Charles Stanley - Seeking God's Guidance
When you're facing a very important decision in your life, how do you go about making that decision? Well, you may say, "Well, it depends upon how important it is. If it's a very important decision, I may go about it one way. If it's not so important, I may go about it another". Well, I understand that. Also, it may be that if you are a believer, you'd go about it one way. And if you have never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you may go about decision making in another way. You see, believers and unbelievers start from a whole different premise. For example, those of us who have trusted Jesus Christ as our Savior, we make decisions based on this premise.
First of all, we believe that there is a God. And those of us who've trusted Jesus Christ as our Savior believe that God sent His Son in order to change our life. And that He has a will and a plan for our life. And therefore, our heavenly Father is involved and interested in every single decision we make. Therefore, when we make decisions, we come to our heavenly Father, seeking godly guidance because He's committed to our best, He has our best interest at heart at every single turn.
And I want you to turn, if you will, to a Psalm that you may not be quite so familiar with, Psalm sixteen. In the sixteenth Psalm, there are three verses here that I want us to note primarily. And here David is talking to the Lord and expressing His desire for God's protection, provision in his life, and also expressing how God does work in his life. He says in verse seven of this sixteenth Psalm, "I will bless the Lord who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. I have set the Lord continually before me; Because He's at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. For now Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; Neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay".
Verse eleven, "Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; In Thy presence is fullness of joy; and in Thy right hand there are pleasures forever". He says, "Thou will make known to me the path of life". That is, here is a simple promise: that God will guide us and direct us in our life. I wonder how many of you make decisions and leave God out of the decision-making process. And it may be that you think something like this. You say, "Well, I just decide this appears to be the best thing to do, and that's what I do". Someone else may say, "Well, what I do is I usually say, 'Well, this is what I'm gonna do, and if it's not God's will, then He'll stop me.'"
You can't bet on that. God is not gonna always stop you from doing what is not His will simply because you decide you're gonna do something and He'll just come to your rescue. Especially if you've not sought Him, if you have not attempted to find out what is the will of the Father. That is, what is God's guidance here? Or someone else says, "Well, it's all very clear to me. I just have... I just threw out a fleece. If this happens, I do this. If that happens, I do the other".
Well now, let me talk about that for a moment because, you know, if you really and truly want to get something done, you can make up your own fleece. And you can sorta fudge a little bit, and you say, "Well, you know what, if I wake up tomorrow morning and the sun's shining, then here's what I'm gonna do". Or you could get so ridiculous to say, "If I wake up in the morning, this is what I'm gonna do". And, you can fudge by saying, "Well, if I find a certain scripture that relates to this, here's what I'm going to do". And all of us know enough scriptures about what we have to face that can sort of pick up one. So, throwing out a fleece to say, "Well, if this happens, I'm gonna do thus and so," is not a sign of spiritual maturity. And when we leave God out, what we do is we put ourselves in a position to make wrong decisions when we have the privilege of making right ones guided by God Himself.
Now, one of the things we have to watch out for are the pitfalls along the way when you and I are seeking godly guidance. Now, there are lots of them. I think I want to sum them up, if I can, in about five different things here. What are the pitfalls when you and I are really trying to find what God's will for our life is on this particular decision. Here's a student trying to decide which college to go to. Or here's a young man or young woman trying to decide, Lord, are You really saying to me that You want me on the mission field or want me to preach the gospel? Or here's a person, and you have a choice of two jobs out there. And you've been out a job for six months or a year, whatever it may be. And all of a sudden you have two. And so you have to make a choice between the two.
Or you may only have one choice, and yet somebody says, "Well, that's the first thing came along, I'm gonna get it". Not necessarily so. Seeking godly guidance is wisdom in every single decision of life. And so, there are some pitfalls. And it's not as all crystal clear. Just ask the Lord, "What do You want me to do"? and go on. Not quite that simple. What are those pitfalls? Well, number one, number one is this: strong fleshly desires. Fleshly desires are natural desires.
There's nothing wrong with having natural desires that God has given us. But the issue is this: what is controlling our thinking? What is controlling our decision-making process? Is it overwhelming, overpowering, emotional desires that are now governing our will? Or have we subjected those desires to the will of the Holy Spirit who is within us? That is, who's running our life? Who's controlling our life? Now, when these overwhelming and overpowering desires become so strong that they begin to govern your decision rather than the Holy Spirit, that's a pitfall. And so, we all have desires. Nothing wrong with the desires because the desires oftentimes are the way God would use to move us or get our sense of direction where He heads us.
And so, the Spirit of God living on the inside of you desires to control our emotions. And so, if a person acts on the basis of their feeling, and feelings change and situations and circumstances change. And so if people say, "Well, you know, I just got to do what I feel like doing". Friend, what you and I feel like doing may be absolutely a hundred and eighty degrees in the other direction of what God wants. And so what we have to ask is: What's the will of the Father? That is, seeking Godly guidance. We must be aware that we can have desires so strong, we can talk ourselves into believing this is the will of God.
Now, on the other hand, those emotions can be strong because the Spirit of God is giving direction and guidance. And I'm gonna come to something in a few moments to talk about these internal pressures that we experience. So one of those pitfalls, as we've said, is those fleshly desires that we have. A second one is this, and that is wrong counsel. Wrong counsel. Now, you know probably the cheapest thing there is, is advice. Sometimes people, they think they're telling us right when they're not.
Now, I believe in counselors, that is, godly counselors. There are a lot of folks out there who are counseling that are not godly. Ungodly counselors can get you in the biggest mess, get you in more trouble, get you out of the will of God, heading in the wrong direction and rationalize and tell you that you're doing the right thing when it is absolutely, totally unscriptural in the eyes of God. So, I say all of that to say this: this counsel needs to be godly counsel. But even more important than that, God wants you and me to grow up spiritually so that we don't have to run to somebody else every time we're trying to make a decision. We can run to the Decision Maker Himself. We can seek the mind of God. We can search to know what is godly guidance in this situation and circumstance? What does God want me to do?
He wants us to grow up spiritually. He wants us to be able to relate to Him, talk with Him, listen to Him. He wants us to be able to discern His mind so that we know we are hearing from God. And so therefore, we have to be aware of the pitfall of listening to wrong counsel, as helpful as they may want to be, and it may be somebody in your family, it may be somebody that you think a lot of, but it could be wrong counsel. Let me give you a good example of that. For example, let's say it's a financial decision.
Someone may say to you, "Now, this is the wise thing to do". It may sound good. It may even be good. Did you know that it could even be right? But that person doesn't know your circumstances. They don't know what's going on in your life. And so to them, it seems to be wise counsel, and it may be the right thing. But listen carefully, if it is the right thing at the wrong time, then it is wrong counsel. And what we have to remember that in the eyes of God, timing is extremely important. That's why we need to seek godly guidance. God knows all about time. Past, present, and future and eternity. He knows all about time. Time is important to Him.
So when you and I are seeking godly wisdom and godly counsel and godly guidance, we have to ask, "Lord, is this what You want? And is this the timing"? Because I think many people will give good counsel. But not knowing what God is up to in your life and His will for your life and His purpose for your life, they could say, "Here's what you ought to do and I think you ought to do it now, while you still have time". Well, whose time? God's in charge of time. So seeking wrong counsel can be a pitfall.
There's a third thing that I want to mention to you, and that's this. And that is, one of the things that all of us have to deal with, and that is impatience. All of us want God to tell us today what we are to do. That's just as natural, notice I said. Natural and normal as it can be. And one of the keys of seeking godly guidance is patience. Likewise, it is one of the biggest pitfalls because we usually want to get on with what we want to do.
Now, patience says this. Patience says: I am willing to wait where I am until I get further orders. I'll stay in this position till I get further orders. Now, your friends may be saying, "Well, I think you ought to do this and I think you ought to do that". Godly wisdom, patience is a requirement. Impatience is a pitfall. And so, a person who is patient is one who says, "I am willing to remain at this post until I get further orders". Secondly, patience says, "I am willing, I will refuse to run in ahead of time and try to make something happen until I hear from God". And so, if I want something to happen so badly that I want to get in there and make it happen, here's what usually happens. There is confusion, there is disappointment, there's usually loss, and there's usually pain.
When you and I get ahead of God, trying to make something happen our way because we're unwilling to wait for God's timing, that's usually what happens. We make a mess of things, we're disappointed, we're confused, there's loss, and there oftentimes can be pain and sometimes embarrassment. And so, one of the pitfalls is impatience. A fourth pitfall I think we have to deal with is doubt. Now, you say, "Well, what do you mean by doubting"? Simply this. Oftentimes a person will not wait for the Lord, they have difficulty in making a decision, and they have difficulty in seeking godly guidance for this reason. They doubt that God is going to give them guidance.
Now, why do they doubt? I think for several reasons. One of those reasons is this. Somehow back in the past, there's something back there, some failure in their life, and they say, "Well, you know, I'm just not worthy of God speaking that clear to me. And I'm just not worthy of God making it that clear to me, so I just don't believe that God will show me when I need to make these big decisions in my life. Why would I think God would want to show me these things when I'm not everything I ought to be"? And so they look at their past and they think, "Well, I'm unworthy".
A second reason they doubt is this. They say, "Well, once before, I prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed and I never heard a thing. God didn't say a thing to me. So why should I come to Him now"? Well, what was going on in your life back then? What was happening? Where were you in your relationship to God? So oftentimes people say, "Well, I just, I'm not gonna do that because I just don't think He'll answer my prayer".
Another reason is, maybe in the past, someone asked the Lord to give 'em direction, sought godly guidance, and they misinterpreted what God said. Maybe it was the influence of someone else in their life. They misinterpreted, things didn't turn out right, and so they said, "Well, you know, it doesn't work". None of those things have to be true.
Now, I want you to listen carefully. I do believe this with all of my heart. And I think enough times in my life it's happened and other people I know. I do believe with all my heart, when you and I sincerely want to do the will of God, when we are genuinely seeking the mind of God, we want to make the right decision, and there are tough decisions in life, difficult decisions, hard decisions, misunderstood decisions, when we want to do the right thing, we're committed to do the right thing, we're absolutely surrendered as we know how to be to God. If for some reason, we don't make the right choice, God in His wisdom, in His mercy, in His grace somehow will turn that thing to our good no matter what because He knows. He knew what our motivation was. He knows we desire to do what's right. He knows we want to follow Him. And nobody's absolutely infallible.
We're gonna make mistakes. And I'm simply saying Romans eight twenty-eight's at work. God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him. When we make mistakes but we're committed to doing the right thing, we're not in the flesh, we're not trying to get our way, we want God's way, God will turn it for our good no matter what. Doubt is one of those things, one of those pitfalls that we have to deal with. And then, I think, another one of those pitfalls is pressures.
Now, let me just... I want to tell you why I want to separate pressures here from the idea of patience. Pressures. We get pressures. Those pressures come from two different directions. First of all, there's external pressure. Here you are in the process of trying to find the mind of God. That is, you're seeking godly guidance. God, what would You have me to do? Lord, I want to do what You want me to do. What would You have me to do? And there's pressure, external pressure. Where's that pressure coming from? It's coming from your friends or people who say, "Well now, here's what I think you ought to do. This is the proper thing to do". Well, I think if I were you, here's what I would do. Well, I know so-and-so, and here's what they did.
Now remember, people who want to give you their opinion, first of all, now listen carefully, they do not know the will of God nor the purpose nor the plan nor all the things God has in mind for your life for allowing you to be in a situation where you have to make that decision, whether it's your business or whatever it may be, they don't know that. And so, you and I have to be very, very careful of the external pressures. People want to shape us into something. What do they want to shape us into? They want to shape us into their mold for our life. The only mold you and I better get in's God's mold. We get in somebody else's mold, we gonna be in a mess.
And listen to this, just because something worked a certain way in somebody else's life doesn't mean it's gonna work that way in your life. That's why you and I have to be very careful trying to pour somebody into a mold that we make for them because we think that's the mold that best fits them. The only mold that fits you and me is the mold God has for us. And so, He says, "Don't be transformed," that is, He said, "Don't be conformed to this world". Don't be shoved into the world's mold. Neither are we to be shoved into someone else's mold because God has a different mold for all of us. And so we have to be careful when it comes to this whole issue here of external pressures.
Now, we said there are external and internal. What kind of internal pressures are we talking about? When we're talking about internal pressures, we're talking about the pressure that the Holy Spirit who lives on the inside of us expresses in us. And I want to give you a couple of examples. The Holy Spirit...that is, your spirit is the most important part of you. It's far more important than what is seen. It's more important than your soul. Your spirit, that's what's going to heaven when you and I die, our spirit. And we're gonna be clothed in absolute perfection. And our soul will be absolutely perfect. Everything about us will be perfect. While we are living down here, we have the Spirit in our spirit. The Holy Spirit is residing in your spirit.
Now, what is one of His responsibilities? To give you guidance. So how does this unseen, invisible, but very present, eternal, practical, living Holy Spirit, living on the inside of you, how does He pressure us? That is, if He is going to guide us, how does He guide us? He guides us by enlightening our mind, revealing things to us. But sometime it's pressure. Now, how does He do that? Well, you will be headed in the wrong direction and, all of a sudden, you'll feel that something's not right. It isn't just an emotional feeling. You'd think, "Well, I'm emotionally feeling this". It's not just emotion. It is the Spirit of God. It's like He is sitting on your spirit.
You feel the pressure. You feel the weight. Something's not right. I mean pressure so deep and so strong and so hard sometime you think, "Dear God, just let me go"! And you know He's not gonna let you go. He just knows how to keep the pressure there until we break, not break, listen, not break our spirit, but break our will, till we finally get up and say, "Okay, God, it's Your way". Now, once in a while somebody says, "Well, I tell you what, I don't want to serve a God like that". I do! Somebody says, "Well, I want God to leave me alone". I don't!
Let me tell you something, last thing in the world you want to ask God to do is to leave you alone. If He leaves you alone, you are sunk. You are headed in the wrong direction and you're gonna make a mess out of your life, no matter what's going on. You don't want God in your life, then you don't want godly guidance. You don't want godly guidance, you are gonna make a mess of your life. There's nobody smart enough to live without God, no matter who they are. Now, there are those pitfalls that you and I have to face in life. And so we have to be aware of them.
Now, what's the pattern? How do we find genuine, truly godly guidance? I want to give you seven words. I want you to jot 'em down. They all end in I-N-G so you'll remember them. And the first one is cleansing. When you and I are seeking godly guidance, the first thing we need to do is to look at ourselves. Father, what is there in my life that would cause me, hinder me, cloud me, fog my vision, that I could not see what You are trying to say to me? Put down, if you will, two verses of scripture. Number one, 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He's faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness".
So, we don't have to wallow around in sin. We ask Him to forgive us, as He brings these things to our mind. Now, listen carefully. He may bring one thing, two things, ten things to your mind. Whatever it is, if you confess it... now, remember, confession isn't just agreeing with God that what He says is right about you. It's agreeing with Him about it and saying, "Yes, Lord, that doesn't belong in my life," and walking away from it. So that confession and repentance go hand in hand. Just agreeing with Him that something is not right, that doesn't correct anything. Correction is what repentance is all about. Repentance is correcting something that God has brought to mind.
Now, if you want to jot this verse down, Psalm 66:18. You want to jot this one down. Listen to what he says in this particular passage. He says, "If I regard wickedness," or iniquity, "in my heart, The Lord will not hear me". Now, what does he mean by regard it? To regard wickedness in my heart means I hold on to it. That is, some sin, whatever it may be. If I hold onto sin, if I grasp it, if I refuse to deal with what God has brought to my mind, if I just insist on having, holding, retaining, as he says, regarding this, he says He'll not hear.
Now, what that means is, it shuts down, listen, it shuts down the process. The first word is cleansing. It shuts down the process. He says, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, He'll not hear me, so I might as well stop right there". So, the first word is cleansing. I want to be sure that my heart is clean.
Now, I want to say something very important at this point. That doesn't mean that God is going to bring to your mind when you first begin to seek His direction about something. He's not gonna necessarily bring all the things He wants to deal with in your life to your mind in this first step. He may bring something here, something there. And as you move along to the fourth or fifth step, He may bring something else. But you have begun with a clean slate. God, my plate's clean. That is, all that You've shown me so far, God, I've dealt with. So you move on. So the first word is cleansing. The second word is surrendering.
Now, this is a tough word. Surrendering. If I am going to deal with things, I have to surrender my will to Him. And that is, because, what am I asking? I'm asking for God's guidance. Now, here's why that's so important. Surrendering means that I am willing to bring my will into submission to the will of the Father so that whatever His answer is to my search for clear guidance, I will do what He says do. Now, if I'm not willing to settle that issue, there's no point in me going any further. If I don't deal with sin and don't deal with the whole issue here of surrendering myself to Him, then there's not much point in me looking any further. Because I think, well, if I'm not willing to surrender my will to Him, then if He tells me what He wants me to do, then what am I gonna do?
Say, "Well, I thank You for telling me and I appreciate knowing that. And, Lord, I'm gonna consider what You're saying here". That is not the way God operates. The third word is to ask Him. That is, asking. What's the first word? What's the second word? And the third word? Okay, let me just give you one verse of scripture here about this, and that is in First John chapter five, verse fourteen and fifteen. He says that when we ask according to His will, He hears us. And when we know that He hears us, we know that we have the petition that we desired of Him. Back to will. That is, if my will isn't surrendered. And I can ask something that's totally out of the will of God. But if I have yielded my will to Him, you know what He's gonna do? He's going to show us His will. He's gonna give it to us. It may be quickly, it may be over a period of time, but I ask Him.
So, first of all, we said we are to experience cleansing, surrendering, knowing in our heart that we've let everything out. Asking Him. And then, listen, asking, and the fourth word is meditating, meditating upon the Word of God. Now, we've moved from a clean heart, surrendered will, asking Him to give us clear guidance. And then we're getting in the Word because Psalm one nineteen, if you want to jot this one down. Psalm one nineteen and verse one-o-five. Listen to what he says. He says in this very, very long Psalm, "Thy word," that is, the scriptures, the Bible, "is a lamp to my feet," for guidance, "and a light to my path".
So that now that I'm dealing with, having dealt with whatever God's raised up in my life, surrendered my will to Him the best I know how, now watch this carefully, and I'm asking Him to give me direction here, and now I'm meditating upon the Word and seeking guidance here. What's happening all this time? Here's what's happening. While I am meditating upon the Word, seeking His guidance, God will lead me to this passage or that. One of those passages may say, "Well, here's something else you need to deal with". God knew that back there in the beginning, we weren't ready to see this is something He needed to deal with. Or He may show us another passage of scriptures that's not surrendered to Me.
And so this whole process can't be one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Though it is one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. It may be one, two, three, one, four, five, three because these things are continually being brought up in our life. And so as we meditate upon the Word of God, we are going to begin to do what? We're gonna begin to see how God thinks, the mind of God. And He may lead you to a passage that is exactly, exactly what you are seeking guidance about. Or sometime it'll be a principle. Or sometime it'll be a passage that God'll speak to your heart. There isn't anybody else who'd read that and get the same thing out of it. But you're seeking divine guidance.
And the Spirit of God at that moment in your life says, "This is what I want you to do". Crystal clear in that passage. And you've heard me say sometimes, I've awakened early in the morning and a passage of scripture, the Lord says, "I want you to read Psalm so and so. I want you to read Psalm so and so". And sixteen happens to have been one of them. Read Psalm sixteen. And sometime it's like, it's so accurate. It's so accurate it's unbelievable. So, what's the first word? What's the second word? Third word? Fourth word? Fifth word is believing. And you see, as you're beginning to read the Word of God, your, listen, your faith is going to increase. God wants to show you what He wants you to do.
Look, if you will, at least jot it down. Mark chapter 11. Mark chapter 11. Here's a simple promise. It's just as applicable to you and me today as it was then. Chapter 11, and look, if you will, in the 22 verse. The scripture says, "Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to the mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, and believes that what he says is going to happen; it shall be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted to you". Notice the tense. He says, "What you ask, believe". Look, He says, "Believe that you've already received it, that you have received them and it shall be granted to you".
So that faith is: I'm believing that what I've asked God for, He's going to do. So, one of the steps, naturally, in the process of seeking godly guidance is believing that He is going to give you exactly what you asked. The sixth word, back to that bad word, waiting, waiting. Now, I want to give you again my favorite passage in Isaiah chapter sixty-four. One of my favorite verses, and maybe you've jotted it down before. Isaiah chapter sixty-four, and listen to this verse. He says in verse four, "For from of old they have not heard nor perceived by ear, neither has the eye seen a God besides Thee".
Listen to this. Now, I love this part. Wonderful, wonderful verse, and I'm gonna give you time to find it, if you're trying to find it. Isaiah chapter sixty-four. Listen to what he says as he ends this verse. He says, God, "Who acts in behalf of the one," who does what? "Who waits for Him". Now listen, God says, "If you'll wait for Me," that's why He says, "be strong and of a good courage. Wait, I say, on the Lord". He says, "If you wait for Me," watch this, "if you wait for Me, I will act in your behalf. But if you get ahead of me impatiently and you run in and try to change things yourself and you try to fix them and you try to manipulate circumstances, then fine. Have it your way. But if you will wait for Me, I, sovereign, divine, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God will act in that circumstance in your behalf. I will give you godly guidance".
What an awesome verse. What a tremendous promise. He says He acts in behalf of those who wait for Him. So what's the natural, normal seventh word? Receiving. God wants you to have godly guidance. He wants you to know what to do. And as you look at the scriptures, the Bible is full of encouragement. And if you will take that simple process of those seven things, keeping in mind His promises, keeping in mind the pilot Who is within you, keeping in mind those pitfalls to watch for, if you will begin with the whole process of cleansing and surrendering and asking Him and meditating and believing and waiting on Him, then you're going to receive guidance. Listen to this carefully, no one else in the world may agree with you, nobody else may understand you, but you know you've heard from God, and that's the most important thing of all.
And Father, we just want to bless Your name and praise You. Thank you for loving us enough to not leave us to ourselves, but to so interject Your wonderful Self into our life, that we could never, never be the same again. For we ask it in Jesus's name. Amen.