Common Sense & Inner Peace in Christ
With regard to trivial everyday affairs, we may exercise our common sense without having to seek the Holy Spirit's special guidance as long as we have inner spiritual peace.
I knew a sister who had gone around in circles before being led to the right track by the Lord. Before eating a banana, she prayed to ask if she should eat the whole or just half of it. In general, it is not necessary to seek God's will on everyday affairs that you can decide for yourself (such as which route to take to work - around the block or make some turns) or whether or not to bring along an umbrella.
Years ago, in Shanghai, I met Brother Feng, an engineer. He had an experience of constantly hearing voices of instruction in his ears like those of earphones, which he mistook for the voice of the Holy Spirit - this was how he sought direction on matters big or small. I happened to be present when he visited an elderly sister and told her, "I'm very thankful to the Lord for instructing me in everything through the Holy Spirit. Once when I went out, a voice told me, 'Don't ride the bicycle.' I didn't comply. After riding a short distance, my bicycle tire was poked by a nail. Another day as I left for work, the voice said, 'You need to bring an umbrella.' Seeing a clear sky, I didn't comply, only to get soaked in the rain half way.' The voice of the 'Holy Spirit' is so trustworthy!" Surprisingly, the elderly sister responded, "That's not the voice of the Holy Spirit but the faking of the evil spirit. There's no need for the Holy Spirit's special guidance on such trivial matters in daily life. Moreover, the Holy Spirit doesn't usually speak with an audible voice such as can be heard with our ears. The Holy Spirit generates an inner sensation that resembles a real voice - an inclination and impression, an anointing and teaching (I John 2:27). That inner sensation is like that of the unrest you experience after you've sinned." Brother Feng did not accept what she said until one day when he forgot where a Bible verse was taken from. The voice told him it was from the book of Isaiah, whereas it was in fact from the book of Jeremiah. He then began to pay attention to the elderly sister's words and, with the Lord's help, eventually freed himself of the evil spirit.
Clearly, we need not seek God's special guidance on trivial matters such as riding a bicycle or bringing an umbrella. As Madame Guyon5 said, we can use our own common sense to decide on trivial matters. Otherwise, we may easily be misled as we anticipate special guidance or inspirations. Moreover, the Holy Spirit will not direct you on trivial matters of no spiritual significance that can be handled with common sense. The angel who led Peter out of the prison left Peter alone after leading him through just one street. Peter was not taken to Mary's house by the angel; he had to use his common sense to "figure out" his way in peace. The angel who appeared to deliver God's message spoke, of course, in audible words (Acts 12:7-17).
Let us remember that our decision-making regarding trivial matters should be done with inner peace in Christ and without prohibition from the Holy Spirit. As long as we are God-fearing, the Holy Spirit will warn us of any exceptional situations.
Though objective circumstantial needs may not equate the will of God (see Acts 16:6,7), we can respond accordingly as long as we have inner peace in Christ and our action has no element of sin and is consistent with biblical principles.
A sister in the United States received a call from a relative in the Philippines urging her to return home to see her critically ill father. In this situation, she could go home as long as she could afford the fare and did not sense any constraint. Yet by waiting for clear direction from the Lord, she had missed the last chance to see her father. Such are common mistakes made by many brothers and sisters.
Exceptional situations that contradict common sense rarely occur - perhaps only once or twice in a lifetime. When they do, the Holy Spirit will always alert us if we are God-fearing.
As an illustration, Caesar Yang, a godly brother, who resided in Shanghai, had to return to his hometown, Xiamen, once or twice a year. He always traveled the same route. One day on his usual trip home during the Sino-Japanese War, he experienced a sudden and inexplicable sense of unrest at a certain section of his journey. He prayed and asked the Lord if something was wrong (ref. II Cor. 2:12-13). He then took a detour as compelled by the Holy Spirit. On arriving home, he learned that his usual route was guarded by a Japanese sentry on that day and that many passersby were mistaken for spies and badly beaten. The Lord who loves and safeguards His children had guided Brother Yang to take the detour. This is a very extraordinary case.
Some Helpful Guidelines
The following bible verses are particularly helpful in discerning God's will in our everyday lives:
1. "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any." (I Cor. 6:12)
2. "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's well- being." (I Cor. 10:23, 24)
(In the Amplified Bible, the word "lawful" is translated as "permissible (allowable and lawful)."
3. "Let all things you do be done in love." (I Cor. 16:14; Eph. 5:2).
In the foregoing context of the above-quoted passages, the apostle Paul listed sinful acts such as strife, sexual immorality, idolatry, etc. A Christian should be disciplined and mindful of his own spiritual well-being. At the same time, he needs to give due consideration as to how he can edify, influence and set good examples for others to follow. It is advisable to examine our activities before God - including such activities as watching movies, reading novels, playing computer games - to see whether they are time-wasting and unprofitable. " For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things" (I Tim. 4:8). Even though "no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it" (Eph. 5:29), this should be done appropriately.
With regard to our daily conversations, we need to pay attention whether or not our words will benefit and edify the listeners. " A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver" (Prov. 25:11). "Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt" (Col. 4:6). It will be pleasing to God if we can "speak kindly" even to those who have mistreated us - like Joseph to his brothers (Gen. 50:21)6.
5 Madame Jeanne Guyon (1648-1717) - a very godly sister who wrote a number of devotional classics , e.g. Sweet Smelling Myrrh and A Short & Easy Method of Prayer.
6 Genesis 50:21: J. N. Darby: "spoke consolingly"; Young's Literal Translation of the Holy Bible: "speaks to their heart"