Please read part 1 part 2part 3part 4part 5 part 6part 7, part 8, and part 9 of this series before reading today’s post. Lots of reading, I know, but we’ve been unpacking a simple approach to hearing God speak through scripture that I believe can change your life.

I said earlier that there is a huge difference between reading scripture and hearing from God, and I meant it. In practical terms, this is the hinge the whole door turns on. As I look, look, look, and look, I begin to see—and what God said to John the Baptist or David or Mary or Moses becomes what God is saying to me. I realize that God has specific instructions for my life. I discover what he wants me to do with it. I’ll repeat this because its so important: At some point, what God has said becomes what God is saying to you personally. And there will be an action point attached to it.

It’s true. He hasn’t shown you all this great stuff so you can smile, nod, and go to bed feeling good about yourself. He actually thinks that what he gave you will change your life in practical ways. The passage you studied may tell you what to do in general terms—like, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s a start. So you’ve studied the word “neighbor.” You’ve observed the flow, the context, and asked for insight. You’ve seen yourself in the mirror—you know that you’ve been preoccupied with your own life and that God is calling you to spend more time on people in need.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. See, nowhere in the Bible will you find precise instructions on what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and who to do it to. I won’t find a verse that says, “Brad, thou must goeth and bring a warm cake-eth to 129 Carolina street at 8:14pm… Eth.” It’s just not there.

Bottom line, the Bible tells me to love my neighbor and leaves me holding the bag. How come? Is it because God doesn’t care how or why or when or who I do it to? I’ve heard pastors teach that, and I don’t buy it. No, God’s got the hairs on my head numbered, for pity’s sake! He’s got “good works… prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). And my Bible study has put me hot on the trail of those works so I can get doing them.

Then why the gap? Why leave me hanging?

Hold on, don’t get all tied in a knot. The gap is left there on purpose, to push you into actually relating to God. The specifics are supposed to be a Spirit-led thing that you and Jesus work out one-on-one. If he gave you a list or a detailed instruction manual on every moment of your life, you wouldn’t need a relationship with him. You’d just go on your merry way, checking things off the list. You’d become one of those teachers of the law that knew their Bibles backwards and forwards but missed the whole point.

So how do you know how to take the next step? Trust him! Walk it out with God! Hey, you asked him for wisdom, to guide you into all truth. He’s with you and even inside you. He’s led you masterfully to the point where you had to ask, “Now what?” And he won’t leave you hanging. At least, not forever. You may have to wrestle a bit, but trust the fact that he wants you to put it into practice and will help you do just that.

And remember that there’s a big difference between complicated and difficult. Lot’s of people have sat in my office and told me they don’t know what God is saying to them. I’ve come to see that if a person’s heart is in the right place and they’ve asked God for wisdom, searched the scriptures, and bounced the issue off a few advisors, they usually know exactly what to do… and don’t like it. So they pretend they’re confused, when really they’re just hesitant to obey because the implications are inconvenient. Don’t confuse what God has made clear.

And you might want to write down the ideas that come to you (a plug for journaling again) so you don’t forget them and can come back to stuff all later to see how you’re doing with his instructions.  Get as specific as you can.  Writing down “Love people” is too vague.  You can’t tell if you’ve done it.  Specifics can be tracked and measured and built on.

But beyond that, I have one more little tidbit before we move on. All in good time!