When I was in Bible school I was prayerfully considering entering into a serious relationship with a female friend. I was struggling to find the will of God in the matter. One night the Lord gave me a dream of her committing fornication with another man. It happened just as I saw it in the dream. The dream wasn’t “X” rated but zeroed in only on the guilt ridden face of my female friend fully dressed and lying on a bed with a man. As it turned out, she had had sexual affairs with 16 men before she was born again. I saw her as a new creation in Christ and was merciful to her, but the Lord supernaturally led me out of that relationship. I pray that she is clean and free today and doing well, but her concupiscence at that time would’ve damaged my own life and calling and perhaps set be back years.
Then more recently, a few years ago, in a time when we were struggling in ministry I was asked to dissolve our own ministry and take a position with another ministry. The position was attractive but I knew it wasn’t God. If I had taken it, I would’ve been miserable wth no grace to fulfill my distinct calling in the Lord.
Both of these Spirit led decisions have resulted in an increasingly fruitful life full of grace and liberty that has touched every area of my walk with God. It always pays to obey the leadership and direction of the Holy Spirit, especially when it seems hard at the time.
The first thought we usually have when we are faced with certain choices and decisions is, “It can’t be that bad to go this way; or God is forgiving and knows my heart.” But God sees the end. He sees what our choices and decisions will bring. The end is never good for those who forsake the direction and path of the Holy Spirit. Even when you don’t know His will, He will lead you according to the integrity and purity of your own heart. If you really want God’s will, in spite of the initial hardship that His will may bring you into, there will always be grace to overcome. In a sense it costs to obey God, but in the long run, it pays great dividends. God is a debtor to no man.
I wish all stories ended well, as my aforementioned examples did. But there are many stories that due to ignoring the Spirits leadings don’t end well.
As a sobering example, my wife Carolyn had a dream years ago about her older sister. She was living in a large mud house made of stick and straw. Upon a very high shelf she saw a candlelight. It was hidden and unreachable.
Due to the dirt and filth in the home Carolyn took a shower. Then her Mom called her and she told her about the filthiness of her sister’s home, which represented her sister’s spiritual life. Her Mom, who was in a cult at that time, told her not to worry about it and that it was no big deal. This is what many carnal Christians will tell you concerning sin and filth. Good-hearted ministers will also sometimes offer man’s wisdom in critical situations and decision making that can take you off the path of God’s plan for your life. If I took that ministry position I would’ve been miserable today. Yet the offer was made in good will and kind gesture.
Things look so different to God than they do to carnal people and good-hearted ministers offering to help you. He sees where your decisions will lead to and the destructive nature of what you are believing or doing.
The end of Carolyn’s dream played out with the whole house catching fire and the family running out.
Interpretation: Her sister, who was a believer and played a significant role in Carolyn’s salvation and baptism of the Spirit, had begun to backslide. The candlelight was symbolic of her hiding the light of Jesus that she once shined. We prayed for Carolyn’s sister through the years and watched her make decision after decision that manifested in destruction and disaster for her and her family. First adultery, then divorce, then social drinking, then heavy drinking, then sin and immorality in her children – one in a lesbian marriage, another bearing children out of wedlock and then a subsequent divorce, and a third in more of the same. These were all children who started in the faith with their parents, who were in the ministry at one time. The bitter end was that just two years ago, Carolyn’s sister committed suicide by hanging herself on a fence by a dog leash. Very, very sad ending. We wept for what could’ve been.
What could’ve been if Carolyn’s sister had followed her heart and conscience that was calling for her attention and attempting to divert her from this harm and tragedy? Her entire family may have been saved. I believe the escape from the burning house could’ve also meant that some will still be saved, so as by fire. Carolyn and I are holding out hope that her sister was sick in the head when she hung herself, but somehow got things right in her heart with the Lord before going off into eternity.
Tragic endings like that start with ignoring gentle promptings and leadings of the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit always leads us into life and liberty and provision, even when it seems hard or there is hardship involved. There is always grace in the hardship and God will always lead you according to your integrity and purity of heart. He will lead those who will to do His will. But if you are not living in this perfect attitude toward God you will have a multitude of thoughts that are not of Him that will eventually lead you astray from His will and plan for your life.
When I was praying about the relationship with that girl, I was really thinking she was the one for me and I was envisioning what life would be like with her. I had good feelings about it, but I wanted to make sure. I can tell you that I wanted God’s will more than I wanted her. I was crying out for clarity and He gave me that dream and showed me that sexual stronghold in her life. If I married her, my life would’ve taken a much different turn. God gave me that dream for my own protection. I could’ve disregarded it. I could’ve not paid enough attention to it. I could’ve over-ridden God’s warning.
God sees the end; we don’t. He sees the results; we only see what’s in front of us. When we obey one leading of the Holy Spirit, other leadings begin to come. There’s grace to continue, but there is also grace to restore the lives of those who’ve missed it and have bitter pasts and presents.
For those who have missed it, study the story of Naomi. It is one of the most beautiful stories of redemption in the Bible. After losing her husband and two sons to death, she struggled with her identity and said these words:
“Do not call me Naomi (means pleasant); call me Mara (means bitter), for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me” (Ruth 1:20-21).
Imagine her predicament. Then read the end of her story. Her daughter-in-law remarried and bore a son who became the father of Jesse and grandfather of David in the bloodline of Jesus Christ. It is another beautiful account of a disadvantaged woman’s restoration and redemption.
“Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.’ Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. Also the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, ‘There is a son born to Naomi.’ And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David” (Ruth 4:14-17).
Naomi did hard things to follow God, but God turned her bitterness into sweetness and pleasantry. It wasn’t easy to lose a husband and her two only sons. She could’ve stayed bitter and depressed. The women from her former community had known Naomi before her loss and widowhood, but in the end they are rejoicing in the complete reversal of her state. Her faithful daughter-in-law gave birth to a grandson who was in the lineage of Jesus Christ. What a glorious honor! Her daughter-in-law became better to her than seven sons.
Ruth also did hard things to follow God. It was not easy to follow her mother-in-law into a land with very little promise at that time. It wasn’t easy to lay down her desire to marry quickly instead of waiting.
Your end can be the same if you will follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit for your life. It’s never to late.