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The Danger of Leaning on Your Own Understanding!

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By David Wilkerson
May 30, 1993

Ever since I was a child, I've known what it is to hear the voice of the Lord.

Years ago, He led me by His voice out of the hills of Pennsylvania and through the founding of Teen Challenge, now a worldwide ministry to addicts and alcoholics. His voice has led me around the world, preaching to the lost in many nations. And that same voice led me back to New York City to raise up a church in Times Square.

So many times I heard His voice so clearly I learned to rest in His word to me - and it always came to pass.

Yet I also have known what it is to be confused about His voice. There have been many times when I heard a voice that I thought was the Lord's - and yet nothing ever came of it. It never panned out.

Many of God's people have experienced what I'm talking about. Other voices rise up within us to confuse us - voices so sweet and so clear, yet with words that come to nothing. At times you may have thought the Lord was telling you about people, events and circumstances - things you were convinced of - but they did not turn out the way you thought you'd heard them!

In fact, for a season, so many things may not have panned out that you became discouraged and confused. Perhaps you entered into a great testing period concerning the voice of God - and you wondered if you ever knew His voice at all!

Many have cried out to Him in prayer:
"Lord, why am I getting so many wrong voices? Why can't I hear You clearly? I was so sure it was Your voice - but it wasn't! In fact, often things have turned out the very opposite of what I thought You'd told me. After walking all these years so convinced, I don't think I know Your voice anymore. What's happening?"

When it happened to me, the Holy Spirit graciously whispered to my soul:
"David, I have spoken to you, as you have sought Me intimately and waited patiently for My word to come. But now, in your 60s, you are trying to reason things out! You have allowed your own personal understanding to take on a voice - and it is pretending to be My voice!"

The Bible speaks clearly: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:5).

The Lord knows that our own understanding is corrupt - selfish, self-centered. It doesn't matter that we've been born again and Christ's blood applied to our heart. Our reasoning remains untrustworthy!

God has said: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Our human understanding is suspicious, fearful. And many times our understanding rises up and pretends to be the still, small voice of the Holy Ghost - and begins to lead us astray!

I want to show you some of the dangers of leaning on your own understanding:

1. Almost All Confusion About Hearing the Voice of God
Comes From Trusting in Our Own Human Understanding!

There is much confusion in the church today concerning hearing and knowing the voice of God. Everywhere you turn, people are saying, "The Lord told me..." "The Lord said..." Yet very little of what you hear from them is truly of God!

Many believers are doing something I believe is very dangerous: They want quick answers - but they do not realize that getting to know God's voice requires much time and intimacy with Him. It takes honest heart-searching, whereby the will of God becomes the entire focus. But these don't want to spend time shut in with God, emptying their spirits of self!

Instead, they meditate. They clear their mind, putting it in neutral, and become passive. And that passive empty mind is easily manipulated by the flesh and the devil! It is fertile ground for Satan to come in and whisper anything!

When such lazy Christians hear a word, they don't test it by God's Spirit or His Word. They haven't learned to know His voice - and they think that whatever pops into their mind is from God!

Our human understanding can come to us as an angel of light, speaking clearly and fluently. But it is our flesh - a pretender to God's voice!

This happened to me after God directed our ministry to come to New York City and raise up a church. We had very little money. But God had promised us He would give us a place to worship that would take our breath away!

I prayed, "Lord, where can we find such a place?" We had been renting Town Hall as temporary quarters. Then I saw that one place was for sale - the Biltmore, a small theater on 47th Street.

Now, the Biltmore was not breathtaking! It was run-down and seated only about 750 people. But it was available - for $2.5 million. A voice came to me, whispering, "This is it - this is your new home! Claim it!" The voice was so loud and so clear - and it rose up in me again and again.

Indeed, I couldn't imagine God giving us something much better. I reasoned, "This is a big enough miracle for me. It will be a great miracle just to get $2.5 million. And 750 people is a lot of people!"

So night after night I walked back and forth in front of the Biltmore, claiming it for a church. And all along, that sweet, angelic voice was whispering, "I'm giving you the Biltmore!"

Well - God didn't give us the Biltmore! I prayed, "Lord, where did that voice come from - that urging?" God showed me - it was the voice of my own understanding, my own human reasoning - pretending to be God!

Praise God - today, we worship in that promised, breath-taking theater, the Mark Hellinger, which seats almost 2,000 - and we own it free and clear! This was God's plan all along. But I didn't have the faith to believe it! I had been trusting and leaning on my own understanding!

The Bible gives us a clear example of this kind of thinking in 2 Kings 7, when the word of the Lord came to Elisha in famine-stricken Samaria. All food and water was gone. Things had gotten so desperate that two mothers had become cannibals, agreeing to eat each other's children!

Then Elisha stood up and prophesied before the king and the people:
"Tomorrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria" (2 Kings 7:1).

That was the voice of God! But the word was too outrageous for the royal officer who was keeper of the city gate. Inexpensive flour and barley? Were these to appear overnight, when there was nothing at all in sight - not even a cup of grain?

The gatekeeper's human understanding rose up - and he said, mockingly: "Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be?" (verse 2). In other words, "The only way this prophecy could be fulfilled is if God opens up the heavens and literally rains down grain on us. It's totally impossible!"

Often, when God speaks to us, His word to us is so wonderful, unbelievable and life-saving that we can't take it all in! So our flesh - our human understanding - rises up and takes on a voice. Instead of simply resting and trusting in His word, we begin to lean on our own thinking. We wonder, "How could this ever come to pass? It would be humanly impossible!" Suddenly, we have built parameters for God - we hedge Him in on all sides!

Beloved, our human understanding always limits God! God told the elderly Sarah she would have a child and become the mother of many nations. What an incredible, glorious word! But Sarah's human understanding quickly rose up and said: "Me, a mother at 100? Why, my womb is dead. My husband is an old man. It's impossible!" She laughed at the thought!

Has God ever told you something which seemed that impossible? Did you believe Him, trusting the outcome to His time and way? Or did you scoff at the idea, leaning on your own understanding and looking at circumstances rather than trusting in His Word?

Dear saint, you have got to come back to believing what God has told you! You must not lose His word to you - that which once spoke life into your heart! God is even bigger than the promise He made you. He is more able than anything you've heard yet!

Indeed, it is His pleasure to open the windows of heaven to His saints! He is in the business of sending miracles, doing the impossible. "Prove me now herewith... if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (Malachi 3:10).

2. Leaning on Our Own Understanding Is the
Cause of Misjudging Other Christians!

Paul said: "We are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things" (Romans 2:2).

God judges by the heart - but man judges by outward appearances, with his own corrupt, human understanding. And there is so much misjudging by Christians - of other Christians! Most of it is damaging, hurtful, and totally unnecessary.

I have to admit, I have been guilty of this at times. A few years ago, a young lady came to our office for counseling. There was a darkness in her eyes. Her voice was low and unemotional. My first impression was, "She's a lesbian. Her eyes are evil, foreboding. I've seen this look before. She's had to be involved in deep sin to have this look!"

Yet within five minutes, I was crying inside - because I realized how badly I had misjudged her! I had been reading her outward appearance - and yet, in reality, her dark eyes mirrored long years of hardship and suffering. She was a godly prayer warrior who in fact had never been involved in sensuality. She was married to Christ! How ashamed I felt!

On another occasion, I gently reproved a woman in our church for wearing dark sunglasses. My human understanding whispered to me, "She is trying to be 'cool' - to look younger than she is." Every time I saw her, she had those dark glasses on. So I finally said to her, "Why the dark glasses? Are you trying to be 'cool'? You wear them even in church."

Her answer humbled me: "I'm sorry if they offend you. They're doctor's orders - my eyes are sensitive to sun and dust. Without them, my eyes would swell shut. Otherwise, I'd never wear them."

I had totally misjudged her - even to the point of an evil conclusion! A young man came to my office some time ago to tell me how Jesus had delivered him from a terrible addiction to crack cocaine. His business had been failing, because he used all the money he made to buy crack.

Finally, his addiction led to fearful visions of demon activity. Lying in bed, he would see occultic symbols burn into his bedroom walls. People's faces appeared in them, and their flesh melted away, leaving horrible skulls.

One night he had a terrifying vision. He was surrounded by his family, who were all looking down on him. He realized it was his funeral - and he was dead!

A young woman from our church had been praying for this young man and witnessing to him. Shortly after he had this vision, she called him and said, "The Lord showed me you have only two weeks to live." He knew God was telling him death was at the door!

In total desperation, he fell on the floor of his living room and cried out, "Oh God, I'm helpless against this hellish crack. It's overwhelming me! If You're real, if what she says is true, You've got to reveal Yourself to me. Please, help me!"

Suddenly, the room was flooded with light. He knew it was supernatural! He could feel the presence of God all around him, When the light left, he knew he had to go back to his bedroom - but he didn't want to see those burning occult symbols anymore. So he decided to hang pictures where the symbols had appeared on the walls.

He picked up a hammer and took a nail in each band. When he looked down at the nails in his palms, he heard Jesus say: "My nail-scarred hands give you power over your addiction. Trust Me - it is no longer your battle, because I have already won it at the Cross, You can be free!"

His desire for crack was taken away immediately! And for the past two years, that young man has attended our church, growing in Christ. What an incredible testimony for God!

But a few months ago, this same young man told me something that really tested my theology. He said he was passing by a topless bar when he felt a great prompting to go inside. But it wasn't a lustful, fleshly urge. He told me: "I knew it wasn't the devil - so I went in. But I thought, "What am I doing here? This can't be God!"'

A young performer sat down beside him and said, "You don't look like you belong here. You're different." So they struck up a conversation.

At this point in the story, I thought, "This boy is about to lose me. He's either incredibly naive or only half-saved!"

Then he said he and the girl arranged to meet outside, and they went for a walk. He told her about his deliverance, how Jesus had set him free from crack.

The girl confessed, "I hate what I'm doing. I've got to quit! I took the job because I was broke and couldn't find any other way to survive. I don't belong with this crowd!"

She did quit - and she gave her heart to the Lord! Soon afterward, she and the young man got married. Now they come to church on fire for God!

Yet, the whole time this young man was talking, I was thinking to myself, "Oh, no! How could this be?" I thought of all kinds of Scriptures to judge what he told me.

But just as I was about to dismiss the whole thing, another Scripture came to mind. I remembered what God had instructed the prophet Hosea:
"And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms... love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress" (Hosea 1:2, 3:1). God was saying to him, in other words: "Go, pick out a harlot and marry her!" This girl was not a harlot - but was in an environment that lends itself to harlotry. There went my whole judgment!

How true that God's ways are above our ways, His thoughts above our thoughts. His ways are past our "finding out"!

Paul admonishes us: "Why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ... So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God" (Romans 14:10,12).

Paul is saying, "You've got a big enough job on your hands just to judge your own heart. You might as well stop worrying about everybody else's!"

I don't want to stand before Christ's judgment seat and cringe as I see people whom I've misjudged being beckoned to Him as His beloved. I have thought of many saints, "There's something about his spirit that doesn't witness with me. I'm not at ease around her!" Yet when God opens the books and I am judged, what will He say to me for trusting in my own judgments - my own human fears and conclusions that were so wrong?

Jesus Was Completely Misjudged
by the Scribes and Pharisees!

They called the Son of God a wine-guzzler, a party lover - one who was in league with the devil! How could anyone ever misjudge worse than that?

Christ knew the blinding power of such judging! He warned: "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24).

We are to judge with righteous judgment - and not that of our own fleshly mind! When God shows us something, it is meant for us to ponder in our heart and to pray.

God does give some people a keen spirit of discernment, Those who are intimate with Jesus know by His Spirit 'when evil is present in someone. It registers in their spiritual mind.

But the gift of discernment is never to be used to broadcast someone's sin or destroy a person's reputation. That makes the discerner a worse sinner than the one with an evil spirit!

I have heard it said, "All women have a natural intuition. They can tell when a person has evil in his heart." A woman once told me, "I'm never wrong! An alarm always goes off in me whenever I'm around somebody who is a phony."

I'm sorry - I don't buy that! The Word says, "Don't trust it - it is your own human understanding!"

Jesus said: "Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?" (John 7:51). In other words, do we dare judge anyone before we know him, talk to him and see what he is about?

Another of Jesus' warnings digs deep into my spirit: "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" (Matthew 7:1-2).

Just when you are questioning another person's spirituality and sincerity, someone else is questioning yours! Rest assured - if you give it out, you'll get it back!

3. Leaning On Our Own Understanding
Leads to A Misinterpreting of God's
Ways and Workings in Our Lives!

At this very moment, a great number of God's choicest servants are being sorely tested and tried! Maybe you are being overwhelmed right now by sudden afflictions, fiery trials, incredible times of stress. Your trial could be spiritual, financial, emotional.

Perhaps as you read this message, you have convinced yourself that you are under judgment - under the wrath and rod of God. The thought comes to you over and over: "You're going through this because you've failed God! You're in the fire of affliction because He has turned you over to the devil to chasten you!"

Beloved, when you are going through the fire or the flood, you dare not trust your own understanding! You cannot reason your way through hard times. Your own thoughts about your testing will deceive you!

What is God's mind, His Word, concerning your present troubles and trials?

The writer of Psalm 66 said: "For Thou, O God, hast proved us: Thou hast tried us, as silver is tried" (Psalm 66:10). He is saying, "'This is all God's doing! He has led you into this trial, for a special purpose! God is proving you - it is not the work of the devil."

No matter what you're going through, you can rest assured: The Lord is behind it - He is testing you! He is trying you, in order to bring something glorious out of you - and that is, a total confidence in His faithfulness!

But then the psalm writer goes further: "Thou broughtest us into the net; Thou laidst affliction upon our loins" (verse 11). He says it was God who led you into the net! God laid this heavy burden on you. It is He who weighed you down!

"Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water" (verse 12). God allowed others to walk over you, to take advantage of you. The Lord allowed you to go through blazing fire and great floods. All of it is God at work in you!

Our human understanding cannot comprehend such a thing. Our reasoning tells us: "The devil is trying to kill me! He has put afflictions and great burdens on me. He is trying to shipwreck me!"

Yet, from cover to cover, the Bible makes it clear that all our purgings and testings come from the Father - not from Satan! "And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin" (Isaiah 1:25).

I have stopped asking God why I have to go through such fire and floods - because through them all, I am learning something of His ways. God tells us: "Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice" (1 Peter 4:12-13).

Dear saint, stop trying to figure out your trials. Stop asking, "God, why am I having to endure this battle?" Put aside your human reasoning - and rest in this thought: "God is doing something in me. God's hand is in this!"

You may not like the testing you're in - it may seem overwhelming. But God has never left you alone in your trial. Even when you feel you've failed Him, God is there all the time!

The psalm writer said: "[He] holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved" (Psalm 66:9). He was saying, "God is holding my soul in His life! He will not let my feet slip under me. He is holding me steady until all of this passes!"

He came out of his trial full of faith, proclaiming, "Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what He hath done for my soul" (verse 16). He was saying, "Gather 'round! I've had a great deliverance. I want to testify of the great things God has done for me!"

Here is the testimony of those who do not panic, but trust God in it all: "Thou broughtest us out into a wealthy [fruitful] place" (verse 12).

Beloved, do not listen to what your fears may whisper to you. Forget trying to understand it all. Just stand still, trust - and see God's hand at work.

He will bring you out of it and into a fruitful place. And you'll be burning with a testimony to the utter faithfulness of your God! Hallelujah!

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