling of the soul is. They are always analyzing whether something is right or wrong. This is very unhealthy; it is actually a spiritual sickness. It is very difficult to bring a self-analyzing person back to the proper path. I hope that you can avoid such a trap. Actually, a person analyzes only because he does not have enough light. If he has enough light, everything will be clear to him spontaneously, and he will not need to waste his energy on such analysis. If a person is sincere in trying to obey the Lord, it will be very easy for him to sense the inner leading.

C. The Teachings of the Scripture

God’s will is not only revealed through the environment and made known through the indwelling Spirit; it is also revealed to us through the Bible.

God’s will never changes. His will is revealed through the various experiences of men of the past, and all these things were recorded in the Bible. God’s will is revealed in the form of principles and examples in the Bible. To know God’s will, one must study the Bible carefully. The Bible is not a book of simple records, but a book rich in content. God’s will is fully unveiled through the Scripture. One needs only to find what God has said in the past, and he will know what God’s will is today. God’s will never wavers. In Christ there is only one yes (2 Cor. 1:19). God’s will for us never contradicts the teachings of the Bible. The Holy Spirit will never lead us to do something today that He has already condemned in the Bible.  (A great man once said, “Duties never conflict.”  This means that the will of God for a man or woman to be a parent will never conflict with the will of God to be in some kind of ministry or religious duty.  The will of God will never contradict the clear teachings of the Bible.  A wife may feel the call of God to the mission field and if her husband does not feel the same call then if she divorces him to become a missionary she is doing so against the teaching of scripture. The same can be said of two parents feeling the call to some ministry as being a pastor or missionary and because of this call they abandon the duties of parents, leaving the child to himself and many times to the wiles of the Devil in the life of the child.  I have seen many families where the parents are in the ministry but the children have been virtually abandoned on the sands of time and their lives become a wreck.  Some children even wind up divorced or on drugs while the parents are “doing the will of God.”  The first principle of moral law is to see the intrinsic value of God in your life but also to see the intrinsic value of others, friends, neighbors, and your own children.  If serving God causes you to abandon your own children and allow Satan to have full sway in their lives then you have a misplaced sense of the will of God.  I have seen this very thing by personal experience in my own life and in the lives of relatives of mine. )

God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psa. 119:105). If we want to understand God’s will and His leading for us, we must study the Bible carefully and seriously.

God speaks to us through the Bible in two ways: One is through the teaching of biblical principles, and the other is through the promises in the Bible. We need the Spirit’s enlightenment to understand biblical principles, and we need the Spirit’s leading to receive biblical promises. For example, the Spirit may speak to us through the Lord’s commandment in Matthew 28:19-20 that all Christians should preach the gospel. This teaching is a biblical principle. However, whether or not it is God’s will for you to go to a certain place to preach the gospel depends on the leading of the Spirit. You still have to pray much and ask God for a specific word. When the Holy Spirit puts a certain phrase or verse within you in a powerful, fresh, and living way, you have a promise from the Spirit. This is how you identify God’s will.

Some believers use superstitious ways to seek God’s will. They open the Bible before them and pray, “O God, please move my finger to the verse which reveals Your will.” After they pray with their eyes closed, they open their Bible and point their finger to any passage. Then they open their eyes and take the verse before them as God’s will. Some childish believers try to know God this way. Because they are desperate, God will sometimes accommodate their ignorance and show them the way. However, this is definitely not the proper way. It will not work with most people, and it will not work most of the time. It is dangerous, and there is a great possibility for mistakes with this way. Brothers and sisters, please remember that we have the divine life and that God’s Spirit is dwelling in us. We should ask God to reveal His word to us through the Holy Spirit. We should study the Bible conscientiously and consistently and memorize the Scripture well. When needs arise, the Holy Spirit will use the passages we have read to speak to us and to guide us.

Let us now combine the three things spoken of above. There is no fixed order for these three things. Sometimes, the arrangement of the environment comes first, followed by the leading of the Spirit and the teachings of the Bible. Sometimes, the Spirit’s leading and the teachings of the Bible come first, and afterward, the confirmation in the environment. The environment is related especially to God’s timing. In seeking after God’s will, Brother George Müller always asked three questions: (1) Is it God’s work? (2) Am I the person to do this work? (3) Is this God’s time for such a work to be done? The first and second questions can be resolved by the teaching of the Bible and the leading of the Spirit. The third question is settled by provisions in the environment.

If we want to be sure that our inward feeling is the leading of the Spirit, we should also ask two questions: (1) Does this leading match the teaching of the Bible? (2) Does the environment confirm this leading? If such a leading does not match the teaching of the Bible, it cannot be God’s will. If the environment does not give any confirmation, we should wait. Our feeling may be wrong, or it may not be the Lord’s timing.

In seeking God’s will, we should cultivate a healthy fear of making mistakes. We should not be subjective. We can ask God to block the ways that are not according to His will.

Suppose someone has invited you to work, and you have the intention to do a certain thing, or someone has advised you to reconsider your future, etc. How can you know whether these things are according to God’s will? First, you should look at the teaching of the Bible. You should find out what God has actually said about such matters in His Word. After this, you should check with your inner feeling. The Bible may teach this, but do you feel right within? If your inward feeling is different from the testimony of the Bible, it proves that your inward feeling is not reliable. You should continue to wait and seek the Lord. If your inward leading agrees with the testimony of the Bible, you should lift up your head and say, “O Lord, You have always revealed Your will through the environment. It is impossible for my inward feeling and the teaching of the Bible to both point to one direction, and yet have the environment point to a contrary direction. Lord! Please work in the environment and line it up with the Scripture’s teaching and the Spirit’s leading.” You will see that God always reveals His will through the environment. Not one sparrow will fall to the earth if it is not God’s will. If it is God’s will, what you see outwardly will surely line up with what you see inwardly and what you see from the Bible. If your inward sense, the teaching of the Bible, and the environment are all clear, then God’s will for you will also be clear.

III. THE CONFIRMATION OF THE CHURCH
AND OTHER FACTORS

God’s will is revealed through His Word, man’s spirit, and the environment. God’s will is also revealed through the church. In seeking God’s will concerning a certain matter, you should be clear about the Spirit’s leading, the Scripture’s teaching, and the environment’s provision. As much as it is possible, you should also fellowship with those who know God in the church to see whether they will say amen to your guidance. This will give you additional confirmation concerning God’s will. These ones know God’s Word more, their flesh has been dealt with somewhat, and they are under the direction of the Spirit. Their spiritual condition allows God to speak His heart more freely through them. They will consider your condition in the church, and they will sense whether or not they can say amen to what you have seen. If they can say amen, you can be sure that what you have is God’s will. If they cannot say amen to it, it is better for you to wait and seek more guidance. As individuals, we are limited. An individual’s personal feeling, understanding of the Scripture, and knowledge of the environment may be wrong; they may not be that accurate. The church is much more reliable in this respect. If the other members of the church think that the “guidance” you have is not reliable, you should not insist on your opinion. Do not think that your “guidance” is always reliable. In such cases we should learn to be humble.

Matthew 18 speaks of the principle of the church. If a brother sins against another brother, the offended one should speak to the offending one while they are alone with each other. If the offending party does not want to listen, the offended party should take with him one or two more. By the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established. If the offending party still refuses to listen, the matter should be told to the church. In the end the offending one has to hear the church. We have to accept the feeling of the church. The Lord Jesus says, “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (v. 18). Because the church is God’s habitation and the beacon of God’s light, we need to believe that God’s will is revealed in the church. We should humble ourselves and should be afraid of our own judgment. This is why we need to fellowship with the church and receive the supply of the Body.

The church has a heavy responsibility before God. It has to act as God’s light. If the church is careless or if it does things loosely according to the flesh, it will be impossible to have such a thing as the confirmation of the church. The church can render an accurate and divine confirmation because it has become the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit. The church must be spiritual, and it must allow the Spirit to preside over it before it can be used by the Spirit to be God’s mouthpiece. The confirmation of the church does not mean a discussion among all the brothers and sisters in the church together. It means the speaking of a group of people who know God and who are being led by the Spirit. For this reason, the elders taking responsibility in the church, as well as those given to the Lord’s work, must have a certain amount of knowledge of spiritual things. Their flesh must be dealt with to a certain extent. They must be watchful at all times and have unceasing fellowship with the Lord. They must be full of God’s presence and must live under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Only then can there be accurate judgment, and only then will the Spirit give accurate confirmation through them.

Some people may quote Galatians 1:16-17, which says that when Paul received a revelation, he did not confer with flesh and blood, neither did he go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before him. They think that it is sufficient for them to be clear by themselves and that there is no need to fellowship with the church. No doubt a person with a clear revelation like Paul can be truly confident of what he sees. But have you received the revelation the way Paul received his? Even Paul received the Lord’s help and supply through other brothers. He saw the great light on the way to Damascus, fell to the ground, and heard what the Lord said to him alone: “Rise up and enter into the city, and it will be told to you what you must do.” He received the laying on of hands from an obscure brother named Ananias, and he also received the laying on of hands and the commissioning from co-workers in the church in Antioch (Acts 9:3-6, 12; 13:1-3). The words he spoke in Galatians 1 were to prove that the gospel announced by him was not according to man, but that he had “received it through a revelation by Jesus Christ” (vv. 11-12). There is no flavor of self-exaltation in such words. We should be humble and not intractable. We must not think highly of ourselves. The fact is that we are too far behind Paul to compare ourselves to him! Because we are the party involved, we are clouded by our own interests and subjectivity when we seek God’s will. It is difficult for us to see things clearly. This is where the church comes in; it can supply us and render us much help. This is why we should seek confirmation from the church when we are in need.

However, we should avoid another extreme. Some Christians are too passive. They ask the church about everything, and they want others to make decisions for them. This is against the principle of the New Testament. We cannot treat a group of spiritual people in the church as if they were the prophets in the Old Testament, asking them for advice in everything. First John 2:27 says, “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.  ” This anointing is the indwelling Holy Spirit. We can never replace the teaching of the anointing with the confirmation of the church. The confirmation of the church should not be regarded in the same way as one regards the words of the prophets. Its purpose is to confirm what we see so that we can be more assured of God’s will. It is a protection rather than a replacement of an individual’s pursuit of God’s will.

We should note one other point: This way of seeking God’s will should be applied only to important matters. As to the trivial affairs of daily life, we do not need to resort to such a method. We can make judgments according to our common sense. Our God has not eradicated our common sense. God wants us to make our own judgments concerning things that we can manage with our common sense. We need to employ this method only in seeking God’s will concerning the more important matters of our life.

In seeking God’s will, we must not fall into an abnormal state where the mind is blank and the will is passive. Hebrews 5:14 speaks of those “who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” We need to exercise our mind and will. We have to put our will on God’s side and co-labor with God. It is true that we should put aside our own will. But it is wrong to annul the function of the mind and the will, allowing them to be passive and void of function. Many people trust only in their intellect and not in God. This is a big mistake. But many people think that relying on God means that one does not need to use his mind. This is also a big mistake. When Luke wrote his gospel, it was “having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, ” (1:3). In Romans 12:2 Paul told us to ” transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” In seeking God’s will, we need to use our mind and our will. Of course, this mind and will have to be transformed and renewed by the Holy Spirit.

We need to briefly touch on the matter of visions and dreams as well. In the Old Testament God revealed His will to man through visions and dreams. In the New Testament there are also visions and dreams, but God does not use them as an essential means of guidance. In the New Testament the Spirit of God dwells in us and speaks to us directly from within. The chief and common means of guidance are the inward leading. God will lead us by dreams and visions only when He has something very important to say and it would not be easy for us to accept this leading under normal circumstances. In the New Testament visions and dreams are not the usual means of God’s leading. Therefore, even when we have visions and dreams, we should still safeguard ourselves by seeking the inward confirmation and the confirmation in the environment. For example, Acts 10 shows us that God wanted Peter to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Peter, being a Jew, would never go to the Gentiles according to his tradition. In order to turn him from this prejudice, God had to show him a vision. After Peter saw the vision, Cornelius sent three men to him. This was the confirmation in the environment. At the same time there was also the speaking of the Holy Spirit. These internal and environmental confirmations assured him that he was acting according to God’s will.

Of course, there are cases when one has little time to consider or wait. At such times one can prove God’s will immediately if the vision or dream is clear and obvious and the feeling within approves it; there is no need to wait for the confirmation in the environment. For example, Paul was in a trance when he was praying in the temple. He saw the Lord speaking to him and charging him to leave Jerusalem without delay. At first he reasoned with the Lord and tried to refuse. But the Lord said to him again, “Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.” (Acts 22:17-21). Later, Paul met a heavy storm at sea, and all hope of salvation was gone. God sent His angel to stand beside him and speak to him, telling him not to fear (27:23-24). These were all clear visions. But they do not occur frequently in the New Testament. God revealed things to His children in visions and dreams only when there was a special need. Some Christians have so many so-called dreams and visions that these are like everyday meals to them. This is a kind of spiritual sickness. It may come from some kind of nervous disorder, attack from Satan, or deception from evil spirits. Whatever the cause, this situation is abnormal.

In conclusion, God leads men by many ways. Everyone is different in his spiritual condition and needs. This is why God leads us in different ways. However, His main means are the arrangement in the environment, the inward leading, and the teachings in the Bible. We need to point out once again that when these three things are in line with one another, we can have the confidence that we have God’s will.

IV. THOSE WHO ARE QUALIFIED TO KNOW GOD’S WILL

Finally, even if we have all the right methods, not everyone knows God’s will. A right method is useful only when the person is also right. When the person is not right, even the right methods become useless. It is futile for a rebellious man to seek to know God’s will. If a man wants to know God’s will, he must have an inward yearning to do His will.

Deuteronomy 15:17 records the case of a slave who had his ear run through with an awl into the door. This shows that our ears have to listen to God’s word all the time if we are to serve Him. We should come to the Lord and say, “I am willing to thrust my ear to the door. I will incline my ears to Your word. I want to serve You and do Your will. I beseech You from my heart. I will serve You. You are my Master. I have an earnest yearning within my heart to be Your slave. Let me hear Your word. Let me know Your will.” We need to come before the Lord and plead for His word. We have to incline our ears and thrust them to the door. We have to wait for His commission and listen to His command.

Many times my heart aches over the fact that many people are looking for methods to know God’s will, but they have no desire to obey God’s will. They merely study such methods for the sake of knowledge. They have their own desires. They merely take God as their counselor and His will as their reference point. Brothers and sisters, God’s will is made known only to those who are determined to obey His will! “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God,” (John 7:17). In order to know God’s will, one must resolve to do His will. If you have an intense and absolute desire to do God’s will, God will make known His will to you even when you know nothing about the methods. There is a word in the Bible: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him” (2 Chron. 16:9). The literal translation of this verse is, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” His eyes are running to and fro, from here to there. His eyes do not run through just once. Rather, they run continually to and fro to see whether anyone’s heart is after His will. He will appear to those whose heart is completely inclined toward Him. If your heart is completely inclined toward the Lord and you say, “Lord, I want Your will; I really want it,” God will show you His will. He will not refrain from revealing Himself to you; He has to reveal Himself to you. We should not think that only those who have believed in the Lord for a long time can understand His will. We hope that every believer will offer up everything he has from the day that he is saved. This will pave the way for him to understand God’s will.

We should never think that it is a trivial thing to know God’s will. We are little worms in God’s eyes. It is a tremendous thing for a tiny person like us to understand God’s will! May we see that it is a glorious thing to understand God’s will. Since God has humbled Himself to make His will known to man, we must seek to know His will, and we must worship, treasure, and do His will.

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(Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  David Williams – site Admin.)

READING THE BIBLE

Scripture Reading: 2 Tim. 3:15-17; Psa. 119:9-11, 15, 105, 140, 148

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.   (2 Timothy 3:15-17)

BETH. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. (Psalms 119:9-11)

I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.  (Psalms 119:15)

NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.  (Psalms 119:105)

Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.  (Psalms 119:140)

Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.  (Psalms 119:140)

 

I. THE IMPORTANCE OF READING THE BIBLE

Every Christian should read the Bible because it is ” All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (2 Tim. 3:16). It shows us many things that God has done for us and the way He has led men in the past. If we want to know the riches and vastness of God’s provision for us, we must read the Bible. If we want to see God’s step-by-step guidance for men, we must read the Bible as well.

God’s speaking to man today is based upon what He has already spoken in the past. God rarely speaks things which He has not already spoken in the Bible. (This is why books like the BOOK OF MORMON or the QURAN are considered false teaching.  They don’t match any of the main thought of the Bible.  It is also why the books of the Apocrypha that Catholics use are also rejected by Bible scholars since they also contain thoughts and teachings which are foreign to the whole body of inspired writing in the 66 books that we call the Bible.)  Even though a person may be quite advanced in his spiritual walk, God’s revelation to him will still be confined to the words that He has spoken in the Bible. Hence, God’s speaking today is merely a repetition of His own word. If a person does not know what God has spoken in the past, it is difficult for him to receive His revelation in the present because he lacks the basis for God’s speaking.

Moreover, if God wants to speak something to others through us, He will also do it on the basis of what He has spoken in the past. If we do not know what God has said in the past, He cannot speak through us to others, and we are useless in the eyes of God.

This is why we need to let the word of God dwell in us richly. By letting His word dwell in us richly, we know His past ways and hear His present speaking. Only then can God use us to speak to others.

The Bible is a great book. It is a monumental work. Even if we spent our whole life on the Bible, we could only touch a part of its riches. It is impossible for a person to understand the Bible without spending time to study it. Every young Christian should do his best to labor on God’s Word so that when he grows old, he can nourish himself and supply others with the riches of the Word.

Everyone who wants to know God must study His Word in a serious way, and every believer should realize the importance of reading God’s Word from the very beginning of his Christian life.

II. BASIC PRINCIPLES IN READING THE BIBLE

There are four basic principles in reading the Bible: (1) Discover the facts, (2) memorize and recite the words, (3) analyze, categorize, and make comparisons, and (4) receive God’s enlightening.

We must follow the sequence of these four steps when we read the Bible. We cannot jump from the third to the first step or from the first to the third step. First, discover the facts in the Bible. Second, memorize these facts. We must know and memorize God’s Word accurately and exactly. We cannot afford to leave out or ignore any portion. If we do, our reading will profit little. Third, analyze, categorize, and make comparisons with the facts. After we have analyzed the facts accurately, categorized them properly, and compared them clearly before God, we will have the ground to take on the fourth point—God’s enlightening.

The Bible contains many facts that are spiritual in nature. When a man’s inner eyes are blind, he cannot see these facts. But once he discovers these biblical facts, half of the light contained in the Word will be his. God’s enlightening is just His shining upon the facts that are recorded in His Word. Discovering the facts is half of our job in reading the Bible. When we read the Bible, the first thing we have to do is discover these facts.

For example, gravity is a fact. The law of gravity existed long before Newton, yet for thousands of years no one discovered it. One day, an apple fell on Newton while he was asleep under a tree. Through this he discovered the law of gravity. There is no question about the existence of facts. The question is whether or not these facts have been discovered.

For example, the Bible mentions something in some places and does not mention it in other places. One place mentions one thing while another place skips it. One place says it one way while another place says it a different way. The same word can be in the plural form in one place and in the singular form in another. Sometimes the Bible emphasizes the Lord’s name while at other times it emphasizes a man’s name. Chronology is clearly mentioned in some places, but totally skipped and seemingly neglected in other places. These are all facts.

A person who is good at reading the Bible is surely a careful person before God. He cannot be sloppy or muddled. Every iota or serif of the Bible is unalterable. God’s Word says it, and it is so. The moment God’s Word is opened up, you should know what its emphasis is. Many people are very careless. They listen to men’s words carelessly and read God’s Word carelessly. They do not see what God’s Word emphasizes and are ignorant of the depths in His Word. The first thing a person has to do is discover the facts. Afterwards, he has to memorize these facts and analyze, categorize, and compare them. Only then will he receive light from the Lord. In this way he will get the supply and also supply others. He will receive nourishment and also nourish others.

This is why it is important to use the King James Version of the Bible because all other translations have been taken from the corrupted Westcott & Hort Greek which was purposely altered and changed to alter Biblical teaching and create a complete different meaning than the original Word of God emphasized and intended.  Three examples are the fact that the Holy Trinity is completely removed by leaving out the verse I John 5:7.  Another example of corrupt translating of the Bible is that the word Lucifer is removed from Isaiah 14 and replaced with the word “Morning Star” which refers to Jesus in Scripture.  Also, at least 4 times in the New Testament Jesus is called the occult word “capstone” in place of the original Bible term “foundation stone.”  These are only a few of the thousands of ways the Holy Bible was altered in every translation after the King James and why a serious student or reader of the Bible would never read any other version except the King James Version.  To read a more detailed discussion of this topic, please read Satan, Demons, necromancers, drunks, occult and Bible Translators writing modern Bibles and New Age Versions Replace Jesus with Satan.

Here I will give a simple illustration. If we read the Bible carefully, we will find the New Testament expressions in the Lord, in Christ, in Christ Jesus, etc. It never says in Jesus or in Jesus Christ. It only says in Christ Jesus, not in Jesus Christ. These are facts. We must memorize and jot down these facts one by one. Find where it says in the Lord and what the context is. Find where it says in Christ and what the context is. Find yet another place where it says in Christ Jesus and what the context is. If we know all these portions by heart, we can compare them. Why does it say in Christ in one instance instead of in Jesus? Why does one place say in Christ Jesus and not in Jesus Christ? Why does the Bible never say in Jesus or in Jesus Christ? What is the reason for this? When we analyze and compare the Scriptures in this way, looking to God for enlightenment, we will see something.

Once the light comes, everything will become very clear. Jesus is the name given to the Lord while He was on earth. Christ is the name given to Him after His resurrection when God anointed Him. “God has made Him both Lord and Christ.” Do you remember these words in Acts 2? Christ is the name given to Him in His resurrection. In reading Romans we find the words Christ Jesus, which mean that the Christ today is the very Jesus who was on earth in the past. Christ Jesus is His name today. (This is another place where new translations have altered the Bible by changing these words or leaving something out.)  This means that the Christ today is the very Jesus who was on earth before. His name before resurrection was Jesus Christ. This name implies that Jesus would one day be the Christ. Jesus was His name when He lived on earth as a man. These two expressions—Christ being once Jesus, and Jesus eventually becoming Christ—mean two different things. Moreover, we can only be in Christ, not in Jesus. We can only be in the Lord and in Christ Jesus, not in Jesus Christ. When the Lord was on earth, we could not be in Him. If we had been in Him when He was on earth, we would have taken part in His cross and His redemption. This is contrary to the truth. We have no part in His incarnation at Bethlehem. He was the only begotten Son of God, and we have no part in that.

How then can we be in Christ? First Corinthians 1:30 says, “But of Him [God] are ye in Christ Jesus.” It does not say in Jesus. After the Lord Jesus died and resurrected, we became joined to Him in His resurrection. Through His death and resurrection, God has made Him the Christ, and God has joined us to Him through the Spirit. We received His life at the time of His resurrection. Regeneration does not come through incarnation but through resurrection. Now we should be clear.

This is the way to read the Bible. This is how we study the Bible. First, discover the facts. Then memorize, analyze, categorize, and compare these facts. After this pray to the Lord and wait on Him; He will enlighten you and give you sight. These are the four principles of reading the Bible. We cannot skip any one of them.  And we cannot read from a corrupt translation of the Bible or all these meanings will be altered from their original intent as inspired by God.

Let us give another illustration. Consider the word about the coming of the Holy Spirit in John 14 and 15. In reading these passages, we must pay attention to the promise of the Lord Jesus and discover whether there are any special facts related to it.

John 14:16-20 says, ” And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. ” What facts can we discover here? These sentences first use He or Him but later change to I. There is a change in pronoun. Here is a fact: The words He and Him have been changed to I.

According to the four principles of reading the Bible, how should we deal with this passage? First, we should discover the facts. In this case, the pronoun change from He to I is a fact. Second, we must remember this fact. Third, we must analyze this fact. Here are two Comforters. The Lord says, “I will pray the Father, and He [the Father] shall give you another Comforter.” The word another in the expression another Comforter means this is the second one. “And He [the Father] shall give you another Comforter.” This means that the Father will give a second Comforter. If there is a second Comforter, there must be a first Comforter.

The first thing we can ascertain is that the Lord is speaking of two Comforters. The Lord said that the disciples already had one Comforter, but that He was going to give them another. What kind of Comforter is the second? “… that he may abide with you for ever.” Who is the He? The Lord Jesus said, “…world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.“ Why? “…for he dwelleth with you.” He was with them all the time. The world cannot receive Him and has not even seen Him. What about them? The disciples had seen Him; they knew Him. They knew Him because He was abiding with them all the time.

The Lord said, “…for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” After this point the pronoun He is no longer used. In the next sentence the Lord said, ” I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” In studying this, we find that He is I, and I is He. In other words, while the Lord Jesus was living on earth, He was the Comforter. The Holy Spirit was in the Lord, and the Lord was the Comforter. When the Lord was on earth, the Holy Spirit was in Him; He and the Holy Spirit were one. This is why He said that the disciples beheld Him and knew Him and that He was with them.

But then what happened? The Lord went on to tell them that another Comforter would come. Following His death and resurrection, the Lord said that He would come back to them and that God would give them the Holy Spirit. But how was this to be accomplished? The Lord Himself would come to them again in the Holy Spirit. He did not leave them comfortless. After a little while they would see Him no longer, but then they would see Him again, and He would abide in them. Verse 17 says, “.. he dwelleth with you.” Then verse 20 says, “I in you.” Thus, the I in the second section is the He in the first section. Once we see the change in pronouns, we see the difference in the two Comforters. The first section refers to the Holy Spirit in Christ. The second section refers to Christ in the Holy Spirit. He refers to the Holy Spirit in Christ. I refers to Christ in the Holy Spirit. Who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the Lord Jesus in another form. The Son is the Father in another form. In the same way, the Holy Spirit is the Son in another form. There is only a change in form. (And yet they are three separate beings at the same time that they are one. I John 5:7)

From this example we see that the first basic principle in reading the Bible is to discover the facts. If we cannot discover any facts, we cannot expect to receive any light from God. It is not a question of how many times we have read the Bible, but a question of the facts we have discovered through our many times of reading.

Paul was a person who knew how to discover facts. Consider what he said in Galatians 3. He saw from Genesis that God would bless the nations through the seed of Abraham. God used the word seed in its singular form, not in its plural form. This refers to Christ. First, Paul discovered this fact. He saw that the nations would be blessed through the seed of Abraham, and he saw that this was a unique seed. From this he realized that this seed referred to Christ. If it had been plural, it would have referred to the many children of Abraham, that is, the Jews, and the meaning would be completely different. Paul read the Scripture thoroughly and discovered the facts.

In the Bible there are many facts. Whether or not a person is rich in God’s Word depends on how many facts he has discovered. The more facts he discovers, the richer he becomes. If he cannot discover any facts and if he reads through the Bible in a hasty and mindless way, he will not understand much.

In reading the Bible, we must learn to discover the facts. After this we should memorize, analyze, and compare these facts. Finally, we should kneel down before God and ask for light.

III. DIFFERENT WAYS TO READ THE BIBLE

We should read our Bible during two different periods of time. We should have two copies of the Bible for these two occasions. One period can be in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Or we can do both early in the morning by reading one way during the first half of our time and another way during the second half of our time. These two periods of time must be separate. In the morning period or the first half of the early morning reading, we should meditate, praise, and pray as we read the Word, mixing our reading with meditation, praise, and prayer. This period of reading is for receiving spiritual food and for strengthening our spirit. Do not read too much during this time; three or four verses is sufficient. The afternoon time, or the second half of the early morning reading, should be longer. During this time, we should read for the purpose of learning more about God’s Word.

If possible, we should have two Bibles. The Bible used in the first period should not have any marks or notes written in it (except dates, which we will mention later). The Bible used in the second period can contain whatever we have been touched with, either by jotting down notes or by circling or underlining words or passages. The Bible used in the first period can contain dates—dates on which we came across a special verse, made a deal with the Lord, or had a special experience. We should write down the date next to such a verse, indicating that we met God through this verse on that date. Do not write down anything other than dates. The Bible used in the second period is for understanding, and we should write down all the spiritual facts we discover and the light we have received. Now let us discuss the way to read the Bible during these two periods of time.

A. Meditating on the Word
during the First Period of Time

Concerning meditating on the Word, I think the best thing is for me to quote George Müller. He said:

It has recently pleased the Lord to teach me a truth, irrespective of human instrumentality, as far as I know, the benefit of which I have not lost, though now, while preparing the fifth edition for the press, more than fourteen years have since passed away. The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. For I might seek to set the truth before the unconverted, I might seek to benefit believers, I might seek to relieve the distressed, I might in other ways seek to behave myself as it becomes a child of God in this world; and yet, not being happy in the Lord, and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, all this might not be attended to in a right spirit. Before this time my practice had been, at least for ten years previously, as an habitual thing to give myself to in prayer, after having dressed myself in the morning. Now, I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the word of God, and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, by means of the word of God, whilst meditating on it, my heart might be brought into experimental communion with the Lord.

 

I began therefore to meditate on the New Testament from the beginning, early in the morning. The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon his precious word, was, to begin to meditate on the word of God, searching as it were into every verse, to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the word, not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul. The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that, though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer. When thus I have been for a while making confession, or intercession, or supplication, or have given thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others, as the word may lead to it, but still continually keeping before me that food for my own soul is the object of my meditation. The result of this is, that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession mingled with my meditation, and that my inner man almost invariably is even sensibly nourished and strengthened, and that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful if not happy state of heart. Thus also the Lord is pleased to communicate unto me that which, either very soon after or at a later time, I have found to become food for other believers, though it was not for the sake of the public ministry of the word that I gave myself to meditation, but for the profit of my own inner man…

 

And yet now, since God has taught me this point, it is as plain to me as anything, that the first thing the child of God has to do morning by morning is, to obtain food for his inner man. As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time except we take food, and as this is one of the first things we do in the morning, so it should be with the inner man. We should take food for that, as every one must allow. Now what is the food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the word of God; and here again, not the simple reading of the word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts. When we pray, we speak to God. Now, prayer, in order to be continued for any length of time in any other than a formal manner, requires, generally speaking, a measure of strength or godly desire, and the season, therefore, when this exercise of the soul can be most effectually performed is after the inner man has been nourished by meditation on the word of God, where we find our Father speaking to us, to encourage us, to comfort us, to instruct us, to humble us, to reprove us. We may therefore profitably meditate, with God’s blessing, though we are ever so weak spiritually; nay, the weaker we are, the more we need meditation for the strengthening of our inner man. There is thus far less to be feared from wandering of mind than if we give ourselves to prayer without having had previously time for meditation. I dwell so particularly on this point because of the immense spiritual profit and refreshment I am conscious of having derived from it myself, and I affectionately and solemnly beseech all my fellow-believers to ponder this matter. By the blessing of God I ascribe to this mode the help and strength which I had had from God to pass in peace through deeper trials, in various ways, than I had ever had before; and after having now above fourteen years tried this way, I can most fully, in the fear of God, commend it…

 

How different, when the soul is refreshed and made happy early in the morning, from what it is when, without spiritual preparation, the service, the trials, and the temptations of the day come upon one!— George Müller, Autobiography of George Müller, the Life of Trust, 1861, reprinted 1981, pp. 206-10.

 

B. General Reading
during the Second Period of Time

A new believer who recently has received the Lord should not engage himself in intense research of the Bible for at least six months because he is not familiar with the Bible as a whole yet. He should rather spend a few months to read through the whole Bible and familiarize himself with it in a general way. After this he can begin serious study of the Bible.

In familiarizing himself with the Bible, he should read the whole book chapter by chapter, consecutively over and over again. The best way is to decide the number of chapters in the Old and the New Testament one wants to read each day. The reading should neither be too fast nor too slow. It should be regular, continuous, and general in nature. George Müller read the Old and New Testament a hundred times during his lifetime. Those who have just received the Lord should learn to read the Bible and remember the number of times they have read through it. It is good to write a letter to notify a more elderly brother the first time you have finished reading through the New Testament. It is also good to leave a blank page in your Bible to record the number of times you have read through it. You should write the date and the place you finished reading it the first time, the second time, and so on. Each time you finish reading it, you should mark down the occasion. Identify clearly whether it is the Old Testament or the New Testament you have read through. I hope that you, like Mr. Müller, can read through the Bible a hundred times during your lifetime. If a person wants to read through the Bible a hundred times, assuming that he lives for fifty years as a Christian, he will have to go through the whole Bible at least twice a year. You can see why you need to spend much time to read the Bible.

The principle of reading the Bible is to go through it chapter by chapter, over and over again. Those who are more advanced in the Lord should pay attention to the way the newly saved ones read their Bibles. Sometimes it does good to examine the dates recorded in their Bibles, to check how many chapters they read every day, and to find out where they are each week. We should all pay attention to this work and should not slacken. We should remind those who are progressing too slowly, “Half a year has past. How come you have not finished reading the New Testament once yet?”

If a person reads his Bible according to the above way, after some time his knowledge of the Bible will increase. If possible, one should try to memorize one or two verses each day. In the beginning, a person may have to force himself a little to do this. It may come as quite a dull chore. But after some time he will reap the benefit of it.

C. Intense Study
during a Specifically Apportioned Time

The first kind of daily Bible reading—praying and meditating over the Word—is a continuous lifelong practice. The second kind of reading—general reading, involving some kind of Bible study—can begin after at least six months are spent gaining some knowledge of the Bible.

Every Christian should have a definite plan of studying the Bible. If you can set aside half an hour a day, develop a plan to study the Bible for half an hour a day. If you can afford an hour each day, develop a plan that includes an hour of study. Whatever time you can afford, make a plan that will fit your schedule. The worst way to read is by “inspiration,” that is, casual, unplanned reading that begins at whatever page one feels, at times reading voraciously for ten days and at other times not reading anything for ten days. This is the wrong way. We should not adopt this “inspirational” method. Everyone should have a definite plan of reading. In reading the Bible, we need to be restricted and disciplined.

However, do not set too high a standard or too long a time for yourself. If you set too long a time, it will be hard to maintain the schedule. This is worse than having no plan at all. Once you decide to do something, stick to it for five years, ten years, or fifteen years. Do not stop after two, three, five, or six months. This is why you should consider carefully before the Lord the amount of time you should set aside for your study. One hour each day should be quite sufficient. Half an hour may be too short; one may not get much done in half an hour. Of course, if time does not allow you to have an hour, half an hour is still good. One hour, however, is the optimum period of time. If one can afford two hours, it is good. Normally, there is no need to spend more than two hours. We have not seen a brother or sister who studies for three hours a day who can maintain this schedule for long.

There are twenty-eight different ways to study the Bible, which are covered in the book The Ways to Study the Bible. Of the twenty-eight ways, the study of the progression of truth throughout the Bible is the most difficult. For many people, this method should not be attempted until a much later time. The method of word study is a much easier approach. One can also study metals, minerals, numbers, names of persons, geography, etc. These can be supplementary studies; we do not have to devote all our time to these special ways. There are also the chronologies in the Bible. If we have the time, we can take a look at them. Besides these, there are other ways to study the Bible, like studying prophecies, types, parables, miracles, the Lord’s teaching on earth, or doing a book-by-book study, etc. We should go through all these methods one by one.

Let us assume for now that a person has one hour a day to study the Bible. He can allocate his time in the following way:

1. First Twenty Minutes—Studying by Subjects

The experience of some people suggests that an hour of study can be divided into four sessions. The first session of twenty minutes is for studying specific subjects like prophecies, types, parables, dispensations, the Lord’s teachings on earth, or a specific book. One can read all the related passages and find the verses that deal with the subject chosen. If one is trying to study one book at a time, he should select the book he wants to study. He may choose Romans or the Gospel of John. After he finishes one book, he should go on to the next. He should study the whole book and find out the content of each book. If you decide to dedicate twenty minutes of your time each day to this kind of study, do not prolong or shorten it. We must learn to restrict ourselves and never be a careless or loose person.

2. The Second Twenty Minutes—Word Study

The second twenty minutes can be used for word study. There are many special terms like reconciliation, blood, faith, joy, peace, hope, love, obedience, righteousness, redemption, mercy, etc., which are scattered throughout the Bible, and they all are very meaningful. If they are grouped and compiled together, we can get a better grasp of their meaning. For example, we may study the word blood. First, we should jot down all the chapters and verses that mention the blood. Then we should analyze the meaning of each occurrence. What has the blood done for us before God? What type of persons does the blood deal with? What and how much has the blood accomplished for us? In the Old and New Testament, we can find many verses which speak of the blood. We can analyze them all. This cannot be accomplished in one sitting. One cannot hope to see much result on the first day. If he has access to a concordance, he can save much labor.

3. The Third Ten Minutes—Gathering Information

One can choose specific topics and spend the next ten minutes solely gathering information concerning them. There are many topics in the Bible, such as creation, man, sin, salvation, repentance, the Holy Spirit, regeneration, sanctification, justification, forgiveness, freedom, the Body of Christ, the Lord’s coming, judgment, the kingdom, eternity, etc. You can choose certain topics and then gather information about them from the Bible. The most one can handle at one time is five topics; if there are more than five topics, there will be too many clues, and it will be difficult to handle them all at once. Do not gather material for one topic alone; this is too time consuming. One may find material for more than one topic in a chapter. For example, you may be studying about the Holy Spirit. But the particular chapter you are on may not have anything on the Holy Spirit. But you can definitely find other topics in the same chapter. It is not a bad idea to gather information on two, three, four, or five topics at the same time. But do not take more than five at one time.

Each topic may require some time to complete its study. Every day you have to add more material to your study. Write down all the materials (verses) you have gathered, and from these write down the main words and meanings of each passage. It is useless to merely jot down the verses. You must know what the verses are saying. Suppose you are studying the Holy Spirit in Ephesians. In writing down “sealed with the Holy Spirit” in 1:13, you should also write down the meaning of the word seal. First, write down the verse, then the related terms, and finally the meaning of the verse. You should gather all the information this way. One day when you need to deal with such a topic, these materials will be on hand for you to apply.

4. The Fourth Ten Minutes—Paraphrasing

The final ten minutes can be used to paraphrase the Bible. This exercise is very useful. Paraphrasing the Bible gives fresh insight into a passage. By paraphrasing the Bible with simple words, we express a passage in a way that others can understand at a glance.

For example, you may be doing a chapter-by-chapter study of the book of Romans. If a teen-ager comes and says, “I have read Paul’s word in Romans, but I cannot understand it,” you will have to think of some ways to explain this book to him using your own words. A paraphrase is not a commentary; you are merely using your own words to convey what Paul said so that those who do not understand it can understand. In order to do this, you have to learn to paraphrase the Bible with your own words. Take the book of Romans and try to paraphrase it with your own words. Paul wrote the Epistles in his words. Now you should try to write the same thing in your own words. Try your best to do this. Do it properly and intelligently so that you can understand it and so that other brothers and sisters who read it can understand it as well.

Such paraphrasing will show how well we know the Scriptures. Using our own words to reiterate the apostles’ thought is a good way to prepare us for biblical exposition. Paraphrasing is the first step; exposition is the second step. First we should learn to paraphrase the text of the Bible with our own words. Our training before God must be in the proper order. Do not try to expound the Bible before learning to paraphrase it; this is too hasty. Learn to paraphrase the Bible first and then learn to expound it. If we cannot paraphrase the Bible well, it is impossible for us to expound it well. We must paraphrase first and then expound. We must all learn this basic lesson. First, paraphrase Paul’s Epistles, then paraphrase the remainder of the New Testament.

In paraphrasing the Bible, try to avoid using the words of the Bible. Use your own words instead. The main lesson to learn here is to express the meaning of a passage with words that are within your grasp. After you have tried one book, you will know how precious the experience is and how profitable the exercise is. A careless and sloppy person cannot paraphrase the Bible. You must pray much before the Lord and read the Bible properly before you can paraphrase it correctly. After you finish a book, go back and revise your work once or twice, modifying it with appropriate words and polishing your sentences. This will give you a better impression of the book, and you will come to know what the apostles were talking about. You need to paraphrase a passage before you can have a deep impression of it.

In order to paraphrase the Bible, one must first study it thoroughly. He must understand what a passage says and what is implied in the passage. He can then incorporate all his knowledge into his paraphrase. This requires a thorough understanding of a verse. A person can only paraphrase the Bible when he has a clear grasp of what it says. Through practicing a little every day, and through careful reading and meticulous writing, one will eventually be able to paraphrase one of Paul’s Epistles. He will then be able to understand Paul’s word and will be able to use other words to convey the same meaning.

We have mentioned four things already. First, study by topic; second, do a word study; third, gather information; and fourth, paraphrase. We should go through all twenty-eight methods one by one. A definite schedule of Bible study is an exercise for us. We must gird up our loins, be restricted and regulated before the Lord, and not be loose. If we have made up our mind to study for an hour, keep this hour. We should not shorten or lengthen the time, unless we are sick or on vacation. Other than such exceptions, we should always keep our schedule. If we persist in this exercise daily, we will soon reap the harvest.

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(I would like to caution against putting too much emphasis on paraphrasing the Bible because the exact words of the Bible are written the way they are for a reason.  As long as the paraphrase does not take away the original meaning of the scripture, there is no harm.  However, great harm has been done by some who have written paraphrases of the Bible and caused people to read that as a version of the Bible but a careful study of these paraphrases has revealed that too many times the paraphrase has taken away the original intent of the scripture.  Also, a new tool has been created since Watchman Nee wrote these lessons which will greatly help in doing word studies, researching meanings, and much more.  The tool is called e-Sword, The Sword of the Lord with an Electronic Edge.  I have given you the link here to download this great software which is completely free.  In addition, once you have downloaded e-Sword, there are dozens of dictionaries, commentaries, and other books which have been linked with every verse of scripture.  There are even Greek and Hebrew commentaries and dictionaries linked to the English version.  I highly recommend this for the Bible Study part of your Bible reading sessions.  I have used e-Sword for many years in writing of sermons and Bible lessons.  May the Lord Bless you as you use this fantastic tool for His Glory.) 

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