While recently reading the book of Jonah a thought hit me–as writers of Christian fiction perhaps there are stories we don’t want to write, yet those characters and plots keep coming back to us and just won’t leave. Perhaps the message is a powerful one, or a painful one. Maybe we don’t feel we can handle such a topic-kind of like Jonah didn’t feel like going to Ninevah.
While preparing for this I found a post from the blog site of Rev. Michael Duncan on being led that seemed to touch on the points I’d been pondering. I want to encourage you if there is something that has gripped you, something maybe you don’t want to tackle, a painful topic, a difficult story–remember God never asks us to do more than we can and no matter what, He will be with us every step of the way.
With Michael’s permission, I’ve reposted his blog.
“Feeling Led” – A Dangerous Principle to Live By
Some time ago I presented to a congregation of Christians an opportunity to reach into the community with the Gospel. After I shared with the church the great potential to bring God’s light into a dark corner of the world, I was approached with a common, but troubling statement: “Pastor, I don’t feel led to do that.” Was this statement a response to a prayer? Several weeks prior to this presentation a dear saint prayed: “Lord, bring those who feel led to participate.”
Several days passed as I pondered the twin statements and wondered if “feeling led” was at all a Biblical principle to live by. As I studied and thought and prayed through this issue I came to the conclusion that if obedience to God is built on feelings it becomes little more than trumped up spiritual anarchy, transforming personal reluctance into a spiritual virtue.
I could be mistaken, I could have missed the passage that says: “Go forth if you feel like it,” but I suspect that if the truth were revealed, those who claim that they don’t “feel led” actually just don’t want to.
But is a feelings-based obedience a Biblical truth? There are specific commands that God gives in His word where obedience is the only acceptable response, commands that call upon God’s people to join with God through sacrificial faithfulness—but what if a believer doesn’t “feel led” to do it? Is that God’s way of telling the individual believer that they are exempt from personal obedience?
Let’s begin by applying that standard to the Lord Jesus. In the garden of Gethsemane, He told the disciples that His soul was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mt. 26:38). His feelings were very clear—he wanted to be freed from the great sacrifice that loomed before Him. Jesus cried out to the Father, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me” (Mt. 26:39). However, the rest of the story is clear when Jesus commits to the Father’s will, “Not as I will, but as you will.” Apply this to the disciples and you will discover the same truth, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). As I said, I could have missed it and there could be a Biblical principle of feelings-based obedience, but I’ve not found it.
I think the issue is not whether a believer “feels” led to obey God but whether that same believer has fully committed to following God no matter what they feel. It may be that participation in the church will require a sacrifice of time, talents or treasure and that some might not want to participate. However, don’t cloak reluctance in the garb of some over-spiritualized feeling. As a pastor, I would much rather have one of our members simply say they don’t want to do the work rather than tell me they don’t “feel led” by God to participate. It might be that God has other duties for the believer, but I’ve not discovered where He leads them to obedience through their feelings.
Every believer is called upon to be a living sacrifice. From what I understand, the sacrifice is never asked if it feels like going to the altar. Perhaps, if church members would discover that their feelings are not God’s direction, there would be far more workers laboring for the Master.
Thank you to Rev. Michael Duncan, author of Shadows: Book of Aleth Part I