I am the Lord your God….who leads you in the way you should go. (Isaiah 48:17)
We do have a responsibility to make wise decisions or to discover the will of God, whichever term we may prefer to use. But God’s plan for us is not contingent upon our decisions. God’s plan is not contingent at all. God’s plan is sovereign. It includes our foolish decisions as well as our wise ones.
God’s means of guidance are infinite. As I look back over the decades of my Christian life, I am amazed at the many and diverse ways by which God has guided me. God is at work guiding all the details of my life.
Like most Christians, I’ve struggled over the right choice at some of those “forks in the road” decision points which we encounter from time to time. I may have made some wrong decisions, I don’t know. But God in His sovereignty has faithfully guided me in His paths through right decisions and wrong ones. I’m where I am today not because I’ve always made wise decisions or correctly discovered the will of God at particular points along the way, but because God has faithfully led me and guided me along the path of His will for me.
God does guide. He does not play games with us. He does not look down from heaven at our struggles to know His will and say, “I hope you make the right decision.” Rather, in His time and in His way He will lead us in His path for us.
We can trust God to guide us. He will lead us all the way. And when we stand before His throne we will not be singing about successfully discovering the will of God; rather we’ll be rejoicing in how He led us all the way.
The Apostle Paul tells us that God leads His children because they are His children. There is no indication that the children of God are ever left to find their way, or to discover on their own what God’s plans are for them.
“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.”
As we read the stories of all those in the Bible we find that God was faithful in leading them even though at times they made wrong decisions. It was in the faithfulness of God that the people of God found their way. I think of Abraham who is called the father of faith. While we know he made many right decisions, we also find he made several obvious wrong choices. He and Sarah had been given the promise by God that they would have a son through which God would create a nation. On two occasions, Abraham failed to declare that Sarah was his wife and two different kings were going to make her their wives. On both occasions Abraham actually lied and said she was his sister fearing the king would put him to death so he might have Sarah as his wife. She must have been an incredibly beautiful woman. On both occasions God intervened and made known to the kings that Sarah was a married woman whom God had set apart for His purpose.
And when Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was very beautiful. Pharaoh’s princes (officials) also saw her and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken [for the purpose of marriage] into Pharaoh’s house (harem). Therefore Pharaoh treated Abram well for her sake; he acquired sheep, oxen, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels. But the Lord punished Pharaoh and his household with severe plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. Then Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this that you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her as my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her and go!” So Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they escorted him on his way, with his wife and all that he had.
Now Abraham journeyed from there toward the Negev (the South country), and settled between Kadesh and Shur; then he lived temporarily in Gerar. Abraham said [again] of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah [into his harem]. But God came to Abimelech in a dream during the night, and said, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken [as your wife], for she is another man’s wife.” Now Abimelech had not yet come near her; so he said, “Lord, will you kill a people who are righteous and innocent and blameless [regarding Sarah]? Did Abraham not tell me, ‘She is my sister?’ And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and innocence of my hands I have done this.” Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this in the integrity of your heart, for it was I who kept you back and spared you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not give you an opportunity to touch her. So now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her [to him], know that you shall die, you and all who are yours (your household).” So Abimelech got up early in the morning and called all his servants and told them all these things; and the men were terrified. Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? And how have I offended you that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me what ought not to be done [to anyone].” And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What have you encountered or seen [in us or our customs], that you have done this [unjust] thing?” Abraham said, “Because I thought, ‘Surely there is no fear or reverence of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ Besides, she actually is my [half] sister; she is the daughter of my father [Terah], but not of my mother; and she became my wife. Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen and male and female slaves, and gave them to Abraham, and returned Sarah his wife to him [as God commanded]. So Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech and his wife and his maids, and they again gave birth to children, for the Lord had securely closed the wombs of all [the women] in Abimelech’s household because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
Do you see the faithfulness of God toward Abraham that even when he made the wrong choices, God’s sovereignty changed the circumstances so that His plan for him remained unchanged. One would think that after all this Abraham would never again make a wrong decision. But’s that not the case. God had promised Abraham an heir and as time went by and no heir had been born, he and Sarah decided the they would assist God with their own plan. Sarah had a maid by the name of Hagar and as was an acceptable custom of the day, she brought Hagar to Abraham. Hagar gave birth to a son named Ishmael. But this was not God’s plan and in due season Sarah gave birth to the promised son Issac. Now it is true that those wrong decisions led to trouble and chaos and even today the descendants of Issac and Ishmael are in conflict; but we can see that the sovereignty of God prevailed over Abraham’s wrong decisions.
This is not to say that we ought not pursue knowing the will of God. Indeed, every decision should be made only after consulting God and seeking wise, godly counsel. We should never make rash, impulsive, and thoughtless decisions. In grief counseling, for example, mourners are encouraged to not make any major decisions for at least a year to give them time to heal emotionally so they can make wise rational decisions.
We cannot say too much about taking time to seek God and being led by the Holy Spirit in all that pertains to life.
But what about when we make wrong decisions? This is where we struggle. I think that most of us at one time or another have made wrong decisions. We can probably look back over life and wish we had made a different decision. Perhaps we should have kept the job we left or perhaps we should have taken another job. Maybe we shouldn’t have bought the house or maybe we missed a golden opportunity. We all know that hindsight is twenty-twenty. As I look back over my life, I’ve often wondered if making a different decision would have been better for my family. It’s very easy to live in the place of regret. Maybe we could have done things differently, said things differently, responded to someone or something differently, but at the time of decision we chose the course we chose. What I’ve learned is that the grace and sovereignty of God is present in every decision we make, wise or unwise, and we are who we are and where we are because of those past decisions. God who has been faithful in every moment has guided us and directed our path and if somehow we were going the wrong way, in His love He brought us back on track. I think it’s true that most of us will get off course from time to time. We will find ourselves in retrospect having made unwise choices. We can choose to refuse to acknowledge we made a mistake or we can turn to God in repentance. Should we turn to God we will find that He “will make our path straight.”
“Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart And do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him, And He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way]. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord [with reverent awe and obedience] and turn [entirely] away from evil.”
Dr. John Thompson