HOW DOES GOD GUIDE?
MATT. 7:21-28 REV. ARMEN HANJIAN FEB. 26, 2017
A man moved out West and joined a Lutheran Church; a drought came and ruined his crops. He concluded God didn’t want him in that Church. So he joined the Baptist Church; lightning struck his barn and it burned down. So he joined the Methodist Church and that year his wife ran off with another. He fell down on his knees and thanked God for leading him to the right Church.
Most people don’t expect to be guided by God. I believe there is a rightful place to seek and find guidance from the Creator of the Universe – the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. To honestly seek God’s direction is a great act of faith, for it means you believe God is a living God – a God who can respond.
Most of us would acknowledge that over the years there is some guidance from God by way of evolution. The question for today is, “Can God be counted on to give concrete guidance in the affairs of individuals and nations? I am convinced the answer is yes. Allow me to share some of the ways God guides those who seek God’s guidance.
I say “those who seek God’s guidance because this matter of freedom seems to be tied up with how God deals with us. God will guide , but will not over ride. A minister once stood by a coffin of a young man whose life was cut off untimely by human measurements. After the young widow poured out her grief and asked the unanswerable questions, the minister said, “God will give you strength and faith, and out of this good will come. “ “No”, she answered, “good will not come out of it!” And no matter how much God wills it, good will not come out of it for her unless she also wills it. God will guide, but God will not over ride.
With that as background let us turn to the channels most used in discovering God’s will for given situations. Perhaps it’s too obvious but we must say that God would have us discover God’s will by using our minds. An instance of intelligence of being a useful test of God’s will is given in Dr. Heiser’s book, “An American Doctor’s Odyssey”. He was the health officer in Manila when cholera broke out in various parts of the city. Simultaneously, a fisherman reported a miracle in the bay. He had observed on the surface of the water a black streak in the form of a cross and the water was sweet not salty. He called the priest who confirmed the miracle. The people then paddled out carrying bottles and drank the holy liquid. Immediate investigation revealed a break in the sewer, whereupon Dr. Heiser appealed to the police to suppress the miracle. He was told that the people would riot against interference with what they believed to be the will of God. The doctor said he would rather deal with a riot than an epidemic. So the people were held back until the sewer was repaired. What God wants us to do should meet the test of intelligence.
St. Paul counseled whatsoever things are honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, worthy of praise, think on these things. Fix your mind on them, dwell on them. Don’t let your mind go where the wind blows, where the advertisers want it to go.
Another channel which should be obvious, but is seldom appropriately used is reading the Bible. If you really want to fix your mind on things worthy of praise, let biblical thoughts soak your thinking. This is exactly what Jesus did – how often he quoted from the Psalms and Isaiah and other writing in the Hebrew scriptures – some call the Old Testament.
I’m sure he didn’t seek God’s direction like the man who opened the Bible and pointed and it read: “Judus went out and hung himself. He didn’t like that guidance so he pointed again and it read “Go thou and do likewise.” Didn’t like that. Pointed again and it read ”What thou hast to do, do quickly.”
No, Jesus let the collected wisdom and insight given to others be one of his guides. He knew well the saying, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” The Bible may not be as specific as we would like it to be – it doesn’t tell us simplistically how to deal with marriage problems or environmental problems for today, but it does provide us with the norms to deal with these and other problems – that is what keeps it from being out dated. The Bible speaks to us and then we are better able to speak to the situation that confronts us. The norms of love, forgiveness, obedience and Christlikeness are but a few of the graces God would have grow in us. We can be sure of this, that God will never guide you in a way that cuts across the Christ we know in the Bible.
In addition to our minds and the Bible, the conscience can be used by God to direct us. Yet, it is not sufficient to say, “Let your conscience be your guide.” A Hindu was once asked what would happen if he should break caste and no one else knew about it. He replied that his conscience would trouble him. Now my conscience would trouble if I kept a caste system. Two consciences trained to approve opposite things. For a conscience to be a safe guide, it must be trained at the feet of Christ.
So often we make our decisions by our immediate desires, but Christians should be guided by long-term purposes. The training of our consciences is a long-term matter which will stand us in good stead in our specific decisions.
One of the most rewarding and joyous channels to discover God’s will is the channel of prayer. Too often prayer can degrade from communion and communication to requests for God’s blessing on decisions we have already made. We make the same error that the Disciples made: we offer God two propositions and then wait for God to give us an inkling as to which we should follow. The Disciples you recall put up two men to take the place of Judus, and asked God which of the two men God approved; they cast lots. And the lot fell on Matthias. But apparently God didn’t choose either. He chose Paul. I like the way George Buttrick put it: Prayer is “exposing oneself to the promptings of God.” Prayer can put things in proper perspective such that we see God’s will and receive from God determination and power to do it.
God also guides us by bringing to our door opportunities and needs. Dick Sheppard, the great preacher, said, “Christianity does not consist in abstaining from doing things no gentleman would think of doing, but doing things that are unlikely to occur to anyone who is not in touch with the Spirit of Christ.”
The story is told about a widow of a preacher who cared for all the orphans and illegitimate children and poor in the neighborhood. A man in town so much appreciated her work that he had built for her a snug little home on his property and equipped it with new furniture. The first person she invited into it was the most disreputable woman in town. Horrified, he asked how she could have invited such a creature into her pretty new home. The old lady’s quiet reply was, “Jesus would.”
None of us should dare to seek directions for the intricacies of life if we do not follow God’s guidance in the simplicities of life.
There are other ways God can guide us. Let me share one more: certainly God can guide us through other persons. How many of you owe your spiritual heritage and life to some great or unknown saint that passed your way? “Yes there are many channels to discover God’s directives,” you say, “but I want to be absolutely certain I’m doing God’s will.” E. Stanley Jones, the Methodist missionary wrote, “Do not expect guidance to be as explicit as two plus two makes four. There will always be a degree of probability in any of his guidance, for that degree of probability puts adventure and daring into life, and it is at the point of adventure and daring that we grow. Guidance must be sufficiently clear to act upon but never so clear that an act of adventurous faith is not required.” In another place he wrote, “If you do make mistakes in guidance, don’t be discouraged. I have mentioned the Disciples did 31 things which were wrong and yet were guided into changing the world. You may slip up on the marginal things and yet be centrally right.”(The Way, p282; Growing Spiritually p277)
In so many things, it is later on that we see how God has guided us. No one would assume there was no point to a plot in the middle of a novel. Even at this point in my life I am more and more sure that God has guided me. God guided me into the ministry through an ordinary person; although the ground of my life had been nurtured before and after that one invitation. Biblical standards I see have become some of my many daily standards. I almost went to the church in Clinton N.J. – there was a nice-looking red head on their pastoral relations committee, and besides I never heard of that odd-named Church of Mt. Horeb. But I thank continually God for guiding me there and for guiding me here.
How has God guided you? Tell others about it. It is a witness you alone can make and if you don’t make it we are cheated of spiritual encouragement and you may lose your faith that God guided you at all.
An African patient once asked Dr. Albert Schweitzer, “Why did you come?’ The doctor replied, “Jesus sent me.” My friends God guided that man and he can guide you into avenues of service and love.
Only those who want direction and seek after it with heart and mind, with patience and honesty, who devote blocks of time to the quest can ever hope to find direction.
The promise remains: those who seek will find.