God Takes the
He leads me beside still waters….He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:2-3)
The realization that God has ordained our days for us leads logically to the thought, “Can I trust God to guide me in that plan? What if I make a mistake and miss the way?” In answering such questions, I find it helpful to distinguish between God’s guidance and that which has come to be called by such terms as “finding the will of God.” We think so much about our responsibility to discover God’s will in a situation or to make wise decisions in life’s choices, but the biblical emphasis seems to be on God guiding us.
Consider the book of Acts. The only reference to the disciples seeking to determine the will of God occurs in the choosing of Matthias to succeed Judas. From that point onward, it is a record of God’s guiding His people. In Acts 16, for example, Paul and his companions were moving ahead in their missionary journey in a logical progression. Twice, however, they were stopped by the Holy Spirit and then, as a result of Paul’s vision, they concluded God was calling them to Macedonia. As they moved ahead, the Spirit guided them, stopping them in two places and calling them to another. The account doesn’t tell us how the Spirit guided; it simply says that He did.
God did have a plan for Paul and his team that was more specific than the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations. The provinces of Asia and Bithynia that Paul was prevented from entering were just as needy as Macedonia. But it was God’s plan that Paul should take the gospel to Macedonia and then to the entire Grecian peninsula. God did not leave it to Paul to seek His will. Rather, as Paul moved along, God took the initiative to guide him.
Much of the inactivity by believers can be attributed to the fear of “missing the will of God,” as though that would somehow jeopardize their life with Christ. We are so driven to make sure we know all the intricate details that we continually seek and seek and as a result, we do nothing that benefits the kingdom of God. I think we ought to grasp this concept of being guided by God and that guiding is initiated by Him. David begins the 23rd Psalm with, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” It has always been the shepherd and not the sheep’s responsibility to find “green pastures” and “still waters.” This tells us that as the children of God we can rely on the Holy Spirit to initiate the guiding. All we need to do is follow. Jesus said, “My sheep know My voice, and another they will not follow.” Suppose you were walking along a crowded street with your child and someone else was trying to get them to cross over and follow them. Do you not think that if you spoke to your child, that they would recognize your voice in the crowd and follow you? Do you think that God would allow one of His children to be led down the wrong path? O that we would know the voice and the love of our Savior and that instead of trying to figure out our path, we would just walk in His steps.
“For [as a believer] you have been called for this purpose, since Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you may follow in His footsteps.”
1 Peter 2:21
That God initiates the guiding of a human’s life is certainly the biblical teaching. In the book of Genesis we read that it was God who approached Abraham and invited him on a journey.
“Now [in Haran] the Lord had said to Abram, “Go away from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you;”
Notice that God initiated the conversation that began the journey and Abraham began a journey “To the land which I (God) will show you.” As he traveled, all along the way God was giving directions and instructions. We never read that Abraham went to great effort to find the will of God before he proceeded in the journey. Rather God continuously guided him. The beauty of being guided by God is that where He guides, He provides.
“The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had left him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are standing, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see I will give to you and to your descendants forever. Arise, walk (make a thorough reconnaissance) around in the land, through its length and its width, for I will give it to you.” Then Abram broke camp and moved his tent, and came and settled by the [grove of the great] terebinths (oak trees) of Mamre [the Amorite], which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to [honor] the Lord.
God not only guided Abraham but He guided Issac as well, giving him direction on where to go and where not to go. In the famine, he had apparently decided to go to Egypt and the Lord came to him and forbid him to go. We can see from this that God not only gives us instructions on where to go and what to do, He also gives instructions of what not to do and where not to go. We can trust the Holy Spirit to guide us in the same way for Hebrews says that we have been given a “better covenant” and if God guided the OT believers, how much more will He then guide us.
Now there was a famine in the land [of Canaan], besides the previous famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham. So Isaac went to Gerar, to Abimelech king of the Philistines. The Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; stay in the land of which I will tell you. Live temporarily [as a resident] in this land and I will be with you and will bless and favor you, for I will give all these lands to you and to your descendants, and I will establish and carry out the oath which I swore to Abraham your father.
Here again we find God initiating the same guidance in the life of Jacob. God appeared to Jacob in a dream and spoke the following words:
Behold, I am with you and will keep [careful watch over you and guard] you wherever you may go, and I will bring you back to this [promised] land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
We could go on to Joseph, Moses and a hosts of OT believers whom God initiated contact and guidance with. We should pause to see the record of Him not only leading these individuals but a nation. What this ought to say to us is that God not only leads individuals but He also will lead His church.
Now it happened after a long time [about forty years] that the king of Egypt died. And the children of Israel (Jacob) groaned and sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out. And their cry for help because of their bondage ascended to God. So God heard their groaning and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel). God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice [of them] and was concerned about them [knowing all, understanding all, remembering all]. Now Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro (Reuel) his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb (Sinai), the mountain of God. The Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing flame of fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was on fire, yet it was not consumed. So Moses said, “I must turn away [from the flock] and see this great sight—why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he turned away [from the flock] to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”
To lead the nation, God had to first initiate a meeting with a man and for that man to be guided by God. Nothing has changed in that aspect. God initiates guidance for the nation or church by first initiating a guidance for individuals. As the Israelites journeyed toward their God destination, they were at every step guided by God. Now in truth, there were times that they rebelled against God’s directions and wished to go their own way. No different than us. Sometimes we wish to go our own way like foolish sheep do and thankfully we feel that shepherd’s crook around our neck drawing us back to the path of safety. He is the One who keeps us from eating loco weed and drowning in swift waters.
So it happened, when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was nearer; for God said, “The people might change their minds when they see war [that is, that there will be war], and return to Egypt.” But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea; the sons of Israel went up in battle array (orderly ranks, marching formation) out of the land of Egypt. The [presence of the] Lord was going before them by day in a pillar (column) of cloud to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, so that they could travel by day and by night. He did not withdraw the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from going before the people.
The Apostle Paul concluded this:
For all who are allowing themselves to be led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading again to fear [of God’s judgment], but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons [the Spirit producing sonship] by which we [joyfully] cry, “ Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies and confirms together with our spirit [assuring us] that we [believers] are children of God. And if [we are His] children, [then we are His] heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ [sharing His spiritual blessing and inheritance], if indeed we share in His suffering so that we may also share in His glory. In the same way the Spirit [comes to us and] helps us in our weakness. We do not know what prayer to offer or how to offer it as we should, but the Spirit Himself [knows our need and at the right time] intercedes on our behalf with sighs and groanings too deep for words. And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because the Spirit intercedes [before God] on behalf of God’s people in accordance with God’s will.
So my beloved brothers and sisters, take heart and take hope, for the God who sought you and found you and rescued you from your sins will also guide you and direct you in your journey until you reach your final destination where He is. Lean on the Holy Spirit, trust the instructions of the Bible and know that as the children of God we are constantly being led by the Spirit to “green pastures and still waters” that “restores our souls.” We are “led in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” and “surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Dr. John Thompson