An Integrated Guidance System
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Many of us would be completely lost without our GPS, or Global Positioning System. We also need a guidance system for daily life.
Christians often want to know God’s will for their lives and might spend a lot of effort to discover what God wants them to do. What am I supposed to do with my life? What should I do about my situation? How can I know what God wants me to do?
God has given us several sources of information that form what me might call an integrated guidance system, because all the elements work together to provide what we need. In this article, we’ll briefly consider the three essential elements of guidance, plus a few other means God uses to lead us.
The primary and most important element of guidance is the Bible. In it, God reveals his will for humanity and believers in particular, including basic principles that will help us make everyday decisions. If we’re short on money this month and wonder whether we should rob a bank to pay our bills, our knowledge of the Bible should help us decide against it. That is basic guidance.
All Scripture is God-inspired and cannot be broken or nullified (2 Tim. 3:16; John 10:35). God never violates what he says or what he revealed in the Bible, so it applies to everyone in all situations (Num. 23:19). In other words, the Bible is objective, making it the standard for all of life’s decisions, because it’s based on eternal principles and is not distorted by feelings, prejudices or circumstances. It is the objective standard by which we must judge everything else.
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Ps. 119:105, NIV). The Bible provides direction and clarity for our everyday decisions and long-term plans.
The Holy Spirit
The second important element of guidance is the Holy Spirit himself, a subjective witness. He is subjective in the sense that he shows us how to apply God’s principles and will in each situation. Because “no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God,” one of the Holy Spirit’s roles is revealing God’s will to us (1 Cor. 2:11).
The Bible provides several examples of the Holy Spirit leading, directing or guiding people. For example, “may your good Spirit lead me on level ground”; that is, lead me in a safe direction (Ps. 143:10). When the apostle Paul was traveling to preach the gospel, they were “kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia,” and from entering Bithynia (Acts 16:6-7). Later, Paul was “compelled by the Spirit” to go to Jerusalem (Acts 20:22). Holy Spirit also leads us, because “those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (Rom. 8:14).
Probably the most common way Holy Spirit provides guidance is with a sense of spiritual peace. This is so significant, we can consider it a third element of guidance.
If we choose to do something compatible with God’s will, we can expect to have an internal sense that what we’re about to do is “right,” independent of our state of mind. Conversely, if we choose to do something that isn’t God’s will, we can expect an internal disturbance or lack of peace, even if our choice seems logical. It should be obvious we need to repent – conform our thinking to God’s – and develop spiritual sensitivity before we can rely on this.
This peace transcends, surpasses, or is better than our human understanding (Phil. 4:7). It’s from God, so it’s supernatural, based on his will, and independent of our circumstances but specifically relevant to them. This means it’s a reliable indicator of God’s will, whether it affirms or warns against what we’re thinking.
This is such an important factor in daily life, we should “let the peace of Christ rule in [our] hearts” (Col. 3:15). If we allow it, this spiritual peace will arbitrate or act as an umpire, becoming the deciding factor in our choices.
As we develop spiritually, we can rely strongly on this subjective indicator, because it’s clear guidance relevant to the specific matter we’re considering.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). While this is a general principle, it also applies to guidance, because God causes our circumstances to reveal his will for our benefit, and even help us do his will.
He is all-powerful and “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:11). So, if what we’re doing conforms to his will, we can expect him to work out the details, often without our involvement. We shouldn’t be surprised, when we’re doing what he intends, if details or events “happen” to fall into place for us.
The same also can be true with circumstances that block our progress. Sometimes, God “closes a door” to keep us from making a mistake, causing a problem, or simply missing his intent. However, because the world system is opposed to God and his kingdom, our life circumstances typically oppose God’s will. Therefore, when we encounter an obstacle or “closed door,” we should pause until God confirms his will or we more clearly understand it.
Circumstances can help confirm the three primary elements of guidance, but we should never ignore those elements and just follow circumstances.
Another instrument God gives for guidance is other believers. The apostle Paul wrote about us living as children of God. Right in the middle of his remarks, he stated, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21). This includes presenting our decisions to other believers for their comments or perspective, rather than relying only on our own thoughts. Why? Because it’s wise to recognize the value of other Christians’ experiences and knowledge of God. Partly because he gave them different motivations, perspectives and insights which can be invaluable when we need to make a decision.
The Bible tells us to “instruct one another” (Rom. 15:14) and “teach and admonish one another with all wisdom” (Col. 3:16). We should be able to “judge a dispute between believers” if necessary (1 Cor. 6:5) and “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thess. 5:11). This means we also should be willing to receive the same from others.
None of this means we should rely on other believers to tell us what God’s will is for us, because God speaks directly to each of us and we’re responsible for the decisions we make. However, talking with others allows us to benefit from their spiritual maturity and experiences. The Christian community, the family of God, the body of Christ serves and protects its members. We always need each other, including when we are wanting guidance from the Lord. Talking with other believers can be helpful if they confirm the first three elements, assure us we’ve heard from God, or help us interpret what the Bible, Holy Spirit and spiritual peace are indicating. We should never follow advice, even from Christians, that contradicts Scripture!
If we’re wanting to know God’s will and receive guidance, it would be foolish and even dangerous to consult nonbelievers. “For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? …. Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Cor. 6:14–15). Advice from non-Christians with rare exceptions will be ungodly because they don’t have a positive relationship with God.
In closing, it’s essential we realize that the more important a decision is, the more ways or the more clearly God will reveal his will. Big decisions require big guidance.
Assume you need to find a new place to live and you want to honor God with your choice.
- How should Bible passages related to the following topics influence you?
- Your responsibilities for yourself and family.
- Financial principles.
- Principles of Christian community.
- How should you expect the Holy Spirit to help you find a suitable place?
- How should each of the following circumstances influence your decision?
- The neighborhood or schools may not be a good influence on your children.
- The price is just slightly beyond your ability to pay.
- In what ways might it be helpful to seek advice from other believers when looking for and selecting a new home?
God uses various elements of guidance to reveal his will: the Bible, Holy Spirit, spiritual peace, circumstances, and other believers.