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Divine Guidance

By Randy Hurst

The drama of the Titanic still fascinates. Almost a century ago wealthy socialites and celebrities danced under the warm light of glittering chandeliers. Musicians played popular songs of the day, while the first-class passengers dined on delicacies. No one knew that in a few hours the largest and most luxurious ocean liner ever built up to that day would sink beneath the waves. All the excited passengers who boarded the supposedly unsinkable ship for her maiden voyage would gladly have canceled their trips could they have foreseen the tragedy to come.

Can we know the future?

Man has always tried to find ways to escape calamity. Fear of disaster has caused many to pursue means to see into the future. They assume that, if they could just know what lies ahead, it would affect their choices. The Bible forbids seeking to know the future by divination. (See Deuteronomy 18:10.) Like palm reading and crystal balls in the past, today’s popularity of psychic phone services demonstrates that modern culture too is captivated with the future. God’s Word teaches that all efforts to gaze into the future are deceptions.

Think how a seemingly small decision can affect the rest of our lives. Sometimes, just one incident determined what school we attended, where we lived, our occupation or the person we married. Because our life’s destiny can appear to depend on such small incidents and decisions, many believe we have little or no control over our future. But the Bible teaches that our lives are not accidents or fate. God has a specific purpose for each of us.

Two great moments in our lives are when we are born and when we discover why we were born. We were created for a reason — a divine purpose. Psalm 139 reveals that God created every part of us and was working in our lives even before we were born. The apostle Paul tells us that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. (See Ephesians 1:4.) He does not want anyone to be lost. His desire is for everyone to repent. (See 2 Peter 3:9.) But, we must each choose to accept God’s free gift of forgiveness. We must individually receive Christ as our Lord. To those who receive Him, He gives power to become the sons of God. (See John 1:12.)

More like a compass than a map

The Bible teaches that our ultimate destiny is not because of fate; it is because of choice. Decisions have consequences. Because there are many circumstances in our lives that are beyond our control, we need help. We need divine direction.

God’s Word invites the Christian to live in the divine guidance that is available to every believer. Your choice of a college, occupation, marriage partner and where you live should not be made without God’s guidance.

Some would like God to provide a clear vision of their future, something like a spiritual map to follow for life. God’s guidance is more like a compass than a map. On a map, we see at one time all the roads we might take to our destination. A compass doesn’t provide that information, but in some ways is even better. Sometimes on the map we can’t tell where we are. But, the compass will always show us the right direction. We are not yet ready to face some things that lie ahead. God knows that. Jesus taught that each day has enough trouble of its own. (See Matthew 6:34.) The best way to live is one day at a time.

If the regrets and guilt of the past flood in on the present, you can’t live as you should today. If the fears and worries of the future pour into the present, it will also destroy the effectiveness of today. God’s mercy and forgiveness can take care of your past; His faithfulness and guidance can provide for your future.

Assemblies of God missionary Lillian Trasher wanted to marry and have 12 children. But God directed her steps to Egypt. Many years later, after founding the Assiout orphanage, she recalled the dreams of her youth. She had never married, but God had entrusted hundreds of children to her care. She wrote, “God in His wisdom softly draws the curtain of His love across the future of our lives and lets us live day by day.”

Involved in our daily lives

God’s will is not primarily something we find or discover; it is something God is doing. He is actively involved in our daily lives. He guides us day by day. Many times we are not even aware of His guidance.

In difficult times a comforting Scripture to Christians is found in Paul’s letter to the Romans: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NASB). Even when we don’t understand why some things are happening, God is still in control. God does not cause all the things that happen; many are caused by our own sinful actions and by those of others. Some are even caused by evil spiritual forces. We are not promised that everything in our lives will be good. But we are promised that God is causing all things in our lives to work together for good.

To understand God’s guidance in our lives, we need to understand His will and purpose. Many who have claimed Romans 8:28 as a promise fail to notice that God’s purpose for working in our lives is given in the verse that follows: “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). God’s purpose is to change us, to help us become like Jesus.

A bumper sticker declares, “Christians aren’t perfect … just forgiven.” We aren’t perfect, but we are not just forgiven. Jesus came not only to free us from the penalty of sin, but also to free us from the power of sin.

Paul also says, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1,2).

More than information

Divine guidance is not just a matter of God’s revealing His will to us. We aren’t able to do the will of God by our own will and effort, because we are sinful by nature. We will always tend to do what is wrong, unless God is transforming us. The Greek word translated “transform” is the word from which we get the English word metamorphosis. Metamorphosis is a complete change in nature. It is a change from one kind of thing to another, which is nothing like what it used to be. An example: the caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly, a creature that does not resemble what it used to be. The Christian life is not merely emotional recovery, psychological adjustment or moral improvement. It is a complete change from one kind of a person to another kind of a person.

It is not enough just to know what God’s will is; we need His power and help to change so we are able to do His will. We don’t have the willpower or ability to transform ourselves. The only way we can become what God wants us to be is to place ourselves in His hands. He will work in our hearts and minds, changing us inside, so on the outside we can obey His will in our lives. This transformation is not instantaneous; it is a process. (See 2 Corinthians 3:18.)

We must understand that divine guidance is not just a matter of learning what God wants. His will is not as much discovery as it is development. It is not just information but transformation.

One of the scheduled passengers on the Titanic was J. Stuart Holden, the eloquent preacher of St. Paul’s Church in London. He had crossed the Atlantic many times to preach in the United States, often for the Bible conferences hosted by D.L. Moody. Less than 24 hours before the Titanic sailed, Holden’s wife needed emergency surgery. The dilemma Holden faced was whether to fulfill his commitment to preach in the United States or to cancel his trip and remain with his wife. Trusting God’s Word concerning his responsibility to his wife, he telegraphed the hosts of the conference that he would not be coming. Holden’s Titanic ticket hung framed on his study wall for the rest of his life, as a testimony to God’s faithfulness and guidance.

J. Stuart Holden had 22 more years of influential ministry, including being chairman for many years of the famous Keswick Convention. His leadership in the convention introduced the strong missions emphasis that resulted in many missionaries reaching the lost around the world.

The promise is sure: “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).


Randy Hurst is commissioner of evangelism for the Assemblies of God.


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