Charles Stanley - Finding Clear Guidance
When you face those major decisions in your life, how do you feel? Sometimes you feel a little frustrated, maybe a little fearful. You feel sorta uneasy. Maybe you're not quite sure, little unassured about making the right decision. In fact, it may be that you feel so much of that negativism that you sorta find yourself procrastinating and putting off making the decision because of fear of making the wrong decision. Well, where do you turn when those kind of feelings come up, when those kind of feelings develop in your life and you know that you have a decision to make and it can be something very critical? There are all kind of decisions in life. Some of them are very simple and seem to be very uneventful and very unimportant.
Then there are those that you and I know that are very important, some very crucial and critical, some absolutely expedient. We have to make very, very wise decisions, very important decisions. Where do you turn? Well, people turn all kinds of directions to help make those decisions, and oftentimes they turn in the wrong direction. But wouldn't it be just like God to give you and me the capacity and the wisdom and the know-how to make wise decisions? Wouldn't it be just like Him to be able to give us clear guidance when you... He knows that you and I need very, very clear guidance about whatever it is that we're confronted with? Well, that's what I want to talk about in this message because the question that I receive above all else is this: How can I be sure I'm making the right decision? How can I be sure I have very clear guidance about this? How can I be sure I'm about to do the will of God?
So, I want you to turn, if you will, to the twenty-fifth Psalm. There's only one verse I want to read because there are multitudes of verses in the Bible that give this same assurance. And I want us to look at one verse because this verse is a promise. It's a word of assurance because all of us all of our life will be making decisions. In fact, life is sorta one continuous decision-making process from the time you're a child growing up, which toy to play with, all the way to adulthood and, in those latter years of life, of how to operate in those latter years. So everywhere along the way, we are making decisions.
Listen to this one verse that we want you to notice in the twenty-fifth Psalm, verse twelve, "Who is the man," or the woman, "who fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way he should choose". Look at that. Who is the man or the woman who fears the Lord? That is, reverences God, respects Him, submits to Him, yields to Him, seeks Him, desires to know His mind, His will, and His way. Who is the person who fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way he should choose. Now, it's very evident from the Scriptures that God is willing to give us clear guidance about every single circumstance of life. In fact, I can't ever remember God saying at any point in my life, "Here's what I want you to do. Now you figure that out". That doesn't sound like God.
Well, I have some plans, you figure out what they are. I have a task, and just go do it. That isn't the way God operates. God has given to each one of His children the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. One of His primary responsibilities is to give us clear direction for our life. God would not put us on this earth and expect of us to walk in His way, walk in His will, knowing that we would be bombarded with a thousand different ways and attitudes, the world's ways, all down through the centuries. This isn't just a twenty-first century thing, this been going on since the beginning of time, and that is how do we find clear guidance. God is, listen, He is willing to give it. He always has. He's willing now. The issue is: How do we go about it?
Well, I'm sure that there are probably other ways. What I'd like to do is to give you six short phrases. These phrases will take you from the absolute first part of the decision all the way to the last part of the decision of finding clear guidance. Well, what is the first one? As I said, they're very, very simple, but every single one of em's very important. Number one, and that is clear the pathway. Clear the pathway. Well, what in the world do you mean by clearing the pathway? Well, simply this: that God has to get us ready to hear His discernment, that is, His clear direction for our life. He has to get us ready. And so, when I say clear the pathway, I mean clear it of two things here.
First of all, clear it of sin. That is, if I'm asking for God's mind, because that's what we have. When we're asking for clear direction, what we're asking for is: God, what are You thinking about this? If I'm asking for how God thinks about something in my life, I can't be tampering with, playing with, a part of tolerating any known willful sin in my life. I'm asking for holy direction for my life, with a sinful attitude. So habits, attitudes, conduct that is not becoming to who we are in Christ Jesus, who we are as children of God, has to go. It has to be dealt with because here's what sin does. Sin fragments our thinking. Sin fragments our thinking. Sin fogs our thinking. Sin sorta disintegrates what's going on in us spiritually.
And so, what happens is we find this bit of confusion. And this is why some people seemingly can't make wise decisions. They're frustrated, they're confused, they're disheveled in their heart and their spirit, and they they feel sorta mixed up and not exactly certain and uncertain, and one thing sin always does, it absolutely cuts out from under you your assurance about most anything in life. And so, the first thing that has to be dealt with, clear the path of, is sin. Because it absolutely will fog your mind. And you can't mix God's holy mind with this fouled up mind of ours if it's contaminated with something going on in us that should not be.
So first thing have to deal with is have to deal with this issue of sin. But there's something else we have to deal with and clear the path of, and that's strong desires. We all gonna have natural strong desires. I don't mean they have to be sinful desires, but I mean we just have natural desires in life, things that you want, dreams that you have, goals that you have. And so, it may be that what we want, God wants us to have. But we have to have clear guidance as to how to go about it. It may be that God has set a beautiful goal for your life or He has something for your life that you really desire, that you really long for, something you've been working toward, and you want to know how, God, do I go about this? He desires to give us clear guidance. He wants to deal with the sin issue, number one, because He takes advantage. Every opportunity God has to take advantage of drawing us close to Him, He will do so.
Every time He has the advantage, He has the opportunity, He will take advantage of bringing our sanctification into more fullness, bringing us into His likeness, bringing us into the awareness that we need to trust Him and rely upon Him. So, here's what He does. We start out with our desires, whatever they may be, and He has to bring us to the place of what I call submissive neutrality. That is, I have to get my strong desires over here and let God begin to work in my life to bring them to the point that I'm willing to say, "Lord, not what I want but what You want. God, this is what I want. This is my desire. But Lord, I want to be able to submit that, yield to that, and become neutral in my thinking and neutral in my desires because I really want what You want more than I want what I want because I know if what I want is not what You want, what You want is better for me than what I want".
And so, when I'm able to bring those strong desires into a place of submissive neutrality, then I know that God is certainly working, and that is the foundation. That is the bottom line and the foundation of clear discernment is a clean heart. A pure heart and clear direction go together, a pure heart and clear direction, a heart that has dealt with sin. So the solution to the whole issue when it comes to sin is repentance. God, this doesn't belong in my life. It doesn't fit. I'm dealing with this, I'm laying this down. I want nothing in my life that will fog my mind and confuse and mix and intermingle my mind so that I miss Your clear direction for my life.
The second phrase is this, and that is: to exercise patience. Patience simply means I refuse to rush ahead of God. Patience here simply means I refuse to rush in until I have clear direction. Patience says I'm willing to wait until I know that I've heard from God, until I know this is His choice, this is His way, this is His will. Now, most of us probably live hurriedly. We live on a fast track. Everybody I know lives in Atlanta has to live on a fast track, you won't get anywhere. That's probably true in the whole world. Everybody seems to be rushing around. And if we're not careful, we'll rush right into something that God's not in. Patience, very, very important because this is where we get in trouble. We gotta have it today. We want to move now. And especially, listen, much of that depends upon the strength of our desire. It depends on how strongly we want this.
And so the stronger my desire, the more difficult I am, or sense of need that I have, the more difficult it is for me to be able to wait until I have absolutely clear direction no matter what. It may be that God has exactly in mind what you desire. And yet He has a reason for causing you to wait, which we'll get through in a few moments. All right, the third step, which is so very important, very important step. Be alert to pressure. Be alert to pressure. Whenever you're in the process of making a decision, be alert to pressure because pressures will be there.
Now, there are two primary forms of pressure that you and I are to deal with. And the first one is exterior pressure, something on the outside. What is that? Well, people. People will tell you what you ought to do, how you ought to think, and they'll give their advice. And they'll tell you, "Now, this is exactly what I would do if I were you". And I want you to listen to this carefully. You think about how unreliable that is. This is not to say that godly advice should not be adhered to, but think about people who want to tell you exactly what to do and how to do it and when to do it. You think about this. First of all, they are coming from their personality, their background, the way they think. Everybody doesn't think, the way they go about decision-making, the way they think. You don't know about their fears. You don't know about their anxieties. You don't know what drives them. You don't know what motivates them. You don't know what governs their life.
And so, first of all, and they don't know you. They don't know God's will and plan and purpose for your life. So here's what they do. They say, "Here's what I think you ought to do". What they're doing is they are projecting on you a plan that fits them, and you're not them. They say, "Well now, if I were in your circumstances". You know what? In your circumstances, that still doesn't change who they are, where they're coming from, what motivates them, what governs them, their personality, their thoughts, and what they know and what they don't know about God. And the interesting thing to me is that people are so willing to give advice who know nothing about scriptural principles. They take a verse of Scripture and say, "Well, here's what God says. Here's what you oughtta do". Well, the question is: What's the will of God? You want clear direction, you want divine direction, you want Godly direction, you have to be sensitive and have to be alert to pressure because it's gonna be out there.
Now, that pressure is going to come from outside. It can come also not only from people but it can come from circumstances. Well, these are my circumstances. Now, watch this. These are my circumstances and I have to make a decision, and time is running out. And so you're prone to move ahead. Remember this. Time never runs out on God. Time doesn't run out on God. You can get all kind of pressure, but listen. No matter what the circumstance is, if God hasn't told you, if He hasn't given you clear direction, if you don't have a sense of guidance from Him, do not step into something because of pressure of the circumstance or somebody's pressure on you. It is an unwise thing to do. And so, we have to be careful, be alert to pressure.
Now, that's external pressure: the pressure from circumstances, the pressure from people. But there's also internal pressure. Well, what is this internal pressure that would hinder me from getting clear guidance? Here's what it is. Number one: fears, anxieties over fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of disapproval. And so what happens? Oftentimes people are driven by, motivated by, compelled by other people's attitudes, but sometimes compelled by, listen, these exaggerated feelings they have, these exaggerated expectations they have of themselves. Well, I must, I should, I ought, and should, ought, and must will get you in a lot of trouble. Should, oughts and musts are pressure points in a person's life. I should, I oughta, I must.
God isn't saying you should, ought, you must. He will give us very clear direction. And that clear direction will come. But if I submit and yield to the pressure, whether it's external or internal, I'm gonna get in trouble. The next thing that I want you to notice is this, and that is persistence in prayer. Now, I didn't say just pray, but persistence in prayer. Remember what Paul said when he said, for example, in Thessalonians that fifth chapter, he said, "Pray without ceasing". That doesn't mean you're walking around all the time, "Heavenly Father, thank You in Jesus's name. Oh yes, how you doing? Praise the Lord, glory to God". That's not what we're talking about. But he was simply talking about simply this.
Listen, when you're praying about something, don't let go of it. Don't let go of whatever you're praying for that you're seeking. You're trying to find clear guidance on whether it's something you're gonna buy, something you're gonna wear, or somewhere you're going or your job, your major in school, whatever it might be. He says, "Pray without ceasing". Because here's what happens: when you and I begin to pray, God begins to do something in our life at that time that I think is extremely important, and something that oftentimes we don't even realize what's happening. Here we're praying and nothing's going on. We think, Lord, I'm asking clear direction, I'm not getting any.
Now, you think about this. When you and I are praying and we're talking to Him or we don't see anything around us changing. Remember what we started out with? We started out with this strong desire over here. Well, Lord, here I would really like to happen. As you and I are praying, we don't even realize what's happening. Little by little, you know what He's doing? He's sifting our request, sifting our desire, sifting these alternatives that we have when we're trying to find out which one to choose. He's just sifting those. We're talking to Him, He's speaking to us. You know what He's doing? We've started out with, have to clear the pathway. He's dealing, in other words, He will bring to the surface those things that we didn't even realize were there: attitudes, habits, prejudices in our heart toward or against or whatever, things that we may want or don't want in our life.
And so what is He doing? We're talking to Him and He's bringing to our mind and heart these things. What's He doing? Sifting out of our desire category, sifting these alternatives until finally we got three or four alternatives, and one by one, what does He do? He eliminates them all till we find out His clear guidance. You cannot, listen, if you try to find clear guidance simply running hither and yon, talking to this one, talking to the other one, asking this, asking that, and not get on your knees before God, seeking the one who has absolute, infinite wisdom, more than likely most of the time you're gonna make a wrong decision. And in big critical, crucial decisions, you cannot afford to make a wrong decision.
Listen, prayer is the heart and the core. If you really want to find clear direction and you don't want to spend time on your knees, then do it yourself and get what your self-doing will get you. Then, for example, there's another phrase I want you to jot down, if you will, and that's simply this. And that is to rest in God's promises. Now, watch this carefully. Rest in God's promise. We've started off with a foundation, getting our heart cleaned out. We want to be patient. We want to check out the pressures that are coming our way, absolutely for certain. Want to be alert to these pressures. We want to be prayerful, but we say, "Rest in the promises of God".
Think about this. You and I, here's the most awesome resource there is. In fact, this Book which is the Word of God has the answer to every single time I need clear direction, here it is. You don't have to go to the public library or the private library, or anybody else's library. You've got, on your table by your bed, in your hand this morning, you have, listen, you have the ultimate, eternal, infallible, inerrant resource to know how God thinks, how He acts, how He works, His ways, His will, His plan, His direction. Somewhere in the Word of God. You'll be surprised how often you'll find a situation in the life of one of God's children that will be similar.
Now, the circumstance won't be the same, but it is similar. And you'll say, "Well, how did God work in that situation"? Well, Lord, how are You gonna work in my situation? You see, that's the way we learn His ways. If you don't know the ways of God, you don't know how God thinks, you don't know His principles, then how in the world are you gonna come to God and God's not gonna cut off the top of your head, pour the truth in, seal it back up and say, "You got it"! That's not the way He operates. He operates gradually through prayer, gradually through reading the Word. This is why I keep talking about meditating upon God's Word. What are you doing? You're just filling your mind with truth, truth that, for example, that you may read a passage that may be sorta meaningless to you today. Three months from now, you'll come up to some decision of God, and the Spirit of God'll bring that verse to your mind, and you'll say, "Oh, I know where that verse was". You go back and all of a sudden comes off the page.
When you begin to meditate on some of those verses, it'll just be like God has tailored that verse just to fit you. That is the awesome miracle of this Book. That's the awesome miracle of this Book. Listen, it will grab you, a verse will grab you and give you direction that you've read over and over and over again. And you come back and think, "Well, I never saw that before". You know why? You weren't where you are. And therefore, this is a different situation, different circumstances, same word, same God who knew beforehand when you were gonna get here and exactly when you were gonna need it.
Well, let's just say there's one other phrase I want to give you, and that is this simple phrase: wait for the peace. Wait for the peace. The word peace means to be bound together. Peace speaks of harmony and oneness, not disharmony, not disorder, not unrest, frustration, anxiety, fear, all those things that do not meet what God is talking about here. That is, to make peace means to weave together. So what are we talking about? Listen, now watch this. We've come from getting our pathway cleaned up, backing off and waiting upon the Lord. Psalm sixty-two, five, "My soul wait in silence upon God only". One of the key verses in my own life. Psalm sixty-two five. "My soul wait in silence," not murmuring and fretting and fuming and criticizing, blaming. "My soul wait in silence for God only. My expectation is from Him".
So we wait. We avoid those pressures in life no matter where they're coming from and who they're coming from. We absolutely refuse to accept those. We get on our face before Him. We come to the resource of His promises. And now, what can we expect? Wait for the peace. Bound together. Here's what happens. I want you to turn, if you will, to Colossians chapter three, and look at this wonderful verse, verse fifteen. "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body, and be thankful". Then he says, look at this, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom, teaching, and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thanksgiving, thankfulness in your hearts to God".
Look at verse fifteen. Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart. What does that mean? Here's what it means. Listen, God's peace is God's umpire in our life when we're seeking clear direction. Let it rule. That is, when I come to a decision, is there harmony? Is there harmony between what God is thinking and what I'm thinking? Has my decision and His mind, are they woven together so that now we're thinking the same thing? Let peace rule, the disturbance is over. The turmoil is over, the upheaval is over, the uncertainty is over. All of that's over, and now peace is ruling and reigning. That is, it's now I have very clear direction. And evidence of that clear direction is my circumstances may not have changed. People's attitudes may not have changed. Pressures may still be there, but deep down inside, He's told me exactly what to do, and that I am committed to no matter what.
You know what can happen? You can walk through those difficult circumstances and trying times and you can face those, all those alternative decisions, and you can come up with one that you're absolutely certain because you have this inexpressible, inexplainable, undeniable, absolutely reliable, certain, sure promise from God. You got it from Him. This is His direction for your life at this time, in this question, in this decision. Now, that's what a good God's like. He's just not gonna leave it to us. He wants us to have peace. He wants us to have a sense of contentment. Now, somebody says, "Well, but now wait a minute. Let's go back to that question you asked a while ago".
So we're saying that the final phrase, the final phrase is, look here, look for the peace, that is, wait for the peace. In other words, you don't move till you have clear direction. And this is why Paul said, "Don't be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving," a whole lot goes on in that phrase. "By prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God". And the peace of God, which is absolutely inexplainable, will garrison you about, protect you, give you harmony, sense of oneness. Listen, I do not know of anything under God's heaven personally, I don't know of anything, I'm certain this is my conviction. This is just my conviction. There is nothing in the world that exists to compare to this, and that is: an awesome sense of oneness with God that is undisturbed, that is absolutely certain, that creates such wonderful harmony in your heart, that no matter if the whole world falls apart around you, nothing can shake that.
That's what God's after. He's after to bringing us. And you see, we may start out here, but His goal is to bring us into such wonderful harmony and oneness with Him. Look, our mind fits His mind and they go together. You know what? You'll be so certain that you have clear direction, it doesn't make any difference what you hear, what you see, what you feel out there. The thing that matters is you have the mind of God. That's the promise. He says we have the mind of Christ. And how do we get it? We get our life cleaned up, we clean up the path. Back off and wait, my soul wait in silence and I'm putting God only because my expectation's from Him. I hear the pressure, I feel the pressure. I'm not giving into the pressure. I'm just gonna talk to the Father. I'm gonna claim His promise, and I'm gonna wait for the peace. And one thing for certain, there is no disappointment in Jesus Christ.