THWARTING GODíS WILL

Chapter 10 

ďI wouldÖYe would not.Ē These words make clear the fact that Godís will may be frustrated, and his purpose thwarted. The history of the children of Israel stands out as a series of examples of thwarting Godís will, and the consequences that follow. Submitting to and carrying out Godís will always brought them prosperity and happiness. Resisting Godís will, always led them to dire consequences. Sometimes when they turned away from Jehovah they seemed to prosper for a time, but their very prosperity led to their undoing. It tempted the kings about them to make war upon them, and to take from them the riches that they had gathered together. In times when they served Jehovah, he protected them from their enemies, granting them wonderful deliverances. When they turned away from him, they had not protection from these enemies; therefore, their territories were laid waste, and they were brought into the greatest misery.

God would have led the Israelites directly into the Promised Land, but they listened to the fearsome tales of the ten spies, disbelieved God, and refused to obey him. Consequently they had to take the long, dangerous, and distressing circuit around by way of the Peninsula of Sinai, with its desert waste; its burning sand; its dearth of water; its serpents and scorpions. There was no other way for them to reach the Promised Land when they refused to go by the way God would have led them. Many a soul is now in its Sinai Desert because it resisted Godís will, and would not be led in the shortest way to peace and happiness. Many persons looking back over their lives, can see where by resisting Godís will they brought upon themselves unhappiness and weary toils, and had to travel in a desert way, when they might have had a fair and pleasant way had they been content to submit to God.

It was Godís purpose to give the children of Israel a home free from foreigners, who, being pagans, would be a constant temptation to them. Instead of making a full end of the inhabitants of the land, as they had been commanded to do, Israel left many of them still alive and settled in the land. Israel resisted Godís purpose, and chose her own way. Israelís history from this time forward is a record of the evils that came upon her, many of which had their root in this one refusal to obey God. Israel was a wonderful nation, yet it was only at rare intervals that she arose to the heights where she might have dwelt all the time had she not resisted Godís will

This same fact may be stated of the nations of today. How glorious might be their heritage if they would submit themselves to the will of God! Their wars, their calamities, their internal strife, and their multiplied miseries, all come from resisting God, whose purpose it is to make all men happy by making them holy. Every prison, ever gallows, every electric chain, every policeman, every soldier, every book of criminal law, is an open declaration that men are resisting Godís will; and not only that men resist his will, but that they successfully resist it and that their resistance has consequences that man himself must take steps to limit and control. This world might be as the garden of God if its inhabitants would submit to Godís will and put in practice the principles that he has revealed as his will. They will not do so; therefore, they are reaping the consequences in wretchedness and misery, in unhappiness and sorrow, in suffering and death.

How Men Resist God

First, they resist him willfully. The charge made against Israel was, ďYe do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do yeĒ (Acts 7:51). Again and again the children of Israel were charged with being stiff-necked and stubborn. These are not characteristics that belonged only to Israel, for they characterize the generality of mankind throughout the world. God gave man a will in order to enable man to cooperate in Godís plans for the race, but straightway man assumed kingship of his own life, ruled God out, and began to use his will in a way to thwart Godís purpose. To this day the majority of mankind has not ceased so to act. They know the kind of life God would be pleased for them to live. They know the attitude that they ought to hold toward God, but notwithstanding the fact that this knowledge is clear to them to a considerable degree, they go on living lives that are inconsistent with this knowledge, like the Jews, who are represented in the parable as saying, ďWe will not have this man to rule over us. We will rule our own lives. So they are going on in rebellion, trampling upon the rights of God, and reaping in themselves the fruits of their doings. Yet so perverse is man that even though he is perfectly conscious that his life in not what it might be, that he might be better, and happier, and nobler, that he might have a conscience at rest, and a soul at peace if he would serve God, still he will not do it, but rebels more and more. What stupendous folly! Can the end be anything but disaster?

Men will not submit to God. They will not do his will. Even many professed Christians know that they are coming short of his will. They are conscious within themselves that they are unwilling to do some things that god desires that they do. They shrink, they draw back, they resist. Still, they call themselves Christians. They may delude themselves into believing that they are acceptable to God, but it is a vain delusion, and one from which they will awaken with a start of terror to realize that by their own resistance to Godís will they have separated themselves from him, have unfitted themselves for his society, and have rendered themselves incapable of enjoying the things of his kingdom. They act contrary to Godís will, shutting their eyes to the consequences. What will their reaping be?

Men resist Godís will, not only in refusing to submit to it, and in doing things contrary to it, but in doing nothing. ďThe Pharisees and lawyers rejected [margin, frustrated] the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of himĒ (Luke 7:30). They frustrated Godís purpose in not being baptized; that is, in doing nothing. And so it is in this age---men know the will of God and yet they do nothing. They ignore his commands; they are not interested in his purposes; they treat them as though these purposes did not concern them; they act as though they themselves were exceptions, and do not come under Godís laws.

There are people who like to see others become Christians. They approve of people living right. They criticize those who do not live right, but they themselves are making no effort to live right. They do not conscientiously make one effort to be obedient to God or to carry out his will in any way. Their hearts are stubbornly rebellious, but they do nothing. It will not be charged against them that they have committed murder, or similar things, if they have not done so. Their condemnation will be, ďI wouldÖbut ye would not.Ē When we hold back from Godís will and do nothing, we are not less guilty than we should be if we did something that he strongly condemns. Willfully to refuse to do is as bad as willfully to do what is contrary. ďTo him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.Ē

Again, people resist God ignorantly. Paul says that when he persecuted the Christians, and when he blasphemed the name of Christ, he ďdid it ignorantly in unbeliefĒ (1 Tim. 1:13). He does not excuse himself for his action, but calls himself the chief of sinners. His ignorance was inexcusable, because it came from unbelief. Had he believed the promises of God in the Old Testament, with which he was familiar, had he earnestly sought to know the truth concerning Christ, he would not have been ignorant. He might have learned the truth as well as those who accepted Christ, but his unbelief shut him out from learning. It kept him from making any attempt to learn, or having any disposition to learn. Thus, many people are willingly ignorant today because they have no desire to know. They have no desire to know Godís will because they have no disposition to carry it out if they did know it. Therefore, they are as guilty as though they did know it and refused to obey it.

Paulís description of the Gentile world is a true picture of the world in this age. He says that they walked ďin the vanity of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness [ margin, hardness] of their hearts; who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.Ē The people of the present age have their understanding darkened because of the hardness of their hearts. As a consequence, they are alienated from the life of God and having no conscientious scruples to obey God, because they have seared their consciences in unbelief and rebellion, they give themselves over to all forms of evil.

But it is not only the non-professing class who are thus ignorant of Godís will, and who resist his will ignorantly in unbelief. There are many who call themselves Christians, who follow the forms of religion, and who consider themselves very respectable Christians, yet who willingly remain ignorant of Godís will. The Bible is left unread. There is no seeking for the revelation or Godís will or for divine guidance. There is no earnest desire to know his will, in order to carry it out; there is no inner yearning to please God. When they hear the Word of God preached, they give little heed to it.

When they might be enlightened, they remain in darkness. No one need remain in ignorance of Godís will. No one need resist God ignorantly, for the submitted heart is ready to be led. It seeks direction. It delights in obedience. It is well enough acquainted with the operations of the Spirit of God to be easily guided. It is sensitive enough to the will of God instinctively to realize when it is going contrary to his will; therefore, the submitted heart will no go contrary to it.

There are many persons who thwart Godís will in neglecting to know it; not because of enmity toward his will, but because they allow themselves to be too occupied with carrying out their own wills, or in allowing their attention to be centered upon other things to such an extent that they do no sufficiently seek to know Godís will. Therefore, they often ignorantly go counter to it. They prevent the operations of Godís Spirit in their lives and hearts, and live upon a much lower plain than it is their privilege to occupy. Many real Christians are thus careless about seeking to know Godís will. They let their daily cares and responsibilities, their interests and their activities, come between them and a knowledge of his will. They neglect the Bible, and prayer, and often do not even thoughtfully ask themselves, ďWhat is Godís will?Ē

They often consult their own wills, lay their own plans, make their own decisions, and order their own lives without bringing God in the matter. They seem to forget that he is to have a part in everything and that nothing can be a success unless he does have a part in it. They seem to forget the constant responsibility to do Godís will, that rests upon them. So, in their careless, heedless way they often ignorantly resist Godís will. The consequences of such conduct cannot be avoided. Even if they should continue to make a profession of religion, their profession and their lives will lack the qualities that give them true worth and genuine spirituality. The blessedness that comes from walking close to God will not be realized by them. They may be largely ignorant that they are resisting the will of God, and thwarting it in their lives, but when they come to look back over their lives from the standpoint of eternity, they will realize what they have done and what they have missed.

Men also resist God in desiring their own ways. They thwart his will by coming to mistake their wishes and plans for his will. It is very natural for us to judge how things ought to be done, and to set up our judgment as a standard, thus hindering God from directing in a better way. Our plans and our judgment seem adequate. We are so satisfied with our ideas of how things ought to be that we neglect to seek to know whether God would be pleased to have things some other way. And often this very desire to have our plans carried out, and to do as we think best, stands in the way of Godís leading us into the better things which he wills for us.

If we should look down into the bottom of our hearts, we might sometimes find that we do not wish to have Godís will differ from our plans. We might find a disposition to carry out our plans whether or not they are Godís plans. This disposition often makes men unconsciously resist the will of God. The need for us to submit our plans to God cannot be overemphasized. The need of care lest we should resist his will and thwart his purpose should be ever before our minds, leading us to the fullest submission and the most earnest seeking of his will. How many good things we shut out from ourselves with our own plans and purposes, and through seeking our own way! Many times we rob ourselves, thinking we are benefiting ourselves. Godís way is always best. Choosing our own way often shuts out joy and blessing. Setting up our will or desire against God is the surest way to misery---self-will always leads us out of the land of blessing, for the land of blessing is bounded by Godís will. God knows what is bread for us and what is a stone, although oftentimes we may not be able to discern between the two. What we think to be an egg may be a serpent that will fill our being with poisonous virus. Our desires often clamor, so that we cannot hear Godís voice. We want our own way so much; we do not desire his will if it is something contrary. So we resist his will, consciously or unconsciously, but with the unavoidable consequences that we choose for ourselves less than the best. Men often maintain relations with God, that are less blessed, and less near, than it is their privilege to maintain. Resisting Godís will is the source of a thousand evils, and of not a single good.

Again, men thwart Godís will in shrinking from what seems hard in it, in fearing to do it, and through doubting God. Instead of ignoring all of the consequences that may come as a result of following Godís will, and going ahead trustingÖthey timidly draw back, fearing both the real and unreal difficulties that their minds present and picture before them. So while they are partly willing to do Godís will, and partly submissive to it, they lack that whole-hearted submission which leads to true blessedness and to the full doing of Godís will.

Sometimes people resist Godís will by following the advice of others, contrary to their own convictions. When we have inner convictions of right, we should not let ourselves be persuaded to go contrary to them. No matter how many arguments nor how plausible arguments may be presented to us, we should never act unless we set in good conscience. We should never act contrary to that inner monitor which warns us against the impropriety of a certain course. The voice of our conscience is to us, the voice of God. It is not only the voice of conscience that speaks within us, but often the Spirit of God checks us through the inner voice from going in a certain direction, or from adopting a certain attitude. We may not know clearly just what course to pursue, but that intuitive consciousness that we should not go in a certain direction should not go unheeded. It is Godís way of safeguarding our souls. We should not follow the advice of another person unless we can do so conscientiously and freely, or unless we are fully convinced that it is the proper thing for us to do. It is true that the conscience, where it has been wrongly taught, sometimes holds one back from a proper course of activity, but where it is rightly instructed, it is a safe guide. That other inner guide that, perhaps none of us can explain, speaks as the voice of God, and should never be silenced nor ever disregarded.

We may sometimes resist Godís will by becoming so satisfied and contented in some good thing that we are not willing to change. God can only get us into or lead us on to better things, in some cases, by first taking away the lesser good. We may sorrow and pity ourselves because of our loss, not realizing that we are resisting God. Godís providences are always manifestations of his love. Therefore, when we resist his providences we are resisting him. It is a blessing to us when God takes away the lesser good, in order to replace it with the greater good. So, when we resist the taking away of the lesser good, we are resisting to our own hurt, and hindering God in his leading us into greener pastures and into fuller enlightenment and blessing.