God's GPS

Bible Book: Psalms  1
Subject: Guidance, God's; Direction; Leadership, God's; Will of God

Psalm 1:1 – Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 – But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. 3 – He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. 4 – Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. 5 – Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 – For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Last week when we drove to Wheaton to see Becca graduate, we were forced to take two cars…because we needed enough space to move all her stuff home…something all you college parents can understand—plus we also needed enough seats to get the family there and back again.

So…Sue drove our van with all the seats removed except two…and I drove the Edge. To make sure we both got there in case we were separated I put one GPS in the van with Sue—and the other GPS in the Edge with me. Before we left I carefully input the address of our hotel into each system. My mom rode with me and Sarah rode in the van with Sue. One more thing. Sue has a SPEED PASS on her van so she would just breeze through all the toll booths on the turnpike. Then she’d pull over and wait for me. Once I had paid, she’d pull in behind me and we’d continue on. Well, when we got to our last exit in Cranberry Pennsylvania—where we were going to spend the night—Sue used her speed pass to zip on through the final toll both of the day and head for the hotel. And I understood her haste. It had been a long day and we were all tired.

In any case, mom and I waited in line to pay our toll and then followed the Garmin’s computer voice guidance to the Holiday Inn Express where we had reservations. When we arrived I expected to see Sue’s van in front of the main entrance—but it wasn’t there. I thought she must have parked already and gotten to the room ahead of me so I went in and asked the desk clerk and was told that no…I was the first Adams to arrive. I called Sarah on her cell and found out their Tom Tom had taken them a couple miles away headed in the wrong direction. They were surprised that we had already arrived. It was about 20 minutes before the desk clerk and I were able to guide them back to the hotel.

That’s not the first time this sort of thing has happened. Our experience shows that GPS systems are wonderful…but they are limited. They know a lot—but they don’t know every thing and because of this they have been known to fail. How many of you have ever had a GPS steer you wrong?

I bring this up because in many ways LIFE is like a long road trip and to successfully navigate through our years we each need trustworthy guidance. Let me put it this way: life is FULL of decisions that make our days feel like one “fork in the road” after another and we need help in knowing which way we should go. For example: when we’re younger, we want to know where to go to college and what to major in when we get there. We want to know what career is in line with the good work God has prepared in advance for us to do. Later we want guidance as to who to marry as well as direction when it comes to raising children. We want wisdom to help us know how to deal with life’s trials and tribulations. The fact is, we ALL need guidance in life—ALL the time. Plus—in this fallen world where morals are blurred we need help in order to determine what is right and what is wrong. I mean, with so many broad paths it’s hard to find the straight and narrow one.

It has been said that the decisions we make, MAKE US, and to a large extent that is true. A life well-lived is a life full of GOOD decisions. A tragic life is often littered with ill-considered judgments. If you have ever attended your High School reunion then you probably met peers who have made wrong turns—poor decisions—on the road of life. After attending his 25th High School Reunion, Bill Hybels wrote, “I was amazed at how many vibrant, optimistic, and enthusiastic seventeen and eighteen year olds somehow stumbled into a world of multiple divorces, financial calamities, family estrangement, and vocational nightmares before they reached the age of 45.”

All this goes to show that we NEED a “GPS” in life that we can count on to be absolutely reliable—and the wonderful news is that God is more than qualified to fill this role. As Isaiah proclaimed, “The Lord of hosts…is WONDERFUL in counsel and EXCELLENT in guidance.” (Isaiah 28:29)

You probably know that Scripture defines God in terms of three “OMNI’S”…God is OMNIPRESENT, OMNIPOTENT, and OMNISCIENT. OMNI just means “all” so OMNIPRESENT mean’s God is ALL present. In other words, there is no where you and I can go where God is not. He is ALWAYS with us. OMNIPOTENT means all-powerful—so God can do literally ANYTHING. And to say that He is OMNISCIENT means that God is ALL knowledgeable or TOTALLY knowledgeable… He has complete knowledge. As it says in 1 Samuel 2:3 “…the Lord is a God of KNOWLEDGE.” Understand….this is not saying that God is bright…or that HE is sharp….It is not even saying that He is a genius.

Using any of these words to describe God would be far too much of an understatement. What the Bible is really teaching with this third “omni” is that God knows EVERYTHING! No question can confound Him—No dilemma can confuse Him—No event can surprise Him. He has eternal, intrinsic, comprehensive, and absolutely perfect knowledge. And…unlike your car’s GPS God doesn’t have to get regular updates as to road construction. He literally knows it all—all the time.

In fact the Bible says that even though He keeps track of the moon and the stars; not a single bird falls to the ground without God knowing exactly what is going on. His knowledge even covers the trivial, such as the latest count of the hairs on your head. Hebrews 4:13 puts it this way, “ALL THINGS are naked and open to the eyes of God….” This means that God’s knowledge includes everything there is to know about YOU and the trials and decisions you are facing in life. Isn’t that comforting!!?

Tonight our children will present a wonderful little musical called “GPS” that talks about this need for direction we all have…and our OMNISCIENT God’s willingness to give it To prepare our hearts for their message, this morning I thought we’d refresh our minds on this topic. So—how do we access God’s GPS? How to know His will when it comes to the roads we travel?

I. For God's Guidance you must be a Christian

Well, first off the Bible teaches that to take full advantage of God’s guidance you must be a CHRISTIAN.

Romans 8:14 says,“…those who are LED by the Spirit of God, are the SONS of God.” When a person accepts Christ as the Savior and Lord of his or her life God adopts them as His child and when that happens His Holy Spirit comes to dwell within that person. From that point on He becomes their “internal GPS system.” You see, one of the Holy Spirit’s purposes is to reveal the will of God. Remember? Jesus promised that when the Holy Spirit came He would speak in ways that would, “…GUIDE us into all truth.” (John 16:13) And that’s what He does. He helps us know what we should do—and then empowers us to do it. Tonight one of the lyrics our children sing has God’s Spirit saying, “Let me renew your mind…I will FUEL your days” And that’s a good word picture of what He does!

But only Christians have the Spirit’s presence within—so only Christians have this “inside help” that we all need. Only Christians have Jesus inside them, guiding them through life’s decisions. Remember Jesus did not say, “I will SHOW you the way.” He said, “I AM the Way.” E. Stanley Jones tells of a missionary who got lost in an African jungle. There was nothing around him but bush and a few cleared places. In his wanderings he found a native hut and asked the owner if he could lead him out. The native said he could, “All right,” said the missionary, “show me the way.” The native said, “Follow me.” They walked and hacked their way through the unmarked jungle for more than an hour. The missionary got worried and asked, “Are you quite sure this is the way? Where is the path?” The native said, “Bwana, in this place there is no path. I am the path.” Well, Jesus is the path to the will of God. There is no other way to access it. So, to take full advantage of God’s wisdom in life you must know Jesus personally. Now, if you’re a Christian you may be wondering exactly HOW God speaks to you through His Holy Spirit…and if you’re wondering that I will tell you that we grow to understand and respond to this inner guidance as we grow spiritually. The longer we walk with Jesus—the deeper our relationship with Him becomes—the more we are able to recognize and understand His guidance.

Think of it this way: The longer two people are married, or work together, or are friends, the better they get to know each other—to the point that they can almost read each other’s minds. They sense what the other may say or do or want in certain situations. For example, I know that Sue always likes a glass of ice cold water by her bedside at night. 33 years of marriage have taught me this so she no longer has to ask. I know how she like’s her coffee: two sugars, some flavored creamer, with whipped cream on top in a polish bubble mug if available. I know she does NOT like cheese on her hamburgers. I know her favorite Chinese food entre is Singapore Rice Noodles. I know she loves to find a bargain—which means she prefers to shop at places like Homegoods and TJ Maxx. I could go on and on because I’ve learned all this and a lot of other things about her over the years and she’s learned the same kinds of things about me. We even know the way each other thinks.

That’s a picture of how it is when you are mature enough as a Christ follower to be attuned to the Spirit of God. The longer you walk with Him, the more you develop a sense of what He wants you to do and not to do. The better you know God—the easier it will be for you to recognize His still small voice “talking” in your head—telling you what to say and do. If you read the Old Testament you will see numerous times that it says, “…the WORD of the Lord came…” to this prophet or that prophet. Then the prophet would tell the people what that word from God was. In those days—before Jesus came—before His Spirit was given at Pentecost—God’s voice—His Word came only to special chosen people….these prophets of God. But today—because of Jesus—any Christian can have THE WORD OF THE LORD come to him or her telling them what to do! And the better we know God—the easier it is for us to recognize HIS WORD…HIS VOICE…in our heads.

But, as I said, it’s not just knowing what we SHOULD do—it’s a voice that helps us to know what we SHOULDN’T do. When we know God well enough—we get to sense when we are doing something that is outside of His will because He puts a feeling of unrest in our hearts…a feeling that tells us we need to slow down and listen for God’s quiet promptings. Then, when we yield to these promptings we experience a sense of quiet peace. Charles Swindoll puts it this way, “God’s peace acts as the umpire of our hearts.” Another thing…as Christians we must understand that God’s main concern—is to GROW us spiritually so that we are conformed to the image of His Son. Our human tendency is to focus solely on where we should go and how we should get there and what we should do when we get there. But God’s main concern is the PROCESS that He is taking us through to mature us and make us more like Jesus.

II. For God's Guidance we must Admit our Need

So—to access God’s guidance, first, you must be a Christian and then second…we must ADMIT that we need His leading.

Do you remember Proverbs 3:5-6? Say it with me: “Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” I think that in these familiar words God is cautioning us to be wary of PRIDEFUL human reactions to complex life situations. We need to HUMBLE ourselves and realize that we will benefit from God’s help in ALL our decisions. You see, we tend to go to God only after we’ve stubbornly gone our own way and failed. This almost always causes problems because human perspective is limited which means we NEED God’s input in the decision-making processes of everyday life. We need to acknowledge Him in ALL our ways.

A few years back I read about an article entitled, 178 Seconds to Live. It was about twenty airplane pilots who were capable flyers in clear weather but who had never taken instrument training. Each pilot was put in a flight simulator and instructed to do whatever he could to keep the airplane under control as he flew into thick, dark clouds and stormy weather. The title of article came from the fact that in the simulator all twenty pilots “crashed and killed themselves” within an average of 178 seconds. It took these seasoned flyers with “skilled” intuition less than three minutes to destroy themselves once they lost their visual reference points. It showed that they needed other guidance to fly right.

No matter how smart we are or how many life experiences we have under our belt we still need to realize that human judgment is always limited and often just plain wrong. We need God’s omniscient mind to make good decisions—but so often we ignore His inner guidance because we think we know better and would prefer to go our own way.

This reminds me of the story of an old Scottish woman who went from home to home across the countryside selling thread, buttons, and shoestrings. When she came to an unmarked crossroad, she would always toss a stick into the air and go in the direction the stick pointed when it landed.

One day, however, she was seen tossing the stick up several times, “Why do you toss the stick more than once?” someone asked. The woman replied, “Because, it keeps pointing to the left, and I want to take the road to the right.” So often, we’re like this old woman. We know what God’s will is—we hear His still, small voice loud and clear, but we don’t want to follow it. We stubbornly think we know better than God. We think we know what’s truly best for us.

Well, of course that’s silly. I don’t know about you but I’m not omniscient! No one knows what is better for us than God. As Hebrews 4:13 says,“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to Whom we must give account.”

I guess you could say that a required character trait in getting God’s “GPS guidance” is HUMILITY. We must admit that we can’t find our way through life without His help.

III. For God's Guidance you must use the Tools He has Given Us

The third thing we must do in order to discern God’s leading is to simply use the guidance TOOLS that He has given us—and He has given us several.

A. First there is the BIBLE.

One of the songs the kids will sing tonight is entitled: RULES OF THE ROAD, and its lyrics refer to this first “tool.” They go like this: “If you and I will follow the laws of the Lord then He will send His blessings and be our great reward. The laws of the Lord will show us the way. The laws of the Lord will guide us each day.” And they will. As our text—another song lyric—put it: “Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.”

A great example of Christians who knew the importance of this tool is found in Acts 15. You may remember that at this point in the life of the church they were trying to determine God’s will when it came to all the Gentiles who were professing faith in Jesus. They wondered how much of the Jewish law Gentiles should have to obey so, they looked to the Scriptures for guidance. Peter pointed out that the Scriptures recorded the fact that the Jews had not been able to keep the law of God which proved the law was not sufficient to save…so it was wrong to require it of the Gentiles. James quoted the prophet Amos who said that the Gentiles would bear God’s name. As a result of all this Scripture-study, they decided it was NOT God’s will to require Gentiles to be circumcised. In the same way, you and I need to learn to use the tool of God’s inspired Word to guide us through life. The fact is, guidance from the Lord is ALWAYS in accordance with His written Word. He will never lead you to do something that conflicts with the perfect wisdom of the Bible.

Scriptural wisdom is found in the form of both principles and precepts that work together to guide us through life’s decisions. I’m often asked what these two words mean and here’s the answer: PRECEPTS are clearly marked statements like “Thou shalt not steal.” —like the signs on Redland Blvd that say, “Speed Limit 30mph…” a law those speed cameras relentlessly punish us for breaking! According to those signs speeding is anything over thirty miles per hour. That’s a precept—very clear—easy to understand and apply. There are also PRINCIPLES in Scripture. These are general guidelines to apply to various situations in life. For example Jesus said we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is a principle to be applied to all of our relationships with other people. It means we should cultivate a compassion for others that makes us care about their problems as much as we do our own. It is like the signs in my neighborhood that say, “Drive Carefully.” This may mean 25 miles an hour when the road is clear, or it may mean 10 miles an hour on an ice-covered curve or when kids are playing near the street. The principles and precepts of God’s Word will never steer you wrong. You can always rely on them.

Now, I imagine most of us would prefer something flashier—we want clouds to part—we want a visit from an angel or two. We want to hear God’s booming voice in the night. Well, those things may or may not happen to you but the fact is the surest, most effective way to receive God’s guidance is from the Bible. As Psalm 119 says, “His written Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path!” The simple truth is about 95% of God’s will for our lives is contained within the pages of this Book—so the more you read it, the better you will know what God wants you to do. In the Bible, God has already told us how He wants us to live, love, talk, take care of our bodies, handle our money, pray, function as a family member or employee, and many other things. So—many of the decisions we face in life are no-brainers, because the best course of action is clearly spelled out in Scripture. For example: if someone were to wonder if they should sell their house, take all the money, and buy lottery tickets we could tell them with absolute confidence that according to the Bible, “God would say NO!” His written Word is clear about “get rich quick” schemes or attempting to earn our livelihood through games of chance. Should we take what is not ours? The Bible says, “NO!” Should we marry a non-Christian? 2 Corinthians 6:14 says that is not best for us. Should we help people in need. The Bible says, “OF COURSE YOU SHOULD!” Should we consider marriage a life-time commitment? The Bible says “You better believe it!” Is sex before marriage ok? The Bible says “NEVER.” The fact is, the clearest and most direct route to the guidance of God is through His revealed Word, the Bible. We ignore it at our own peril.

B. Okay, the second tool God has given us is our BRAINS.

Paul was using his brain when he decided it would be best to circumcise young Timothy. In Acts 16:3 it says, “Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.” Now, Paul’s actions might seem inconsistent with the decision of the Jerusalem council, one chapter earlier, but it was not. You see, Paul’s concern at this point was for the defense and propagation of the Gospel and he knew that in order for Timothy to have access to the synagogues where Paul went to preach…he would have to be circumcised. This little bit of surgery made sense. As a missionary Paul had enough God-given wisdom to know that he had to be willing to, “…become all things to all men so that by all possible means, he might save some.” (1 Cor.9:22)

Many times to be in the center of God’s simply requires our following Paul’s example and using the mind that God gave us. This reminds me of the off-told story of a man who lived in a very low-lying area near a river—a man who DIDN’T use the common sense God gave him. One day a man in a jeep drove up one day and said, “This area is about to be flooded. You need to get out of here.” The man replied, “I’ll just stay here and trust the Lord to take care of me.” And very soon the water was swirling around his front porch as he sat in his rocking chair. Soon after that, a man came by in a boat, saying, “You need to get out of here. The water is getting higher and higher.” The man replied, “I’ll be okay. I’m just going to trust the Lord.” Finally, the man ended up on his roof because the rising water flooded his house. Suddenly a helicopter appeared overhead and lowered a chair so he could be taken to safety. He shouted back, “It’s okay. I’ll stay here. I’m trusting the Lord to take care of me.” Well, the man drowned and when he got to Heaven he complained to the Lord that He hadn’t taken care of him. And the Lord said, “I sent you a jeep, a boat, and a helicopter. What else did you want Me to do?”

Listen. Seeking guidance from God does not mean we are passive. No, God wants us to learn to develop and use the brains He has given us. He wants us to become wise followers. So when we face important decisions, we must not be passive but active! We must pray, seek guidance, AND exercise judgement, wisdom, initiative, choice, and responsibility. Following God involves our using the reasoning powers of the wonderful minds He has given us. I think this is part of what Paul meant in Romans 12:1 when he referred to the Christian life as “reasonable service.”

C. The third “guidance tool” God has given us is the WISE COUNSEL of others.

This is what the Psalmist was getting at when he wrote, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” No—we need to seek WISE counsel from WISE people. This is what was done at the Jerusalem counsel I mentioned a moment ago. They were trying to decide how to handle all these new believers—Gentiles who weren’t obeying the Jewish laws. As I inferred, they sought the input of Peter and James and the others. And this tool still works for us. God often uses other people to guide us to the center of His will. So, when you face a decision…follow the example of all those people on the old show “WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE?” Use a “lifeline” and call on someone whom you know to be a mature, experienced disciple.

But be careful….every church has its share of “self-proclaimed counselors,” those people who are unrecognized by the leaders of the church but who love to inflict their opinion on others. Such counsel is often worth approximately what it costs….nothing. The healthy approach is to talk to several people who we know to be wise and Godly…people we admire because we know they have been around the “spiritual block” so to speak and ask them for input. Proverbs 24:6 says, “In a MULTITUDE of counselors there is safety.” Think of the church as a smorgasbord of wise people…whom you can go to and get qualified counsel on a given matter. I frequently do this. Whenever I face a difficult decision, I often call on several of you, whom I respect and tap into your wisdom to help me discern God’s leading. Think of it like this. It’s not necessary to learn the hard way. We can learn from other people’s mistakes—other people’s experience.

(D) The final tool I want to mention is the tool of PROVIDENCE.

Providence is when God opens the doors for us to do His will and closes the doors that lead to things that are NOT His will. It’s the kind of guidance Jesus was talking about in Revelation 3 when He said, “I have placed before you an OPEN DOOR that no one can shut…” (Revelation 3:8b)

In 1892 Martin Wells Knapp wrote a book entitled, Impressions and in it he said, “If the Lord goes before us, He will open all doors before us and we shall not need ourselves to hammer them down.” Martin Wells Knapp was right. It is never a sign of divine leading when a Christian insists on opening his or her own way and riding roughshod over all opposing things. If God is calling us to do something, He will open the doors for us to do it.

Some of you remember that years ago, as a church, we owned only about half the property we now own. Basically our property line to my right ended at the driveway. The pastor at the time, Brian Conner, led us to try and purchase what was called the Fraley property: the land to my right that has the youth house, the furlough house…the barn, etc. But the Fraleys wanted 1.25 million dollars for their land—many times more than fair market price and more than we could afford. It was obvious at that point that God had closed that door. Next we tried to buy the property to my left—the brick house on the corner where a Philipino church now meets. At the time the price on this land was equally over-priced. So that door closed too—and for several years we did nothing about expansion. We just waited and prayed. Then the door to the property on my right opened. The Fraleys had been operating a furniture business in the far house and their business went bankrupt. The court took the property over to cover their debts and sold it at a fair market price—just over $400,000—a third of their original asking price—and we bought it. I don’t know—but I wouldn’t be surprised if the price on the land to my left dropped and opened the door for those Philipino believers to buy it so they could have a place to worship. But I do know that for Redland, in His providence God opened the door to my right—at the right time—that enabled us to more than double our property. It gave the youth ministry some much needed space. It gave us our furlough house. It gave us enough land to get a permit to build the ROC.

And—I think there are other things God will have us do with that property in the future!


God guides you and me in the same way. He opens doors and He CLOSES them. And make sure you get this. A closed door IS guidance—negative guidance—but guidance all the same. It’s a form of guidance that keeps us from going where we are not called so that in God’s time we might come to where God IS calling. When God closes a door it’s easy to become frustrated and disheartened. We can’t imagine why God would shut some of the doors that He does. So we try to explain it, saying, “Maybe we just made a mistake…maybe we need to try harder.” But we must remember that when our Heavenly Father closes a door, He merely has His sights on something better—something around the bend we can’t see yet.

And as parents we use the same guiding technique with our children. When they start to crawl and walk, we put up those child safety doors, to keep them from falling down the stairs. We put safety locks on the drawers where knives are kept and the cabinet doors where we store potentially dangerous chemicals or medicines. But we open other doors—doors where they can find safe toys and other things that benefit them.

This morning if you are at a crossroads—I encourage you to seek the Lord’s will. Claim His promise in Psalm 32:8 where He says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” Do this—because if you do…not only will you enjoy the benefit of a good decision—you’ll also experience a precious thing—FELLOWSHIP with God Himself. It is a fellowship so sweet that Moses told God He didn’t want to go anywhere without Him walking at his side….guiding his steps. Listen: we weren’t meant to travel the roads of life alone. This is why life is empty and meaningless without God. This is why we describe people who don’t follow Jesus as “lost.” In fact, if you are here and are not a Christian, then I know that even now God is guiding you—inviting you to become a believer. I know this because 2nd Peter 3:9 says that God, “…is not willing for anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance.” Won’t you follow His leading and decide today to make Him Savior and Lord of your life? God may be telling some of you that it’s time for you to join this church and serve Him here with us. Whatever it is, I urge you to heed God’s guidance this morning and to make your decision public by walking forward as we sing and sharing that decision with me.