Thursday, November 29, 2007


How often do you pray for guidance? When in a tight spot? When facing a big decision? During your quiet time every morning? The best advice I've come across is in Joanna Weaver's Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World: "As you go through your day, keep asking the Lord, 'What is the one thing I need to do next?'" (p. 58)--the principle being rooted in Jesus' words to Martha: "You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed" (Luke 10:41-42, NIV). Besides emphasizing the need to keep listening to God, the passage implies that He has one best thing--contemplative or active--for any given Christian to be doing in any given moment.

Now my first reaction to that idea was, "But what if He tells me to go back on a commitment I've already made [even if only to myself]?" And immediately following on that was the thought, "But He never speaks to me so unmistakably that I can definitely distinguish His voice from my own constantly chattering mind. What if I respond to the wrong leading? Or what if I wind up waiting hours or days for definite guidance, and never get around to doing anything?"

Unfortunately, none of us with our fallen natures are so in tune with God's will that we can be absolutely certain of never making a mistake. But even when we have difficulty with the specifics, we can be grateful that God has given us His universal principles. One thing that is never God's will is that those of us with free access to the Scriptures neglect to study them thoroughly. Many believers get into trouble because, too lazy to make a conscientious search for what God has already said definitely, they rely on secondhand interpretations of the Bible, or on unwarranted universal application of God's actions in certain situations, or on such ideas as "God wants us to be happy [so He won't mind if we seek out happiness in our own selfish ways]" or "the spiritually mature never sin."

No, the mark of the spiritually mature is living with a constant, conscious ear to God's leading. But the only way to reach maturity is through the stages of infancy and childhood--and that means nourishing ourselves well on the "milk" of the Scriptures before we expect to feed regularly on the "solid food" of direct guidance. (See 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 and Hebrews 5:11-14.)

Or to use another metaphor: when lost in the wilderness at night, the smart navigator doesn't rely entirely on a compass to get back on track, for compasses are things of earth and are subject both to erroneous settings and to being led astray by earthly forces. But the navigator who knows the stars will not be fooled by an erratic compass needle; he will look to the heavens for consistent, reliable guidance.

So it is with the Christian who learns the Word of God.

We each have a misaligned compass
Anchored firm in the heart within:
Like a needle deflected by iron,
Are our thoughts drawn aside to sin.

God's law is the North we are set for
And the goal our deep selves can see,
But desire swings to chase many magnets
And no one is completely free.

As the earth's magnet field ever wanders
And will end at the wrong North Pole,
To rely solely on your own compass
Means you end at your own false goal.

There is only one way to hold steady
And walk straight though your path lead far:
Fix your eyes on the Lord in the heavens
And keep following His North Star!

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