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 [some translations: make straight] your paths.
Thought I would repost an old set of sermon notes here:
How can I know God’s will? What if I make a mistake? if my life is in such a mess at the moment can I really be in God’s will? Shall I give up and go somewhere else where it will all be alright?
The bible says without vision the people perish or alternatively cast off all restraint. SO it is critical for us as Christians to be convinced that we are in the right place at the right time doing the right thing in the right way, with the right people under the right leadership and for the right motives.
Only that certainty will keep us going when things seem hard or people question why we are doing something.
So the key question of our life and of this talk is ‘How can I know that I am doing the right and best thing’ or alternatively ‘how can I know God’s will’? The too are of course identical- a fact which many miss.
The aim of this message is nothing less than that you will go out of this room understanding the steps needed to receive God’s guidance and be enabled to practice them with complete confidence of being in the centre of God’s will and the very best place that you could be.
In these verses, are a promise. God says if we fulfil certain conditions, he will direct us. Direct v straighten or make pleasant- examples in the bible of each. Refer to Job 37:3 ‘sends it forth’.
God is more ready to guide you than you are to be guided. Jn 7: 17 If anyone desires to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it is of God, or I speak from Myself. Ps 25:12 What man is he who fears the LORD? He shall teach him in the way that he shall choose.
The starting point is not our ability to hear God. Many Christians go wrong at this point. We only know in part, and our hearts are deceptive so if it was to depend solely or even mainly on our ability to hear God we would be in trouble.
A famous American preacher tells us that very regularly men will come to him and say something like this ‘God has told me that I have made a mistake and married the wrong woman for me. To get back into his will I must divorce my wife and marry this other lady in the church’. To us that seems obviously wrong, but it rests nonetheless as a strong warning against relying too much on ‘hearing God’ only for our guidance. In fact, hearing God and learning how to do that, as important as that is the wrong place to start.
So: How can we hear God?
There are only three conditions outlined here, and if we meet these, we can have an absolute confidence that God wont let us make a mistake. We may start off down the wrong path, but if we follow these conditions, we will be brought back on track- to use the NIV word he will straighten our path.
1 Trust in God with all your heart
heart does not equal emotions, but the centre of our being- the decision making, and constant part of us that doesn’t change. We may not feel like trusting God but must preach at ourselves that we are to trust him and have every reason to.
Trust him in the bible
v1-4 outlines this. We must come to the conclusion that his word is truth.
Jn17:17- Jesus said it- can we believe it. Here we have absolute guidance which never fails. Do not go to God to speak to you if the answer is found in the word. Immediately you fall down at the first hurdle and give the devil a field day and permission to speak to you.
A command in the bible does not need to come to you specifically in revelation for it to be binding on you ! Do not wait for God to speak to you about baptism- if you want to follow him, obey what he already has said.
A leading Christian gynecologist, made the mistake of seeking God for a sign regarding abortion. He was given a sign alright that it was fine what he was doing- but I am sure it wasn’t from the same God who said ‘In the womb I knew you’ Jer 1:5. A deceptive vision is a key reason why we face the abortion problem in the UK to the degree we do.
Trust his ways
Mercy and truth are always the best way of handling a situation- maybe simply asking yourself what is the most truthful and merciful way of dealing with this will answer the question.
Trust him with your money lets not get complacent about this! v9
Trust him in difficulties v 11- Gods chastening isn’t about punishment however- rather correction and training, also as with Paul, a problem can be granted us to prevent us getting proud or whatever. Will you believe he really has your best at heart and is working for good (ro 8)
Trust him in others-
* Your husband
* Your leaders
* Even that he will change the hearts of unbelievers where necessary
This is one way he guides us separate from us hearing God
2. Trust not in your own understanding
Do NOT trust
* The worlds ideas foolishness
* Man- even Christians ultimately- we put no trust in flesh- we are to trust God in people though!
* Ourselves = 2nd point ie We are not the clever ones!
What seems reasonable is not necessarily right!
Solomon the worlds wisest man wrote this. But Solomon, God gave you your common sense. Surely you should follow it. This way makes sense, so God must be in it. If you do that you will get more money to give to the kingdom of God, so God must be in it. Solomon replies ‘No- I will not depend on my great wisdom and understanding- don’t you realize how puny that is- I know in part, God knows fully- God may seem foolish at times to me- but even that foolishness is far wiser than the wisest I could be- God gave me my brains yes, but I will trust in him first. I do know what I am talking about- after all I didn;t always do that- Kings have lots of wives and it seemed reasonable to me that I should marry to extend treaties with my neighbours. When the wives wanted me to join them in worshipping their gods it seemed sensible to me to do so- after all if I went with them, perhaps they would come with me to God’s temple and would be converted- how wrong I was!’
This is not to say that reason is always worthless. Principles are important, but just sometimes God will act outside our principles. It is a good principle to be very wary of giving prophetic words that speak of God promising children to people. I stand by that. But one day recently God spoke to me with such clarity to tell the couple we were praying with who were struggling to conceive that soon he would give them a child and it was to be a picture of the fruitfulness of their ministry. My reason said- don’t be silly, what if you are wrong. But I knew God had spoken. So I said it. A few months later we found out that the woman was pregnant and had become pregnant immediately on us praying. Now don’t go out and do this unless you are absolutely sure God has spoken, and even then as I did you must show there is room for weighing and it being wrong- but this is an example where good reasoning in a certain situation was wrong.
This is so vital. We must truly believe that God’s way is best. But what about…..If God speaks trust him with the what abouts!
Acknowledge him every step you take.
Even if you are absolutely sure you are in God’s will, as you go down a path we must say. ‘Not my will but yours’. If I am wrong Lord, show me. Speak to me. Tell my husband/ leader. Shut a door. Do whatever you need to to keep me on track.
We will often h
ave a prayer time like that about an important decision, and then ask each other has God said anything. If he hasn’t, or if he has, then I will make the decision and say. ‘Right, this is what we will do’. At that point it is easy to panic and not do anything. But it is easier to guide a moving ship. DO something. Make a step. Don’t commit yourself though emotionally or in any other way initially. Instead hold it lightly. Better to look a fool by withdrawing an offer on a house, or fouling up at an interview or whatever than end up bludgeoning your way into something that is not of God.
Maybe you feel that you’ve already blown it. You’ve made your path crooked already. God spoke about something and you ran away. You went into something without having these attitudes. Perhaps up to this point you feel God hasn’t been absolutely free to take you where he wants and do with you as he wishes. Well theres a promise here for you too.
Fulfil these criteria today. From today on resolve to surrender to God’s ways. Perhaps talk to one of us, and God will restraigten you path. The inheritance can be redeemed. You can get back into the centre of God’s will. And amazingly when you do so (and not before!) God can even change your mistakes and sins around to be part of his purpose for you and his world. We spoke of Solomon. Not many of us may realise that his mother was Bathsheba the same woman David committed adultery with and murdered her husband. A product of this very wrong relationship became an ancestor of Christ.
So fulfil these criteria and know with all certainty that whether by prophetic revelation or by common sense or by circumstances or by whatever means God will keep you on the right path.