Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 25:4-5)
We are continuing our study on this important subject of Getting God’s Guidance, drawing on my notes from J. I. Packer’s message years ago in Philadelphia. I have expanded upon his thoughts. You can read Getting God’s Guidance (Part 1).
Last time we looked at the Lord’s PROMISES of guidance and some of our PROBLEMS connected with seeking Christ’s direction. Now we want to explore…
Some PRINCIPLES of getting God’s guidance.
1. Maintain daily communion with the Lord in Bible study and prayer. Wayne Mack calls these “the twin pillars of the Christian life.”1 Good communication is essential to a good relationship between family members, church members, friends, neighbors, co-workers—listening as well as talking. The same is true with our Heavenly Father. Good communication between Him and us is central in living a Christ-like life. God speaks to us through His word, the Holy Scriptures, and we talk to Him in prayer. Before we seek the Lord’s direction on specific questions, it’s best for us to cultivate a healthy overall relationship with Him, day by day.
In Proverbs 2:1-8, the Lord says: My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for He guards the course of His followers and protects the way of His faithful ones.
For me this means daily Bible study in some portion of Scripture, often following a Bible reading schedule, and taking notes. This is not legalistic. I need to and want to hear from my Sovereign Lord every day. He created me, saved me, loves me, cares for me. How can I not want to learn from Him? Like Samuel I pray, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening”2 and then I read my passage. I want to learn from the Lord on all the topics He speaks about in the passage for the day, before I search for His guidance on other topics. God the Father spoke from Heaven saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him.”3 Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”4 I want to be an attentive and obedient listener.
Then I pray the Bible back to God, going through the passage word by word, line by line, talking to God about whatever His Scripture truth brings to mind. I praise Him for whatever my daily passage teaches about Him and dwell on that for a while. That sweetens my entire prayer time. Next I pray: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”5 After that I confess whatever sins of mine His word exposes and ask the Lord to forgive me and purify me again today. Then I thank God for whatever the passage reminds me He has done for me and others. Next I ask Him to supply my needs and other’s needs for soul and body, especially needs that the passage I am studying brings to mind. Donald Whitney says, “You are taking words that originated in God’s heart and mind and circulating them through your heart and mind back to the Lord. His words become the wings of your prayers.”6 Praying like this can help us to be less selfish and never lack fuel for speaking to the Lord in prayer.
The Holy Spirit has spoken once for all time in the Bible to every generation. We believe that. And He shines light on our quandaries and questions when we read His word with diligence, prayer, faith, love, meditation, and readiness to comply. Scripture may not always provide answers which are as direct and detailed as we desire, but God always makes plain what He commands and prohibits. Often this is all He intends to give us. Sin is always out of bounds and the end never justifies the means, and Christ gives us lots of freedom in serving Him.7 Packer warns us to beware inner feelings which contradict the Bible. We ask for the Lord’s leading and fresh insight into His ancient texts, but not for new inspiration on a level with the all-sufficient Scriptures. How blessed we are to have the Bible! Let’s not neglect it in seeking God’s guidance.
2. Obey the Holy Bible. When I took a class with Packer, he reminded us to obey the Holy Scriptures as our only infallible rule of faith and life. He warned that we could win “the battle for the Bible” and still lose the greater battle for knowing God and His Christ in our churches and in our hearts, minds, and lives.8 The Bible is not just for learning, but for living. Not just for informing us, but for transforming us by the Holy Spirit’s power. Most of us know 2 Timothy 3:16-17—All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that we may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. On this topic John Calvin wrote, “The beginning and perfection of lawful worship of Christ is readiness to obey….When God changes our hearts, He turns us to obedience by His Spirit.” God’s Scriptures have God’s breath in them. They give life and change our life, by the Spirit’s blessing. The Bible is no ordinary book. It commands me to surrender my will, decisions, and choices to God my Heavenly Father, to Jesus my Elder Brother, and to the Holy Spirit my Comforter and Counselor. Christ is the lover of my soul, so I must submit to Him gladly, without procrastinating or questioning Him.
Elisabeth Elliot wasn’t interested in spreading opinions. She told her fans, “What does the Bible say? Do what the Bible says.” Packer also writes about this in his book: Rediscovering Holiness: Know the Fullness of Life with God. In that book he says, “It is extraordinary how little the New Testament says about God’s interest in our success, compared to the enormous amount it says about God’s interest in our holiness, our maturity in Christ, and our growth into the fullness of Jesus’ image.”
To get God’s guidance, we need to know and obey His written word, not just to get saved, but to live like saved people. As we practice and obey the Bible truths we do understand, the Lord leads us further along into the next steps we need to take in our life of following Christ.
To be continued.
Go in peace, beloved. Walk with King Jesus today and be a blessing to others!
Notes (various translations): 1 The Twin Pillars of the Christian Life: Effective Prayer and Disciplined Bible Study by Wayne A. Mack and Joshua Mack (2003). 2 1 Sam 3:10. 3 Luke 9:35. 4 John 10:27-28. 5 Psalm 139:23-24. 6 Praying the Bible by Donald S. Whitney (2015). See also Face to Face: Praying the Scriptures for Intimate Worship by Kenneth Boa. 7 See Galatians chapter 5. 8 see Packer’s Beyond the Battle for the Bible (1980).