Chapter 14.....Does God Really Guide?

"I will guide thee with Mine eye." Psalm 32, verse 8.

Is Divine guidance really a fact? Are the details of our lives of such peculiar concern to God? Well, it is clear that Saul of Tarsus, as he journeyed to Damascus was under observation from heaven and that he was surely being led into the way of truth and discipleship. He was subsequently thrust out with Barnabas to be a missionary under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and there are occasions in his life subsequently when he bears testimony to a sense of personal direction. He is not the only one with such an experience. Certainly if we are not anxious for supernatural direction there are many who would like to have supernatural information. It is significant that with all our advance in education many still believe in lucky charms and signs of various kinds. The new convert, as he reads the Scriptures, will be convinced that Divine guidance is there an accepted fact. That being so, the idea is implicit that life has a destiny. Life has no adequate explanation if it has no goal. If God is guiding it must be because there are important issues bound up in life and it almost demands that those issues and ends must be beyond the present sphere. Some may wish to eat and drink and be merry (if circumstances allow) in the inevitable assurance that tomorrow we die. But as the eating and drinking come to an end and the merriment ceases, as life's little day comes to a close, that philosophy has little to cheer. It can have very little comfort; for who can find inspiration in a round of activities ending in the mysterious depths of the grave?

All is different, however, when we recognise the truth of Scripture that we are not gyrating in meaningless movement but pressing on to a great destiny. Added importance is given to the stewardship of our lives when we see that the road we take and the end we reach are largely in our own hands. We can choose the ends of God by the way of God, or we may insist on our own purpose and persist in our own way. Nobody has been able to find a sufficient explanation of human life within the confines of mortality, but the hearts of many have been cheered who have believed the words of their Lord when He said: " If it were not so, I would have told you, I go to prepare a place for you. " It seems, therefore, that there is a destiny beyond this present sphere, that there is One, and only One, Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. One who, knowing eternally the nature and character of that "beyond " can assure us by the integrity of His own Being that His silence has more authority than all the unbelieving speech of the waverers, doubters and blasphemers.

Let us then believe that life can be guided, should be guided, and that indeed every believer must seek guidance and submit to it. For the reaching of the various decisions that life demands we must be trained in certain directions. First, we must be able, without prejudice, with some measure of accuracy, to interpret past experience. It is no doubt most interesting to keep a diary of daily events but the record will have a limited value if we are not learning lessons from events and experiences. Present unhappiness, irritability, frustration are effects for which the causes may have to be found in the past. The prodigal left home because he wrongly interpreted his past mercies; but later, by the swilltub of the swine, he interpreted his past more accurately. Very few people are willing frankly to draw the lessons of the past, and the Holy Spirit will decline to reveal them even to a Christian if he be not willing to learn the lessons however bitter those lessons may be. We have not rightly interpreted our past until there has been repentance, contrition and abandonment of the sins we see and know.

Lot lost all his goods in the sack of Sodom, Abraham won them all back in battle. The lesson was as clear as daylight to Abraham: have nothing whatever to do with Sodom. Abraham saw to it most definitely that he did not! Lot saw no such necessity, went back and in the end just escaped with his life! The people of Britain are interpreting their history in terms of education, sociology, economics; few indeed see anything of the hand of God. Isaiah describes his people as "a people laden with iniquity." That does not mean they were burdened with a conscience of sin, but burdened with the consequences of their sin without seeing that sin was the cause of the consequences! Be sure you interpret your past accurately. If you wish to do so you will!

Secondly, we need ability to assess the present. We have all proved that decisions to be accurate, must be made in certain conditions. If we are "het up" or "depressed" or "excited", it is probable our decision will be faulty. That should teach us that greater care is needed than we suppose. Actually there are no simple decisions in life, and the most innocent situations, as we think, may be much more serious than we dream. Let us remember that:-

(a) God is seeking to influence our minds. If we have recognised this fact, sought guidance, listened to the Divine voice, then of course, with exercise and experience we become peculiarly sensitive to Divine influence. Then:-

(b) other people influence us. Some are very possessive, others pour out their ridicule, and not a few are tempted either to jealousy or contempt. The favour of our fellows may tempt us, or the fear of man may turn us from the will of God. Those who pray for us, help us, those who hate us hinder us. In all the situations of life these factors are very strong. Then:-

(c) the powers of darkness are active. They want to confuse the issue without appearing to do so. If the new convert is influenced "religiously" then it is quite easy to suggest to the mind some isolated text that may entirely mislead. In any event all other matters in our lives, that in any degree are not yielded to the will of God will be used by the powers of darkness to prevent our doing what is God's will for us in any given situation. They play upon some vested interest in the heart to deflect our obedience to the Divine Will.

Thirdly, in every decision we must know the future. Fortune-tellers never go out of business because many decisions depend almost entirely on the unknown factor of the future. If only we knew, how easy would be decision! But we do not know. When I visited the Belgian Congo I flew for many miles over vast forests. Down below could be seen little villages with the little road, like a red tape threading its way. Few of the folk in those villages have ever moved far from the place of their birth. They know little beyond the limits of their village but I, from the air could see their village in relation to a tremendous area. God looks down on our little circumscribed lives and He sees them in relation to eternity!

He can and will guide us in relation to situations and times we cannot see! The future may be hidden from us but it is not hidden from Him. How good it is then to commit any issue to Him first, to submit to such training and discipline as will enable us to know His guidance. Then as the step is taken which today seems not to commend itself to the judgment of our fellows, yet because it is taken by His guidance in relation not only to today, but tomorrow, how safe we shall be! What guidance we need in deciding what we are to be in life, what guidance in deciding whom we shall marry ! How then shall the new convert who wants to know the guidance of God, experience that guidance and be sure when he has it that all is well ?

It will be well, first of all, to understand the general intention God has for His children. The real reason why we have been redeemed into sonship is that eventually we may stand in the presence of the Son, sharing His nature and like Him in the body of incorruption. We shall then see Him as He is! That is the goal and that is the good towards which all things are working together for the believer. Hence it is always possible that there may be a guidance of God which will not be pleasant to our present circumstances and feelings, but which may be most desirable for the full life of the redeemed spirit. Of our Lord it is said that for the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross despising the shame. The guidance of the Father was certainly to the Cross as being the way to the Throne! If we recognise this truth we shall desire the ultimate good, and trust our Heavenly Father in every situation, even where such guidance brings us into present difficulty and suffering. The result of such a firm decision will be that the power of our faith and the strength of our hope will exercise us in holiness and heavenliness, our minds will become spiritual and discerning.

Then, having thus committed yourself, as your Saviour did, to the eternal purpose of God, search the Scriptures patiently and carefully to know the will of God. There is no need for extremes, but there is need for faithfulness. The Holy Spirit through the word will guide as He touches the conscience about things in the life. As we respond in these ways we shall be blessed, for light will come upon our path, and ever increasing light, as we render ever increasing obedience. We shall be walking in the light as He is in the light. Some characteristic features will drop out of our lives, and some new features will emerge as we put this away and incorporate that in response to the guidance of God. Such a practice develops an intimacy with the Father, which is both precious and valuable. His mind becomes ours by this constant interpenetration of Divine fellowship and revelation. This stage is most important to the new convert. He must unhurriedly walk with God in the light of the Word, and so his mind will be impregnated with the Divine thinking. The new convert then is daily stepping into the light and he knows that in general he is being guided towards the eternal goal which is at on e God's will for him, and his own earnest desire.

One day he needs to make a decision in which there is no moral issue and yet it is important no mistake should be made. How shall he act? Some people believe that in such matters one must depend on one's own judgment. Actually, of course, there is no decision which has not Divine, moral and indeed eternal issues. Life is made up of all these apparently small items. But the emergency, when it comes, may be safely faced. The child of God who desires nothing but the will of God, and has been patiently seeking in everything to know His will and obey it, will have developed a sensitive conscience, and his own redeemed spirit will have been educated in its sensing of the mind of God. In such circumstances he may have several considerations. It may be a difficult issue but he has possibly a day or two in which to decide. The first step will be definitely to commit the whole issue into the Lord's hand asking in faith for direction, that as he thinks about the matter no important aspect may be overlooked. Then he will carefully weigh the pros and cons, giving impartial value to each fact. It he is in all other matters, so far as he knows, walking with the Lord, he may be confident the Holy Spirit will mature his judgment and enable him to make the decision when the time for decision arrives. In the meantime he will not be in the least disturbed because he is perplexed, nor will he fear consequences. Apart from all spiritual considerations, such a state of mind, the prerogative of the obedient child of God, is a marvellous help to clear and wise decision.

On the other hand an immediate decision may be demanded. That, of course, is quite another matter. He must be satisfied that the matter is urgent. Some people presuppose an urgency that does not in fact exist and rush where they might better have waited. But if the matter is one of urgency then, like Nehemiah, as he stood before the king, he can lift up his heart to God and make his decision with assurance. He need not be in the least disturbed because he has one basic confidence; God never lets His children down. If it is our joy to do the Father's will then we may be sure that, having sought His guidance, having exercised both our judgment and faith conscientiously, even if we make a misjudgment, He will overrule most lovingly and graciously. It is what is in our hearts, even more than in our heads, that counts. The rest of mind that this gives is incalculable. It is a small matter with our Heavenly Father to overrule our mistakes, but it is quite another matter to deal with our obstinacy.

The young convert will verily find that God does guide with the eye, that most expressive of our faculties. A wife can communicate an immense amount of information to her husband by the glance of an eye. When we know Him in such intimacy, He will speak to us in ways unknown to the man of the world. We shall know! Day by day, in decisions little or large, we shall be desiring to make everything in our lives to conform to the pattern of His will, our faith will be strengthened so that if He leads through rough places, we shall know it is the surest and best way to the goal to which He surely leads us, and our confidence will increase that whatever may be the nature of the path, the goal of our imperishable destiny is certain and sure. We are moving up the shining highway with confident tread, our eyes are on our Beloved Lord, His Spirit kindles hope and joy within our hearts, our hand is in His, there are others with us on the road, pressing forward in the same radiant hope and affection. We have the best of ambitions, the most glorious of destinies and a fellowship with our Lord in heaven that makes the path shine even in the darkest hour.



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