Summary: God has always guided his people. Scripture abounds with examples of God providing guidance. from Scripture, we learn that receiving God’s guidance is the norm. So how does God guide us?
A Guiding Presence
As a pastor, some of the most common questions I receive have to do with divine guidance. What’s God’s will for my life? How do I know if God wants me to take this new job? Does God want me to marry this person? Could God be pointing me in a new direction for my life? Of course, the question of God’s guidance isn’t just a pastoral matter for me. It’s also personal. When I was in the Spring of my Freshman year at Tulane, I began thinking about what I wanted to major in. I had always been taught that God had given us both gifts and a purpose in life. So I began to seek what God wanted me to do with my life. After several weeks of praying and reading Scripture, I received my calling into ministry through a strong impression on my mind that I was to become a minister. When I was thinking about proposing to my wife, I prayed to God and asked for his guidance. And in every church I’ve served, I’ve sought God’s guidance for my ministry and in every ministerial transition, I’ve sought God’s guidance. I know I’m not alone. Most of us want God’s guidance in our lives, we just don’t know how to go about or how to know when we’re receiving it.
God has always guided his people. Scripture abounds with examples of God providing guidance. Some are dramatic, as in the Book of Exodus where God directs Moses by speaking through a burning bush that is not consumed. God guided the Hebrews in the wilderness by a pillar of fire at night and a pillar of cloud during the day. Sometimes God’s guidance is ironic, as when God guides Balaam through a donkey or Jonah through a giant fish. In the Book of Acts, the guidance of the Holy Spirit can almost seem like a daily occurance. Paul experienced the Spirit’s leading throughout his ministry, leading him to say, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25
So from Scripture, we learn that receiving God’s guidance is the norm. That’s the rub, right? It appears so normal and clear in Scripture and yet it’s such a challenge for us. We’d love it if God just wrote down his instructions or whispered in our ear or had an angel spell out what to do. But the Holy Spirit rarely speaks with audible words, like at Jesus’ baptism. Rather, God guides us through quiet, subtle ways making it seem more difficult to discern His leading and guidance. That’s complicated by the fact that many times when God may be trying to guide us, we’re either not aware of it or we don’t hear it. We often limit God’s guidance in our lives because God will communicate to you to the extent that you invite him to do so, are attentive to His leading and your readiness to listen and hear. So today, we’re going to look at the ways that God guides us so that you might be able to recognize and discern His guidance for your life.
To receive God’s guidance, you first need to understand its purpose in our lives. Sometimes we become so absorbed in seeking guidance for ourselves that we overlook one of the Spirit’s main reasons for speaking to us: so that we might do His will by ministering to others. Yes, God provides individual guidance to us but ultimately, God is guiding us to do His will. Spiritual guidance comes, not only for our good and for the good of others, but ultimately for the good of God, that is so His will and purposes might be fulfilled. Ephesians 2:10 puts it this way, the Spirit guides us so that we might “do the good things [God] planned for us long ago,” and these things are all part of his plan of salvation. As we receive God’s guidance and follow His will, we derive personal benefit in that we are blessed through serving God and following His will. But more importantly, the people around us are blessed and even more significantly, God’s purposes are fulfilled through us. It’s not about us but always about God.
So how does God guide us? First, the Holy Spirit guides us through reason. Our Wesleyan faith is built on four pillars called the Wesleyan Quadralateral which are Scripture, tradition, experience and reason. Because the Spirit’s guidance can be so miraculous at times, we can overlook or even disparage so-called “normal” processes of reasoning. God has given us powers of reason to be used for his purposes, whether we utilize these to make medical discoveries, teach Sunday school, or discern God’s will. It’s through reason that the Spirit can and does guide us. This is why Paul tells us we’ve been given the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16) and that the Spirit of God can guide our thinking. Romans 8:5-6 But, none of this guarantees the rightness of our thought. Reason, though a gift of God in creation, is not infallible and people can and have twisted words and even Scripture toward their own ends. This is why we need to test everything with the entirety of God’s Word and the wisdom and counsel of others.