The art of following God begins with a heart to follow God. Without a heart, one is clinically dead. Without a heart for God, one is spiritually dead and cannot follow God.
The Old Testament especially is full of examples of the art of following God: examples of what to do, and examples of what not to do, abound aplenty. The New Testament likewise, abounds with the means to do this and clear guidance for Christians.
To follow God we must be first and foremost obedient: obedient to the will and word of God in all things and at all times. God is a God of protocol: we must do things His way and at His timing. God is also limitlessly resourceful: we must not think that just because God did it a certain way once, or even twice, He will do it that way again. With that in mind, we cannot, we must not, take God for granted.
Let us look at the story of Moses and his actions in the provision of water for his people. We start in Exodus 15:5-6 “And Jehovah said to Moses, ….. And take your rod with which you struck the river, in your hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there upon the rock in Horeb. And you shall smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, so that the people may drink.” God told Moses, as He had at the parting of the Red Sea, to strike with his rod. As Moses complied, water flowed. We next move to Numbers 20:7-8 “And Jehovah spoke to Moses saying, Take the rod, and gather the assembly, you and Aaron your brother, and speak to the rock before their eyes. And it shall give forth its water, and you shall bring forth to them water out of the rock.” What did God ask Moses to do this time? ”Speak to the rock” But what did Moses do? (v20:11) “Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he struck the rock twice. And the water came out plentifully, and the congregation and their animals drank.” Moses disobeyed God and struck the rock with the rod, instead of just speaking God’s words to the rock. Pride and impatience got in his way and as a result he never saw the Promised Land. v20:12 tells us “Jehovah spoke to Moses and Aaron, Because you did not believe Me, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.” Moses followed the wrong protocol. God was doing a new thing and Moses ended up disobeying God by doing an old thing – something which was not in His will. Moses took the glory from God in his prideful and impatient state, saying “I can do this, I don’t need help, I’ll show them!”
Sometimes God will test us to grow us, but we cannot always know this at the time. In retrospect, we may recognise it and appreciate our growth. In Judges 6:11 an angel came Gideon as he threshed wheat in a winepress to hide if from the marauding Midianites, telling him v11 “Jehovah is with you, mighty warrior,” and to then go an save the country. Gideon, from a poor family and the least in his own house protested at this imposition on his otherwise mundane life. However, Gideon had been selected by God for a purpose. Gideon asked for confirmation that it really was God asking, and on seeing the proof, agreed to serve. Later Gideon again asked for confirmation in the “fleeces” of Judges 6:36-40 and again his request was granted. In this, we can see that God does not get upset at honest requests for confirmation of who He is, or our requests to help us overcome our unbelief. Later, Gideon was tested again, as the Lord reduced the size of his army from 35,000 to only 300 soldiers with whom to face the Midianite hordes of 135,000. Why did the Lord reduce the horrible odds of 135,000 to 35,000 down to 135,000 to 300? He tells us in v7:2 “And Jehovah said to Gideon, The people with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel boast themselves against Me, saying, My own hand has saved me.” So God reduced the size of Gideon’s army, that none may boast that they had victory – the victory belonged to the Lord and to Him alone.
We cannot grow impatient when following the Lord, for the Lord has His own timing for His actions and His protocols for actions. In First Samuel 13 we read of King Saul growing impatient and after waiting for seven days for Samuel to come and present a burnt offering to the Lord, his patience ran out. v9 “And Saul said, Bring a burnt offering here to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering.“ Immediately Saul completed his sacrifice, Samuel arrived and asked what had happened. As Saul related the events, the error of his ways was clear to him as he told Samuel v12-14 “I have not made supplication to Jehovah. And I forced myself and offered a burnt offering. And Samuel said to Saul, You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of Jehovah your God, which He commanded you. For now Jehovah would have established your kingdom on Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not stand. Jehovah has sought Him a man after His own heart, and Jehovah has appointed him to be leader over His people, because you have not kept what Jehovah commanded you.” The inheritance of Saul’s kingship was lost because he lost patience and broke covenant with the Lord, by offering a sacrifice by himself. In his pride and impatience, Saul broke the protocol of sacrifice and started a steady decline, in which eventually the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul and was replaced by a distressing spirit.
Similarly, we cannot effictively follow God if we only look at situations through worldly eyes; with worldly eyes we cannot see spiritually, that which God has planned since the day of creation. This was the case when Samuel was sent anoint a new king from among the children of Jesse the Bethelemite. Then Samuel looked at the adult children of Jesse and in First Samuel 16:6 “and it happened as they came in, he saw Eliab and said, Surely Jehovah’s anointed is before Jehovah.” But the Lord does not judge by outside appearances as said to Samuel v7 “Do not look on his face, nor on his height, because I have refused him. For He does not see as man sees. For man looks on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looks on the heart.” Then after seeing all the brothers in the house and having them rejected, Jesse called for David, the youngest, who was out caring for the sheep. v12 “And he sent and brought him in. And he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and good form. And Jehovah said, Arise, anoint him. For this is he.” No, we need to use spiritual eyes to see as the Lord sees, that which is the “inner truth” the heart.
To follow God we are not called to walk alone, but in the company of fellow Christians and to encourage each other (1 Thessalonians 4:18). Paul’s admonition for us (Philippians 2:12) is to “cultivate your own salvation with fear and trembling.” The New Testament also provides particular guidance for us in what are known as Paul’s Pastoral Epistles: the books of First and Second Timothy and Titus. However, studying the Bible and learning the Bible without it producing external fruit, is meaningless. It provides head-knowledge and puffs up. It does not necessarily change us. Being filled with the Holy Spirit, yet having no Bible knowledge, likewise is of no great benefit, for the Holy Spirit has nothing inside of us to work with. Born-again Christians are required to be both filled with the Holy Spirit and the Word of the Lord. Then we can be changed from the inside out; then we can be remoulded to that which the Lord wants us to be for His use and His glory; then we can follow God in new and unimaginable ways.
When we are both filled with the Spirit and the Word, the Lord will begin to reveal things to us which otherwise we cannot know. Then the fruit will show and people will recognise your walk with the Lord.
But first is obedience and waiting in the Lord. Next is studyinf th Word and doing good deeds such that at the correct time, the Word will be revealed and released, for “All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfected, thoroughly furnished to every good work.“
Amen and Amen.