Jake was so excited to be hunting quail. He took off through the brush and proceeded to flush a bird… not just once, twice, but three times. After the third time, the hunter, my friend Joseph Wheat’s father, got right in Jake’s face and spoke firmly to his dog: “Jake, we’re not here today to hunt with you. You are here to hunt with us. We are not following you. You are following us.”
When it comes to divine guidance in your life: Who’s hunting with whom? If you’re like me, many times you are running up ahead of God and basically telling him to hunt with you…to bless what you do. Instead we are called to hunt with God by seeking to do what He blesses. Like a dog flushing birds out of the brush too soon, our lives can become extremely frustrating without the assurance and reality of divine guidance.
For that reason, we want to examine today what the book of Proverbs says about the promise, the process, and the pitfalls of divine guidance: Who guides? How does it guide? Why do we need His guidance?
I. The Promise — The LORD lovingly and sovereignly guides us.
16:9 – The mind of man plans his way but the LORD directs his steps.
16:33 – The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.
19:21 – Many plans are in a man’s heart but the counsel of the LORD will stand.
20:24 – Man’s steps are ordained by the LORD. How then can man understand his way?
- His Name — the LORD (loving loyalty). YHWH – covenant Lord. I have promised to be the God who leads you by the quiet waters. The God who guides you in paths of righteousness for My name’s sake!
- His Function — He shepherds wayward sheep who are prone to wander. Illustration: You don’t know directions to your destination. So, you end up following a friend who drives like the proverbial bat out of hades. They forget that they have someone following them. This is unlike our Lord. He constantly remembers.
- His Providence — He directs and ordains. Psalm 139:16 — “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Providence is defined “as the unceasing activity of God whereby, in overflowing bounty and goodwill he upholds his creatures in ordered existence, guides and governs all events, circumstances and free acts of angels and men, and directs everything to its appointed goal, for his own glory.”
The Heidelberg Catechism reminds beautifully of the benefits of trusting God’s providence: We can be patient in adversity, thankful in prosperity, and with a view to the future we can have a firm confidence in our faithful God and Father that no creature shall separate us from His love; for all creatures are so completely in His hand that without His will they cannot so much as move.[Prov. 21:1]
II. The Process— How He guides His children?
A. Prayer-derived. God guides us as we diligently pursue Christ and His will for our lives through believing prayer. First of all, I want you see that the wisdom writer of Proverbs highlights the importance of prayer for discerning God’s guidance. Divine guidance begins with a distrust of human reason and a dependence upon divine promises.
- Scriptural Validation: Proverbs 3:5-6—Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
- Proverbs 16:3 – Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established.
- Genesis 24:12-16 – Abraham’s servant fervently sought God to find Isaac a wife. He prayed that God would reveal Isaac’s bride by her offering him and his camels a drink of water. Sure enough, before he had finished praying, Rebekah showed up and each detail of the servant’s prayer was answered.
B. Bible-based. We have a map for the journey. (Proverbs 1:5 – wise counsel/guidance)
- We tend to use the Bible like the magical lamp of Aladdin. God guides us as we expose our minds and hearts to the wisdom of His Word. God ordinarily guides us in our decision making through Bible-based wisdom. He leads me means that by his instruction he gives me wisdom to see the right thing to do. What is the best that I can envision for God’s glory and the good of others?
- Romans 12:1-2 – proving what the will of God is… Prove means “discern by examining alternatives.” There is a moral and spiritual precondition of being able to see in each situation what God wants done – the Spirit’s work of internal, character renewal.
- We should never seek guidance from God about what he has already forbidden. Expect to be tested on this one. 2 Cor. 6:14 says that we are not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. Are you praying for guidance about whether or not you should marry an unbeliever? Save your breath!
- The Holy Spirit guides us by focusing our hearts to love and serve specific people in specific ways. How would our church be different…if the older men
C. Corporately-confirmed. God guides us as we actively seek out the counsel and wisdom of significant others.
- Scriptural Validation: Proverbs 11:14 – In an abundance of counselors there is victory. 15:22 – Without consultation, plans are frustrated but with many counselors they succeed. 20:18 – Prepare plans by consultation and make war by wise guidance.
- We were not made or redeemed for self-sufficient aloneness. We must never succumb to being spiritual lone rangers. We must never be too proud to take advice from others. Listen to the sage counsel of J.I. Packer: “The Holy Spirit regularly uses the fellowship of the body of Christ to deepen our discernment of God’s will. It is part of the discipline of divine guidance to be ready for the Spirit to confirm his will for our lives through other believers.”
D. Circumstantially-confining. God guides us through our circumstances that are controlled by His divine providence.
- Scriptural Validation: 20:24 – Man’s steps are ordained by the LORD. How then can man understand his way?
- Illustration #1: As a young Irish girl, Amy Carmichael prayed for God to give her blond hair and blue eyes like her mother. God providentially gave her brown hair and dark eyes in order that she might blend in with her native dress and be allowed into the city where she could rescue young girls from becoming temple prostitutes. If she had had blue eyes, there would be no way to hide them, and she would never have been able to do what she did.
- Illustration #2: Benjamin Warfield was an esteemed professor at the Princeton Seminary in the 1800s. He was married to Anne Kinkade. On their honeymoon in Switzerland, she was struck by lightning and was an invalid for the rest of her life. Dr. Warfield turned down many appointments and speaking engagements in order to care for his beloved wife and never traveled far from home so that he could personally care for her.
- George Mueller – “Through prayer to God, the study of the Word, and reflection, I come to a deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly.” … What is it that will most honor and please my Savior?
III. The Pitfalls — Why do we need His guidance?
A. Our deceptive hearts. 14:12; 16:25 – There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death. Covetousness can masquerade as prudence and providing well for your own family.
- Illustration: The job promotion results in a death-like existence. You have no time for your wife and kids. You begin to have health problems due to the pressure. You are constantly away from your family out on the road. Your boss is breathing down your neck.
- Our deceptive hearts can distort and twist Scripture for our own pleasure and indulgence. We can even twist the Scriptures to serve our own selfish desires. Illustration: I had a friend who justified his smoking of marijuana with 1 Timothy 4:4 – “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude.” All of us have an uncanny ability to deceive ourselves and twist God’s Word for our own selfish ends.
B. Marked by pride , presumption , impulsiveness, passiveness.
- Pride – A simple definition for pride is contending for supremacy with God. Like the hunting dog Jake – who’s following whom? Proverbs 12:15 – The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice. According to the Proverbs, the proud man leans only on his own understanding. Pride is the dominant sin of every unhumbled heart. It is the lamented and resisted sin of every child of God.
- Presumption — 27:1 – Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. How prone we are to arrogantly assume that we control our time and the events of our lives. James 4:13-14 – Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
- We have not received another day to live by natural necessity, by right, or by courtesy of nature, but only by the mercies of God. This knowledge pulverizes our self-sufficiency and replaces it with a capacity to rejoice and rely on God’s faithful generosity.
- Impulsiveness — 21:5 – The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. Illustration: Prince Caspian – High King Peter has waited long enough for Aslan to show up and give his wisdom on how to defeat the Telamarines. In his haste and pride, many Narnias are senselessly killed because of his impulsiveness.
Conclusion: Divine guidance is the very essence of Christianity. The Apostle Paul equates being guided by the Holy Spirit with being a child of God. Romans 8:14 says, “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
This is why I want you to remember that a key prerequisite for receiving God’s guidance is this: That you become a child of God through faith in Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus was asked by a group of seekers, “What must we do to be doing the works of God? He answered, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom God has sent” (John 6:29). Have you trusted Him? Are you truly willing to be led by the Holy Spirit? Guidance implies that someone is leading and someone is following. Will you allow our good and gracious King to lead in your life? Or are you going to continue like Jake… asking God to hunt with you… to bless your life and your plans?