you expect to receive it

One of the discouragements that meets every true Christian before he
has gone very far in the Christian life is persecution. God tells us in
His Word that “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer
persecution” (2 Tim. 3: 12). Sooner or later every one who surrenders
absolutely to God and seeks to follow Jesus Christ in everything will
find that this verse is true. We live in a God-hating world and in a
compromising age. The world’s hatred of God in our day is veiled. It does
not express itself in our land in the same way that it expressed itself
in Palestine in the days of Jesus Christ, but the world hates God to-day
as much as it ever did, and it hates the one who is loyal to Christ.
It may not imprison him or kill him but in some way it will persecute
him. Persecution is inevitable for a loyal follower of Jesus Christ.
Many a young Christian when he meets with persecution is surprised and
discouraged and not a few fall away. Many a one seems to run well for
a few days but like those of whom Jesus spoke, “They have no root in
themselves, but endure for a while; then when tribulation or persecution
ariseth because of the Word straightway they stumble” (Mark 4: 17). I
have seen many an apparently promising Christian life brought to an end
in this way. But if persecution is rightly received, it is no longer a
hindrance to the Christian life but a help to it.

Do not be discouraged when you are persecuted. No matter how fierce and
hard the persecution may be, be thankful for it. Jesus says, “Blessed
are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is
the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and
persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely,
for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward
in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you”
(Matt. 5: 10-12). It is a great privilege to be persecuted for Christ
and for the truth. Peter found this out and wrote to the Christians
of his day: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial
which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. But
rejoice, inasmuch, as ye are partakers of Christ’s suffering; that, when
His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If
ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit
of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken
of, but on your part He is glorified” (1 Peter 4: 12-14). Be very sure
that the persecution is really for Christ’s sake and not because of some
eccentricity of your own, or because of your stubbornness. There are
many who bring upon themselves the displeasure of others because they
are stubborn and cranky and then flatter themselves that they are being
persecuted for Christ’s sake and for righteousness’ sake. Be considerate
of the opinions of others and be considerate of the conduct of others. Be
sure that you do not push your opinions upon others in an unwarrantable
way, or make your conscience a rule of life for other people. But never
yield a jot of principle. Stand for what you believe to be the truth.
Do it in love, but do it at any cost. And if when you are standing for
conviction and principle you are disliked for it and slandered for it
and treated with all manner of unkindness because of it, do not be sad
but rejoice. Do not speak evil of those who speak evil of you, “because
Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow
His steps: who, when He was reviled, reviled not again, when He suffered,
He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously”
(1 Peter 2: 21, 23).

At this point many a Christian makes a mistake. He stands loyally for the
truth, but he receives the persecution that comes for the truth with
harshness, he grows bitter, he gets to condemning every one but himself.
There is no blessing in bearing persecution in that way. Persecution
should be borne meekly, lovingly, serenely. Don’t talk about your own
persecutions. Rejoice in them. Thank God for them, and go on obeying God.
And don’t forget to love and pray for them who persecute you (Matt. 5:

If at any time the persecution seems harder than you can bear, remember
how abundant the reward is, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him, He also will deny us” (2 Tim. 2: 12). Every one must
enter into the kingdom of God through much tribulation (Acts 14: 22),
but do not go back on that account. Remember always however fiercely the
fire of persecution may burn, “That the sufferings of this present time
are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in
us” (Rom. 8: 18). Remember too that your light affliction is but for the
moment, and that it worketh out for you “a far more exceeding and eternal
weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4: 17). Keep looking, not at the things which
are seen, but at the things which are not seen, for the things which
are seen are but for a time, but the things which are not seen are for
eternity (2 Cor. 4: 18). When the apostles were persecuted, even unto
imprisonment and stripes, they departed from the presence of the council
that had ordered their terrible punishment, rejoicing that they were
counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus, and they continued
daily in the temple and every house teaching and preaching Jesus Christ
(Acts 5: 40-42).

The time may come when you think that you are being persecuted more than
others, but you do not know what others may have to endure. Even if it
were true,—that you were being persecuted more than any one else, you
ought not to complain but to humbly thank God that He has bestowed upon
you such an honour. Keep your eyes fixed upon “Jesus, the Author and
Finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured
the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of
the throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of
sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your mind” (Heb.
12: 2, 3). I was once talking with an old coloured man who in the slave
days had found his Saviour. The cruel master had him flogged again and
again for his loyalty to Christ but he said to me, “I simply thought
of my Saviour dying on the cross in my place, and I rejoiced to suffer
persecution for Him.”

I have met a great many who are trying to lead a Christian life who are
much troubled over the question of guidance. They wish to do the will of
God in all things, but what puzzles them is to tell what the will of God
may be in every case. When any one starts out with the determination to
obey God in everything and to be led by the Holy Spirit, Satan seeks to
trouble him by perplexing him as to what the will of God is. Satan comes
and suggests that something is the will of God that is probably not the
will of God at all, and then when he does not do it, Satan says, “There
you disobeyed God.” In this way, many a conscientious young Christian
gets into a very morbid and unhappy state of mind, fearing that he has
disobeyed God and has lost His favour. This is one of the most frequent
devices of the devil to keep Christians from being cheerful.

How may we know the will of God?

First of all let me say that a true Christian life is not a life governed
by a whole lot of rules about what one shall eat, and what one shall
drink, and what one shall do, and what one shall not do. A life governed
by a lot of rules is a life of bondage. One is sure sooner or later to
break some of these man-made rules and to get into condemnation. Paul
tells us in Rom. 8: 15, “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage
again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption (placing us a
son), whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” The true Christian life is the life
of a trusting, glad, fear-free child; not led by rules, but led by the
personal guidance of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. “As many as
are led by the Spirit of God these are sons of God” (Rom. 8: 14, R. V.).
If you have received the Holy Spirit, He dwells within you and is ready
to lead you at every turn of life. A life governed by a multitude of
rules is a life of bondage and anxiety. A life surrendered to the control
of the Holy Spirit is a life of joy and peace and freedom. There is no
anxiety in such a life, there is no fear in the presence of God. We trust
God and rejoice in His presence just as a true child trusts his earthly
father and rejoices in his presence. If we make a mistake at any point,
even if we disobey God, we go and tell Him all about it as trustfully as
a child and know that He forgives us and that we are restored at once to
His full favour (1 John 1: 9).

But how can we tell the Holy Spirit’s guidance that we may obey Him and
thus have God’s favour at every turn of life? This question is answered
in James 1: 5-7, R. V., “But if any of you lacketh wisdom, let him ask
of God, who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall
be given him, but let him ask in faith, nothing doubting: for he that
doubteth is like the surge of the sea driven by the wind and tossed. For
let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.” This
is very simple. It includes five points.

(1) That you recognize your own ignorance and your own inability to guide
your own life—that you lack wisdom.

(2) The surrender of your will to God, and a real desire to be led by Him.

(3) Definite prayer to Him for guidance.

(4) Confident expectation that God will guide you. You “ask in faith,
nothing doubting.”

(5) That you follow step by step as He guides. God may only show you a
step at a time. That is enough. All you need to know is the next step. It
is here that many make a mistake. They wish God to show them the whole
way before they take the first step. A university student once came to
me over the question of guidance. He said, “I cannot find out the will
of God. I have been praying but God does not show me His will.” This was
in the month of July. I said, “About what is it that you are seeking to
know the will of God?” “About what I should do next summer.” I said, “Do
you know what you ought to do to-morrow?” “Yes.” “Do you not know what
you ought to do next autumn?” “Yes, finish my course. But what I want to
know is what I ought to do when my university course is over.” He was
soon led to see that all he needed to know for the present was what God
had already shown him. That when he did that, God would show him the next
step. Do not worry about what you ought to do next week. Do what God
shows you you ought to do to-day. Next week will take care of itself.
Indeed, to-morrow will take care of itself. Obey the Spirit of God for
to-day. “Be not therefore anxious for the morrow; for the morrow will be
anxious for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil
thereof” (Matt. 6: 34, R. V.). It is enough to live a day at a time, if
we do our very best for that day.

God’s guidance is clear guidance, “God is light and in Him is no darkness
at all” (1 John 1: 5). Do not be anxious over obscure leadings. Do not
let your soul be ruffled by the thought, “Perhaps this obscure leading
is what God wants me to do.” Obscure leadings are not divine leadings.
God’s path is as clear as day. Satan’s path is full of obscurity and
uncertainty and anxiety and questioning. If there comes some leading
of which you are not quite sure whether it is the will of God or not,
simply go to your Heavenly Father and say, “Heavenly Father, I desire to
know Thy will. I will do Thy will if Thou wilt make it clear. But Thou
art light and in Thee is no darkness at all. If this is Thy will make it
clear as day and I will do it.” Then wait quietly upon God and do not act
until God makes it clear, but the moment it is made clear, act at once.

The whole secret of guidance is an absolutely surrendered will, a will
that is given up to God and ready to obey Him at any cost. Many of our
uncertainties about God’s guidance are simply because we are not really
willing to do what God is really guiding us to do. We are tempted to say,
“I cannot find out what God’s will is,” when the real trouble is we have
found out His will and it is something we do not wish to do and we are
trying to make ourselves think that God wants us to do something else.

All supposed leadings of God should be tested by the Word of God. The
Bible is God’s revealed will. Any leading that contradicts the plain
teaching of the Bible is certainly not the leading of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit does not contradict Himself. A man once came to me
and said that God was leading him to marry a certain woman. He said
that she was a very devoted Christian woman and they had been greatly
drawn towards one another and they felt that God was leading them to be
married. But I said to the man, “You already have a wife.” “Yes,” he
said, “but we have never lived happily and we have not lived together for
years.” “But,” I replied, “that does not alter the case. God in His Word
has told us distinctly the duty of the husband to the wife and how wrong
it is in His sight for a husband to divorce his wife and marry another.”
“Yes,” said the man, “but the Holy Spirit is leading us to one another.”
I indignantly replied that “Whatever spirit is leading you to marry one
another, it is certainly not the Holy Spirit but the spirit of the evil
one. The Holy Spirit never leads any one to disobey the Word of God.”

In seeking to know the guidance of the Spirit always search the
Scriptures, study them prayerfully. Do not make a book of magic out of
the Bible. Do not ask God to show you His will and then open your Bible
at random and put your finger upon some text and take it out of its
connection without any relation to its real meaning and decide the will
of God in that way. This is an irreverent and improper use of Scripture.
You may open your Bible at just the right place to find right guidance,
but if you do, it will not be by some fanciful interpretation of the
passage you find. It will be by taking the passage in its context and
interpreting it to mean just what it says as seen in its context. All
sorts of mischief has arisen from using the Bible in this perverse
way. I knew an earnest Christian woman once who was somewhat concerned
about the predictions made by a false prophetess that Chicago was to be
destroyed on a certain day. She opened her Bible at random. It opened to
the twelfth chapter of Ezekiel, “Son of man, eat thy bread with quaking,
and drink thy water with trembling and with carefulness.… And the cities
that are inhabited shall be laid waste, and the land shall be desolate”
(Ezek. 12: 18, 20). Now this seemed to exactly fit the case and the woman
was considerably impressed, but if the verses had been studied in their
connection, it would have been evident at once that God was not speaking
about Chicago and that they were not applicable to Chicago. It was not
an intelligent study of the Word of God and therefore led to a false

To sum up, lead a life not led by rules but by the personal guidance of
the Holy Spirit. Surrender your will absolutely to God. Whenever you
are in doubt as to His guidance, go to Him and ask Him to show you His
will, expect Him to do it, follow step by step as He leads. Test all the
leadings by the plain and simple teachings of the Bible. Live free from
anxiety and worry lest in some unguarded moment you have not done the
right thing.

After you have done what you think God led you to do, do not be always
going back and wondering whether you did the right thing. You will get
into a morbid state if you do. If you really wished to do God’s will and
sought His guidance, and did what you thought He guided you to do, you
may rest assured you did the right thing, no matter what the outcome has
been. Satan is bound that we shall not be happy, cheerful Christians
if he can prevent it, but God wishes us to be happy, cheerful, bright
Christians every day and every hour. He does not wish us to brood but
to rejoice (Phil. 4: 4). A most excellent Christian man came to me one
Monday morning in great gloom over the failures of the work of the
preceding day. He said to me, “I made wretched work of teaching my
Sunday-school class yesterday.” I said, “Did you honestly seek wisdom
from God before you went to your class?” He said, “I did.” I said, “Did
you expect to receive it?” He said, “I did.” “Then,” I said, “in the
face of God’s promise what right have you to doubt that God did give
you wisdom?” (James 1: 5-7). His gloom disappeared and he looked up with
a smile and said, “I had no right to doubt.” Let us learn to trust God.
Let us remember that if our wills are surrendered to Him He is ever more
willing to guide us than we are to be guided. Let us trust that He does
guide us at every step and even though what we do does not turn out as we
expected, let us never brood over it but trust God. Let us walk in the
light of simple trust in God. In this way we shall be glad and peaceful
and strong and useful at every turn of life.