Who can you trust now-a-days? Would you go to a doctor whose office philodendron had died? Would you eat at a restaurant that doesn't have garbage cans? Would you bank at an S & L with temporary offices in a mobile home? Would you let a mechanic with clean fingernails work on your car? Would you listen to a preacher who puts a calendar instead of a clock in the pulpit? We seem to be going though a dependence depression a time when faith in our fellow man is overpriced and people are no longer accepted at face value.
Solomon said "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:5,6). The secret to security is found in two commands and a promise: trust the Lord with all your heart and obey the Lord in all your ways and the Lord will direct you in all your paths.
The Lord deserves your exclusive trust. Leaning on your own understanding is practical atheism. Many Christians who abhor theoretical atheism nevertheless often act as though there is no God. They lean on their understanding just as though God had nothing to say. They pray fervently, "Oh, God, lead, guide and direct me;" then they grab the steering wheel. "When in doubt ask God" is good advice provided you make up your mind always to be in doubt until you consider what God wants.
Your own understanding is a notoriously unreliable guide. Life can only be understood backward if at all. But it must be lived forward. We stand now on the wrong side of the tapestry of life. It is a confusion of colors, knots and loose ends. But God assures us that on the other side there is a beautiful pattern.
God has a wonderful plan for your life. He couldn't have a plan for the whole that doesn't include a plan for the parts. There could be no will of God for the world that doesn't include a will for your life.
Discerning that will may be difficult. You can't unscrew the inscrutable. You don't have to understand God's plan, you only have to stand on it. Just because you don't understand electricity, you don't have to sit in the dark until you do. Knowing how to turn on the light is enough. Anatole France said, "It is better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot." Lean not to your own understanding. †
Show me what a person trusts with all his or her heart and I will show you that person's God. Only the Lord Jesus is worthy of your complete trust. Trusting him is not so much a duty as it is a privilege. †
Reliance on the Lord calls for obedience to the Lord. Moses slew an Egyptian and then spent the next forty years hiding in the Sinai desert. In slaying the Egyptian he did in a small way what he would later be doing in a big way, but he didn't do it God's way and at God's command and time.
Understanding can wait, obedience can't. The Lord knows the way through the wilderness. All you have to do is follow. Christianity is not a voice in the wilderness, but a life in the world; it is not an idea in the air, but feet on the ground going God's way. †
Whatever the Lord will have you do he will help you do. You can depend on him to keep his promises. Neither his commands nor his promises are metaphors. God says, "If you have the will, I have the way." But you can't expect a way to be opened to you across the Red Sea if you are in Pharaoh's army!
Discovering God's will for your life is not a technique, but a relationship. The Bible affirms that God is related to his people in the same way a husband is related to his wife (Hosea 2:19ff; Ephesians 5:31,32). In a healthy marriage, how does a husband give guidance to his wife? There may be some marriages where the husband "lays down the law" and directs his wife by giving her strict commands and specific advice. And God has, on occasion, done this too especially in the Old Testament. But that kind of guidance is usually found in marriages under duress. In better times, the guidance comes in a different form, whether from a husband to his wife or from God to his people.
Usually when my wife and I try to reach a decision on a matter of importance we talk it over in a climate of love and trust. The mutual sharing is so intimate that at the conclusion, neither of us is sure what each contributed to the ultimate result. Itís not my decision or her decision, but our decision.
At its best, God's guidance is like that. Occasionally he plays along with the Gideons among us who want to put out fleeces to verify his direction (Judges 6:36-40). And sometimes he speaks directly and specifically to the Saint Paul's who are sent on some Macedonian mission (Acts 16:9,10). But usually his direction is as quiet and subtle as the mutual understanding between loving couples.
The Bible contains little specific advice on the techniques of divine guidance, but much on the proper way to maintain a loving relationship with God. Abraham didn't know where he was going, but he knew with whom he was going (Hebrews 11:8-10). And for the person of faith, that's enough.
If you want divine guidance, get close to God. The nearer you are to him, the less likely you are to make dumb mistakes. The problem is so many of us are like the fifth carbon copy on an old-fashioned typewriter there's so much between us and God, the impression is very light. Azariah, the prophet, made it clear to the armies of Israel: "The Lord will stay with you as long as you stay with him" (2 Chronicles 15:2 Living Bible).
Finding God's will comes in reverse order to what we usually expect. The trick is not to know God's will and then do it, but to do God's will and then know it. Paul says, "Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God what is pleasing to him and is perfect" (Romans 12:1,2 TEV).
God shows you two parts of his will: (a) the end of your path of obedience, the glory of God in heaven; and (b) the next step. Between the next step and the end of your journey is a vast unknown territory that will be disclosed and proven as God's will as you surrender to him each day.
The surest method of discovering God's eternal will for your life is found in the right use of the present moment. Each hour comes carrying some small portion of God's will. Jeremiah prayed, "O Lord, I know it is not within the power of man to map his life and plan his course--so you correct me, Lord; but please be gentle" (Jeremiah 11:23).† Annie Johnson Flint wrote:†
Grow with Christ by growing in your dependence.