“Abraham was now a very old man, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. 2 One day Abraham said to his oldest servant, (ELIEZER), the man in charge of his household, “Take an oath by putting your hand under my thigh. 3 Swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not allow my son to marry one of these local Canaanite women. 4 Go instead to my homeland, to my relatives, and find a wife there for my son Isaac.” 5 The servant asked, “But what if I can’t find a young woman who is willing to travel so far from home? Should I then take Isaac there to live among your relatives in the land you came from?” 6 “No!” Abraham responded. “Be careful never to take my son there. 7 For the Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and my native land, solemnly promised to give this land to my descendants. He will send his angel ahead of you, and he will see to it that you find a wife there for my son. 8 If she is unwilling to come back with you, then you are free from this oath of mine. But under no circumstances are you to take my son there.” 9 So the servant took an oath… He swore to follow Abraham’s instructions. 10 Then he loaded ten of Abraham’s camels with all kinds of expensive gifts from his master, and he traveled to distant Aram-naharaim. There he went to the town where Abraham’s brother Nahor had settled. 11 He made the camels kneel beside a well just outside the town. It was evening, and the women were coming out to draw water. 12 “O Lord, God of my master, Abraham,” he prayed. “Please give me success today, and show unfailing love to my master, Abraham. 13 See, I am standing here beside this spring, and the young women of the town are coming out to draw water. 14 This is my request. I will ask one of them, ‘Please give me a drink from your jug.’ If she says, ‘Yes, have a drink, and I will water your camels, too!’—let her be the one you have selected as Isaac’s wife. This is how I will know that you have shown unfailing love to my master.” 15 Before he had finished praying, he saw a young woman named Rebekah coming out with her water jug on her shoulder… She was… very beautiful and old enough to be married… 17 Running over to her, the servant said, “Please give me a little drink of water from your jug.” 18 “Yes, my lord,” she answered, “have a drink.” And she quickly lowered her jug from her shoulder and gave him a drink. 19 When she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels, too, until they have had enough to drink.” 20 So she quickly emptied her jug into the watering trough and ran back to the well to draw water for all his camels… 21 The servant watched her in silence, wondering whether or not the Lord had given him success in his mission. 22 …
26 The man bowed low and worshiped the Lord. 27 “Praise the Lord, the God of my master, Abraham,” he said. “The Lord has shown unfailing love and faithfulness to my master, for he has led me straight to my master’s relatives.” 28 The young woman ran home to tell her family everything that had happened…” (Genesis 24:1-28)
Sometimes deciphering, reading God’s will feels very complicated, complex, and difficult.
Throughout our lives we face myriad decisions, each of which can, and does, radically alter our lives.
When facing major decisions, we often feel overwhelmed by the options that lie in front of us.
What should I do with my life?
What college should I attend?
Should I change careers?
Is this the person I should marry?
Is this the right time to have children?
Can I succeed if I go into business for myself?
Should I sell my house now or later?
Should I plant a church here or there?
Should I make a major purchase or wait?
The decisions we face are endless.
One voice tells us to go one direction.
Another voice tells us to another.
To which voice do we listen?
Fortunately, God has given us a way to understand and be able to arrive at the right decision even when we are going against the current of life.
Unfortunately, many well-meaning believers do not take time to grow through the principles God has put in place to guide us in His ways.
Many people’s idea of guidance from God is like that of a certain businessman who didn’t spend much time in the Word.
One day he prayed, “Lord, I need a word of guidance.”
He picked up his dusty Bible off the coffee table, closed his eyes, let it flop open and put his finger down on the page.
When he opened his eyes, he noticed that he was pointing to the word wheat, so he called his stockbroker and invested a large sum of money on wheat futures.
Believe it or not, that is the way many believers seek God’s will.
Because of impatience, immaturity or ignorance, they settle for a Bible “guess verse” rather than taking the time to learn the principles God has to help us.
Other Christians call their psychic “friend,” who’s much more interested in their money than in being their friend.
Some call in to radio talk shows, where they ask people who know nothing about them or the ways of God for advice.
Still others decide to go it alone and end up in a hole with no one to pull them out.
But our heavenly Father has something far better for us than those options.
God has made available to every Christian a guidance system that is both simple and complex: simple because it is based in Scripture; complex because, without knowledge of God’s simple truths, it can be misleading.
The base in our study of God’s guidance rests on:
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14)
The sons of God: all believers in Jesus Christ are led by the Spirit of God.
Failing to follow where God leads is usually due to one of two reasons: rebellion or recognition.
Obstacle #1: Being Lost
The first obstacle that prevents people from clearly hearing God’s voice is being lost that is not giving the controls of your life to Jesus Christ.
A few years ago a popular bumper sticker read, “God is my co-pilot”.
But God’s Word tells us He wants us out of the cockpit so He can be in complete control.
He wants our bumper stickers to read, “God alone is my pilot”.
In the first and foremost of the Ten Commandments, God reveals that He is a jealous God and there are to be no other gods besides Him.
“You must not have any other god but me. 4 “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me.” (Exodus 20:3-5)
In fact, He goes so far as to tell us that His name is Jealous.
“You must worship no other gods, for the Lord, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.” (Exodus 34:14)
All too often, however, our god is the person in the mirror.
When we seek to please our-selves, when we’re looking out only for number one, we fashion ourselves (in our own eyes) into the likeness of God.
The Bible tells us that is sin.
The biggest barrier that separates us from a perfect and sinless God is our sin.
In Isaiah, God tells us,
“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)
If you haven’t given your life to Jesus Christ, you can pray all day long for direction from God, but He won’t even hear your prayer.
The only prayer He is obligated to hear and heed before you become a Christian is the prayer of repentance, in which you confess your need for God to remove the barrier of sin that separates you from Him.
When Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth, He showed us the way to know God the Father.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
As we yield ourselves to Jesus Christ, ask Him to remove our sins and put Him in control of our lives, we cross the barrier that separated us from God.
Once we belong to Jesus, we are given Jesus’ headphones and Jesus’ contact lenses that enable us to hear His voice and see His guidance.
Jesus, our Good Shepherd, then says of us:
“3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.” (John 10: 3-5)
Sheep know the voice of their shepherd.
It’s the birthright of every believer to hear God’s voice; every believer has the capacity to do this.
Jesus said that the sheep follow Him because they recognize His voice.
They tell me that in real life sheep only hear their shepherd and no one else.
You can’t fake out sheep.
Many people want answers to their problems, they want marriages healed and finances straightened out, but they don’t want to be saved and to become part of the flock.
As long as they remain lost sheep, God has no obligation to speak to them.
Out of love and grace He sometime does, but He has no obligation to do so.
Obstacle #2: Not being Spirit-filled
The second obstacle to hearing God’s voice and recognizing His direction is not being Spirit-filled.
A person can go to heaven and still not be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Some Christians say,
“When I got saved, I got everything.”
And in a technical sense, it is true.
When Israel stood-on the east bank of the Jordan, looking across the river into the Promised Land, God said to Joshua and the people,
“I have given you: the land; here is the deed, paid in full.”
Now, if they had been like many Christians, they would have lined up all the way down the east bank and said, “It’s all ours,” yet never set a foot in it.
Legally, it was theirs, but experientially they hadn’t possessed it yet.
In a real sense, all Christians are given the Holy Spirit at salvation.
At the same time, however, the power of the Holy Spirit may not yet be released.
God has more for the believer than just the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; believers need the Spirit’s immersion as well.
And that’s what baptism means—”to immerse.”
Beginning in Acts 2, we read about people who are already saved; but once they have been Spirit-filled, they are given not only power to be witnesses but also a divine capacity to move in the gifts of the Spirit.
(For more information on the gifts of the Spirit, read I Cor. 12:1-4; Rom 4-8 and Ephesians 4:7-13)
For example, when facing a decision, the gift of discernment (one of the gifts of the Spirit) enables us to sense factors regarding our situation that would be impossible for us to know in our natural understanding.
Perhaps you’re considering a job change when God gives you discernment that your new boss is not nearly what he appears to be.
Without the infilling of the Holy Spirit, how would you be able to sense the Holy Spirit’s leading or walk in the gifts of the Spirit?
‘The baptism of the Holy Spirit, then, is the means by which God enlivens our spirit so we can move in the power of the Holy Spirit.’
If you’re unsure whether or not you are filled, you probably aren’t.
In the New Testament people received this baptism through prayer, through the laying on of hands from other Spirit-filled believers, through preaching and through worship.
(Acts 1:14-2:4; 4:31; 8:17; 9:17; 11:15; Eph. 5:18-19)
It’s not important how you receive as long as you do receive.
So if you feel empty, you need to be filled or refilled.
Once you’re filled, you’ll know it!
Obstacle #3: Pride
The third obstacle that prevents us from knowing God’s will is pride.
Pride is the attitude that declares that I know what is best for me, that I choose to whom I will listen.
It means being stiff, unteachable, unbendable, unchangeable; it means I won’t repent, I won’t take responsibility and I know it all.
The Bible tells us in James that:
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6)
If I am filled with pride, I find myself fighting God for control of my destiny.
The Psalmist David says,
“The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way.” (Psalm 25:9)
God guides the humble because they are teachable and willing to follow.
Historians tell us that a gigantic iceberg sank the luxury liner Titanic off the coast of Newfoundland on April 15, 1912; but really, pride sank that ship.
Everything about the Titanic breathed opulence and self-sufficiency.
It was simply the greatest ship built in human history; it represented the crowning achievement of mankind at that time.
But observe Casey Sabella’s keen insight into what really sank the Titanic:
‘The philosophy of [the Titanic’s] operation including excellence, image, and profit was rooted in self. Pride blinded the minds of nearly everyone on board. God, in His mercy, sent the Titanic no less than six messages warning of impending disaster. In each case, and for various reasons, the captain and crew ignored those warnings to their own peril.” (Casey Sabella)
Six times the crew was warned by surrounding ships that icebergs lay ahead on that dark, moonless night, but the crew was so convinced their ship was unsinkable that they ignored the messages they were given.
In much the same way God sends warning signs to avert disaster in our own lives, but when we are controlled by pride, we are unable or unwilling to recognize his voice.
‘The quickest way to get a word from God and get yourself out of a big mess is to take responsibility and humble yourself.” (Rick Godwin)
God promises He will guide the humble, but the proud He will cut off from His guidance system, leaving them to their own devices.
Obstacle #4: Self-Deception
James admonishes us,
“But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22)
The Contemporary English Version makes it even more explicit:
“Obey God’s message! Don’t fool yourselves by just listening to it.”
This passage explains why so many Christians never change.
Often, when we just hear the Word of God, we think that we’re living it.
We hear about prayer, we talk about prayer, we talk about talking about prayer; in the process we convince ourselves that we are praying.
But we aren’t – we’re only hearing about prayer or talking about prayer we’re not praying.
We do the same thing with evangelism, loving our neighbour, knowing God, you name it!
James goes on to describe people like this:
“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.” (James 1:23-24)
When you woke up this morning, chances are you looked in the mirror, brushed your teeth, took a shower, shaved (if you’re a man), combed your hair, put on a little makeup if you’re a woman) and maybe some deodorant.
You got things in order because the mirror revealed what was wrong.
You didn’t like what you saw, so you came into agreement with your mirror, and you did something about it.
In the same way many people walk up to the mirror of God’s Word and see themselves as God sees them.
But then they walk away without doing anything about what they saw.
What amazes me is why so many Christians walk away unchanged from the very tool designed to help them.
People have a tendency to build a protective barrier that prevents God’s Word from penetrating into them where they need it most.
They read God’s Word and assume that their responsibility stops right there.
People like this find how God’s Word applies to everyone else but themselves.
And what they discover that does apply, they reject.
God also uses those close to us to reveal our error.
If three people call you a donkey—buy a saddle!
Accept your closest friends’ observation of you by faith, because if you are deceived, you will never see it!
When we approach God for guidance, we need to be prepared to do whatever He directs us to do instead of putting it off.
What obligates God to speak to us if He knows we aren’t going to follow through and do what He says?
Obstacle #5: Lack of integrity
The fifth obstacle that hinders us from receiving the guidance of God is a lack of integrity.
“The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them.” (Proverbs 11:3)
Many dilemmas people face concerning the will of God boil down to issues of integrity: doing what is right and honest.
Often the stalemate we encounter while making a decision is not so much a matter of wondering about God’s direction as it is choosing whether or not to respond in integrity.
If we understand biblical integrity, we won’t need to ask God what to do nearly as often because we will already know what to do.
Discovering the will of God often boils down to doing what’s honest and upright.
If walking in integrity means you’re going to stir up a storm, don’t worry let God defend you.
But if you don’t operate in integrity, He’s under no obligation to fight for you.
Dishonesty and a lack of integrity will only lead you out of the will of God and hinder your ability to be guided.
So, if your decision comes down to a choice of walking in integrity or not, always choose integrity.
Obstacle #6: Refusing to live an examined life
“A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment.” (Proverbs 18:1:)
People who refuse to examine their lives are defensive, they rarely apologize and they tend to isolate themselves from the input of others.
People who refuse to live an examined life arbitrarily choose from whom they will receive.
Usually their list is pretty short, only including those who will say what they want to hear because the counsel they garner is one-sided, their decisions tend to go against all wise judgment.
Often a person’s refusal to live an examined life is rooted in pride.
We don’t want to be told our faults, and we’re offended if anyone else exposes them.
Our pride insulates us from outside input and therefore from truth.
People who live an open, examined life, however, are lovers of truth.
Take a look at what Paul wrote in his second letter to the Thessalonians:
‘The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11)
Are you a lover of truth?
Truth can hurt you, but it can also set you free.
If you aren’t a lover of truth, you won’t listen to God’s direction when you don’t agree with Him.
In this passage God says to the people who are deceived by the spirit of antichrist, “Because you aren’t a lover of truth, I will send you a lie, a delusion.”
The spirit of antichrist mentioned here deceives by telling people what they want to hear.
But nonbelievers aren’t the only ones who aren’t lovers of truth; many Christians respond in the same way.
Truth must take priority over comfort.
If I have treated a person wrongly, I’ll go back and make it right because I love truth.
Truth is the enemy of pride because pride compromises everything in the interest of self-preservation.
Pride deludes us into believing we are the only ones who are right, that the problem is with the other person.
The gate that opens us up to truth is our willingness to live an examined life.
Obstacle #7: Ignorance of God’s Word
In book of Psalms, God’s Word is compared to a light:
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
The lamp of God’s Word leads you only one step at a time on your journey.
God doesn’t give us a lamp that shines ahead of us for miles!
He gives us just enough to see our next step, and then the next step, and then the next.
If we haven’t obeyed the last step God has shown us, He won’t give us more light!
Because God wants us to be dependent on Him, in relationship with Him and close to Him.
He gives us daily provision, step by step, a day at a time, until we arrive safely at our destinations.
To do that, we have to know His Word.
But if I can’t meet God in person—shake His hand, see Him, feel Him or touch Him—how am I going to know what He’s like?
How am I going to know His heart?
How am I going to know He’s honest, righteous and just?
How am I going to know how He thinks, how He feels and what He likes?
Only through His Word can I know Him.
God reveals Himself to us first in His Word.
I can know everything about Him, but I cannot know Him apart from His Word.
If you have gone through a difficult situation in the past and face another formidable one in the future, how can you trust in a God you don’t know?
The only way we can know the God who leads us, the God who so earnestly pleads for us, is through His Word.
Image source: Neil Moralee