How does God guide today?
Alan H. Linton, Bristol, England
As CHRISTIANS WE BELIEVE in divine guidance but many of us are uncertain of the methods by which this guidance is given. In the Scriptures, and particularly in the Old Testament, God communicated His will in various ways - sometimes by signs, sometimes by visions and sometimes by the providential disposal of circumstances. Nowhere in Scripture, however, are we promised these, or instructed to ask for them. What then are the normal channels by which we may seek guidance today?
Divine guidance is a very personal experience; the Lord guides each of His children according to His own sovereign will, but even so, the Scriptures give clearly-defined principles of guidance. Some of these we shall briefly consider.
1. 'He guideth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake Ps. 23. 3, R.V. This is an unalterable principle. The Lord only guides in the well-defined paths of righteousness. These may be discovered by diligent study of Scripture, for we read, 'All scripture . . . is profitable . . . for instruction in righteousness', 2 Tim. 3. 16. Today, we need no voice from heaven to lead us into this knowledge - the Scriptures contain all that is necessary for us. It is ignorance of Scripture that often leads to wrong decisions. At the end of a Spirit-led life, George Muller could write, ' I seek the will of the Spirit of God, through, or in connection with, the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions. The Holy Spirit guides us according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them'. Note also, all guidance is 'for his name's sake' (cf. Ps. 31. 3).
2. '/f any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God . . . and it shall be given him', Jas. I. 5. Here is a definite promise. When faced with a problem we are to ask for heavenly wisdom in order to discern the right thing to do. However, we must ask in faith, believing we shall receive the needed wisdom to lead us aright, James (3. 17-18) teaches us that this wisdom is often contrary both to our natural inclinations and the advice of earthly-minded men.
3. 'The meek will he guide in judgment'', Ps. 25. 9. In any situation, sooner or later, a decision (or judgment) has to be made. The Lord may give, or, perhaps withhold from us certain facts, so that we may reach the right decision. Probably the clearest biblical example of this is contained in Acts 15. 19 where James gives his judgment on a far-reaching decision affecting the future policy of the Christian Church and this spiritual judgment was based on the information presented to the council in Jerusalem.
4. 'He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness', John 8. 12, sums up our Lord's teaching on guidance. This guidance is conditional upon our following Him and entails sincere obedience to His will -a willingness, not to be 'as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding', Ps. 32. 8-9, but 'to lose my will in His' is the real secret of divine guidance. To quote George Muller again: 'Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when we are ready to do the Lord's will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is'.
When the Psalmist wrote 'the meek will he guide in judgment', he used a word meaning bend for guide. As an archer bends his bow to his will, so the Lord desires to bend our wills to His.
Are we prepared to let Him do this?
Readers who would like to raise matters likely to be of general profit are invited to submit questions to Dr. Linton, 25 Elmcroft Crescent, Muller Road, Bristol, 7.