You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name’s sake, lead me and guide me. (Psalm 31:3 NKJV)
Many people ask about getting the Lord’s guidance on questions like: Who should I marry? Or shall I stay single? Which church should I join? Where should I live? What job shall I apply for? Should we have another child? Or adopt one? John Stott said: “God’s promises of guidance are not given to save us the bother of thinking. The Bible is not a kind of horoscope to tell your fortune. God sometimes reveals His particular will by lighting up a verse of Scripture. But this is not His usual method and it is highly dangerous to follow such supposed guidance without checking and confirming it.”
Let’s review some aspects of this important subject. The main ideas come from my notes of J. I. Packer’s message years ago at St. John’s Episcopal Church near Philadelphia. I have expanded upon his thoughts.
PROMISES OF GUIDANCE
The Lord gives many assurances in the Scriptures that He will lead us. Here are just three examples from the Psalms:
Psalm 25:9-10 God guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way. All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of His covenant.
Psalm 32:8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Psalm 37:23-24 The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord upholds them with His hand.
What a loving God we have, beloved! We are flawed and imperfect people, living in a fallen world. But we have a perfect Lord (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) who pledges to lead us through this confusing life. He doesn’t just give us guidance; He is our Guide. “This God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end.”1
The Old Testament shows the Lord graciously loving and redeeming the ancient Israelites, leading them out of slavery, and protecting and counseling them along their journey to the Promised Land and up until Jesus’ incarnation. Even though Israel turned away from God often, He patiently persevered with them, bringing them back to Himself time after time. The Lord gave them and us His Guide Book (the Old and New Testaments) containing His wisdom and covering most facets of life. The Lord’s Moral Law doesn’t show us the way to be saved, but rather the way saved ones behave in thankfulness to the Lord who saves us by His free grace. That’s true in both Testaments. The Old Testament law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith in Jesus.2
In the New Testament, God’s Son not only gives rules, He pledges to instruct us in righteousness, to direct our paths, and to empower us to walk in those ways. Christ picks us up when we fall, and forgives and purifies us when we repent and return to Him. And Christ who began a good work in us will bring it to completion until the day of His return.3 King Jesus promised His apostles that His Holy Spirit would work with His written word and guide them into all truth. As 21st century Christians live by the Scriptures which Christ’s Spirit gave us through His apostles and prophets, Jesus’ promise of guidance extends to us. Aren’t we blessed? It’s right for us to expect God’s help in decision making because He pledged it. People give advice, but the Lord gives guidance.
PROBLEMS OF GUIDANCE
Even with God’s great and precious promises to care for and guide us, troubles still plague us in working this out. We can honestly think that we are being led by Jesus, when we’re really going our own way like people in the days of the Judges.4 We can seek the Lord’s direction, but not be sure how to tell when we receive it. This can make us worry. Sometimes we can refuse to take action unless we “feel led to act.” That can make us passively wait for God to zap us, doing nothing in the meantime.
Deuteronomy 29:29 asserts, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” This important Scripture means that when some issues in our life are foggy (marriage, work, church decisions), we are to do what is clearly spelled out in God’s Book on all other issues. It is always the Lord’s will that we should be sanctified, consecrated to Him, separated and set apart for pure and holy Christ-like living. That’s the biggest issue. Jesus says: Seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness and everything else falls into place.5 That’s what He requires of us whatever our church, family, employment circumstances. Christ usually guides us one step at a time, so as we submit to Him by faith in what is clear for us to do, Jesus reveals more.
That reminds me of a story Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983) told of her childhood. Corrie recounted a time when she and her father were taking a train trip. As they walked hand-in-hand to the train station, Corrie asked her father where her ticket was and he explained he was holding it for her. Corrie was anxious and wanted to hold her ticket herself, but Dad said gently that she didn’t need to be concerned. He would handle it until she needed it. When they arrived at the train station just before they reached the ticket window, Mr. ten Boom handed fretful Corrie her ticket. He explained that God’s guidance and grace are given to us the same way. We ask for His help, then we must trust and obey Him step by step. The Lord’s help comes just in the time we need it, not usually in advance.
ADVICE FROM FLAVEL
We will come back to this topic more in our next posting, but let’s close today with some good advice from Pastor John Flavel (1628-1691). When you want God’s guidance:
- Get the true fear of the Lord in your hearts; be really afraid of grieving and offending Him. Jesus says in Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
- Study the Scriptures more and the concerns and interests of the world less. Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
- Practice and obey the Bible truths you already understand and then soon you will see the next steps to take in life. John 14:15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments. Luke 6:46 Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,” and not do what I tell you?
- Pray for God’s direction and enabling in the way that you should go. James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
- Follow the open doors of God’s providence only as far as they agree with His written word and no farther. Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
To be continued.
Go in peace, beloved. Walk with King Jesus today and be a blessing to others!
Notes (various translations used): 1 Isaiah 49:14. 2 Gal 3:24. 3 Phil 1:6. 4 Judges 17:6; 21:25. 5 Matt 6:33.