We are in Proverbs chapter two. Proverbs 2. This morning we consider what it means to find God’s will, god’s direction for our lives, as we look to the reading of God’s Word. If you’d please join me in prayer.
Father of all mercies in Your Word, endless glory shine forth. It is Your Word that guides our steps and gives discernment to those who seek you. And so we ask that you would grant that we would find new beauties in an ever increasing light this day. You are our divine instructor and gracious Lord, be forever near us. Teach us to love Your sacred Word and to view our Savior here for it’s in his name that we do pray.
Amen. Chapter two, beginning in verse one. My son if you accept my words and store up my commands within you turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding indeed if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure. Then you’ll understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom.
From his mouth comes knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright. He is a shield to those who walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. The word of the Lord. You please be seated.
You’ve heard this from me before. The Bible consistently presents great truths to us in the tension of equal opposites. People try and get rid of one or the other, but the Bible does not. God’s sovereignty, human responsibility, justice and mercy, wrath and love, free justification and the importance of good works. And on it goes.
When it comes to guidance, we run into another of these opposite pairs. Proverbs 16 nine brings them together. There it says, the heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Man plans, the Lord establishes his steps. Your choices are yours.
You are free to make them. And God brings his purposes to their designed end. Both of those things, the wonder of the Lord is seen in each. Each on its own can be very terrifying to us. If it’s all about me, what if I make the wrong decision?
The fear of getting it wrong can actually paralyze people from acting. If it’s all about God, why should I even bother? The fear of predetermination can cause us just to give up. In Scripture, both are seamlessly woven together by the Lord, and this is very liberating for us. Our choices really do matter, and God is really working all things according to his own counsel.
So far, so good. But when it comes to wanting direction, guidance from the Lord, or in the language of some, wanting to know what the will of God is for my life, when it comes to this? What are we, as Christians supposed to do? How do we receive direction when we sit at a crossroads waiting at one of life’s junctures, unsure? Should we go to the left or to the right?
How should we expect the Lord to speak to us? The Lord has called his people to live by wisdom and we must direct our lives according to that wisdom. Proverbs Two. It points us to the pursuit of knowing God’s wisdom. And right away we see this is a moral pursuit.
It’s a moral pursuit of his righteousness in our lives. The question then is how does this moral pursuit help us in our pursuit of answers for questions of direction and guidance in non moral areas? The moral ones are very clear don’t steal. We’ve got that one down. But what about those things where like what school do you go to?
Well, I want to compare two ways of doing this impressions versus wisdom. And to show my cards, I am not suggesting impressions. What do I mean by impressions? We get some internal feeling, a sense of that that we label as God’s prompting or God’s guidance. I put this in your bulletin.
It comes from Christian author and pastor Kevin DeYoung. He’s got a really wonderful little book called Just Do Something. He said impressions are impressions. They’re not in any special category. Don’t confuse impression, hunches and subjective feelings with certain words from the Lord.
We all get intuitions and hunches and gut feelings all the time. Some are from the Lord, some aren’t. Most often it probably doesn’t matter.
I’ve had impressions or intuitions that have been correct and others that haven’t. I have been agitated or bothered by something I thought was the prompting of the Holy Spirit only to find out later it was just me. Impressions are just impressions. And something else with that don’t lay on other people your impressions as if they’re the word from the Lord. You’re presuming an authority that’s really not yours.
How does someone know what you’re telling them is from the Lord? Because you told them.
How is it not just an impression? That’s a difficulty. Don’t put that pressure on somebody else for your impressions. And with that, I wish we would leave these phrases out of our vocabulary when it comes to seeking direction. God laid it on my heart.
The Lord is telling me the Lord is leading me. God has opened a door. God has closed the door.
Can we turn the feedback a little bit down?
These phrases have crept into the way Christians speak all over the place today. I hear it in reform circles like ours in Pentecostal, in Baptists and Methodist and Lutheran in independent churches. So I’m not trying to single out any particular group. It sort of just crept into modern Christian speak. And as a freebie, when asked if you can do something, someone says hey, can you help out with this?
Maybe stop saying I’ll pray about it. What exactly does that mean? Well, I was going to help you in the nursery, but I guess God doesn’t want me to shoot. I was really looking forward to it, but you know how God can get sometimes. Is that what we mean?
Usually when we mean that we think through, we consider thoughtfully. Do you have margins in your life right now? To do something or not to do something? Take that responsibility and don’t pass the buck. It’s an active choice.
It’s not a passive permission. Besides, the Bible nowhere tells us to seek direction like this. As Dr. Rayburn observes, the Bible never tells us to make our decisions in life by listening for the voice of the Lord or waiting for some providential sign. It just doesn’t.
Certainly, God has intervened in the lives of his people and directed them. Yes, it’s happened, no doubt. But that’s God’s prerogative. It’s not ours. His to give, not ours to seek.
That’s a big difference. And so, when it comes to seeking direction, our help with making a choice, the Bible uses very specific language, and it’s the language of pursuing wisdom. Looking at Proverbs two, king Solomon is giving advice, as a father would to a son, about the importance of seeking God’s wisdom. So how do you know God’s wisdom? My son, my daughter, if you accept My words and store up My commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding.
Notice the language is of actively seeking wisdom. Accept my words, store up my commands, turn your ear to wisdom. And he goes on in verse three indeed, if you call out for insight, cry aloud for understanding. If you look for it as for silver, search for it. As for hidden treasure, all active words in Hebrew, and it’s a form of parallelism.
Call out, cry out, look for search for active. There is an active diligence in the pursuit of God’s wisdom from His Word. In many other places, Proverbs speaks to us of gaining this wisdom from Godly. Counselors diligently, studying His Word, living your life according to the commands of God. It’s not passive at all.
Gaining understanding is not trying to sit there and sort of tune in the Holy Spirit antenna to passively receive signals from heaven.
What’s God telling me? How do I discern that it’s active, not passive at all? The ancient world, it was filled with a constant pursuit of finding divine guidance, trying to know the will of the gods for all kinds of decisions. We have thousands of clay tablets written in cuneiform from the ancient Assyrians, Hittites, the Persians, and the vast majority of them deals with divination, trying to tell the future. How do I know to go this way or that way?
God’s people are expressly forbidden this deuteronomy. 1810 there shall not be found among you anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer that’s not our pursuit. Now, some have used the language of laying a fleece before the Lord. I’m sure maybe you’ve heard that I put a fleece out there. And this comes from the story of Gideon in the Book of Judges.
He laid out a fleece, which is the piece of wool, and it was miraculously wet one day and it was dry another. But even here, this was not about seeking direction. The Lord directly told Gideon, and Gideon was afraid to do it, and he was wanting some supernatural reassurance. So the miracle of the fleece that God allowed was to get his divinely appointed judge to do his job, not to know what his job was to do it. So people could speak of laying a fleece before the Lord, and it usually isn’t really miraculous at all.
Lord, if I’m supposed to buy this house, let my realtor call me in the next five minutes. That’s a likely coincidence. It’s not a miracle. A miracle is what a fleece is about. God has to actively intervene, but we are called to actively pursue righteousness, holiness, the knowledge of God and his character.
Verse five. Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. This pursuit leads us to setting our course by wisdom. Verse six. For the Lord gives wisdom, from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding.
The Lord does not give us signs, he gives us wisdom. And there’s a difference between those. Look at verse seven. He speaking of god holds success in store for the upright. He is a shield to those who walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.
This is your word of assurance? God holds success, god is a shield. God guards, God protects. That’s good news for us, because that’s what we want. See, God is not playing some cosmic shell game where we have to guess which one it’s under.
Moving around, moving around like this. And one of these is my perfect will. Which one is it going to be? Oh, too bad you guessed wrong. Well, you’re in for a terrible, terrible life now.
There’s always glory. No, God doesn’t play games with us like that. Often because of an inability to make wise and prudent decisions, people try to spiritualize their search for the will of God. Lord guides his people by his spirit through his word. We’re not to expect the unexpected.
Nor does that means of discerning. God’s guidance is supposed to come in those unknown ways for some sort of impression, some sort of sign. That’s not how he directs his people to seek him. Proverbs three very familiar to us. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him and he will make your path straight. The problem though is that this is wisdom. It’s not specific direction. And we want specific direction. What college am I supposed to go to?
Should I marry this person or not? Should we take this job or move to this city? God’s guidance, his direction is something that he does and not really something he gives. See the difference? God just does that.
He directs us where he’s going to put us. He doesn’t come and specifically give that to us very rarely. And when it comes to making hard choices, we want the Lord to somehow show us so that we don’t have to struggle. But our growth comes in these struggles. We learn in the living.
The Lord uses these struggles to show us our fears, our insecurities, the struggles with these intersections, these transitional places. It’s a great diagnostic for our hearts because at these places we really see our idols most clearly. So be clear. I’m not saying don’t pray, do pray. But one of the things that we ought to pray for is, God.
Show me the motives of my heart in what I’m seeking because that’s usually the problem. Why is it that I want this and not this? What is at stake here for me? Show me my heart. And something else.
I don’t really see people pining away and agonizing over what color of shirt to buy, what’s special to eat at lunch. Have you ever seen anyone do that? Sit down and go to the floor and oh, God, enchilada or burritos? Why? It seems silly, right?
Because it’s not important to us. We often agonize over the wrong things, though. Will I lose money? Will this make my life more difficult? Will this person fulfill my desires?
How often do we agonize over issues of our character? Do we agonize over am I the man or the woman who displays God’s glory in my life? Do I really hunger and thirst for his righteousness?
Those are the kind of questions that God wants us to ask.
Old Testament scholar Bruce Watke in his book Finding the Will of God, he says this he says, When I wonder what job offer to take, I don’t go through a divination process to discover the hidden message of God. Instead, I examine how God has called me to live my life, what my motives are, what he has given me a heart for, where I am in my walk with Christ. What is God saying to me through His Word and through other people? That’s a process of discernment. How has God made me?
How do other people see me in the midst of this? They’ll give me honest feedback and know that doing this, that getting wisdom that comes at a price, says that all over. Proverbs. Proverbs 23 23. Buy truth and do not sell it.
Buy wisdom, instruction and understanding. Wisdom comes at a price. It comes over time. You ought to get better with wisdom as you get older with the Lord, as you have walked with the Lord. This should become easier, but it doesn’t mean necessarily in the midst of that you get concrete direction.
We just came out of the book of numbers. God was leading his people by a pillar of cloud in the day, pillar of fire at night. They had Moses going before them, the guy who spoke to God face to face. You can’t get better direction and guidance than that. What does Paul summarize that whole generation in one corinthians ten?
Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the wilderness. They did not grow in their faith, they did not pursue the Lord. They did not know his wisdom. They grumbled and complained about all their circumstances. This direct leading did not make them pursue the Lord with all their heart.
And we are called to walk with God. And for many they don’t want to. They just kind of want to go their own way. They’re not really that interested in the Lord until they get in trouble or have a hard choice to make. And in that, we can treat the Lord like he’s a spare tire or a roadside emergency kit.
Change the tire thank you, Lord. And just put him back in a trunk until the next problem. Oh, God. Thank you. That is not following and pursuing the Lord.
Seek after the Lord and apply his word to your choices. Yeah, okay, sure. But what if I really, really need to decide on something? Well, if all things are equal, pray and flip a coin.
Proverbs 1633 the lot is cast into the lap, but it’s every decision is from the Lord. The lot is just an ancient form of coin flipping. We see this in the New Testament. Acts, chapter one. The apostles decided to replace Judas with another man.
They had to pick between two two great guys, joseph and Matthias. What did they do? Well, tells us acts, chapter one, verse 24 and they prayed and said, you Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry. And apostleship, from which Judas turned aside to go his own way. And what did they do?
Verse 28 they cast lots for them and it fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
If you’re in a jam, pray, make a decision. Flip a coin if you need to, but make a decision. We somehow have this idea that there’s this perfect will of God and this loser’s choice. B. Go to Missoula for school.
I can go to Bozeman for school. Which one is it? Oh, you should have went to Helena Hero College.
God is in both places. God accomplishes his purpose. Wherever you go, you don’t get one shot at it. God is there, he takes you forward. And most of the time we only know in hindsight what’s going on.
Think of Joseph, the first section of his life was awful.
His dad favored him over his brothers unhappy relationship at home. His brothers sell him into slavery. He goes into slavery, he gets accused of rape. He goes into prison. He gives a great word to one guy.
He said, oh, thank you, and forgets all about him. He spends years in prison. I’m sure all that time he’s like, God, where are you? I’ve been praying. I’ve been praying.
I’m trying to Where are you?
And then at the end, he’s able to say to his brothers what you intended for evil, God intended for good.
God was directing him, and he knew at the end, I’m sure he was miserable along parts of that, and so often we think that way. I need to know immediately. Now, you may not know. You probably won’t know god’s at work.
I love the prayer of Monica. She was St. Augustine’s mother, and she did not want him to go to Rome because she thought, Rome is terrible. It’s like going to Vegas. Oh, don’t send him to Vegas.
God, please keep him out of Vegas. What does he do? He goes to Rome. What happens? He becomes a Christian.
What was her prayer really about? Her prayer really was, God save my son. That was what she really was after. God didn’t need a location for that to take place. He can work in all those places.
And in the midst of that, we are to follow Jesus. That means he leads, we follow, and we are to keep our eyes on Him. And if you are a believer, his Spirit abides in you. And our decisions are about bringing Him glory. They’re about the communication of the good news to other people.
And if the Holy Spirit dwells in you, he’s not there as a subjective homing beacon where you’re, like, trying to figure out, that’s not what the Holy Spirit’s job is. Galatians Five the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, self control. That’s what the Holy Spirit is working in us. That is the thing that matters, and you can produce that whether you moved to New York or whether you moved to San Jose. Holy Spirit works in both places.
He’s leading us. He’s directing us in wisdom and righteousness. And then we’re given the promise of Jesus himself that I am with you. Even to the ends of the age, I’m with you. You can’t make some turn so radical and out of the way that it’s like, well, too bad there’s glory.
No, he’s there too. And nor do we have the wisdom. We have the knowledge, the infinite ability to see how all these things connect, but God does. You are able to freely choose. You’re responsible for the choices you make all the while that God is directing and leading and bringing all things to his completion.
And only in Christianity are both of those true, and both of those are brought together. And we see that perfectly in the personal work of Jesus who we have been called to follow. Pray with me, Father. Indeed, we thank you that you do not leave us to our own devices. And, Father, thank you that you are so patient with us, so caring.
Lord, we ask then that you would not only forgive us where we have, Father, sought the wrong things, the wrong motives. And, Lord, we ask that you would continue to guide us according to your righteousness, your holiness, your goodness, Father that we indeed would be the kinds of people who, through the pursuit of you, would be a sweet aroma of Christ to the world around us. That the fruit of your spirit would bear, Father, much Gospel fruit here. That we would flourish now blossom where you have planted us. And, Father, we ask, too that you help us to keep our eye on the prize, to not get sidetracked, to follow Jesus.
For we pray in his name. Amen. We please stand together as.
Disclaimer: Automated Sermon Transcription