How to . . .

Let God be our life director

In Scripture, we have God’s promise that he will guide us, so why do so many of us struggle to hear him?  Michele Morrison takes us back to basics

Our lives are a journey and very often we arrive at a crossroads.  Which way should we go? Too often we seek advice from anyone who will offer it rather than coming to the one who promises: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “’This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:21). Our God loves us and desires to be our life director.  The problem is that much of the time we are simply not listening!

Jesus says, “My sheep know my voice” (John 10:4) but, lost in the busyness and noise of our lives, we can’t hear him. Paul urges us, in Romans 12:2, to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will”. We renew our minds, sharpen our hearing, and deepen our relationship by meditating on the Word of God daily. 

In addition, our minds were created by God to gather information, weigh it up, and formulate an educated opinion. Then, taking our considerations before him, perhaps as a list of pros and cons, God invites us to talk it over with him. He has blessed us, incredibly, with the gift of free will, and he does not constrain us to follow his advice, though it’s foolish not to.

Sometimes we hear all right, but we switch God off if we don’t like where he’s guiding. Just look at Jonah! He heard God’s voice: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it”. Crystal clear, but Jonah didn’t want to know. Appalled, he fled in the opposite direction. Rather foolish (Psalm 139), as he was to learn.

When Jonah arrived in Joppa, seeking a ship to Tarshish, there happened to be one ready to set sail. The weather was good, and Jonah had the cash. He trusted the favourable circumstances, wanting to believe that God was giving him Plan B.

Jonah had heard God clearly, but he was following the desires of his own heart, not God’s. Ever done that?

Another difficulty is that God often guides us one step at a time. We’d like to see the whole picture, but he may only illuminate the first step, and wait for us to take it.

This was the challenge that Sarah faced when she suspected God was calling her. In her mid-twenties, Sarah was finishing her PhD in ecology. One Sunday morning, her church service focused on a country in East Asia, and, coincidentally, the evening service introduced a missionary home on furlough from that same country. He noted that thousands of people in the remote areas had never heard the Gospel. The country, while hostile to evangelisation, was open for foreigners to share their skills in many disciplines. Eyeing the congregation, he challenged them to offer their skills to God and see what he did with them.

Sarah was gripped. She spoke to the missionary, who enthusiastically put her in touch with a charity working on ecology there. Though longing to move forward into God’s plan for her life, Sarah was put off by the extreme conditions in this far-away place.

She went to Bible study, where she shared what had just happened. She was prayed for, and one of the leaders was given a picture of Sarah going through a dark forest, lit only by candles on the pathway. She couldn’t see further than the next candle. The interpretation was that she should pursue this idea as far as she had the light to see by. So she did.

She discovered that her minister’s cousin worked for that charity, so she e-mailed her. She found that a colleague at work was a trustee of the same charity and he thought she would be well-suited for the work.  She sent her CV to the director. A month later he returned to Scotland, a year earlier than planned, and met with her. When he declared that she was the perfect candidate, she stopped asking God, “Is this right for me?” She accepted.

 “To have not proceeded would have been so disobedient,” she concludes. “The guidance was very clear.”

Scripture advises that when we delight in God, he gives us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37). Sarah has found this to be true: despite the terrible hardships, there’s no other place she wants to be. 

In Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken, he concludes: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.”

As we consider the roads before us, listening to God’s guidance – be it through prayer, Scripture, other Christians, circumstances, or a combination of these elements - will make all the difference.

Steps to seeking God’s guidance

Remind yourself of God’s promises

Believe that God knows the plans he has for you and wants you to know them too. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go” (Psalm 32:8). “The Lord will guide you always” (Isaiah 58:11).

Set aside some quality time

Seeking God’s wisdom for a situation cannot be rushed.  Be prepared to spend some quality time worshipping him and simply being still in his presence.

Begin with confession

Un-confessed can act as a spiritual earplug. God is holy and pure, and we need to be right with God when we seek his advice.  Pray: “Search me, O God, and know my heart . . . See if there any offensive way in me” (Psalm 139: 23).

Study his Word

As you read and meditate on God’s Word, make notes and then pray about it, asking for wisdom to understand, strength to obey, and for the Holy Spirit to enable.

Wait expectantly for him to speak

Be persistant in prayer and meditation. Consider asking someone to pray with you and to support you as you seek God’s leading. Step out in faith

God certainly doesn’t want us to be paralysed by indecision. He has called us to serve him, and though we make mistakes, with God nothing is wasted.