"Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."1
In my younger days I sincerely wanted to obey God and do his will but was confused about how to know his will.
I went through a time when I felt that the "little voice inside my head" was God speaking to me, which I interpreted as a conviction. But I was wrong. It was a compulsion.
Admittedly, it can be tricky to discern between a conviction and a compulsion. I like to compare the difference between the two like that of comparing lust to love. Lust can look like love, smell like love, and feel like love—but is a world apart from love. Love can wait. Lust can't. Love gives. Lust takes. Love is an energizer and a motivator of persons. Lust is a deceiver and a destroyer of persons.
And so it is with compulsions; they can be from within ourselves, or from the tempter. For instance, if the devil knows he can't pull us down into a life of sin, illicit sex, alcohol and the like, he will try and push us over the top and, as the old saying goes, we become so heavenly minded we are of no earthly use.
Whether from the devil or our own self, compulsions are deceptive and destructive—and are never from God—ever. For "where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty"2—always. But where the spirit of compulsion is, there is bondage. A conviction is where you are drawn to follow and you always have the freedom not to do so. With a compulsion, you are driven and feel compelled to do so—it's that little voice inside your head that says, "You've got to do it. You've got to do it. You've got to do it—or something bad will happen if you don't." Taken to an extreme, as it is for those who suffer from the mental illness, OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), it can drive a person—and those whom they live with—"crazy."
Because of compulsions, some Christians do some crazy things in the name of the Lord. True, sometimes God wants some people to do unusual things, but never weird things. For instance, in younger days, had the "little voice in my head" told me to stand on my head, I would have felt compelled to do it. I doubt if I would have done it, but would have felt guilty if I didn't. We need to remember that God's Word says, "Let all things be done decently and in order."3 That's wise advice to follow. God has also given us a head as well as a heart, and we need to use both.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please give me the insight to know the difference between a conviction and a compulsion, the wisdom to reject compulsions, and the courage to follow convictions that come from your Spirit. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NASB). 2. Ibid (NASB). 3. 1 Corinthians 14:40 (NKJV).
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