The way in which the Holy Spirit, therefore, usually works in His direct guidance is to impress upon the mind a wish or desire to do or leave undone certain things.
The soul when engaged, perhaps, in prayer, feels a sudden suggestion made to its inmost consciousness in reference to a certain point of duty. “I would like to do this or the other,” it thinks, “I wish I could.” Or perhaps the suggestion may come as question, “I wonder whether I had not better do so and so?” Or it may be only at first in the way of a conviction that such is the right and best thing to be done.
At once the matter should be committed to the Lord, with an instant consent of the will to obey Him; and if the suggestion is in accordance with the Scriptures, and a sanctified judgment, and with Providential circumstances, an immediate obedience is the safest and easiest course. At the moment when the Spirit speaks, it is always easy to obey; if the soul hesitates and begins to reason, it becomes more and more difficult continually. As a general rule, the first convictions are the right ones in a fully surrendered heart; for God is faithful in His dealings with us, and will cause His voice to be heard before any other voices. Such convictions, therefore, should never be met by reasoning [unenlightened logic]. Prayer and trust are the only safe attitudes of the soul; and even these should be but momentary, as it were, lest the time for action should pass and the blessing be missed.
If, however, the suggestion does not seem quite clear enough to act upon, and doubt and perplexity ensue, especially if it is something about which one’s friends hold a different opinion, then we shall need to wait for further light. The Scripture rule is, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin”[Rom. 14:23]; which means plainly that we must never act in doubt. A clear conviction of right is the only safe guide. But we must wait in faith, and in an attitude of entire surrender, saying, “Yes,” continually to the will of our Lord, whatever it may be. I believe the lack of a will thus surrendered lies at the root of many of our difficulties; and next to this lies the want [lack] of faith in any real Divine guidance. God’s children are amazingly skeptical here. They read the promises and they feel the need, but somehow they cannot seem to believe the guidance will be given to them; as if God should want us to obey His voice, but did not know how to make us hear and understand Him. It is, therefore, very possible for God to speak, but for the soul not to hear, because it does not believe He is speaking. No earthly parent or master could possibly guide his children or servants, if they should refuse to believe he was speaking, and should not accept his voice as being really the expression of his will…
We must, therefore, have perfect confidence that the Lord’s voice is speaking to us to teach and lead us, and that He will give us the wisdom needed for our right guidance; and when we have asked for light, we must accept our strongest conviction of “oughtness” as being the guidance we have sought.
A few rules [principles] will help us here.
1. We must believe that God will guide us.
2. We must surrender our own will to His guidance.
3. We must hearken for the Divine voice.
4. We must wait for the divine harmony.
5. When we are sure of the guidance, we must obey without question…
[“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5, 6, NKJV.]
Part 4 of 4. Excerpted from The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, by Hannah Whitall Smith, chapter 11, “Difficulties Concerning Guidance.” The author quoted from the KJV translation of the Bible. [Title and bracketed references and words added by GN editor.] This volume, published in the late 1800’s, continues to bless God’s people with its Christ-centerd, grace-oriented message. The book and study guide are available from GFI @ 1-888-66GRACE. The original, full text is also available online at www.ccel.org/ccel/smith_hw/secret.html