INTRODUCTION: This devotional series is based on J.I. Packer’s classic work, Knowing God. There is no greater quest, no more important activity, nothing that should be a higher priority than getting to know God. Too many Christians know about God without making their time with him personal. These devotionals are designed to challenge you to ask questions of yourself, bring these questions before God, make you think, and transform your relationship with God. My prayer is that your study will overflow in emotion, in touching your heart, in connecting with God, and sharing your relationship with others. The book consists of 22 Chapters, thus this series last 22 days. Dig in!
Reflections on Chapter 20: Thou Our Guide
How Exactly Does God Guide Us?
Should we be expecting to hear his voice on every little decision that we make throughout the day? Are we hardhearted if we are not constantly seeking input from God on every choice?
We know that God CAN guide us but we are not sure we are clearly HEARING him. Is it because we are not receptive? Are we not understanding his communication? Or are we just preoccupied and inattentive? We believe that God has a plan for us, at least in the big scheme of things, but what about the little things? What is that plan and how does he communicates it to us?
There's perhaps a bigger problem with seeking direction from God: are we looking for external guidance rather than seeking guidance from the scriptures? Consider these scriptures:
I will instruct you in the way you should go. (Ps 32:8)
He will instruct us in the way we should choose. (Ps 25:12)
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Pr 3:9, NLT)
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. (Jas 1:5)
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom 12:2)
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us. (Acts 15:28)
He guides us in paths of righteousness for his namesake. (Ps 23:3)
Those who seek God’s “guidance” for every decision of the day can easily fall into the trap of relying on physical or emotional feelings. How can you tell if that describes you? One sign would be if you forget to consult the scriptures for the very principles to make these decisions. Another sign is when you are not open to advice from spiritually minded people who know us.
As we search for vocational guidance – where to live, what job to take, whom to marry – we should primarily apply the scriptures, seeking input from spiritual men/women, and praying for God to open/shut doors. However, these situations are not always cut and dry. Putting too much trust in vocational guidance can damage people’s faith. The truth is that God may lead us or allow us to go down a path that is much more challenging than we like, for many good reasons: to discipline us (positively – to help us grow in character), teach us, train us, or even prepare us for something in the future.
Finding “God’s Will”
Packer instructs us:
1. Think. Deut 32:29 says, “oh that they would consider” – God made us logical beings and expects us to use that logic to make thoughtful decisions!
2. Think Ahead. Weigh the long-term consequences of our decisions.
3. Get Advice. Proverbs 22:15 warns us. Conceit and immaturity tempts us. Nothing but good can come from seeking spiritual counsel from spiritual people.
4. Suspect Oneself. Ps 139 challenges us to invite God to “search us” to see if there is any hidden motive. “Feeling good” about a situation is not the same as seeking God’s will. We forget the impact of our sinful nature on our decision-making: God’s ways are not our ways (Is 55:8); the heart is deceitful (Jer 17:9). Feeling led to do something may just be temptation, not the Holy Spirit.
5. Discount Personal Magnetism. 1 Th 5:21 challenges us to “test all things and hold on to the good.” Charismatic leaders easily influence us, but they are not always right.
6. Wait. We may be in a hurry for an answer. God is not. His timing is perfect. Ours is not.
Here's another surprise: trouble in our lives is not necessarily an indication that we are off track. Trouble is a good impetus for re-examining our ways. But God also uses trouble to discipline us and build our characters. What we consider trouble for us may result in something good for someone else. There are many biblical examples of godly men making godly decisions and suffering for them. Jesus himself promised trouble in this world (Jn 16:33).
But what if I let myself be led by emotions rather than scripture and I make a bad decision? What if I take bad advice? Even if we make poor decisions that lead us down a destructive path, God can still work. There is no situation that is beyond God; he is not surprised by our foolishness; he loves us and can bring about something beautiful even from an ugly situation!
The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all. (Psalm 34:19)