“O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself:
it is not in man that walks to direct his steps.” Jeremiah
Jeremiah knew God, yet felt utterly dependent upon God. The
Lord’s approval is with those who are dependent upon
Him, who seek counsel from the mouth of the Lord.
Because of one act of disobedience, the human race fell,
and that one act of disobedience cost the Son of God His life.
Some of the consequences of being out of the will of God are
seen when Israel continued in her disobedience to God.
“And among these nations shall you find no ease, neither
shall the sole of your foot have rest: but the Lord shall
give you there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and
sorrow of mind.” Deuteronomy 28:65
These are conditions, which are symptomatic of being out
of the will of God: uneasiness, restlessness, uncertainty,
fearfulness, lack of assurance, discontent, and spiritual
bondage. There are others, but these indicate that something
is out of alignment in our relationship with the Lord. When
these conditions are present, it would be well to consider
our having missed the will and purpose of the Lord.
Knowing the “mind of God” in matters that pertain
to our lives is very important. Guidance can be divided into
two distinct categories - “Unconditional” and
“Conditional” guidance. Unconditional guidance
is God guiding in sovereign grace, independent of anything
we do, or do not do. Notice the passage in Isaiah 45:1-3 about
Cyrus the Great. God said:
“I will … open before him the two leaved gates;
and the gates shall not be shut … And I will give you
the treasures of darkness … that you may know that I,
the Lord, which call you by your name, am the God of Israel.”
Cyrus the Great was an idolator who did not know the God
of Israel, yet the Lord chose Cyrus and called this heathen
king “His anointed.” Here is divine guidance exercised
in sovereignty. The city of Babylon was an impregnable city.
There was no power on earth at that time that could take Babylon,
but God gave Cyrus a dream in which He revealed how to take
the city. God guided Cyrus unconditionally in order to accomplish
His purposes. Many of us could testify that the Lord had been
guiding us unconditionally, before we were saved.
However, there are conditions that must be met in order to
enjoy what we might call “the guided life.” There
are times when we need wisdom and direction from the Lord,
and He has promised to grant such help.
“And if you draw out of your soul to the hungry, and
satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall your light rise in
obscurity, and your darkness be as the noon day: And the Lord
shall guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought,
and make fat your bones: and you shall be like a watered garden,
and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.”
One condition for this guidance is “unselfishness.”
When we are selfish, we incur the disfavor of God, for selfishness
is the very opposite of the love of God. The love of God is
a love that gives. The more we love the Lord, the more unselfish
we will be toward our fellow beings. If we want to enjoy the
continuous leading of God in a “guided life,”
we should have a burden and concern for others.
Another condition for guidance is for us to “trust
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not
to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He shall direct your path.” Proverbs 3:5-6
We cannot foresee the future. Therefore, we should prayerfully
make our decisions, giving God the opportunity to redirect
us, because only He knows what is ahead. We must maintain
a position in which we can say, “To the best of my knowledge,
I am moving in the ways and will of the Lord, and I desire
His correction.” With this attitude, God has promised
that He will give us direction. We should not hurry the Lord,
because sometimes He takes us only one step at a time.
“Sincerity of heart” is another factor. Jeremiah
42:20 reveals a condition for guidance:
“For you dissembled in your hearts, when you sent me
to the Lord your God, saying, Pray for us according to all
that the Lord our God shall say, so declare it to us, and
we will do it.”
“Dissembling in your hearts,” is making a false
pretense in intention. They had already determined that if
God told them to not go to Egypt, they would go anyway. They
did, and carried the prophet Jeremiah with them. We cannot
expect God to guide us unless we are sincere, and willing
to obey His Word.
Another condition for guidance is “patience”
– our being willing to wait for the Lord. Sometimes
God is silent because we already know His will, yet ask God
again, thinking that He might change His mind. God may change
His mind, and let us have our own way, but remember what is
“He gave them (the children of Israel) their requests
(the desires of their heart), but sent leanness into their
souls.” Psalm 106:15 (comments added)
When God has not spoken, it is better to wait, than to move
on our own. We should abide in the circumstance and place
to which we are called, until the Lord speaks differently.
Sometimes the Lord waits to see whether we really desire His
will, or whether we are bent on having our own way, with or
without His guidance. Do not take the silence of God to be
equivalent to consent.
There is a distinction between instruction and teaching:
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way which
you shall go.” Psalm 32:8a
Instruction reveals the principles of “divine guidance.”
Teaching helps us to receive and move in “divine guidance.”
The Lord may teach us to discern His will through our circumstances
or problems. Therefore, we must understand the principals
The Lord has promised to guide us, even when we are not aware
of our need for guidance.
I will guide you with My eye.” Psalm 32:8b
This is guidance by intimation. There is a principle that
the further away we are, the louder the Lord has to speak.
“Be you not as the horse or as the mule, which have
no understanding; whose mouth must be held in with bit and
bridle, lest they come near to you.” Psalm 32:9
If we desire guidance, we must be pliable. “The meek
will He guide in judgment; and the meek will He teach His
way” (Psalm 25:9). This “meekness” is a
pliability that enables the Lord to guide us gently, rather
than by the force of circumstances.
Guidance can come through the Word of God, the Holy Spirit,
or by divine providence. The Lord, in His wisdom, has given
us these three “clocks” so when we are in a difficulty,
if the Word, the Spirit, and divine providence agree as one,
we have a three-fold factor of safety, and we then can be
reasonably sure that we are hearing from the Lord.
David said, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a
light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). David had shortcomings,
but he had an abiding respect for the Word of God. David regarded
the precepts of the Word of God as a “lamp to his feet”
(the next step) and a light for his pathway (the general direction
in which he was to go).
Another form of guidance relates to personal integrity.
“The integrity of the upright shall guide them.”
There is guidance by integrity (standards of righteousness)
that we receive from the written Word of God. The Lord would
have us to be guided by principles of integrity where we do
what is right, even though we could evade it. The Word of
God establishes standards of right and wrong, and the Lord
expects us to adhere to these standards without special revelation.
We do not need a revelation to discover that we are obligated
to obey the Word.
During a time of distress, we may have opened the Bible and
saw a verse that ministered to our need. But if we begin to
do this on a regular basis as a method of ascertaining the
will of God, sooner or later, we will discover that we are
mistaken. There is a difference between an occasional exceptional
intervention of divine providence, and deducing an infallible
system from that.
There are those who (seemingly) receive a special revelation,
which either modifies or supercedes the Word of God. The Spirit
of God will never give any revelation, which in any way takes
from, adds to, or modifies the written Word of God. Let us
be like Paul who said even though an angel should say anything
to the contrary, let him be accursed. The Spirit of God will
never violate the Word of God. The Word of God stands preeminent
as an infallible means of guidance, when rightly understood.
Then the Spirit says to Philip, Go near, and join yourself
to this chariot.” Acts 8:29
A Scripture was not being quoted when Philip was told to
“Go join yourself to this chariot.” The Spirit
of God speaks in many different ways: He may speak within
our spirit or consciousness, or an imparted thought, song,
or some familiar circumstance.
Another aspect of guidance is the restraint of the Spirit
of God. For instance, when Paul sought to go into Asia, he
was forbidden by the Holy Spirit. And when he wanted to go
into Bithynia, “the Spirit suffered them not,”
or did not permit them. The Spirit restrains, or confirms
through our being “checked,” or by the witness
of His peace.
There is a differentiation between peace “with”
God, and the peace “of” God. Peace with God has
to do with our “relationship” with God. The peace
of God has to do with our “walk.” Peace “with”
God comes first, whereby the enmity between us and God is
removed. The peace “of” God should follow after,
but not all Christians who have peace “with” God,
also have the peace “of” God.
The peace of God comes through our walking in the Spirit,
and is a state of tranquility and rest produced in our hearts
by the Spirit. It is a supernatural peace that passes all
understanding. It keeps us at rest in the midst of conflict
and difficulty, and enables us to say, “Praise the Lord.”
“Let the peace of God rule in your hearts.” Colossians
This word “rule” literally means, “arbitrate.”
We must first have peace, or it cannot arbitrate. An arbitrator
is someone who mediates between two parties, making a decision
that both must accept. The Spirit of God is an arbitrator.
The Word of God is not sufficient to help us make every decision
– we must also have the peace of God.
The peace of God is one of the forms of guidance, “restraining”
us by an inner unrest, uncertainty, or “confirming”
a certain course of action by a witness, satisfaction, or
a deep inner rest. The peace of God can be described negatively,
positively, experientially, positionally and judicially. It
is not a mere absence of disturbance, but a conscious rest,
which is independent of circumstances, favorable or unfavorable.
Unfavorable circumstances do not necessarily constitute evidence
of being out of the will of God. In Mark 4:35-38, Jesus said
to His disciples, “Let us pass over to the other side.”
A storm arose with contrary winds, yet they were in the center
of the will of God. If we think that troubled circumstances
constitute evidence of being out of His will, then that might
result in our moving out from His will.
Sometimes we get into trouble, not because we disobeyed,
but because we obeyed. There was an occasion when the disciples
were in trouble, in the Lord’s will. When Jesus came
to them, walking on the sea, Peter said, “Lord, if it
be You, bid me come to You on the water. And Jesus said, come”
(Matthew 14:27-28). Peter was not primarily walking on the
water, he walked on the “Word” that Jesus had
spoken, “Come.” When Peter looked at the water,
he began to sink. Sometimes the Lord causes us to walk on
troubled waters to teach us to walk on His Word.
Reversibly, in the case of Jonah, just because everything
worked out circumstantially was not proof that he was in the
will of God. Jonah fled from the presence of the Lord and
went down to the harbor. Just as he arrived, a ship was ready
to sail and Jonah had the fare. Here are favorable circumstances
from which Jonah could have deduced that he was in the will
of God, but of course, he knew better. Unfavorable circumstances
do not necessarily constitute evidence of being out of the
will of God; but neither do they evidence that we are in the
will of God. Do not let circumstances in themselves determine
your course of action. Be sure you have the witness of the
peace of God, so that you know the circumstance is of God.
Jesus taught in principle, “My sheep know my voice”
(John 10). Many have often said, “But how do I know
it is the voice of the Spirit?” One of the best ways
to learn the recognition of His voice is through these sheep.
They had learned to recognize His voice through continued
association. If you are interested in the recognition of His
voice, see to it that you live and walk in close association