In the January-February Grace in Focus Magazine, Marcia Hornok wrote an article entitled, “Spiritual GPS.” I received a nice letter wondering if Marcia was “negating the idea of guidance by the Holy Spirit.” The reader points out that she is not charismatic, but that she and her husband “have repeatedly experienced God’s leading and supernatural empowerment in our lives.” She went on to say that she understood Marcia to be saying that she had never “experienced that empowerment.”
After I wrote this blog, I sent it to Marcia for her comments. As I expected, she indicated that she was not saying or implying that she did not receive supernatural empowerment in her life. Nor was she saying that God did not guide her. What she was saying is that God did not guide her with special revelation. God guides through His Word, His people who encourage, teach, and advise us, grid (laying out our options), prayer, selecting that which we believe best glorifies God, and the many ways in which He works behind the scenes to move us in a certain direction.
The reader cited Prov 3:5-6 to show that God does indeed direct our paths. As those are favorite verses of many of us (Sharon and I have those verses framed in needlepoint), I thought a brief exposition might be in order.
Proverbs 3:5. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” That means that we rely on what God has said in His Word; don’t rely on what seems reasonable to us. Buzzell writes, “human insights are never enough” (BKC, OT edition, “Proverbs,” p. 911).
Proverbs 3:6. “In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” The NKJV translation (just given) has a note before the words direct your paths. It reads “or make smooth or [make] straight.” The idea is that as we follow God’s Word, God is at work to make our lives conform to His desires. Kidner says, “the promise that closes the verse offers more than guidance, though it includes it: He will make straight your paths (RSV), as He did for unwitting Cyrus (Is. 45:13; cf. Is. 40:3) to bring him to his appointed goal” (Proverbs, p. 64). Buzzell similarly says, “This means more than guidance; it means God removes the obstacles, making a smooth path or way of life, or perhaps better, bringing one to the appointed goal” (“Proverbs,” p. 911).
Proverbs 3:5-6 is not promising that God will tell us whom to marry (see 1 Cor 7:39), what job to take, what house to buy, or how to invest our retirement account. What it is saying is that as we follow God’s Word, God is moving us in a direction that pleases Him.
Dr. Garry Friesen wrote a book, which Marcia mentioned, called Decision Making and the Will of God. I highly recommend it. When I taught at Multnomah with him, I had a chance to ask him about his view of impressions. He said that God certainly gives us impressions. But, he said, Satan gives us impressions too. And we sometimes just come up with ideas. We cannot be sure based on impressions we have whether they are good ideas or not. We must weigh impressions and act on those we become convinced are good ideas. He said that looking back on our life, we can discern times when God was at work in our lives to move us in a certain direction. At that time, we could not be sure that God was doing that. But in hindsight, we can see that He was at work. That, I thought, was an excellent answer.
Like the reader, I too have seen God give me special enablement at times (what I’d call the second type of filling of the Holy Spirit), and I have been guided by Him in amazing ways. But, as Friesen pointed out, at the times He was guiding me, I did not know if I was making the right decisions or not. I left Multnomah when Sharon could not handle the weather in Portland. I went full time with GES then, a time when total gifts to the ministry were $300. It was something I wanted to do. I thought it would be a profitable ministry. But it was risky. And it wasn’t teaching in a leading Bible college or seminary. It turned out to be a great choice. But at the time, I had no way of knowing that God was moving me in that direction.
I agree with Marcia, and I agree with the reader. I see no conflict. God does not guide us with special revelation. But He does guide us. And He certainly does empower us, sometimes with special enablement when needed.
Here are a few other verses that are important to consider on this subject:
Psalm 119:105. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
Psalm 119:11. “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”
1 Chronicles 10:13. “So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the LORD, because he did not keep the word of the LORD, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance.”
Proverbs 11:14. “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”
Proverbs 20:18. “Plans are established by counsel; by wise counsel wage war.” See also Prov 24:6.
2 Tim 3:16-17. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Colossians 3:16. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
John 17:17. “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”
1 Corinthians 7:39. “A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 10:27. “If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake.”