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Monday, August 24, 2009

The Stigma of Christ, Part 3: Boldness

Back in college, I decided that Christ was worth the rejection and trouble that might come my way if I made it public that I was a Christian. I had mentally resolved the two issues that I've covered so far in this series--fear and the loss of social status when you take a stand for Christ. However, I suppose, though I thought (and told myself) that I was going to rely entirely on Christ if persecution came my way, I was still relying too much on my own strength. When bad persecution came, I realized that taking a stand for Jesus requires a lot more than just willpower. It was good to know that God was on my side, but somehow that thought alone was not comforting enough when my adversaries were standing right there, glaring at me. That was a hard thing to admit to myself. I thought I was being such a brave, model Christian!

At those moments, I needed the ability to forget that I was afraid, to feel the presence of God there. Standing on my own strength failed. I needed a supernatural emotional shield, because it's hard not to take it personally when someone hurls insults and threats your way. You can't overcome personal persecution by the "power of positive thinking," padlocks on your doors, or treating yourself to an ice cream cone. Somehow, it always finds you, and usually when you're trying to go to sleep at night.

That's not something the modern world can accept. We have been brought up to believe in "the power of the human spirit" and "self-sufficiency," among other such humanist catch phrases. We have been taught that we aren't helpless, and that we have the power within ourselves to make choices and carry them out.

Well, that isn't strictly true. We need God's strength. We need God's guidance and God's insight. This is never more apparent than when we are combating the supernatural forces of evil. If it was a human struggle against human beings, our own strength might be enough to overcome our enemies (provided that they are weaker physically or mentally than we are). When we are coming up against supernatural powers, our own strength is nothing against theirs. We need God's help if we want to win, since He is greater than anything in His creation.

Search the Word of God

I recall the story early in the book of Acts, in which Peter and John boldly shared their belief in Christ and publicly healed a crippled man--and got arrested for it. They were questioned by the Jewish body of law, the Sanhedrin, and could have been put to death for their beliefs. In the end, they were released with warnings to say nothing about Christ again, because the Sanhedrin wanted to keep it all hush-hush, but were afraid of the public support that Peter and John had.

After that, Peter and John were probably more afraid than they had been before. They'd just seen Christ framed and executed by the Jewish and Roman leaders. Now, they were looking at the same future. If they said anything else, they would be officially transgressing against the Sanhedrin's ruling--officially defying the law of the land--but how could they keep silent?

On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
" 'Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together
against the Lord
and against his Anointed One.' Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Acts 4: 23-31 NIV)
What can we get from this passage? First, that we are able to present our requests boldly to God, even reminding Him of passages in His Word to support our argument. In fact, this is a great reason why we should familiarize ourselves with what the Bible says.

I also see a perfect willingness in the hearts of the Christians to accept death for the cause of Christ. They see that what happened to Christ occurred because God had decided it was going to happen. I see no complaints about the idea that it might be happening to them, now, as well. Instead, they just ask God to enable them to be usable servants, even in their dire circumstances.

What did they ask for? Boldness. They aren't asking for weapons, or for God to take out their enemies in some sort of disaster. They are asking for the supernatural ability to ignore, even forget the fear and the trouble around them. They are not asking to escape their circumstances, but rather, they are asking for help to live in them. This is not a human boldness, because even human boldness can eventually crumble under duress.

The Prayer for Boldness

Before any persecution came, when I was so excited about sharing my faith in college, I went with my college church youth pastor to a regional youth meeting in a small town about 45 minutes from campus. I'd never been to this tiny church (in fact, I didn't even know the town existed until I visited it). I was pleasantly surprised to find that the pastor in this church was a woman (I don't know why that shocked me). I was shocked again to see how fearlessly she preached about Christ and our need to be filled with His love, His purpose, and His Spirit. There was no attempts to be politically correct or spare sensitive feelings. If something needed to be said, she did so.

I had been asking God to fill me with His Spirit for some time, especially since I had resolved to take a new stand for Christ, because I had seen how the Holy Spirit strengthened a believer's faith. When this pastor gave an altar call at the end, telling us she wanted us to come up and let her pray with us, I was ready. I got in line and she started at the far end of the line, praying with each person. One by one, I saw people filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues and praising God. The presence of God in the room was so strong you could feel Him, like Isaiah's vision of God's robes filling the temple (Isaiah 6: 1).

When she came to me, I was fully confident God was going to answer my prayer request. No, I didn't see the pastor as some sort of magician who was going to teach me a new trick or tell me my fortune. I was just happy to be able to pray with her, because I knew she knew God.

Only, she never asked me why I had come up there. She was listening to God, and He told her what she needed to pray for, on my behalf. She grabbed me in a bear hug and, suddenly weeping, she said, "Oh Lord, I see. Give Her boldness Lord, so she can do what she has to do in this hard time, even when everyone has left. Strengthen her and lead her." I was flabbergasted. Not really sure how to take that, since my life was relatively carefree at that moment. Somehow, though, it was comforting to know that, come what may, God was looking out for my best interests at that moment.

I know there are many skeptics in the Christian field who don't believe in the Pentecostal movement. They are often justified in their skepticism, too. But, as I've said before, a prophet is proven to have actually heard from God when their messages come true. In her case, they all did. By the end of the year, my life at that time was nothing more than a distant memory. My granddad had died suddenly of cancer, I'd lost all my friends, and I had gained some formidable enemies, including professors. The life I'd planned for myself had suddenly evaporated, and I was relying on God more than ever before to tell me what to do next. But guess what! I was closer to God than I'd ever been before. I don't regret speaking out about my faith, though many have tried to make me regret it. I've been given a kind of boldness when talking about Christ that sometimes even shocked me when I look back on the confrontations I've had. It's real, people!

Step of Faith

I'm sharing that story, despite the way some skeptics have scoffed at it, because I know that those people's opinions don't change the fact that it did happen. I didn't listen to the "Sanhedrin's" warnings, either--I kept talking--and I could do that because I knew that the Holy Spirit goes with me and gives me boldness at the right time.

Trouble is promised to come to those who believe, but as a Christian, you can get through it, and live a victorious life in the midst of it. If you are struggling in your faith as you risk everything for Christ, I encourage you to seek God out on this subject, and find out for yourself. He can give you all the boldness and strength you need, plus some extra, if you ask Him! He will enable you to rely solely on Him and focus on obeying Him. The trouble fades into the background like so many gnats when God is in the midst of the storm. Don't just take my word for that, either. Live it!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Stigma of Christ, Part 2: Fear

As I made it clear in the last post, it's essential that Christians should be willing to take a stand for Christ, even if it requires a certain amount of "risk." To be a fair-weather Christian is not okay.

Once a Christian decides to take the risk and stand up for Christ, Satan gets really busy trying to shut him or her down. At least, that's what I have experienced. One of his favorite tactics is fear. Satan will use people and circumstances around you to threaten you with the loss of your friends, your lifestyle, your job, your legal record, or perhaps even your life. It doesn't matter whether such bad things are really going to happen or not; the point is to make you afraid.

While it is true that God has promised to be with us, we do not have any promise that He will ensure that we always get it easy in this life. Sometimes Satan does get to carry out his threats. The early Christians boldly proclaimed their faith in Christ, even though it often led to death or imprisonment. Stephen was martyred for simply speaking the truth about Christ. Is fear of this sort of treatment one of the reasons that so many Christians hold back and avoid "rocking the boat" in this present age?

Years ago, I thought America was one of those safe places in the universe--you know, things that were inevitable everywhere else just never came to pass over here. As a United States citizen, I am not supposed to be mistreated for practicing my religion, because the central legal document of my government, the Constitution, supposedly prohibits that kind of persecution. But, just like any law, that one can also be changed, redefined, and even abolished over time. Frame jobs and other miscarriages of justice are not beyond Satan's usual bag of tricks. While it is safer in the free world to speak out about Christ, it can still be dangerous.

After I logged off from writing my last blog post, I discovered this article in my feed reader about some school officials and their spouses who are currently facing fines and imprisonment for praying publicly at a school-related dinner. As a U.S. citizen, I find the court's decision outrageous. It is a very obvious infringement on the legal rights of Christians to practice our religion. As a Christian, I can see a possible spiritual element in this situation. Praying over meals is such a common practice that it has even been showcased in Norman Rockwell paintings and other pieces of classic Americana! Now, suddenly, it becomes an offense worthy of imprisonment? I don't know the whole situation, but I must say there seems to be something fishy going on there.

We have a saying at my house that you must be doing something right if Satan is willing to expend that much energy just to make you miserable. It doesn't always hold true, because sometimes we encounter resistance when we try to do something that God doesn't support. However, when you come up against a lot of trouble when you know you have obeyed God's command, you can be certain that the trouble is of a supernatural sort.

Again, I don't know the context of the situation I just mentioned, but if they have done what God told them to do, they have my support, and apparently Satan's persecution.

I read this passage in my regular Bible study the other day, and thought I'd share it today:
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. 'Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.' But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.(1 Peter 3: 13-16 NIV)
So what can I get out of that passage? First, I see that I shouldn't be afraid, because I know God, and I can be confident that in everything, He will grant me victory over Satan's fear tactics. After all, no matter what Satan and his buddies manage to do to my body, I know that Satan cannot harm my spirit. One day, I will escape to Heaven while he gets the punishment he has coming to him.

Secondly, I see that I shouldn't put everything on the line for Christ if I'm not in fact doing it for Christ. For instance, if I'm doing it to draw praise or power for myself (things that don't "set apart Christ as Lord"), or with a bad attitude and a guilty conscience (such as showing disrespect to the authorities or a disregard for law and order). Professing my faith in public is not an excuse to riot or harm others. Even when they are harming me, I should return their treatment with gentleness, to their shame.

Facing the Judge

The author of the above passage (Peter) had once spoken out in court about his faith, although it was illegal to practice Christianity (see Acts 4: 1-22 NIV). He did this boldly, even though it was entirely within the court's power to put him to death for speaking about his relationship with Christ. Nevertheless, he spoke because it was the right thing to do, as he explained to the Sanhedrin at the time. We, too, ought to speak boldly, not because we are "safe" to do so, but rather because it is simply the right thing to do.

When the Time Comes to Speak, and We are So Afraid...

Christ warned us ahead of time that we might encounter some real resistance--not just bullying, but serious, physical harm. At those times, we might be terribly afraid. We might even be afraid that we had gotten in over our heads, or that we would not be able to follow through on "doing the right thing, just because it's the right thing." Here's what Christ said to such fears (incidentaly, this passage immediately follows the one in my blog header):
Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10: 17-20 NIV).
So, when Satan is trying to make us feel afraid, we need to remember that he isn't picking a fight with us. Rather, he is trying to get at God through us, and God is going to handle the situation personally, rather than leaving us to deal with it alone. We don't need to be afraid. We don't need to worry about how we're going to handle it. We just need to trust God and persist in obeying Him. He will take care of the rest.

One last parting verse, from Paul's second letter to Timothy. (Both had been imprisoned for preaching the gospel, and Paul was still in prison at the time): "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." (2 Timothy 7-10 NIV).

I want to pray for Christians around the world who have encountered such tremendous persecution that they are afraid to persist. I pray that God will strengthen them and enable them to proclaim the message of God boldly, without fear, as He has done for so many others who have chosen to follow Him. May God be with them, and direct them, as He has promised in His Word. In Christ's name, Amen!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Stigma of Christ, Part 1: Risk

I'm not talking about the stigmata of Christ, a Latin term meaning "puncture wound," which has long referred to Christ's post-resurrection scars, particularly those holes made by the nails in His hands and feet. I'm referring to the "stigma" or disgrace and disrespect associated with Christ and those who practice Christianity.

Almost six years ago, someone I knew chose the unfortunate word "stigma" to explain what he feared would happen if he broadcast his specific religious beliefs in a public forum. No, it didn't bother him at all to tell others that he called himself a "Christian," but he didn't want the public to know what exactly he believed beyond that--for instance, what Christian denomination he was, or the doctrinal beliefs associated with it.

At the time, it was what I would call a defining moment in my personal faith. Exactly what do Christians risk by broadcasting their personal beliefs? Is it worth the "stigma"?

Somehow, until then I had coasted through my faith, without any real challenges to it. I had always hung out with a crowd that was primarily Christian; they all regularly attended church, talked about their faith regularly and openly, dressed and spoke in a manner meant to please God rather than men, and never doubted their freedom to publicly mention the name of the church they went to. When someone made a derogatory comment about Christ, Christianity, or even the denomination I was raised in, the Assemblies of God, I always had chalked it up as "their problem," and dismissed it. I never really felt "exposed" or "at risk" for being the person I am, and believing what I believe. Well, until that comment.

I guessed at the time that perhaps this individual meant that some people object to certain doctrines of the Pentecostal movement, such as speaking in tongues. Well, I already knew that if you mentioned those things, some people would dub you "weirdo" and avoid you from that point forward. Honestly, it never really bothered me, and I have pretty-much always had friends who believed differently on those issues. I have also ventured to say (to Baptists, for instance, if they brought it up) that their concerns that such doctrines can be misquoted, misused, and twisted to cover over sinful and destructive behavior are valid concerns. But enough of that. Doctrines particular to the Pentecostal movement, as time passed, never came up for discussion. They weren't the "stigma" referenced.

Unfortunately, I eventually learned that, among young people in my own denomination and others, the referenced "stigma" of being a Christian is that any particularly dogmatic kind of Christian has a "unpleasant" habit of telling people that they are wrong, sinful, unable to solve their own problems, and headed to Hell. Generally speaking, openly-professing Christians, by just stating what they believe, or even by quietly living what they believe, make people feel "bad." And that stigma, the mark of being an "unpleasantly dogmatic" person, should be avoided at all costs.

I want to make it publicly clear, now, that I have nothing personal against this individual, or any others, who feel this way. In fact, their belief breaks my heart. It forces me to be "unpleasant" toward them by explaining why I know that the Bible doesn't support their beliefs. I'd much rather they be happy and comfortable, but instead, I have to put my whole relationship with them on the line just to correct a dangerous error in their thinking.

You see, Christ left us with no "safe" alternatives. He defined how Christians should act, what they should believe, and what they shouldn't. He left no room for ambiguity or "making nice" with those who are offended by an honest and gentle statement of the facts.

As I've said, stigma is an interesting word, because it can be used both as a descriptor of Christ's suffering and rejection, and the suffering and rejection mankind can get from mankind. I understand that people are bullied, hunted, and killed in all parts of the globe, just for publicly admitting that they follow Christ and all of His teachings--including the "uncomfortable" doctrines, like Hell, sinfulness, and the divide between God and man that Christ was sent to bridge. Just face it. Calling yourself a Christian ties you in with such people. It should mean that you have an opinion that you are standing by; it should galvanize the crowds around you to either love you or hate you. It should label you and even mark you for trouble. At the crux (pun intended) of the matter, a profession of Christianity should put you at risk of being "stigmatized."

To run from this risk is basically to try to be Christ's friend, agreeing with Him and supporting Him, unless the going gets too difficult. If you believe this, are you really Christ's follower? Do you really love Jesus, or are you calling yourself a Christian because you think it makes you better than everyone else?

I'm posing the question because I was forced to ask it of myself when I heard that admitting my beliefs would mark me with an unpleasant "stigma." In response to the question, dozens of forgotten memory verses rose up from my memory to challenge me:

"Then he [Christ] called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'" (Matthew 8: 34 NIV)
"But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 10: 33 KJV)."
"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4: 12-17 NIV)
And, finally,
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2: 20 NIV).
In case you hadn't already figured it out, I chose to accept the risk, and it changed my life and my faith forever. Before, I loved Christ, but now, I joyfully suffer shame because of Him--because there's really nothing to be ashamed of.

Do you love Christ enough to take the risk?

Monday, August 3, 2009

What Does God Require Concerning Bible Study?

This is a sticky question in Christian circles. It really makes Christians look ignorant, or at the least, silly, when they know nothing about the Bible they claim to defend so vehemently. On the other hand, Christians, like everyone else, are usually busy. Time constraints are probably the number one reason why many Christians don't know as much about the Bible (and the basic tenants of their faith) as they ought to.

At the other extreme, I've heard of some Christians who have rigorous standards for studying the Bible, such as demanding that all Christians should rise at 5:00 a.m. and read five chapters in their Bible (taking notes) before they can do anything else. I met someone once who had been told to follow a routine similar to this, or else face God's wrath because "God must be put first in our lives."

This had some amusing implications in my mind, but I kept them to myself at the time. I didn't want this person to feel that I was mocking a sincere (albeit misguided) effort to please God. Still, my mind immediately saw an error in the logic of this idea: What if I followed such a Bible study routine, but woke up one day at 4:45 a.m. needing to run to the bathroom? Would I be putting God second to the "demands of the flesh" if I headed there, first, or should I scramble to read five chapters before getting up?

Okay. As soon as my readers stop snickering, I'll get to the heart of the issue. What is a reasonable Bible study, and why are we supposed to do it, anyway?

To start off, I think that the directive to "put God first" has been completely misinterpreted in the above example. It's not a matter of the time of day, but rather it's a matter of the spirit and the heart. Do you ask God before making an important decision in your life, or do you make a decision and expect God to come along with you? Do you consider what will please God in every aspect of your life, public or private, or do you only do what pleases God to make some showing in front of other people? If you aren't thinking about God first, you aren't putting Him first in your life. In this way, it is possible to read the Bible with timing and accuracy to rival an atomic clock, while still putting God second in your daily life.

On the other hand, it isn't a bad thing at all to have some sort of a study routine. God has told us to study the Bible regularly: "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2: 15 KJV). We study it so that (1) We have the approval of God, who told us to study it, (2) So that we don't have the shame of being stumped or confused before God and man on an important topic, and (3) so that we can properly identify or delineate truth from falsehood. Notice that we aren't instructed to study the Bible to punish the flesh or burden ourselves. The Bible is a weapon, above all things, against lies. If you know the truth, no one can trick you; like a diligent student in school, you can "ace the test" because you knew the material so well.
I do believe that God told us that we should study the Bible diligently, but I don't believe God requires us to make Bible study into a crushing burden, because this is almost a sort of works salvation.

So, how much of a priority should Christians make Bible study? Well, that question is up to the individual believer to answer. Some people insist that the Bible should be read in the morning to start the day well. Personally, I've read the Bible on my lunch hour before, because that was the largest uninterrupted time slot in my day. Lately, I've been reading it every night before I go to sleep, so that God's word will be on my mind instead of the worries of the day. When people have asked me what I thought they should do, I just told them to try to work in some Bible reading every day, but not to be unreasonable about it (such as reading it into the wee hours the night before a test or a long drive, or fretting over forgetting to do it one day). In my opinion, the more you know, the safer you are--at least against those who would try to deceive you or lead you into sinfulness--so study the Bible as much as you can.

Paul wrote to a church that was full of Christians who had apparently embraced the news about Christ with rejoicing, but never pushed themselves to learn anything further about God's ways and His requirements. This had resulted in many people slipping back into the sinful lifestyles they had once followed, because they had not armed themselves against the lies that made it all seem "okay" again.
Paul wrote to them, commending them for their love of Christ, but warning them about the terrible danger that ignorance brings. Hebrews chapter 5, verses 11-14, outline Paul's concerns:
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Paul wasn't worried about people drinking milk or eating meat. This concerned spiritual food, rather than literal or physical food. Their faith was very young and undeveloped. Because their faith was undeveloped, they were incapable of exerting any sort of "spiritual muscle" which comes with knowledge of God's will. They could not challenge lies and defeat bad logic, much the same way that a baby cannot wrestle a foe to the ground or fight in battle. The Hebrews had known they needed to arm themselves for some time ("by this time you out to be teachers," that is, so familiar with the material that they could teach it to others). However, they had neglected their studies, and their ignorance was showing in their inability to distinguish good from evil.
Remember that the source of deception is that ancient, cunning foe, Satan. Satan has had many centuries to plot a Christians' demise. No Christian should attempt to combat evil with a cocky attitude, as if he or she is a professional playing against a little-league team. If you want to be an "approved" student of the Bible, you should never go into any situation unprepared, with flabby spiritual muscles. If you do, Satan and all of his time-worn tricks just might get the better of you.

So, speaking to the rest of Paul's metaphor, Christians need muscle-building meat, that is, hard-to-understand and uncomfortable-to-digest passages that really force us to analyze both the situation and ourselves. This is all a part of becoming "wise as serpents" as my blog header reminds us to do.

Though Paul corrected the church in his letter, he did not end the discussion with a note of scorn for how the church people were neglecting their studies. Instead, he tried to encourage them to envision the results of all those hours of study, and reach for a goal that he was fully confident they could achieve. Later on, at the end of that same discussion, Paul wrote,
Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation. God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (Hebrews 6: 9-12 NIV)
Understand it this way: If we were students in school and God was our teacher, Christians would be the students who had grasped the concepts well-enough to pass the class. However, there is more to Christianity than just "passing." We can also be highly-successful students, enjoying the benefits of our success. Paul wanted his fellow Christians to not just barely "pass"; he wanted them to be ace students, without the fear of "failing," or falling away, at the last. He wanted their "hope [to be] sure." Even beyond that, he wanted them to enjoy the security that such knowledge of God's will brings: When we know God's will so well that in our daily lives, we don't have to worry about unknowingly displeasing Him; when we we are released from the fear that Satan might catch us by surprise and overpower us; and finally, when we are able to confidently approach God and ask Him for the guidance and help He has promised us in His Word.