Safe And Sound
‘Therefore you shall carry out My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them, so that you may live securely on the land.
On a mountain highway, road signs aren’t there for our amusement, to give people jobs, or to clutter up the beautiful landscape. They were put there for one reason: to keep us safe and sound, but if we disobey, we could be headed for trouble- big trouble.
God’s laws were t given to us to steal our fun and ruin our lives. God, the Creator of life and the wisest being in the universe, knows exactly what makes life work best. He gave us free will, but He also gave us clear directives to guide us. Sometimes we don’t know what to do, but most of the time, His commands are unmistakably clear. When we obey them, God promises to bless us with safety.
In many cases, the pains we experience we break God’s laws are natural consequences. We overeat, and we get flabby. We stay up too late, and we feel tired the next day. We skip personal Bible study and prayer, and we become spiritually weak. We yell at our spouses, and we feel isolated. We drive when we’re drunk, and we go to jail.
Sometimes, though, God intervenes and corrects our path without regard to natural effects. He is a gracious God who loves us too much to let us keep going in the wrong direction, and “whom the Lord loves He disciplines”(Hebrews 12:6) by bringing difficulty into our lives. When they occur, we wonder, What’s that all about? If we pay attention, the Holy Spirit taps us on the shoulder and whispers, “I’ve given you plenty warning, but you didn’t listen. Maybe you will now. You need to stop sinning and start trusting.” If we finally listen, we move toward obedience and safety again.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Bible is the depth, richness, and hidden value that God will continue to reveal as we continue to prayerfully dig in.
“For all who are allowing themselves to be led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
The idea that we, especially as believers, are capable of choosing our own way certainly isn’t a biblical concept. We read that Abraham was led by God beginning in the land of Ur and continuing his whole life.
“ By faith Abraham, when he was called [by God], obeyed by going to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as a foreigner in the promised land, as in a strange land, living in tents [as nomads] with Isaac and Jacob, who were fellow heirs of the same promise. For he was [waiting expectantly and confidently] looking forward to the city which has foundations, [an eternal, heavenly city] whose architect and builder is God.
We read that it was God and not Moses who led the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan and He did so by the visible cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. Their marching orders came when the cloud lifted and when it rested. There was no council meeting between Moses and the leaders to determine their course. Instead the whole congregation saw the cloud and the fire and each of them understood it’s instructions.
“ 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.”
Exodus 13: 17-18, 21-22
Even Jesus Himself was led by the Holy Spirit. Immediately after His baptism by John the Baptist, the Bible says that He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.
“Then Jesus was led by the [Holy] Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”
Finally, we read that the apostles and the Acts church waited on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
“While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying, they laid their hands on them [in approval and dedication] and sent them away [on their first journey]. So then, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.”
The examples above are but a few of the number of times the Bible tells of those who chose their direction in life by listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
So how does this apply to us? As Ziglar points out, our natural travels in life are guided by signs and directions. I’m sure many of us rely on GPS and map apps on our phones to give us directions when we’re traveling. Most apps include warnings about accidents ahead or heavy traffic and such. Why do we pay attention to signs or listen to a map app? Probably because we know that someone has taken the time to plot the route and identify the safest way to go.
None of us have ever travelled through life. To be sure, some of us have travelled through parts of it. With age comes experience and experience prepares us to some degree to negotiate the journey but experience alone isn’t sufficient. If we have taken the wrong way so many times that it has become habit, we may still be unable to find our way. If we ignore the changes or a reroute, we may find ourselves in peril. Over the years as I have travelled even to the same places, the journey has often changed because the highway system has made changes. Sometimes for the better and other times it’s questionable. Those changes quite often took me a different way than the one I was familiar with and were it not for a map app, I could easily become lost. Life is the same. Sometime our routines are disrupted, the old ways closed, new routes are opened up and all of that can bring a sense of being lost. I’m sure there were times when Abraham felt that sense of lostness as he traveled through strange territory. It’s evident that the Israelites struggled with their journey as they lost sight of Egypt and yet Canaan wasn’t yet visible. For the believers in the first century church, Christ had literally turned their world upside down. Most of their familiar landmarks had disappeared and they had to rely on the Holy Spirit to chart their course. Like a ship in the middle of the ocean, with no land in sight, they could only trust in the guiding of God.
Truth is, we’re no different. No matter how long or how little we’ve lived, life is constantly changing. I think we all could say that even in our lifetime, things have dramatically changed. I think about how the children’s lives have changed over the last couple years. From a daily routine of attending school, to totally remote learning to hybrid versions of education, their world has changed. And I’m sure that most adults can say that almost everything is different now. The world is struggling with how to cope or process or even just survive.
But I have good news for us. The God who navigated Abraham from Ur to Canaan, and the God who led somewhere around two million slaves from Egypt home to Canaan, the God who sent His Son to live and die for us, and the God who guided the Acts church through uncharted territory is with us. Let’s go back the the verse in Romans 8:14. The promise of that verse is that all who invite Christ to be their Savior and make Him Lord of their lives will be led by the Spirit. Don’t know where you are or where you’re going? Seek the Spirit, wait for His instructions, follow His path.
The confidence we place in a map app provides a sense of peace when our surroundings are unfamiliar but that confidence and peace pales in comparison to that which comes when we sense the presence of the Holy Spirit and feel Him take our hand and guide us through the day.
Someone said that the reason certain roads are well travelled is because people have discovered that they are the safest and easiest way to get to the desired destination. Though none of us have traveled to heaven, we can be sure that if we travel with Christ and the Holy Spirit who have made the journey often with saints of God, we, too, will arrive safely at our desired destination.
Dr. John Thompson