Charles Stanley - Living By God's Guidance
Who or what is guiding your life? Think for just a moment. When you think about a given day in your life, who's really guiding your thinking, your attitude, your wishes, your desires, how you operate, how you work, whatever it might be? Are you guided by someone, by some philosophy or attitude you have in life? Or are you guided by your feelings and your emotions?
Some people live by their feelings, their emotions: up today and down tomorrow, in and out; and so they have no real stability in life because they're living by feelings. And God does not intend for us to live by feelings. He intends for us to live by a relationship that we have with Him who gives us stability and strength and clarity and guidance in every area of our life.
Well, we've been in the book of Exodus, and the Hebrew children are out of Egyptian bondage, and they're on their way across the desert and to the Promised Land. It should take them a few weeks, but it took them forty years because of their unbelief. If they had obeyed God on exactly what He had said, they'd have reached the Promised Land a whole lot easier and a whole lot earlier. But, like many other people, they took their eyes off God, started thinking about something else, looked at where they were going and who was there, and so their fear overtook them, and they, as you and I would say, backslid and missed it and spent forty years wandering around in the wilderness, dying off, when they could have been living in the Promised Land.
So, I want to talk about this whole issue of being guided by God. If you name the name of Jesus as your Savior, you should be guided by the Word of God. And when I think about that, I think about the fact that God has given us a compass, really. And that compass is really the Holy Spirit who lives inside of us, to give us guidance and direction every day of our life. So, I want to think for just a moment about the fact that these Hebrews were walking, living in a strange country now. They're out of captivity, and they have, the Scripture says, a cloud by day and a fire by night.
And more than likely, if you'll think about it, that cloud by day also kept a little bit of the sun off of them, but it also acted like a compass, as a guide. They also had fire in the evening, which probably kept them a little warm from a desert breeze. And so, God is leading them out of Egyptian bondage, and He's leading them to a whole different perspective. If they will follow Him, they will be in Canaan shortly, the place that God has preserved for them. And yet, that's not what happens.
And so, what I want us to think about for just a moment is this whole idea of who guides us. We have this as our guide. So we don't have to wonder about how God thinks about certain things or how He feels about certain things. We have the Word of God to give us guidance and direction, and we thank God for that. So, the issue is this: when I think about what they had, a pillar of cloud and fire, to guide them, keep them warm, keep them cool, lead them to the Promised Land. What do we have? And that's this Book. There's not any direction of your life that's not covered here. Whatever you're looking for, whatever you're seeking, whatever guidance you desire in life, you open the Word of God and He will give you that.
Living in this world, reading the Bible every now and then is not sufficient. We live in a wicked, vile world that's very evident from what we see happening. And we live in a world that is against God, against the Lord Jesus Christ and opposed to so many things that you and I believe. So we have to decide am I going to live by my emotions? Am I going to live by what other people are doing? Or am I going to live by the one thing that I know will absolutely give me clear, true, true, true guidance every single day of my life? That's the Word of God.
So, I want us to think about that. And when I think about what God says, number one, meditating upon the Word of God. Now, those Hebrews didn't have this. We have something they didn't have. And if you will look at the hundred and nineteenth Psalm for a moment, and I want you to notice a verse here. And the Scripture says in this hundred and nineteenth Psalm and verse one-o-five, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path".
Now, look at that. Do you believe that the Word of God is a lamp to your feet, which means He will always show you the right path to take? And a light to my path, that is, what the cloud and the fire were to Israel in those days of desert times, the Word of God is to us. What is it? A light to my path and a lamp to my feet. That is, if you want to go and you want to be in the right place, the right time, you get in the Word of God. You say, "Well, the Word of God doesn't know everything about me".
Listen, the God who penned these words knows exactly where you are, what you're facing in life, and, listen, there is a passage of Scripture here somewhere in this Book that applies to who you are, where you are today, no matter who you are, and it is an adequate word to give you guidance and direction. The problem is not that we don't have direction. The problem is we've closed the Book. And if the nation of Israel had said, "Forget the cloud and forget the fire, let's just go where we want to go". That's exactly the way people are living. And many people only open the Word of God when they're in trouble. A lamp to my feet. A light to your path.
Listen, you and I should always be walking in the path of righteousness and what's good. We have, we know which way to walk, and God has told us that. Secondly, we need to be sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. And one of the things that Jesus made very, very clear to His apostles, He said, "I'm not going to leave you alone". He says, "I will come to you". And He was speaking of the Holy Spirit. And in the Scriptures, He makes it very, very clear. The sixteenth chapter and in this thirteenth verse, He says, "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes", and all of us have the Holy Spirit living within us, "He will guide you", listen to this, "He will guide you into all the truth".
So that if you own a copy of the Word of God, you don't have any excuse for not being able to discern what is right and what is wrong, what is true and what is untrue, what's good, what's evil. We live in a world with all kind of philosophies. And telling us that, "Well, you know, Jesus, that's the ancient times". No. Jesus is alive living within us today. And He says, "When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak, and He will disclose it to you", that is, "what is to come".
That is, watch, think about this, when you wake up every morning, as a follower of Jesus, you have abiding within you, living within you, in all of His eternal power and being, the very person of the Holy Spirit to give you guidance, direction, strength, energy, discernment, and all the rest all day long. We have everything we need to live a godly life. And so, when somebody says, "Well, I got saved way back yonder, and somewhere, I just felt like God left me". No, He didn't leave you.
And you may be seated here today and you're just absolutely a backslidden Christian. You're living in sin, disobedient to God, looking back and thinking about what your mother taught you years ago, it's brought back to you some things that you learned right after you got saved, and when you were surrendered to Jesus and you look back and you ask yourself this question: how did I get where I am? I'll tell you how. You got where you are because you closed this Book, you stopped listening to the Holy Spirit who's living within you. You decided to make some choices apart from God, now you're in a mess. You cannot blame it on your parents, on your children, who you work for, your friends, or whatever it might be.
God gave us the Book as a guidebook. Think about this: every one of us is responsible to Almighty God to be good stewards of the knowledge and experience that the Word of God tells us about, about every single circumstance of our life. We're to be guided by the Spirit. Then one of the things we have to wait for if we're going to follow the Lord is to wait for His timing. And one of my favorite verses is Isaiah sixty-four, and when I think about this verse and how many times I've read it and have said, "Yes, Lord, please give me wisdom enough to do exactly what it says".
And so, here's what it says in this sixty-fourth chapter. Listen to this, "For from days of old, they have not heard or perceived by ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides You", or like You. Listen, "A God who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him". So, ask yourself the question, let's say when you get up in the morning, you're going to start the day off with prayer. You get up and you get on your knees or you read the Scripture and then you just take off. What does the Bible say about waiting upon God?
If you're going to read the Word of God, listen carefully. Let's just say you're going to read the twenty-third Psalm, which you already know by heart. You know what makes the Scriptures stick in your life? What makes it register in your mind, in your brain? What causes you to be able to remember it is when you read it, you think about it. You forget everything else for the moment and you ask yourself this question and you talk to God about it: Lord, help me to remember what You're saying. Don't let me forget this simple verse. You act in behalf of those who wait upon You.
How much time do we spend waiting upon Him? We say, "Well, I read my Scripture this morning and I had to hurry off". Think about this: every single day of your life and my life is totally uncertain. And what's happening about us is very evident of that. We need to begin every day in the Word, even if it's one verse or a whole chapter, or whatever it might be, remembering that the Spirit of God who lives within us takes that Word, drives it to our mind, to our heart, to our spirit, and does what? Intends to use it to guide us throughout the day.
God has given you the most treasured thing you own. You can stack up all of your stocks and bonds and money over here, and cars and houses and farms and whatever it might be over here, none of that, or all of it together can equal this. Because none of that can get you to heaven. Only the Word of God can get you to heaven. And only the Word of God can give you clear instruction for your life. So, likewise, if I'm following Him, I'm going to be able to walk sometimes where it's not clear.
I want you to turn to one of my favorite passages, Proverbs three, speaking of guidance and direction, verse five, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways", not some of them, "acknowledge Him". Look to Him, listen to Him, wait for Him, "And He will make your paths straight", instead of crooked. Listen to this, "Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and turn away from evil". And he says here's what you can expect, "It'll be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones".
What can promise you that? When you read this passage of Scripture daily or quote it to yourself, and you'll find yourself quoting it to yourself often. What happens? Something turns on inside of you. And you know what that is? That is your awareness of the Spirit of the Living God who will guide you, enable you, empower you, give you understanding how to face every circumstance of life today. Listen, God has given us this because He knows we can't live a successful life from His perspective, or even from our own, unless we're doing what? They had their eyes on the cloud by day and the fire by night to be sure they walked in the right direction.
We have the Word of God to do what? To give us clarity, understanding, and insight so we can walk in a holy way, every day of our life. The Word of God, we're talking about being guided by it, here's some verses that I just want you to remember. So, I want you to turn to Joshua, for example, and let's look at the first chapter of Joshua.
Another one of my favorite passages, because I've had to turn to this many times. I remember when I preached my first sermon, I can still see my mom. She came into my bedroom and she says, "I want you to read this before you preach your first sermon tonight", 'cause she knew I was a little bit frightened. But here's what my mother gave me. She says, "I want you to read this verse", "Have I not commanded you to be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go".
Watch this carefully, if you walk in the Spirit of God, you'll have to be strong and courageous. Because God's going to tell you, "Don't go here". And you have to decide whether you're strong enough to be obedient to God or you'll yield to pressure from somebody else or whatever. "Be strong and courageous. Fear not, neither be thou dismayed for the Lord your God's with you". How blessed we are to have the Word of God. And it's our light and our fire and our direction and our help and our hope and our strength and our energy.
And there's something about reading the Word of God that does energize us. Because what happens is this: we are reminded of the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. We're reminded He's the One who empowers us, strengthens us, guides us, helps us, keeps us, protects us. We're reminded of we have within us the living God in the person of the Holy Spirit. We should be able to start every day with confidence and boldness and assurance. And when you look around to see what's happening, not a single person knows whether they'll be able to get home tonight or not.
We live by faith. We live by hope. And many people live by a faith that they don't even realize what that faith's all about. The truth is that those of us who have a copy of the Word of God and live by the Word of God know the source of our hope and of our strength. And we know the source of our protection and our watch-care. You and I have the written, living, perfect Word of God to give us direction about every single solitary aspect of our life with no exception. You can't think of anything the Word of God doesn't have an answer for.
There are some people who say, "Well, I've asked God about some things, He didn't answer". Well, you probably weren't listening very carefully. Or probably you didn't like His answer, but everywhere in the Word of God, He's got a word for us. So, I think about we're going to find ourselves facing conflict, and so somebody says, "Well, you don't know where I work. I go to work every single day, and I go to work in a situation that's not very helpful, not very encouraging".
And so, I want to give you this passage of Scripture, Acts chapter five and verse twenty-nine; listen to what he says. "Peter and the apostles answered", to those who were persecuting them, "'We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those of us who obey Him'".
Listen, you have the treasure of God deposited in your life to do what? For guidance and direction. Think about this: would God ask you to do something He wouldn't help you do? No. But if you don't know about the Holy Spirit, you would end up doing it in your own strength and energy. And this is why oftentimes people, they say, "Well, I've tried to live a Christian life, but somehow, I'm not doing too well". The Spirit of God who indwells one of us is the Spirit of God who indwells every single one of us. And He has equipped us and enabled us to face difficulty and hardship and opposition.
So, if I should ask you this morning: how many of you have been through a tough time in your life and the only thing you had was God? Was He there? All of you'd raise your hand. If you know that He's been there and you know that there've been times when all you had was God. The bottom dropped out, the sides fell off, the top disappeared, and there you are, helpless and hopeless, and the only thing you have is Almighty God. And the Spirit of God, the Spirit of God came to live in our life to do what? To give us assurance, so that we don't have to worry about today.
We just live in His presence, knowing that He's within us. He is our guide and our guard and our health and our strength and everything we need, so we can live happily. We can live with a discerning spirit to know some things that are not wise for us to do. And if for example, let's say you headed into some store or something, or whatever it might be, and you had a reservation in your spirit, don't do that.
And you say, "Well, why not"? Let me just say this to you. When the Spirit of God tells you something, do exactly what He says. If He tells you, "Don't do that", don't argue with Him and ask Him to tell you why. He is under no obligation to answer your why. His obligation is to give you direction, guidance, and protection. If I disobey Him, I suffer the consequence. God speaks to all of His children. Once you trusted Him as your personal Savior, the Spirit came into your life to do what? To give you direction and all these other things we have talked about.
Many of God's people are living oblivious to the very presence of Holy God who lives within them. And so, they wonder why they get in trouble, do things they shouldn't do, go where they shouldn't go, see, you name it. It's not because God doesn't care. It's not because God's not speaking. It's because we're not listening. Listen carefully, it's dangerous, absolutely dangerous in this day and time to live closed to God. We all need Him, and He's just that clear.
Now, you may be seated here and you may be thinking, "Well, I don't think that's absolutely necessary, and I just don't think God would speak to me that way". Yes, He will. Ask and, listen to this, "Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you". Everyone who asks, receives; seeks, finds; knocks, opens. That's a promise. So, do you believe the Word of God? If you believe the Word of God, you must believe that when you come to Him and ask, whatever the situation is, He will answer your petition.
I believe one of the most important lessons we learn as a believer is how do you listen to God? Now, you've heard me say this many, many times. Obey God and do what? Is that what you're doing? Are you obeying God and leaving all the consequences to Him? What that says is obey God, trust Him with everything. Would you say that God is trustworthy, that He can handle your everything? Absolutely. For the Hebrews, it was cloud by day, fire by night and trusting Moses. For us, it's the Living Word of God that we have with us every day of our life.
We can find out whatever we need to find out. We can find clear direction for every single issue in life. You say, "Well, you mean to tell me if you you believe that God will give you direction for every single thing in your life"? Yes. Like what would He not give you direction for? God, listen, God doesn't act like we do. God is true to His Word. And in these days, this Book is the most important possession you have because here's the source of all the promises of Almighty God.
And so many of us here are grandparents. What have you ever said to your grandchildren about the Bible? Have you ever made that an issue with them? Who do you talk to about the Word of God? Or do you just take it for granted? This, to us, is like a cloud by day, fire by night. And Moses was their leader, the Holy Spirit is our leader. So, look how good God is to us. He let us be born in a time when we got it right here and the Holy Spirit to guide us and lead us. If you've never trusted Jesus as your Savior, you should do so immediately.
You say, "How do I do that"? You ask God to forgive you of your sins. You acknowledge to Him that you believe that His death on the cross paid your sin debt in full. And that if you confess your sins and surrender your life to Him and accept Him as your Savior by faith, that He forgives your sins, writes your name in the Lamb's Book of Life and you're forever a child of God, indwelt by the Holy Spirit who will help you interpret His Word the rest of your life. That's who you are.
Father, we bless You and praise You, worship You and adore You, treasure, dear God, Your precious Word. And pray that You will lead every person who hears or watches this message to know the truth and to walk in Your ways. But we ask it in Jesus's name, amen, amen.