A Season of Promise
3. The Promise of Guidance
Proverbs 3: 5, 6
A woman was driving through the mountains when she ran into a snowstorm. She was completely lost until she looked ahead and saw a snowplough. She decided to follow it, keeping as close to it as she could while it removed snow from the road. At times the blowing snow almost cut off her view, but her faithful guide kept on leading the way. After some time, the plough stopped, and the driver got out and walked over to her car. “Lady, where are you going?” he asked. “I’m on my way to Denver,” she replied. “Well, you’ll never get there following me! I’m ploughing a parking lot!”
In order to get to our destinations, we must make sure we’re on the right road and we need to follow the One who longs to give direction to our life. “God wants you to know His will more than you want to know it and He takes personal responsibility to see that you discover it.” God is not playing a cosmic game of hide and seek with us. He delights in revealing His purpose and plans if we’re serious about finding His will for our life.
Let’s admit something. Sometimes when we know a passage so well, we almost know it too well. When some of us hear these verses, we simply check out. We’ve heard them so many times that they’ve lost their impact. Familiarity can breed contempt, or at least boredom. So I urge you to sit forward, engage your mind and prepare your heart for what God wants to say through His Word to you today.
Myths About Guidance
Let’s list some common myths that we need to identify and dispel before we dive in.
Myth #1: God’s will is hard to find. While sometimes its difficult to know what God has for us - here’s the truth – God wants to guide us. Referring to God’s words of wisdom - Proverbs 6: 22 “When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you.” In other words, the Bible has already revealed God’s will in most of the situations in life.
Myth #2: God wants us to know everything about the future. God does not reveal what’s coming next week, next month or next year, but instead urges us to take the next step. Proverbs 6: 23 “For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light…” The picture here is not of a spotlight that fills the entire room but of a man who is out in the dark, walking along a dangerous trail. The only light he has is an old oil lamp that glows just enough to reveal what’s right in front of him. When he takes a step, then the light provides guidance for the next step. One reason that God doesn’t reveal our entire future is because He wants us to trust Him moment by moment as we take one step at a time.
Myth #3: We need to be 100% sure before we make a decision. In our search for certainty about God’s will, we can end up being paralyzed by uncertainty. Trusting God means that we put our faith in Him even when we have some nagging doubts or fears. God wants us to step out in faith. When we do, He will accomplish His purposes - Proverbs 16: 9 “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”
Myth #4: God’s greatest goal is my happiness. Many of us have bought into the myth that we deserve to be successful. God is committed to our holiness, not our happiness. In order for that to happen, sometimes He allows us to go through some pretty tough times. Proverbs 6: 23 “…and the corrections of discipline are the way to life.”
Some of us spend far too much time trying to work out what God wants us to do and where He wants us to live. While God cares about these things, He is much more interested in the kind of person we are. 1 Thessalonians 4: 3 “It is God’s will that you should be holy.”
God put Proverbs in the Bible because we’re all prone to make some pretty stupid decisions! This book can help us become wiser in many ways. This passage gives us 2 key responsibilities. We need to lean on the Lord and learn to love Him with everything we’ve got. When we do, He promises to lead us. Our task is to lean and learn. It’s God’s job to lead us. Here’s the main idea: God will lead us when we lean on Him.
1. Lean on the Lord
“Trust” in Hebrew literally means, “to lean with the whole body” or “to rest one’s full weight” upon something. The word picture carries the idea of stretching yourself out upon a bed or on a hard surface with full confidence that you will not be let down. Trusting involves putting your full weight on something.
To trust in the Lord is to rest your full weight, everything you’ve got upon Him. We’re called to trust the Unchanging One who can be counted on. Proverbs 29: 25 “…whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”
We’re called to total trust and complete commitment: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” A chicken and a pig were walking down the road together when they came to a sign that said, “Bacon and egg breakfast.” The chicken said to the pig, “Why don’t we go in and help out?” To which the pig replied, “That’s easy for you to say. For you that’s just a contribution. For me we’re talking total commitment.”Are you just making a “contribution” or are you making a total commitment to Christ? God is not looking for contributors. He’s calling for the committed. The word “heart” refers to more than just the place where feelings come from. In the OT, the heart was considered the centre of the mind, the will and the emotions. We’re to trust God with all that we are – with all our feelings, our thoughts and our decisions. Knowing God’s will is not a matter of learning a tricky technique or following a fancy formula.
“Lean not on your own understanding” - means to rest upon something for partial support. It’s what you do when you feel a bit unsteady - lean against a tree or to use a stick when you’re walking. We’re given something positive to do: To lean fully on the Lord. Now we come to the rebuke: don’t trust your own understanding.
“Understanding” refers to the mental process we use to analyse a problem, break it down into smaller parts, and then make a decision about what we’re going to do. Some of us pray, not to find God’s will, but to get His approval of what we want to do. Let’s admit it. Most of us think we can figure things out on our own. We can do just fine by ourselves, thank you. But, if we’re serious about making wise decisions, we must fight against that internal inclination to trust what we think is best.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use common sense or the wisdom that God gives us, but it does mean that we shouldn’t “lean” on our understanding for total support. If we try to work out our life and handle every decision that comes our way, we will be in trouble. Proverbs 14: 12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 28: 26 “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered.”
Here’s what we have so far. Lean on the Lord - Give yourself totally to Him - don’t automatically trust what you think you should do. God will lead us when we lean on Him.
2. Learn From God
This is in the imperative and should be understood as a command: “In all your ways acknowledge Him…” Means - “in everything you do, in every detail of your life.” Not just on the day we come to church but every day, in every way, all the time.
“Acknowledge” - “In everything you do, make sure you know the Lord.” It’s the kind of knowing that only comes by personal experience. When we know God’s heart, we will never question His will because knowing God’s will is really all about knowing God.
To acknowledge God is to invite Him into every area of life and to focus on knowing Him intimately. Are there any areas of your life where you have not allowed God access? I wonder what would happen if each of us would plunge ourselves into a pursuit of God. If we would get lost in His immensity and get caught up in His beauty, our lives would change radically. In the process, we would know more about His will.
3. God Will Lead Us
Our responsibility is to lean and to learn. God will then lead us: “…and He shall direct your paths.” God promises to pull out all the stops and go to work when we lean on Him and learn to love Him. God doesn’t promise to make us wealthy, healthy, popular or comfortable. He promises something much deeper. He will make our paths straight, which means that He will make it clear what direction we should go and will help us navigate through whatever life throws at us.
Life is like a journey that goes up into the mountains one day and swerves into the swamp the next. Sometimes the road is washed away or filled with perilous potholes. When we decide to give God first place and trust Him totally, He will straighten out our paths and even remove obstacles. The straight path is not always easy but it does lead away from sin and destruction and points us to deeper fellowship with Christ.
God calls us to lean and learn and then He will lead us. God will lead us when we lean on Him. You may be facing a difficult decision right now, or soon will be, let’s go over some “guidance guidelines” from Proverbs that will help us make wise choices.
1. Surrender to the Lordship of Christ. Is Jesus occupying first place in your life? Are you willing to do His will, whatever it will be? Proverbs 3: 7 “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil.”
2. Obey the Word of God. What principles or commands from the Bible apply to the decision you need to make? Has God given any promises or motivating verses on the subject? Most of the situations we’re faced with are already dealt with in the Word of God. Proverbs 13: 13 “He who despises the word will be destroyed, but he who fears the commandment will be rewarded.”
If you want to know what God’s will is for sex outside of marriage, you don’t need to pray about it - 1 Thessalonians 4: 3 -“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality.” If you want to know if God wants you to forgive, you don’t need to wonder - Ephesians 4: 32 - “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
Many times we ask God to tell us what to do and I imagine Him saying, “I’ve already told you in my Word but you’re not doing what you already know.”
3. Take the time to pray. Have I prayed about the decision? Am I seeking the Lord daily and allowing Him time to give me His direction? Most of the bad decisions are the result of not taking the necessary time to lay things out before the Lord. When possible, choose to pray and think for 24 hours before making a decision. Proverbs 21: 5 “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”
4. Seek godly counsel. While we must avoid leaning on ourselves, Proverbs encourages us to get the counsel of others and to lean on them for some wisdom when we need to make a decision. Proverbs 12: 15 “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.” When faced with a decision, find a faithful friend or two and ask for their input.
Here’s a timely reminder - Proverbs 19: 21 “There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel – that will stand.” God is sovereign. He’s in control. Even when we make bad choices and decisions, His purposes will prevail.
Friends, it’s time to stop going in circles when it comes to God’s guidance. He promises to lead us when we lean on Him and when we learn from Him.
What can we say? What can we do? We can offer our hearts completely to Him.