God communicates with us so we will live according to His guidelines and consequently He can bless us. By knowing His requirements (God’s will) as outlined in the Bible, we can live obediently with little direct intervention for as we “Commit our way to the Lord He will direct our paths” (Prov 3:5,6, 20:24). As we live for Jesus, positioning ourselves where God can supernaturally direct through providence, we can say, “The Lord has led me” (Gen 24:27). Ruth was ‘just’ doing what was right, necessary and logical to her in the situation but God was arranging the events to outwork His plans and bring blessing to those involved (Ruth 2:2ff). Thus, with a heart sensitive to God and humble consistent obedience, we can prove to ourselves and our fellow citizens that “The integrity of the upright guides them…The Lord will guide you always” (Ps 25:8,12; Prov 11:3; Isa 58:6-12). Our prayer should always be, “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long...for your own reputation guide me” (Ps 25:4,5, 31:3).
Do I consciously utilise this resource or am I self-reliant?
saying’ amidst the loud, competing voices, confusion and clamour of the world’s distractions, besides ignoring the pull of our own selfish nature. The Spirit enables us to understand the times and know what to do, yet like Nehemiah, we are to work and bring about His purposes by thinking through the implications and strategies of “What God had put in my heart to do…” (1 Chr 12:32; Neh 2:12).
Christ is in control. He orders our steps and through Him we have the resources to overcome the difficulties for “He will instruct me in the way I should go... all through my life, even unto the end” (Ps 32:8,9, 37:23, 48:14, 73:24; Prov 16:9; Act 14:22). Acknowledge His hand on you continually in all the situations that confront you, confident they are working for your good, because we have been called ‘according to His purpose’ (developing a Christ-like character), and nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom 8:28,29,31-39; 2 Cor 4:11).
It can be difficult to discover His will when there are endless opportunities so if possible delay acting until the way is made plain, while continuing to love, obey and serve God and mankind. Refuse to force matters even when you are sure of the pathway ahead – patience is still required to meet the demands of fulfilling the task; learn from Abraham’s mistake that this approach will cause problems with long-term consequences (Gen 16:2,11,12).
God doesn’t want to micro-manage our lives as He gives us brains to use – leaving it up to us which shirt to wear as we gauge the weather, the activity, suitability and selection available. By using our common sense we can operate within broad parameters, yet still under the control of God.
Sometimes after we believe we have heard from God and acted our dreams have ended in a pile of ashes, yet by controlling our reactions and humbly maintaining a right attitude our character is further developed. Righteous living Joseph went through bewildering events and suffered unfair treatment yet remained true to God. He later stated these experiences were required to bring about the Lord’s purposes (Gen 50:20).
Paul and his team set out to preach the Word yet door after door closed, however the breakthrough came as they were actively pursuing further options (Act 16:6-10). Our role is to try the handle, without forcing the door, understanding it is only possible to steer a ship while it is moving. When wholeheartedly committed to God and surrendered to His purposes we can confidently start on the journey and trust He knows the way as we travel with Him through the unfolding events. His Word to us is a light to our path – often illuminating just enough to take the next step, but not a floodlight into the distance (Ps 119:105).
Sources of guidance
Do I read and live by the ‘guide book’?
for “The Spirit of truth will guide you” (Jn 16:13; Col 3:15; 2 Tim 3:16). The command given to Joshua was to read and study God’s Word so it would govern his decisions enabling him to accomplish the unique, divine plan for his life (Josh 1:7,8).
2/. While “It is not for man to direct his steps…The Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth” (Jer 10:23; Jn 16:13). Pray daily ‘Lord help me to have open ears to your voice, and a heart willing to obey. Please guide me.’ Then you can be confident “God will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths” as He only guides those who walk in humble obedience (Ps 25:9; Isa 2:3). Our heart attitude should be, “What message does my Lord have for His servant?” for “He leads…He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake (Josh 5:14; Ps 23:2,3). We need to discern between our own thoughts and His leading by having a sensitive conscience (Rom 9:1).
3/. With major decisions we should seek the input of mature believers for there is safety in joint counsel – together we can discern and confirm the ‘mind of Christ’. Be open to their advice but avoid any manipulative suggestions as the final decision is your choice (Prov 11:14, 12:15; Act 13:2, 15:28).
Some factors to consider
1/. The reasoning that ‘If it is God’s will it will work out’ is not valid. Just because circumstances line up doesn’t mean it is God’s will as in the case of the ship sailing in the opposite direction to where Jonah knew he should be going (Jnh 1:1-3). Obstacles may be put in our path to help us develop the resolve to overcome and press through into the purposes of God (Lk 18:1-8).
2/. God graciously confirmed His will through the visible sign on Gideon’s fleece and then repeated it before he was convinced. Finally he responded as directed (Jdg 6:36-40). In contrast we have the complete Bible to guide us and we don’t need to resort to signs which can of themselves be an inconclusive method of decision making (2 Tim 3:16,17). A clear word from God is more important to give inward assurance than any outward indication.
3/. Amos said “God does nothing without first revealing His plans to and through His prophets” and He continues to use people to forward His projects (Amos 3:7; Act 8:31). Scripture reveals His overall, broad plan and He often puts a desire within our heart well in advance so the necessary steps can be taken to prepare for a specific task. However its implementation is a continual walk of faith with a progressively clearer unfolding, step by step. Seeking God’s guidance is pointless if it is ignored and not acted on; often new guidance isn’t given till the previous directions have been taken, for Jesus said our love for Him is shown by obedience (Jn 14:23, 15:14). Even though it may be hard and contrary to our desires He will never ask us to do anything that we will ultimately regret.
4/. Where there is no diligent searching for or following the guidance given, we are prone to do what seems acceptable in our own eyes, which often leads away from what is right, however we are accountable for either obeying or disobeying the instruction given (Jdg 17:6; Prov 21:2; Rom 14:12).
5/. It is better to say, ‘I believe God said…’ rather than emphatically stating ‘God told me’. Christians are still human and fallible and God looks for humility in His people. He also safeguards His people by gifting some with abilities of discernment.
God asks, “What did you do with the last directions I gave you?”
activity from us. Following His directions is the key to a victorious Christian life, yet if by willful disobedience, not clearly hearing His voice, or misreading the signposts we stumble off the path, we can regain it through genuine confession and humble repentance (Isa 35:8; 1 Jn 1:9). God’s guidance is not necessarily the same for similar situations so we need to be attentive to His voice.
7/. Obeying divine directives does not guarantee a trouble free life. Jesus taught that His followers would have trials in this world (Jn 16:33). Later the Bible says, "Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim 3:12). Soon after obeying the Master to set sail across the lake "the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger" (Lk 8:22-25). Yet Jesus was with them (as He is with us) and calmed the storm and brought perspective as He will when we also call to Him. While we may not always understand His purpose there is blessing when we obey. We have the choice whether to accept the Holy Spirit's guidance. If we fail to obey His known guidance this is resisting the Spirit's work in our lives (Act 7:51; 1 Thes 5:19).
8/. Receiving divine guidance is not an end in itself for without a growth in Bible knowledge, ongoing closer walk of relationship with and obedience to Christ, exhibiting Godly character and ministry involvement it is futile. God is not content for us to plateau but always wants to lead us on to greater things.
As God the Father cares for and guides His children so the Bible instructs parents to train or guide their children in the ways of righteousness, both by example and verbally by guiding their wills but not breaking their spirits (Deut 6:6-9, 20-25; Eph 6:4)
See also: advice, call/calling, counsel, circumstances, conscience, decisions, discernment, divination, fleece, follow/follower, God’s will, guidelines, hearing God’s voice, instruction, obedience, patience, presumption, providence, sovereignty of God, spirits/guide, surrender, waiting on God.