Follow His Careful Guidance

Follow His Careful Guidance

Chapter Four

Follow His Careful Guidance
A Still, Small Voice 58 In Touch 66
Listening And Obedience 60 Being Sensitive To The 'Currents' Of God's Guidance 68
The God Who Guides 62 The Secret Places Of The Stairs 70
Being Guided By The Holy Spirit 64 Discussion Questions 72

A Still, Small Voice

We live in a noisy world. Inhabitants of our present age have spent a lot of effort perfecting sound techniques. We watch movies by surround sound in crowded theaters. Tape decks with stereophonic sound make car windows vibrate and send shock waves through entire neighborhoods. Rock concerts shatter the silence of summer nights. Car phone conversations interrupt the tranquility of country drives. Freeway traffic and emergency sirens intrude on the sleep of city dwellers. With all of our sound mastery, distractions make it difficult to hear the voice of God in the modern world. We can relate to Elijah's God of earthquake, wind, and fire; but like him, our ears are out of tune with the still, small voice.

You remember the great prophet Elijah and his daring escapades in I Kings 17-19. First, he found sanctuary in the home of the Widow of Zarephath. There, with God's unique provisions of a bottomless barrel of meal and an ever flowing cruse of oil, he survived a famine. Then the widow's son died, and God gave Elijah the awesome power to resurrect the dead. Later in Chapter 18, this prophet of steel condemned King Ahab face to face and confronted 450 disciples of Baal in a mountain sacrifice contest. God's hand was obviously on this man, but he was only a man.

A strange thing happened at the beginning of Chapter 19. It reminds me of literature's famous line: "Hell has no fury like a woman scorned." There Jezebel entered the picture and put out a "wanted poster" on the prophet; and in verse 3, God's man of the hour "go out of Dodge". Depressed and desperate, Elijah became a suicidal figure and retreated to a cave on the Mountain of God. (v. 8) in verse 10, Elijah tearfully recounted his resume to God, and in verse 11, God told Elijah to go out and stand on the top of the mountain. While he stood there, he survived rock-breaking winds, and earthquake, and a fire; but he did not hear the voice of God until all the noise and drama were past. Verse 12 and 13 say: "…after the fire a still, small voice… came to him and said, 'What are you doing here?'" We know he recognized the voice because he wrapped his face in his mantle and waited for instructions in the cave entrance. Later he followed God's directives.

If the writer of this story was a cartoonist, we would have a side-splitting laugh while watching a super hero who would face down a king and bring God's fire from heaven run for forty days to get away from an angry woman. The truth is too often we find ourselves in Elijah's track shoes. Confidence makes us cocky when the crowd is cheering and the contest is going our way. But when we come down from the mountaintop and find enemies of the faith have put out warrants for our spiritual arrest, we tie our Reeboks and set out for the nearest cave. While waiting for God's dynamic rescue, accompanied by special effects and surround sound, we miss the soothing reassurance of the still small voice. Maybe what God wanted Elijah to hear was

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something he'd forgotten in his stranglehold on survival" The God who called fired down from Heaven was the same God who accompanied a frantic fugitive to a lonely cave.

Elijah's God is still with us today. His still, small voice echoes across our noisy world. The God who breaks rocks also mends hearts. The God who flashes power across the wings of the storm is also the God whose blood flowed from Calvary. The God of the miraculous is also the God of the mundane. And you will more often than not find the God of stereophonic sound wrapped in stillness. He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Matthew 13:9)

"Dear God, whether in sound or in silence, help me to hear your voice."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: When God seems to be drowned out by the noise of life, I will listen for his still, small voice.

– Loretta Jenkins –

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Psalms 46:1-11

Listening And Obedience

The horse was probably first domesticated during the Bronze Age by Nomadic herdsman of Central Asia. There are many breeds developed for different purposes. The draft breed descended from Medieval war horses and included the English Shire and the French Percheron. The harness breed, such as the Hanoverian and the Hackney, and the saddle breed, such as the Lipizzaner and the Thoroughbred, were domesticated since ancient times for riding and for pulling vehicles and heavy loads.

My husband has a great love for horses and has worked and trained several different kinds for several purposes. He seems to have a natural ability in dealing with them. He gets them used to his touch and smell so they can detect his presence before they can see him. They learn to recognize his most firm or his most gentle voice tones as well. I have heard his horses answer his call by a neigh when far out in the pasture and out of sight, and I have seen the horses raise their head in response to his call and start moving toward him at a trot or a fast gallop. It is always interesting to see their response to him in comparison to one of us when we give the same call. They perhaps might lift their heads out of curiosity, but they will soon become engrossed in grazing again or they may even run farther away. I have seen them follow my husband all around, perhaps even playfully biting him to get his attention. These horses can easily distinguish between my husband (their 'master') and others who are mere 'strangers'.

So it is with the shepherd and his sheep. John 10:45 tells us that "He (the Shepherd) goeth before them and the sheep follow Him for they know His voice and the stranger they will not follow, but will flee from Him for they know not the voice of a stranger." In John 10:14, Jesus says, I am the door. By me if any man enters in he shall be saved and shall go in and out and find pasture." Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is the one who gives His life for the sheep" (John 10:11). The hired hand will desert the flock when the wolf appears because "he careth not for the sheep" as the shepherd does (verses12, 13). Jesus is the Good Shepherd and our only hope for salvation and our only defense against the Evil One. Let us, as believers (as sheep), become increasingly aware of the unseen (but very real) presence of the Good Shepherd in our lives!

"Father, I pray in Jesus' name that you would help me not to be complacent and to become engrossed in the daily activities of life, and, as a result, become unaware of your presence. Help me to listen for your voice and to respond in obedience to your commands."

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I am assured that my Good Shepherd will never leave me or abandon me to the 'wolves' of this evil world. My Good Shepherd will always listen for my calls for help! In the close company of my Good Shepherd, Lam safe and secure!

– Joyce Calkins –

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Romans 11:33, Revelations 15:3

The God Who Guides

Many believe that the Unchanging God no longer guides His children; that we are left to work out what God wants us to be or where He wants us to go.

In 1968, I attended a large Conference of two merging denominations. As I stood on the campgrounds, I noticed a tall dignified black man. I felt led to get acquainted and to find out where he was from. I introduced myself and his first words, after saying hello, were "Do you hold revivals?" "Yes," I replied. Immediately he asked if I would come to Jamaica and hold meetings.

God opened the door, then He supplied the finances for my wife and me to go to Jamaica for two weeks of revival work. Yes, where God guides, God does supply.

Our first days were in Mitchell Town in a small church with about eight small pews and one lantern that hung in the front of the church. Each evening there were about 250 men, women and children in attendance. Each evening the altar was lined with those seeking salvation.

My last service was in the mountains, about an hour's distance from Kingston. This church must have had a little more wealth, for they had two lanterns. I was sitting on a small platform. There was a very large spider on the wall about six inches from my head. As I watched and prayed, I kept my eye on the spider. I knew that if it moved, I was going to move also. I had intended to preach about the Judgment of God, but God led me to speak on the Name of Jesus and The Healing Power of God. In the congregation sat a crippled woman whose son had driven us to that quaint church in the mountains. She had to be carried by one of her two sons, as she was unable to walk. After preaching, I felt led of God to ask "Is there anyone here tonight who feels God wants to heal you now"? The little lady raised her hand. Once again her son picked her up and carried her to a small altar where he steadied her on a little stool. The Superintendent over the Jamaican work, a missionary, and I prayed for this precious lady. God had guided me to preach this message: now the God who Guides supplied healing. This little woman with great faith WALKED.

Question. "Why didn't God tell me in the morning that I was not to preach on the Judgment instead of waiting until I came to the church? I cannot answer this question. But in the words of the poet, "Ours is not to question why, ours is but to do or die". We only need to follow God, our Guide, and to recall the text in the book of Romans that GOD'S WAYS ARE PAST FINDING OUT. His ways are above our ways and His thoughts above our thoughts. Christ is the shepherd; we are His sheep… HE LEADS AND WE ARE SIMPLY TO FOLLOW.

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"And they brought to Jesus a man sick of this palsy, and Jesus seeing their faith, said to the man with the palsy: Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee" Matthew records a few verses later that the man arose and walked.

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Father, God, should I never receive healing of my infirmities, I will always believe you are still the Great Healer and The Saviour of Mankind.

– Lowell Weller –

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Isaiah 55:1-13

Being Guided By The Holy Spirit

One of the often baffling circumstances of life is when a God-given opportunity is presented, but the occasion is complicated by present duty, economic considerations, health status, or the calendar!

Then it's time to think and pray it through until one has the assurance of the Spirit of God that the answer is clear and unmistakable. One can then proceed to make decisions to realize God's plan and we can take steps with confidence, knowing it is right and appropriate.

I once had such an occasion in my life. As pastor of a church, I was obliged to take a part-time job to meet every-day expenses. An offer came to be a team-member on an evangelistic junket to a number of foreign countries. It was an opportunity to develop a world-view that would enlarge my vision of the Church and my place in it.

But the circumstances were complex and formidable. It seemed at first unwise and not feasible, yet the call was clear and it seemed my duty was to pray that the door would somehow be opened, or it be clear that it was closed.

I opened my Bible one Monday morning, burdened with the problem, seeking guidance from above. The page before me was Isaiah 55, and I began to read, listening for a Message that would give counsel and direction.

I read 'he who has no money, come, buy and eat!' and more – 'a witness to the people,' 'my word shall not return to me empty.' (vs.. 1,4,11)

And then came a clear, bold message, 'You shall go out in joy, and be led forth in peace.' (v. 12) The words seemed to literally come off the page in bold relief, unmistakably mine!

There was assurance, I could make decisions, arrange my calendar, raise funds, and prepare for departure. It seemed clearly to be in His will that I go.

Nine months later I could say 'Praise the Lord, He did it!" I had seen the nations, preached and sang the Gospel, and witnessed salvation come to many who heard our message in a three-month odyssey to 15 nations of the world.

It was a watershed experience, attested by the Church, giving me goals not previously set, and encouraging me every step ahead as again and again the words of that signal

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verse came into focus "Ye shall go out in joy, and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing."

"Father in Heaven, my deep desire is to know you and your precious Will for me so that my life as it is lived out may reflect that Will daily, and so accomplish my place in life as an 'instrument of righteousness.'" (Romans 6:13)

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will proceed courageously when God says "Go!"

– Eugene Stewart –

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Psalms 51:10-12; Psalms 139:1-9; 1 John 1:7-9

In Touch

I heard the screech of brakes, a yell, and then I caught sight of a dark red Monte Carlo swinging around me with a hand obscenely gesturing in my direction. I realized with a rush that I had turned across a lane without seeing the red car and had narrowly escaped an accident. The boys in the Monte Carlo didn't let me off easily; they continued to yell angrily. I felt fear, embarrassment, and a cold sense of being out of touch.

I had been thinking about my errands, the buildup of storm clouds in the west, and what I would prepare for dinner. I was not paying attention to the business of driving. I was also out of touch with God. I had left the house in haste without affirming His guidance and asking His blessing on my errands. My world was out of sync. How badly only God could know, but my near accident said something about the danger of proceeding while out of touch.

How do I keep in touch? God is always there, yet sometimes He has to bring me up short in order to remind me of that fact. I carry responsibility for affirming His presence, committing to His will, and keeping open to the flow of His Spirit through me, but I do sometimes forget. So what can I do about it?

I'm human; I haven't been a believer all of my life. I am forming new habits that go with my full commitment to Him, but those habits are not yet deeply imprinted. So I must be stubbornly patient with myself while I develop strategies to reinforce and strengthen my new patterns.

Two major strategies help me. One is making signs and notes to myself which are visible as I go about my daily routines. The refrigerator, the bathroom mirror, my wallet – all carry cues to remind me that 1 belong to Jesus and that He wants to guide me in His perfect way every moment.

The second is to practice positive self-talk. "God loves you, Kay," or "God wants the best for you, Kay," or "I am yours, Lord Jesus, and I believe that You are guiding me this moment." I have a developing repertoire of such "inner scripts" which I repeat whenever my mind is not occupied with a particular task. Sometimes when my mind is occupied, I take time out for one of these self-talk breaks. They are life and nourishment to me as the Spirit floods through the open door they create.

"Loving Heavenly Father, teach me to 'practice the presence of God' in my daily life. Before I go to sleep each night, teach me to commit my conscious and unconscious weaknesses and sins to You – that my soul may be purged from all guilt, resentment, and

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bitterness. Before I start each new day, enable me to surrender all my thoughts, plans, and relationships to You, that I may experience both confidence and humility as I keep in close touch with You. Thank you. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: By an act of will, I can place myself in touch. I can purposefully say the words, "Thank You, Lord, that You want to be in touch with me. I affirm your perfect plan and guidance for me now!"

– Kay Kline –

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John 1:35-51

Being Sensitive To The 'Currents' Of God's Guidance

We are living in a century of many new discoveries, on earth and in space. We have many choices of entertainment and recreation. I have always been interested in air travel, and I have had a special interest in gliding. The pilot straps himself into the front seat of a glider and then he takes the controls. Another pilot in a tow plane yanks the craft into the air and tows it to about 3500 feet. Then he pulls a lever to release the tow rope. The glider suddenly slows and the noise of the wind speeding by the cockpit softens and there is no engine noise. Soaring to about 60 miles per hour, the pilot begins searching for a thermal, which is a warm column of air, to lift the craft higher. Cumulus clouds form when pillars of warm air suddenly cool at higher altitudes, and this can raise the craft quickly, seven or eight hundred feet per minute. After rising to five or six thousand feet, the pilot can hold the craft level easily at sixty miles per hour. Finding the 'right currents' of air is important in this sport.

The fisherman also looks for the 'right currents'. He uses many different lures on his line, and he knows which to use in the different waters, whether they be calm or turbulent waters. He reads the signs to know if the fish are hungry and if they are responding to a particular type of bait. The experienced fisherman knows when to react quickly to the nibbles and strikes. He knows how patiently to reel them in.

The One who was most sensitive to the 'currents' of God's presence and guidance was Jesus, the Son of the Father. Jesus was a 'master fisherman' who knew perfectly how to 'fish for the souls of men' (as demonstrated in John 1). Like Jesus, the followers of the "Master Fisherman' must be able to detect those who are spiritually hungry and those who are searching for reality. Effective soul-winners, like the Master Soul-winner, are persons who are sensitive to the 'currents' of God's special guidance. 'Fishers of men' are learning to 'practice the presence of God' in their lives. With one ear, they listen to the 'small still voice of the Lord', and with the other ear they listen to the 'cries of anguish from the heartbroken sinners'. Effective, Spirit-controlled soul-winners know when to speak and when to remain silent. They are ready to give an honest answer to honest questions and doubts. "Quietly trust yourself to Christ your Lord and if anybody asks why you believe as you do, be ready to tell him, and do it in a gentle and respectful way." (1 Peter 3:16, Living Bible) We must keep God at the controls of our 'craft' and let Him continually lift us up so that, in turn, we can guide others to a saving relationship with Him. What is the greatest God-given privilege in life? To help others know the joy of sins forgiven and to experience the freedom of soaring to new heights in Christ's abundant life and love! Learn to discern the 'spiritual currents'!

"Thank you, Jesus, for the times of spiritual flight into your presence where the winds are calm and I can glide peacefully above the turbulent circumstances of my life."

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My 'craft' can daily experience the thermal power of His love, as He holds me steady and He lifts me to new heights! Someday my soul will take its final flight to be with the Lord in eternity!

– Joyce Calkins –

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Song of Solomon 2:14 (KJV)

The Secret Places Of The Stairs

Isabel Kuhn tells in her book Stones of Fire of a young Tibetan Christian lad, Third Sister (Mary), who, when enduring a great trial in her life, had learned the secret of the stairs. This near-overwhelming test came as result of her own obstinance, and continued even following inward victory.

"O my dove, that are in… the secret places of the stairs… let me hear thy voice" (Song of Solomon 2:14, KJV)

There is a viewless cloistered room, 
As high as heaven, as fair as day, 
Where tho' my feet may join the throng, 
My soul can enter in and pray.
One hearkening even cannot know When I have crossed the threshold o'er For He alone who hears my prayers Has heard the shutting of the door.

– Dohnavur –

"Her feet in the throng, but her soul stealing quickly up the secret places of the stairs – that is how the little stone of fire (Mary) endured… She was allowing her soul to be tried in the fire, that it might come out pure, with only the image of the Master stamped upon it. After descending that secret stairway of prayer she opened her eyes with a resolute focusing of her attention upon the Scripture exposition, or the hymn words, and she kept them there, refusing to let them wander. Thus she grew in sweetness and power. At least two other young girls were won by Mary and nurtured in faith during that time… Those many journeys up the secret stairway for Mary had not been in vain."

Doesn't that Biblical phrase – "the secret places of the stairs" – incite your soul to climb those stairs? We as individuals must climb those stairs for the sheer delight of communion with God; for retention of personal victory over the little annoyances of each day; for intervention in behalf of our friends who need to sense the assurance of inward conquest.

The following Sonnet on Prayer by Betty Scott Stam reveals the development of the depth and sincerity of her prayer life. It is based on Jeremiah 31:12 – "Their soul shall be as a watered garden." (KJV)

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I passed a thorny desert soul one day, 
A soul as guiltless as a painted mast- 
So harsh and hard and dry I stood aghast, 
And would have helped, but had no time to stay, 
Yet, half in doubtfulness, began to pray 
To Him the Source of living streams. At last, 
Returning, I beheld a velvet-grassed, 
Abundant garden; saw the rainbow spray 
Of fountains, shimm'ring high against the trees; 
Saw old-time flowers, pansies, and sweet peas, 
Pink-hearted phloxes, heliotrope, heartsease. 
Clustering roses hung from arches there; 
The scent of hidden orchards filled the air, 
And there were children's voices everywhere.

"O Lord, help us to find the stairway; give us courage to climb it; and then, O Lord, teach us its secrets! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Dryness of the inner being, spiritually, often comes from our failure to climb the stairway to prayer. Today, God enabling me, I will cling that stairway to the secret place.

– Floyd Cooper –

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Discussion Questions

  1. In our modern-day world, which is filled with loud and distracting noises, do you find it difficult to "be still" (quiet) and to "be alone" in a meditative mood, ready to listen to the "still and small voice of God"? What specific steps have you taken to guard your "Quiet Time" (short or long), in order that you might daily be alone in the quiet presence of God? Following the example of Jesus (who often rose before dawn to spend time alone with His Heavenly Father), have you yet developed the "holy discipline and habit" of rising early in the morning to be alone in meditation and prayer with your loving Heavenly Father?

  2. Share your personal response (or reaction) to the following statements: "Elijah's God is still with us today. His still, small voice echoes across our noisy world. The God of the miraculous is also the God of the mundane. And you will more often than not find the God of stereophonic sound wrapped in stillness."

  3. Because Jesus is the "Good Shepherd" and believers are the "Sheep of His pasture" who listen for the voice of the Shepherd (John 10: 45), how would you describe and discern the voice of the Shepherd?

  4. Put a check beside the following statements which you believe properly and truly describe the voice of the Lord (in contrast to the voice of the Evil One or of some other 'false personage' or force):

    1. ___ Is loud clamourous, feverish, strong.

    2. ___ Is quiet, persuasive.

    3. ___ Deals in generalities.

    4. ___ Deals in specifics.

    5. ___ Is driving and demanding.

    6. ___ Is leading and inviting and gentle.

    7. ___ Demands immediate decision, and is impulsive.

    8. ___ Gives time for decision and is reasoning.

    9. ___ Perplexes, roils the emotions, creates turmoil.

    10. ___ Brings a rest of certainty and calm.

    11. ___ Brings depression, discouragement, and guilty feelings.

    12. ___ Brings enlightenment, encouragement, and renewed confidence.

    13. ___ Appeals to the lower instincts of human selfishness.

    14. ___ Appeals to the higher instincts of human responsibility.

    15. ___ Disappears if no heed is given to it.

    16. ___ Ripens and grows stronger with time.

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  5. Share a time (occasion) in your personal life and experience when you believed that God gave you specific guidance, giving you wisdom in the making of a 'right' decision and leadership in the following of a definite direction.

  6. Share what you have done (or what you can do) to become more sensitive to discern the "currents" of God's guidance in your life.

  7. Share a time (occasion) in your personal life when you received an inner confirmation that a certain "course of action" was God's will for you as a result of reading Scripture, or of counsel with a friend, or of your believing prayer.

  8. As you "go about" your daily and routine tasks, share how you have learned to keep "in touch" with God – to commune with Him in love and to reflect His character to others. What "aids" have you found helpful, as you are learning to "practice the presence of God" in your daily life?

  9. Are you forming "new habits" that go with your full commitment to God? If so, what are some of those "habits" which have greatly stimulated increased spiritual growth in your life?

  10. Have you ever experimented with "positive self-talk" (i.e., speaking to yourself), by quoting to yourself Bible verses or words from hymns, to remind yourself of God's power and presence and provisions and promises?

  11. Amidst the "hustle and bustle" of your busy schedule (with all the challenges and pressures of daily demands), have you discovered "the secret places of the stairs"?

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