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God's Guidance Notes

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Today’s Message:            The Ultimate Navigation – How God Guides Us

Today’s speaker:             David Jones

                  

Introduction (4 min)

Introduce yourself.

Today’s topic is the Ultimate Navigation -- How God Guides us.

Give credit to Tim Keller.

Talk about getting the call to speak and preparing and what Van said about the topic.

And I thought how true. We all know God guides us but to be honest it can be very confusing at times. Just how does God guide us?

That’s what I want us to consider today.

We all need guidance. We all need wisdom.

A definition --

Wisdom is knowing how to respond  in the vast majority of life situations where the moral rules don’t apply.

For some decisions we can apply the moral rules and determine a definitive path forward. Some things are a simply a matter of obedience. For example, I know I shouldn’t lie, I know I should love others, I know I shouldn’t gossip or slander others.

However, most of life’s decisions aren’t addressed by the moral laws…should I take the new job or should I remain where I am, should a hire this person, should I marry this person, should I date this person, should I give more money to a certain organization, or take on this new ministry opportunity?

In all of these circumstances, the options are many. All are allowable, all are legal, many may even be good but only one is wise…so what do I do? How do I know which is wise?

We need guidance.

Today I want to discuss how God guides us. We’ll do this together by considering three things:

1) The guidance God does

2) The guidance God gives

3) The guidance God purchases

First, the Guidance God Does

The Guidance God Does.

When looking at the Bible, there are two ways in which God “Does” guidance.

He guides:

1) Paradoxically

and

2) Non- obviously

1) Paradoxically (10 min)

Paradoxically means seemingly contradictory.

A paradox is something that at first seems contradictory but is actually resolvable if we only had more understanding.

To see this let’s turn to the book of Proverbs chapter 21 verse 5.

 

Proverbs 21:5 (NIV)

     5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.

The word diligent can be translated -- thoughtful, strategic, reflective.

The word haste may be better understood as impulsive

Okay…this doesn’t seem to say anything profound

We look at this verse and see that it say, instead of letting life happen, if you think before you act things will generally work out better. Makes sense… no big deal, right?

If you’ve been around Christ Fellowship any amount of time you’ve probably heard Greg say. “You either do life or life does you.”

That’s basically what this verse is saying – If I act thoughtfully, if I do something wise, life is going to go better.

But now let’s look at chapter 16 of Proverbs

Proverbs 16:33

Proverbs 16:33 (ESV)

     33     The lot is cast into the lap,

but its every decision is from the Lord.

Explain lot casting. Basically “rolling the dice or flipping a coin.” It was way to decide.

So this verse is saying that nothing happens by chance. Everything happens according to God’s will or plan. Even the smallest details of life are fixed by God.

Now we begin to see the paradox…

On the one hand we’re told to think or reflect on things before we act and things will work out better for us.

On the other hand we’re taught that everything comes down exactly the way God wills it.

How does that work?

As we try to reason this out we have trouble.

Human categories of thought can’t hold these two together. We say it must be on or the other or some mixture of the two.

Maybe it’s 50/50 or 60/40 BUT the biblical teaching says it’s both/and.

We tend to see things as either fixed or open. Either my choices determine my future AND God is just along for the ride to see how things work out OR God has everything fixed and my choices don’t matter.

But in the Bible we are told it’s both/and.

We are absolutely free and yet absolutely determined at the same time.

There are many places in the Bible where this is narratively spelled out.

Gen 50:19-20 Joseph’s understanding of God’s work and his actions

2 Samuel 24  God incites David to number the people, a sin, then David is held responsible

Isaiah 10:9-15 God uses the Assyrians to punish Israel but the Assyrians are still responsible for their evil deeds

Acts 27 Paul in the boat in the storm

 

But today let’s look again at Proverbs 16 to see this.

Proverbs 16:1 (ESV)

The plans of the heart belong to man,

but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.

 

 

Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)

The heart of man plans his way,

but the Lord establishes his steps.

Verse 1

We see in vs 1 that we are responsible for our plans. Our plans “belong” to us. God is not forcing us in any direction. If we make unwise and destructive plans they are ours. Our choices belong to us. If we do dumb things, immoral things, wicked things other people and God will hold us accountable and they should.

BUT the results of our plans belong to God. God alone establishes the end result.

Nothing happens that isn’t part of God’s plan.

So again we see…

We are 100% free yet we are 100% determined.

Again human categories can’t hold these two together. It’s impossible to fully understand this BUT

The awesome thing is that this teaching which is seemingly impossible to grasp is UTTERLY PRACTICAL.

You see if you believe that you are either totally free or totally determined, you are SUNK!

Think about this…

If you believe you are totally free and you really think about this (if you believe your destiny is totally connected to your choices) à you will be Paralyzed when decision time comes.

 

If you believe you are totally determined (if you believe your destiny is in no way connected to your choices) à you have no incentive to act and you will be Passive.

To try and unpack this, I’ll give you an example,

When I was in my early 20s, finishing college, I was determined to not return to Kingsport…

% of right choices in teenage years  --- choice of place to live.

Versus 20s (1/4), 30s (maybe 1/2), 40s

You see the no matter what your age you have a % but you don’t know what it is.

You would be foolish to want to be totally free.

How foolish it would be, knowing how little we know, to want to have your decisions be the complete and final determiner of your life.

1.     God is absolutely sovereign, but his sovereignty never functions in Scripture to reduce human responsibility.

2.     Human beings are responsible creatures—that is, they choose, they believe, they disobey, they respond, and there is moral significance in their choices; but human responsibility never functions in Scripture to diminish God’s sovereignty or to make God absolutely contingent.

[1]

The Biblical teaching is that God in His sovereignty Partially Relates your choices to your destiny but He is the one who Fixes Everything.

Therefore,

You have every incentive to work, to learn, to act

(because you are responsible)

 

BUT

 

You can relax knowing that God is in total control

One more example from the Bible then we will move on – Acts 27 – Paul in the boat during the storm.

If you believe that either is totally true and you really think about it then you will either be paralyzed or passive.

2) Non-obviously (5 min)

Proverbs 16:4 (ESV)

The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

This verse is saying not only are little things part of God’s plan BUT bad/evil things are part of God’s plan.

Now if we hadn’t just been through the discussion of 16:1 and 16:9, you might think God is the author of evil. But remember, the plans of man belong to man. That is to say, evil belongs to the evil doer. The evil doer is responsible for evil BUT God is going to work to overrule and bring His plan to fruition IN THE END.

The Best example of this is the life of Joseph.

Tell the story of Joseph.

Joseph being ruined by Jacob.

Joseph’s brothers become murderously envious,

They sell him into slavery.

In Egypt as a slave he endure many hardships and evil things even the Bible never records wrong doing on Joseph’s part. This happens over a period of many years.

Yet IN THE END God’s plan is in action. It is isn’t obvious until THE END.

BUT IN THE END, Joseph is able to save his family and the surrounding countries from famine, and his relationship to his family is restored.

AT THE END his famous quote is recorded.

“You meant it for evil, but God meant it for Good.”

What does all this mean for us?

Never ever think that God is not working

 

And Never ever think that you know what He is up to

 

Because it’s not until the END that we can see the purpose of the God’s plan.

 

Okay, now that’s the two principles I wanted to cover today on The Guidance God DOES.

Do you see how this relates to our lifes?

People are always saying, I need God’ Guidance, I need God’ Guidance…

You’re standing in it, You’re being navigated, You’re in the middle of the stream. It’s moving you along

So again God’s guidance is as much if not more something He DOES than He GIVES.

So if you want to be like Paul and be calm in the storm, make the decisions that need to be made. Be like Joseph and make wise decisions even when God seems absent. You must believe and remember that

1) You must act thoughtfully knowing that God has given you responsibility for your actions (don’t be impulsive but do act)

2) You can relax knowing that your in the hands of Sovereign God.

3) You must have faith even when God seems absent.

The Guidance God Gives

Now you might say all of that is great but I still have decisions to make. I still need to know how to decide. There are forks in the road. I need to know how to get the guidance God GIVES.

So, How does God give guidance?

There are again two principles to consider:

1) We must pay the price

2) We must develop the wisdom

1) Pay the Price (5 min)

Proverbs 16:3 (ESV)

Commit your work to the Lord,

and your plans will be established.

When you look at this verse I bet I know what you thought.

When I first read this verse, I thought something like this –

If I ask God to bless my plans then the execution of my plans will be established.

If I come to God and pray about my plans, asking Him to bless them He will bless them and they’ll work out.

You’ve probably heard of the milk and meat of the Word. Think of Proverbs as the “hard candy” of the Word. The Proverbs are something we don’t just bite into or immediately swallow. We have to allow them to dissolve slowly on our tongues.

Let’s read the verse again and think about it.

Proverbs 16:3 (ESV)

Commit your work to the Lord,

and your plans will be established.

What this verse is actually saying is that I must commit my works (my deeds) to the Lord, then God will make me more and more a person who makes wise plans that He can bless.

It’s actually a complete reversal of the way we thought about the verse when we first read it.

The word commit can be translated – “to earnestly and eagerly roll over on.” To completely trust.

 

John Newton has a famous quote. It goes like this:

“Lord give me what you will, when you will, how you will.” – John Newton

Repeat.

The Bible says we must commit fully, absolutely, we must turn everything over to God and over time He will make us more and more a person who makes wise plans that He can bless.

This is paying the price -- Being willing to trust God in the midst of uncertainty, and learning to be comfortable with God’s way. This is paying the price – To stop trying to manage life and through trust live in the mystery of what God is doing. It’s a movement in our life from Management à Mystery.

We don’t come to God asking for advice. We come to God asking for His will AND HIS WILL IS NOT OPTIONAL. – Elizabeth Elliot

We no longer say, “If I trust you, you will give me such and such.”

We must come saying, “I trust you, give me or withhold from me whatever you choose.”

Accepting whatever God brings to us, whenever He brings it, and however he brings it.

This is how God gives guidance to us. If we pay the price then over time we become the type of person who makes wiser and wiser plans. Our plans begin to align with God’s plans.

Some of you may be asking, “What does all this mean?”

(slowly) I think it means –

Lord, I will obey you whether I understand what you are doing or not.

Lord, I will accept what you send me whether I understand it or not.

“Lord, what you will, when you will, how you will.”

One last point on paying the price.

By paying the price I AM NOT saying that we EARN God’s guidance. We’ll discuss this more in a moment. What I am saying is that we RECEIVE the guidance of God as we trust him unconditionally.

2) Developing the wisdom. (5min)

Have you ever said

I want God’s guidance

I’m trying to decide but I can’t get peace

I need to discern God’s will in this matter?

Many times we come to God in the hour of decision and ask Him for an answer. There’s nothing wrong with this. We should do this. Just remember that guidance is more something God gives over time through experience than something God gives immediately in the hour of decision.

We become wise by experience and God directs the experiences.

Time + Divinely Directed Experience + Trust = Guidance

Have you ever thought about this? No one ever learns they’re a sinner by being told, no one learns about their flaws by being told. You have to be shown. It comes through experience. It takes being in positions over and over again where your flaws are made obvious to you through experience. AND over time if you pay the price, you will see your flaws, and God will change you and you will become wiser for it.

Many times God uses other people in this process. You see I have to get to the point where I recognize my flaws and I know that I don’t know everything. This makes me more humble so I can learn from others. AND because of this humility my plans become more careful, more sensitive.

It takes being in positions over and over again where I am sure God has abandoned me BUT I don’t bail on God and I stay the course (I pay the price), THEN I see His plan and realize that He was with me all along. You see over and over that God loves you, AND over time your plans become more bold.

Over time, through experience you realize that you are becoming wiser and therefore, your plans are becoming more and more the plans that God can bless.

One last point about developing the wisdom.

You may ask Why does it have to be this way? Why couldn’t God just tell us what He wants? Why do we go through all these trials and experiences?

Because, God wants us to be like Him.

Example of child at 4 yrs old and 20 yrs old.

There are some parents who want their children to remain dependent upon them their whole life BUT GOD ISN”T ONE OF THEM.

God wants us to be like Him. He wants us to mature in our decision making process. He wants us to be like Him not frozen waiting to be told every step to make.

Understanding that God’s guidance is as much something he does as something he gives is crucial to living a wise life.

We must understand how both work. We must totally commit, totally roll over, totally give everything over to Him.

And that leads us to the last point.

The Guidance God Purchases for Us (5 min)

We’ve seen that in order to get guidance from God we must totally commit, roll everything over. It’s an absolute commitment. In all things, all the time.

BUT who does that? Certainly not the guy talking to you today. Actually no one totally commits everything YET God’s guidance still comes to us.

How does that happen?

We’re not deserving of God’s guidance but it still comes.

The 1st time we see this in action in the Bible is in Exodus 13. The children of Israel are making their way from Egypt to the Promised Land and God is guiding them.

It’s interesting that in this passage we see that God didn’t guide them in the most direct route. The most direct route would have gone through the land of the Philistines. The Philistines were a great warrior people. God himself said He did not take His children that route lest they see the war-like people and return to Egypt. This is another example of God’s guidance and how it works with human responsibility.

Anyway, God guides them by a pillar of fire that leads by night and what appears as a cloud during the day. The Bible states that the pillar hovers over the Holy of Holies, over the tabernacle.

The tabernacle of the Jews consisted of two places. The holy place and behind the veil was the Holy of Holies. This was the place that contained the ark of the covenant. Sitting on top of the ark was the Mercy Seat of God. This was the place where the high priest offered the annual sacrifices for the sins of God’s people. The sacrifices are an OT picture of Christ’s atoning work.

In other words, they did not pay the price for guidance but they received it anyway.

Who paid the price? Who committed all? What as the Ultimate price? What was the Ultimate commitment?

In the NT we read of Jesus with the disciples in the boat in the storm.

Sharp with them BUT why?

Example of parenting and saying no and hearing “You don’t love me.”

Jesus was saying, “There’s coming the greatest cosmic storm of all. A storm of God’s wrath and justice where all His wrath for all sins that have ever or will ever be committed will be poured out. AND I am going to enter that storm and take the brunt of God’s wrath. I am going to enter the storm – the only person in history to ever live a perfectly righteous life -- and I will be abandoned by the Father, I will have no navigation BUT I am doing this so that I can always be at the helm for you in your every storm.” I am going to purchase your right to be navigated.

If I am doing this for you, why can’t you trust me.

To the degree that we understand this, to the degree that we understand that Christ has lived the life we should have lived and endured the storm of God’s wrath we should rightly endure so that we can benefit from His navigation in the storm we WILL have confidence in God in the storms.

Jesus paid the Ultimate price and made the Ultimate commitment for us so we could receive the Ultimate Navigation.

I want ask you today, Have you placed your trust in the One and only One who can ultimately and perfectly navigate your life?

Let’s bow our heads.

Lord, I will obey you whether I understand what you are doing or not.

Lord, I will accept what you send me whether I understand it or not.


----

[1]D. A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation : Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1992), 148.

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