Seeking wisdom, guidance, direction, are all so very natural for us as human beings, particularly when we are faced with difficult situations or tough decisions.
I remember the conversation with our friend Evan when he asked my wife and I about the possibility of moving approximately 4000 km across Australia to join the staff of a training college for cross-cultural workers. In fact, the very place we had trained at almost 30 years earlier!
At the time, it seemed a big ask! It would mean leaving our 3 married sons and our married daughter and at that time our 3 grandchildren (we now have 11). Considering our previous lifestyle serving in Pakistan for 11 years and the fact that our children attended a boarding school, saying ‘goodbye’ again wouldn’t be easy. It would also mean leaving the so-called “security” of an excellent job in nursing, at a time of expansion and possible promotion, to again join a ‘faith mission’ with no income other than from those who would support us. Also leaving my involvement in a growing media ministry working with some Afghan believers who were great friends, and then leaving our church where we were both very involved in leadership and worship. Moreover, we would need to pack up our house and seek to rent it out while we were away for a number of years (number unknown at that stage). So, we said we would prayerfully consider it.
The prayer of David in Psalm 25 would have been close to what we prayed at that time:
4 Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
5 Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Saviour,
and my hope is in you all day long.
The psalmist then goes on to reveal the basis of his confidence in God and why he considered that God would answer his prayer for guidance. He said:
6 Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, Lord, are good.
8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
9 He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful
toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
11 For the sake of your name, Lord,
forgive my iniquity, though it is great.
David acknowledges God’s mercy and love and despite knowing that he is not deserving of anything from God due to the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways, he also believes that God will forgive because all the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful. Because of these great truths concerning the character of God he believes that He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.
Kidner calls this “approach to divine guidance…personal and mature” and goes on to speak of the “marks of this prayer [as being]…first, persistence – a patient alertness for ’the first signal of his hand’ [i.e. ‘show me your ways’ (v.5) and ‘My eyes are ever on the Lord (v.15)]…second, penitence – recognizing that one is no apt or deserving pupil but a ‘sinner’ (v8), with a sinner’s bias and guilt; third, obedience – the…attitude implied in the word, humble or meek (v.9)…and fourth, reverence [‘those who fear the Lord’’ in verses 12 and 14] – the simple piety that God honours with his ‘friendship’ [‘The Lord confides in those who fear him’ (v.14)]” (see references # 29)
Blaiklock adds: “To know the will of God, and how it applies to personal circumstances is the final and most blessed security in life…A security indeed which makes the true follower of God a pupil in the school of truth, ready and willing to apply ultimate truth in all of life’s contexts, perplexities, decisions…It is because of [God’s] nature, His love, which emerges under rich and varied names in verse after verse, that sinners can expect, not chastisement, but instruction and guidance…[but our part is] gentleness and willingness to learn…patience that looks for reality…[and] humility [which] must precede all…[so] those who reverence God can expect to be guided…The friendship of the Lord can only be for those who trust Him.” (see references # 37)
Nicky Gumbel in the Alpha course gives examples of some simple practical ways that God guides today. They are through:
- Commanding Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16)
- Compelling Spirit (Acts 13:1-3)
- Common Sense (2 Timothy 2:7)
[I like John Stott’s comment: “God’s promises of guidance were not given to save us the problem of thinking!”]
- Counsel of the Saints (Proverbs 20:18)
- Circumstantial Signs (Proverbs 16:9)
Gumbel adds that we can also ask ourselves the following questions:
Is it loving? (1 John 4:16)
Is it in line with the Bible?
Is it strengthening, encouraging and comforting? (1 Corinthians 14:3)
Does it bring the peace of God? (Colossians 3:15)
From Alpha Series, Week 7, ‘How does God Guide Us?’ (https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=alpha+series+2016+week+7)
So, in 2008, when we received the invitation mentioned above, we did pray and consider it carefully and came to the decision that it was indeed God’s plan for us, despite the many challenges. Eight and a half years later when we ‘retired’ and returned to our home and family, we had no regrets that we had obeyed when God had directed. I remember at some stage during those years having a conversation with our daughter concerning the ‘cost’ of being so far away from our family (especially every time another of our 8 more grandchildren arrived). She said something like, “As much as we all miss you, I would prefer parents who obeyed God and went, than those who disobeyed and stayed home!”
And, by the way, God honoured our decision and blessed our time at the college. Moreover he:
- provided for our families through others, including the other “grandmas and grandpas” (thanks!) and provided (on average) for us to return home twice a year to visit.
- My employer survived me leaving (😊) and God provided our needs in wonderful ways over the years. We were and are blessed with all we need!
- Another person took over my role as chairman of the media ministry and these days the ministry has grown from my Afghan friends producing radio programs to now producing Satellite TV programs!
- The church also survived us leaving (😊) and supported us over our years away. It was great to be involved with them again recently helping to facilitate the Alpha course.
- Then, our house was rented by the same excellent tenant for the whole 9 years!
So, the psalmist continues:
12 Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
13 They will spend their days in prosperity,
and their descendants will inherit the land.
14 The Lord confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever on the Lord,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.
May we all seek God as we journey with him, and when he guides may we humbly obey!
Father, you are good! What a privilege to be your children and experience your good purposes for our lives. What a thrill to serve the Living God. May we seek your will in all that we do, and then respond with total obedience. Amen.