by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman
For You are my rock and my fortress; for Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me. Psalm 31:3 NASB
In early 1970, comedian Flip Wilson became a household word when his sketch “The Devil Made Me Buy This Dress” aired on the Ed Sullivan Show. Wilson played a minister’s wife who is trying to justify recently buying another new dress. She was walking downtown, minding her own business, she explains. The devil started whispering things in her ear. She saw the dress in the window, resisted, but then he shoved her in the door. He made her try it on. Then he held a gun to her head until she signed the check.
The minister asks his wife: how come when the devil is at work, she is the one who always benefits, and he is the only one who pays a price?
“I asked him that,” the wife assures him. “He said you owe him. He told me that if it wasn’t for him, you wouldn’t have a job.”
In reality, we really are largely guided by our thoughts. But who guides what we think?
Of course, it could be ourselves. Our beliefs and ideas do provide a framework for our actions. What we desire can be a strong influence on choices we make—either for good or bad.
Then, there is the Holy Spirit. In the evening of His impending arrest, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit following His departure. He described Him as the “Spirit of Truth.” The world would not see Him or know Him. But Jesus’ followers would. The Holy Spirit would come and live within each of them. He would teach them all things and guide them into all truth. His presence would be a driving force; and when yielded to Him, believers would be inspired to speak and act (John 14).
Paul assures us that every believer has the Holy Spirit dwelling within them as a guarantee of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). Many of our thoughts are directly from Him.
But there is a third influence on us. That person is Satan. He tries to function like the Holy Spirit by suggesting thoughts and attempting to guide. But his guidance is not based in the truth. He whispers lies into our ears, twisting truth just enough to throw us off the path and into the dark. Exactly where he wants us to head.
How can we tell which of these three is the originator of a thought that occurs to us?
I struggled with this when I was trying to decide if I should leave a rewarding ministry (teaching elementary school) to pursue writing and speaking full time. The idea of going to seminary nagged at my thoughts frequently. But I worried: where did all this passion come from? How could I know for sure it was God who had planted the desire in my heart?
I shared my struggle with my friend Beth. “Why would you think it was anyone but God who wants you to do this?” she asked.
I confessed it was because I wanted it so badly. It was so exciting and new and would fulfill a dream that had been mine for a very long time. But it would require abandoning an ongoing ministry that God had provided. Would He really direct me away from that now?
Then Beth asked a question that would settle the matter for me. “Will God be glorified if you do this?”
Of course He would. I wanted to teach His Word and teach it well. I wanted people to understand His love and grace and mercy. All I wanted was to bring glory to His name.
“Then do it,” she commanded. I knew she was right. I resigned from twenty years of teaching and enrolled in seminary. And have never looked back.
We have a lot of thoughts. We have strong desires. But before we act on them, we need to compare that idea with the truth of God’s Word. It is consistent with its wisdom? Would it enable us to reflect the character of Jesus? Would it bring glory to His name?
Don’t be fooled. God would not direct us to do anything in opposition to His Word. As Jesus told His accusers, a house divided against itself will not stand (Mark 3:25). Scrutinize your thoughts and desires against His truth. And you won’t be led astray.
About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.
Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the conversations Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.
Join the conversation: Have you struggled with knowing from where a thought or idea has come?