Theme: Our Faithful Guide
This week’s lessons focus on how God acts as a shepherd toward his sheep, and what we are to do in response to him.
Scripture: Psalm 23
I said earlier that the Christian life also has activity, and that is what comes next. The next portion of the psalm stresses guidance: “He leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Guidance is the proper way to approach this matter because activity itself is not everything. This is because a person can be active in a wrong cause as well as in a right one. As you know, in the Christian life there are areas that seem ambiguous. We do not know which way to go. We do not know the right road to take. We do not know the proper direction to turn. We need a guide. We need somebody who knows the way, who has been over this course before. In fact, we need somebody who knows us and knows what he wants to do with us. That is precisely the kind of guide we have in Jesus Christ. He guides us in paths of righteousness.
It is worth talking about the principles of guidance which we have in the Word of God, because of all the questions that ministers are asked, I suppose the greatest number are on knowing the will of God. How can I know the will of God for my life? How can I receive the guidance that Psalm 23 tells me God has already provided? There are principles in the Word of God that help us with those questions. First, there is the principle of being willing to go in the direction the good shepherd leads, even before we know what that direction is. The Lord spoke of that in John 7:17, where He said, “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.”
Jesus was speaking of His teaching. That was the particular application of what He was saying. But the principle is a general one. If you determine to do the will of God, then you will know what it is. Our problem is that we do not approach it that way. We say, “God, I’ve got a great life ahead of me, and I’m not sure which direction I’m going to go. I’d like you to tell me what you want me to do. Then, when you’ve told me what you want me to do, I will weigh that over against the other things that I think I might also want to do. Then I’ll decide whether I want to go your way or not.”
God does not play the game that way. We play that game with other people, but God does not do that. God says, “No. You determine to go my way first. Then I’ll tell you the direction in which you should go.” That is what Jesus was talking about, and that is by far the first and greatest principle of knowing the will of God. In other words, you must say, “I want the good Shepherd to be my guide, and I determine to follow him, wherever He leads.” When you get that sorted out, then God will step in and deal with more specific matters.
The second principle is that God speaks in Scripture. God does not rearrange the stars in heaven to spell out what you should do. He does not say, “John, Mary, Sally . . . I want you to do so and so.” God does not do that. God gives principles in Scripture. So there is a certain sense in which we are only going to know the will of God as we feed upon the Word of God. The better we know the Word of God the more these principles become part of our thinking and the way we go about our daily lives and, thus, the better we know the will of God where specific circumstances are concerned.
The third principle is that we need to get into the habit of seeking God’s face on a regular basis. We are a bit like horses with blinders. We get pointed in one direction, and that is the direction we go. We cannot see anything else. So if God is going to direct us in a different way than the way we are going, He has to turn our eye. Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with mine eye” (KJV).
If God is going to catch our eye, we will have to look to Him on a regular basis. That is why we must have something like a quiet time every day. We must take the Word of God, study it and pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, I am your sheep and I am in this world to do Your will. But if I am to do that, I need to be led in the way I should go. I know You are willing to lead me. Show me what I need to live in a way that is going to honor You today.” When we get in the habit of doing that, we will find that the Holy Spirit speaks in ways so direct and specific that we can hardly believe that is what He is doing.
What are the three principles for guidance given in the study?
Can you think of any others that would go along with these?
Application: If you find yourself unsettled in life’s circumstances, and do not know which direction to take, how can you apply these principles this week to help you discern the will of your faithful Shepherd?