Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.'
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to guide the people of God through the uncertainties and dangers and duties of this life to their home in Heaven. When He led the children of Israel out of Egypt, by the hand of Moses, He guided them through the waste, mountainous wilderness, in a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, thus assuring their comfort and safety. And this was but a type of His perpetual spiritual guidance of His people.
'But how may I certainly know what God wants of me? ' is sure to become the earnest and, oftentimes, the agonizing cry of every humble and devoutly zealous young Christian. 'How may I know the guidance of the Holy Spirit? ' is asked again and again.
1. It is well for us to get it fixed in our minds that we need to be guided always by Him. A ship was wrecked on a rocky coast far out of the course that the captain thought he was taking. On examination, it was found that the compass had been slightly deflected by a bit of metal that had lodged in the box.
But the voyage of life on which we each one sail is beset by as many dangers as the ship at sea; and how shall we surely steer our course to our heavenly harbour without divine guidance? There is a wellnigh infinite number of influences to deflect us from the safe and certain course. We start out in the morning, and we know not what person we may meet, what paragraph we may read, what word may be spoken, what letter we may receive, what subtle temptation may assail or allure us, what immediate decisions we may have to make during the day, that may turn us almost imperceptibly, but none the less surely, from the right way. We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
2. We not only need divine guidance, but we may have it. God's word assures us of this. Oh! how my heart was comforted and assured one morning by these words: 'And the Lord shall guide thee continually' (Isa. Iviii. I I). Not occasionally, not spasmodically, but ' continually '. Hallelujah! The Psalmist says: 'This God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death' (xlviii. 14)- Jesus said of the Holy Spirit: ' Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth' (John xvi. 13). And Paul wrote: 'As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God' (Rom. viii. 14)
These Scriptures establish the fact that the children of God may be guided always by the Spirit of God.
Guide me, 0 Thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
3. How does God guide us?
(a) Paul says, 'We walk by faith, not by sight' (2 Cor. v. 7) and, 'The just shall live by faith' (Rom. i. 17). So we may conclude that the guidance of the Holy Spirit is such as still to demand the exercise of faith. God never leads us in such a way as to do away with the necessity of faith . When God warned Noah, we read that it was by faith that Noah was led to build the ark. When God told Abraham to go to a land which He would show him, it was by faith that Abraham went (Heb. xi, 7, 8). If we believe , we shall surely be guided; but if we do not believe, we shall be left to ourselves. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. xi. 6), or to follow where He leads.
(b) The Psalmist says, 'The meek will He guide in judgment'
(xxv. 9). From this we gather that the Spirit guides us in such manner as to demand the exercise of our best judgment. He enlightens our understanding and directs our judgment by sound reason and sense.
I knew a man who was eager to obey God and to be led by the Spirit, but who had the mistaken idea that the Holy Spirit sets aside human judgment and common sense, and speaks directly upon the most minute and commonplace matters. He wanted the Holy Spirit to direct him just how much to eat at each meal; and he has been known to take food out of his mouth at what he supposed to be the Holy Spirit's notification that he had eaten enough, and that if he swallowed that mouthful it would be in violation of the leadings of the Spirit.
No doubt the Spirit will help an honest man to arrive at a safe judgment even in matters of this kind, but it will doubtless be through the use of his sanctified common sense. Otherwise, he is reduced to a state of mental infancy and kept in intellectual swaddling clothes. He will guide us in judgment; but it is only as we resolutely, and in the best light we have, exercise judgment.
(c) John Wesley said that God usually guided him by presenting reasons to his mind for any given course of action.
The Psalmist says, 'Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel' (Ixxiii. 24) and ' I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go' (xxxii. 8). Now, counsel, instruction and teaching not only imply effort upon the part of the teacher, but also study and close attention on the part of the one being taught. Thus this guidance of the Holy Spirit will require us to listen attentively, study diligently and learn patiently the lessons He would teach us; and we see that the Holy Spirit does not set aside our powers and faculties, but seeks to awaken and stir them into full activity, and develop them into well-rounded perfection, thus making them channels through which He can intelligently influence and direct us.
What he seeks to do is to illuminate our whole spiritual being, as the sun illuminates our physical being, and bring us into such union and sympathy, such oneness of thought, desire, affection and purpose with God, that we shall, by a kind of spiritual instinct, know at all times the mind of God concerning us, and never be in doubt about His will.
4. The Holy Spirit guides us:
(a) By opening up to our minds the deep, sanctifying truths of the Bible, and especially by revealing to us the character and spirit of Jesus and His apostles, and leading us to follow in their footsteps-the footsteps of their faith and love and unselfish devotion to God and man, even unto the laying down of their lives.
(b) By the circumstances and surroundings of our daily life.
(c) By the counsel of others, especially of devout and wise and experienced men and women of God.
(d) By deep inward conviction, which increases as we wait upon Him in prayer and readiness to obey. It is by this sovereign conviction that men are called to preach, to go to foreign fields as missionaries, to devote their time, talents, money and lives to God's work for the bodies and souls of men.
5. Why do people seek for guidance and not find it?
(a) Because they do not diligently study God's word and seek to be filled with its truths and principles. They neglect the cultivation of their minds and hearts in the school of Christ, and so miss divine guidance. One of the mightiest men of God now living used to carry his Bible with him into the coal mine when only a boy, and spent his spare time filling his mind and heart with its heavenly truths, and so prepared himself to be divinely led in mighty labours for God.
(b) They do not humbly accept the daily providences, the circumstances and conditions of their everyday life as a part of God's present plan for them; as His school in which He would train them for greater things; as His vineyard in which He would have them diligently labour.
A young woman imagined she was called to devote herself entirely to saving souls; but under the searching training through which she had to pass saw her selfishness, and she said she would have to return home and live a holy life there, and seek to get her family saved something which she had utterly neglected-before she could go into the work. If we are not faithful at home, or in the shop, or mill, or store where we work, we shall miss God's way for us.
(c) Because they are not teachable, and are unwilling to receive instruction from other Christians. They are not humble-minded.
(d) Because they do not wait on God and listen and heed the inner leadings of the Holy Spirit. They are self-willed; they want their own way. Someone has said, 'That which is often asked of God is not so much His will and way, as His approval of our way.' And another has said, ' God's guidance is plain, when we are true.' If we promptly and gladly obey we shall not miss the way. Paul said of himself, 'I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision' (Acts xxvi. 19). He obeyed God at all costs, and so the Holy Spirit could guide him.
(e) Because of fear and unbelief. It was this fearfulness of unbelief that caused the Israelites to turn back and not go into Canaan, when Caleb and Joshua assured them that God would help them to possess the land. They lost sight of God and feared the giants and walled cities, and so missed God's way for them and perished in the wilderness.
(f) Because they do not take everything promptly and confidently to God in prayer.
Paul tells us to be 'instant in prayer' (Rom. xii, 12) and I am persuaded that it is slowness and delay to pray, and sloth and sleepiness in prayer, that rob God's children of the glad assurance of His guidance in all things.
(g) Because of impatience and haste. Some of God's plans for us unfold slowly; and we must patiently and calmly wait on Him in faith and faithfulness, assured that in due time He will make plain His way for us, if our faith fail not. It is never God's will that we should get into a headlong hurry; but that, with patient steadfastness, we should learn to stand still when the pillar of cloud and fire does not move, and that with loving confidence and glad promptness we should strike our tents and march forward when He leads.
When we cannot see our way,
Let us trust and still obey;
He who bids us forward go,
Cannot fail the way to show.
Though the sea be deep and wide,
Though a passage seem denied,
Fearless let us still proceed,
Since the Lord vouchsafes to lead.
Finally, we may rest assured that the Holy Spirit never leads His people to do anything that is wrong, or that is contrary to the will of God as revealed in the Bible. He never leads anyone to be impolite and discourteous. 'Be courteous' (I Pet. iii. 8) is a divine command. He would have us respect the minor graces of gentle, kindly manners, as well as the great laws of holiness and righteousness.
He may sometimes lead us in ways that are hard for flesh and blood, and that bring to us sorrow and loss in this life. He led Jesus into the wilderness to be sore tried by the devil, and to Pilate's judgment hall, and to the Cross. He led Paul in ways that meant imprisonment, stonings, whippings, hunger and cold, and bitter persecution and death. But He upheld Paul until he cried out, 'Most gladly . . . will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake' (2 Cor. xii. 9, 10). Hallelujah! Oh, to be thus led by our heavenly Guide!
He leadeth me! 0 blessed thought!
0 words with heavenly comfort fraught'
Whate'er I do, where'er I be,
Still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me.
Sometimes 'mid scenes of deepest gloom,
Sometimes where Eden's bowers bloom,
By waters still, o'er troubled sea,
Still 'tis His hand that leadeth me.
Lord, I would clasp Thy hand in mine,
Nor ever murmur or repine,
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since 'tis my God that leadeth me.
And when my task on earth is done,
When by Thy grace the victory's won,
E'en death's cold wave I will not flee,
Since God through Jordan leadeth me.
HAVE YE RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST SINCE YE BELIEVED ? '
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