By Charles Price
Now if you have got your Bible I am going to read to you from the book of Proverbs and Chapter 2. Proverbs Chapter 2; I am going to read the first 9 verses.
And you will see from the first two words, this is a father addressing his son. Solomon is the writer and he says,
"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, and 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 will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.
"For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
"He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.
"Then you will understand what is right and just and fair - every good path."
That is as far as I am going to read. And if you have been with us on recent Sunday mornings, you will know we have been talking about living in the will of God.
We began looking at a big picture of what is going on in our world, how do we account for the fact that the book of John's - or the letter of John - says that the whole world is in the hands of the evil one? And how is God working out His purposes in our world and how are we going to be part of those purposes?
And then we began to ask some questions about personal guidance. And we have asked three questions so far. Firstly, what is my vision from God? We talked about Paul saying to King Agrippa, that "I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven." God had put a vision in his heart and we talked about that.
Second question is what do the Scriptures say? David wrote, "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." He also wrote, "Direct my footsteps according to Your Word.
And we will not find the will of God outside of the Word of God, which is one of the reasons why we need to spend time in this book, the Word of God, and through it God teaches us and moulds us and directs our paths.
Then we asked the third question, what do my circumstances say? We expressed some reservation about that question only because in the book of Proverbs, Solomon writes, Chapter 3: 5-6,
"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."
But the implication there is it may not be logical, it may not be predictable and often our circumstances seem to go against what is the right thing. And we looked at that in an instance in Paul's own experience in the book of Acts.
Now this morning I want to ask another question. It is a very practical question but it is a very important thing to think about. And that is, what do other people say?
Now we need to handle this with some caution because we stand responsible before God for the decisions we make. But nevertheless we are not islands and we are not intended to be islands cut adrift from everyone else. We are intended to live and function in community.
When God said to Adam, "it's not good for man to be alone," He wasn't just talking about marriage; He was talking about it's not good for man to be alone. Because in many, many areas of life we need to be in relationship with others, we need to live in a spirit of inter-dependence upon others, we need input from others into our own lives.
And I want to be both honest and cautious about this. Honest in that other people often have a better idea of us than we do. They see us objectively. We often can live with misconceptions about ourselves, we can live with an idealism about ourselves, we can find it very difficult to be honest about ourselves.
So we need to be honest and recognize that other peoples' input is often not only valuable but necessary because they see us clearly.
But we need to be cautious in that we do not pass the buck for our decisions to other people. We have to make those decisions ourselves. But other people can have input and help us in that process.
Now there are some people who like other people to make decisions for them. And the convenience of that is if it goes wrong, you have got somebody to blame.
There are other people who like to make decisions for you and for other people. I think parents - and I am one - especially have this difficulty as our kids grow up and they become mature and adult and independent. We still want to input into their lives in a way that we expect them to fulfill what we would like them to do, and to follow the path that we would like them to follow. And we have to be willing to stand back and let them make their own decisions.
But people like to make decisions for other people. But we have to make our decision alone; that we do so in a wider context.
I want to talk about this, this morning. I want to talk about three areas where we need input from others.
Number one, we need other people's spiritual insight.
Number two; we need other people's practical wisdom.
And thirdly, we need other people's personal experience.
I want to talk about those three things. First, we need other people's spiritual insight. You see there is an insight, which does not come from the natural mind or from the natural processes of thinking, but come from those who have learned what it means to wait on God and to spend time with God.
Often this is given corporately - that is, through other people. When the New Testament talks about spiritual gifts, it makes very clear that spiritual gifts are not given in order to create lone ranger Christians.
And "because this is my gift, I go off and follow 'my ministry'". There is no such thing as 'my ministry'. We are called together in mutual dependence upon one another to serve the ministry of God. And for that to be possible, we are operating in community, which is why, when Paul speaks about spiritual gifts, on two occasions, he makes very clear that the church is the body of Christ.
Christ is its head; we individually are members of that body. And as He says in 1 Corinthians, the hand cannot say to the foot, "I don't need you", the eye cannot say to the ear, "I don't need you".
Every part needs each other part and the two things that Paul teaches very clearly about that is that we are different, so understand the difference, understand the uniqueness of your abilities and giftings. But at the same time, we are dependent - the hand cannot function on its own; neither can the eye or the ear or the foot and neither can you.
Discovering our own individual gifts and callings is to enable us to function in the wider context of the body of Christ. And so we are not called to be independent of each other; we are called to become interdependent upon one another.
In fact, independence is not strength; it is a weakness. The ability to go it alone is a weakness, not a strength. The desire to go it alone is indicative of weakness, not of strength. We are designed to function in interdependence.
Now there are times when God does speak to individuals unmistakeably. When God spoke to Noah and told him to do something that everybody mocked as ridiculous, to build an ark on dry land; he knew where the message came from; God had told him.
Now there may be times when that happens. Abraham was given that call from God to leave Ur of the Chaldeans and go to a land that he would be shown when he got there. He took members of his family with him. His father died in Haran on the way. His nephew Lot came with him and lived in the land with him in Canaan.
There are times when God does call an individual, but other people standing around recognize this is a call from God. Noah's family recognized ("well we didn't hear the voice from heaven, but we know my father is not talking nonsense," and so they joined with him and they were saved in the ark.)
And Abraham brought his wife and those members of his extended family.
Moses met with God at the burning bush. Nobody else was there. It was alone that God spoke to him and called him. But when he went back and told Aaron his brother about this, Aaron recognized this is God and he joined him. But they went back; it was a lonely business.
So there are times when God speaks personally to us - of course there are. But there are times - and even in those times - when we operate within the wider community and sometimes decisions are given to the wider community, not just to the individual.
In Acts Chapter 13 there is a case in point where, you remember, Paul had come to join Barnabas in Antioch, where Barnabas was leading a growing church and wanted some help. And he remembered Saul of Tarsus, went to find him, brought him back - this was the beginning of Saul's ministry.
And while they were there in Antioch, having been there when Paul had been there for a year, it says that the leaders of the church met together to fast and worship and pray. And Acts 13:2 says,
"While they were worshiping the LORD and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'"
Now notice that - this was not a word to Barnabas and Saul; this was a word to the whole group about Barnabas and Saul. And the context is they are waiting on God; they were praying and worshiping and fasting, it says, when the Holy Spirit spoke to them.
That's why I say, as the first priority, we need people who have spiritual insight. And spiritual insight has nothing to do with how long you have been a Christian. Spiritual insight has to do with how much time you spend with God in intimate dependence upon Him and obedience to Him and talking with Him.
I have said before and I will keep saying it that this whole issue of guidance is not finding a template you can simply slap onto every situation and here's the checklist to work your way through. Guidance from God comes out of a relationship with God and as you spend time with God you receive insights and direction and guidance. But one of those ways is through people.
Now Scripture warns against going for insight outside of those who know God. Psalm 1 begins,
"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked... But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night."
In other words, blessed is the man who seeks the mind of God and does not seek the counsel of those who are godless, which is the meaning of the wicked there, those who are thinking and acting in independence of God.
Now most people look for some help in guidance and direction. That's why most newspapers you pick up will have their astrological charts and thousands of people read them everyday. And many, many people make decisions at some point in their life based on their astrological reading.
That's why people will line up at some Psychic Meg's place or something to get their palms read or their futures told.
Warwick Cooper here, one of my colleagues, has been known to be original once in a while. And when he was living in Windsor there was a New Age festival taking place and he and some friends decided they would try to reach some of the people coming to the New Age Festival. And so they put up a tent. They tied a goat to a stump outside the tent and they put a sign up that said "Psalm Readings".
So people came by. I mean the goat belongs to New Age kind of thinking - everything is fine - just came in, sat down; they talked to them for awhile. And then they'd say, "Well, if that is your need, I think I have a good psalm for you. So they would read a psalm to the person. And having read the psalm, say, "Would you mind if I pray for you?"
And they would say, "Well, when are you going to read my palm?"
"No, I don't read palms; I read psalms."
It's a very creative way, isn't it, of getting the people? And it's a good place to go. "Blessed is the man who doesn't walk in the counsel of the wicked" (going looking for your palm read) "but who delights in the law of God" (they get the psalms read).
David wrote that psalm and David was known as the greatest king probably in Israel's history. Every king afterwards is compared. Either he walked in the ways of his father David or he did not walk in the ways of his father David. David became the plumb line.
Now David was a man with all the issues and warts that people have, but he was the greatest king in Israel's history. But he was a man who went looking for advice. He had an advisor whose name was Ahithophel. (I practised that name yesterday several times - Ahithophel - it's easier to say with a lisp.) And he is called David's counsellor in 2 Samuel 15. He is one of the backroom boys of the Bible.
(I'd like to do a series one day on the backroom boys and the backroom girls of the Bible - the people who actually had big influence but you really don't them.)
If I said to you, "Who is Ahithophel?" most of you wouldn't know probably. But he occurs 17 times in the Old Testament (his name does) in 12 different situations.
And I love what 2 Samuel 16:23 says about him. It says,
"Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel's advice."
And no doubt the reason why the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God was because he did inquire of God. And when David went to talk to Ahithophel, he knew "I am just not asking for somebody's opinion; I am asking it from a man who has spent time with God."
You and I need people like that. And by the way, Ahithophel went off the rails eventually, which is sad, but it happens. And latterly, he ended up committing suicide. He hanged himself after giving some silly advice and bad advice to an enemy of David that was not in David's interest.
But David was wise to have a man like that to go to, a man whose advice was like one who inquires of God.
I thank God for people like that in my own life. As I looked back while I was preparing this, this week, thinking who have I gone to? And I wrote down some names - most of them are in heaven now.
Why did I go to them? I went to them because I knew they were men or women who walked with God. I knew they would give insight that wasn't just human wisdom; it was deeper than that.
And there are times here there's somebody that I pick up the phone and call every once in a while, since I have been here in Toronto. And I always am taken back to the Word of God in conversation, always taken back to Scripture, always taken back to spiritual criteria.
When I was a young man I made it my business to get to know some mature, wise, godly people and I will always be thankful for that. There is an old saying, "Things are better caught than taught." You don't have to go to them with a problem; just spend time with them if you can. And in doing so, you catch things that influence your life.
David had a son called Solomon who replaced him on the throne. Solomon started off wise. If you ask anybody, "What do you know about Solomon?" they will all say he is the wisest man who ever lived.
Do you remember the Queen of Sheba? Sheba, probably way down in today's Ethiopia - Queen of Sheba came to Jerusalem because she had heard of his wisdom. And after visiting him, she said, "I heard about your achievements and your wisdom, but not even half had been told me. You have exceeded the report that I had heard." (That's in 1 Kings 10.)
But you know - and here's the warning - even Solomon, like Ahithophel before him; even Solomon allowed his wisdom to be infiltrated with poison, the poison of self- interest, the poison of his own liberty to sin.
You see it's very dangerous when you get into positions of power and wealth, as Solomon did. And his big problem was women. And he died a fool.
He had a son who succeeded him. His name was Rehoboam. And when Rehoboam became king, he went first of all to a group of older wise men and he asked them for advice on how he should serve as king. (You can read this in 1 Kings Chapter 12.) And they said to him, "Be a servant to your people. Serve them well and they will serve you. Good advice I would think.
And then he went to some younger men who were contemporaries of him and he asked them for some advice. And they said, "You make sure everybody knows that you are king. Throw your weight around. Make life difficult for people and keep them in your debt."
And Rehoboam listened to their advice. He went back to the people and he said, (I read from 1 Kings 12:14) - he said to the people,
"My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with ships; I will scourge you with scorpions."
And predictably, within a very short time, it led to a rebellion, which split the kingdom in two. The original nation of Israel became divided - Judah in the south, Israel on the north - two separate nations; two separate governments. And it stayed that way for 400 years because Rehoboam took foolish advice.
Make sure the advice you take is godly. It doesn't mean the older people were necessarily godly and the younger people weren't - that's how it was in his situation; age has value of experience (I'll say a few things in a moment about that.), but it's people who know God.
And some of the people who know God that I look to and admire are much, much younger than me - it's not to do with age. But nevertheless, godliness, and a godly perspective is important.
So we need people; we need other people's spiritual insight is the first point.
Secondly, we need other people's practical wisdom. The book of Proverbs from which I read is a great book on decision-making. It's a book of wisdom. And if you look at it carefully, the first nine chapters are all about a father addressing his son and offering them wisdom.
Now Solomon is the father. I don't know if Rehoboam was the son. He didn't listen to his father very much if he was, if it was Rehoboam. But he had other sons as well.
But it's the father listening to his son. Most of the chapters start, "My son, my son, my son, my son, and it gives very clear advice about all kinds of important things that sons need to learn from their fathers about where to find wisdom, not just knowledge.
He talks about how to deal with temptation. He talks about how to love well. He talks about faithfulness. He talks about sexuality. He talks about humility. He talks about money and wealth. He talks about hard work. He talks about honesty. He talks about understanding women.
These are good things for a father to talk to his son about. And the family context is a great context in which to learn how to make decisions and to learn wisdom.
Don't let teachable moments pass by in your family life. When we moved here to Toronto, we told our three children that this was a possibility before the decision had been made. I remember saying to our children that we will only go if we all want to go and we all think it's right.
"So in the next two weeks" (after which I was coming back here for another visit) "in the next two weeks let's talk about this as much as you want to, let's ask any question you want to ask, let's pray about this, and in two weeks I am going to ask each of you what you think we should do. And don't think you have to say what everybody else says, because if one of you is different, you may be the only one that is right."
And one by one, privately - not with others there - I said to all three of them, "I am going to Toronto tomorrow (or whenever it was) and they may ask me if I will come to the Peoples Church. If they do, what do you think I should say?"
And they all said, "We should go."
And I said to all of them, "Well, you know what that means don't you? You are going to leave all your friends behind."
"We're not going to see Grandma and Grandpa very much."
"You are going to go to new schools and you don't know anybody there. What if they don't like us when we get there? What if we don't like them? What if they want to send us home after a year? What about the weather - cold winters in Toronto?"
I remember one of them saying, when I said, "Supposing after a year we didn't like it, what should we do then?"
And she said, "We should stay."
I said, "Why?"
She said, "Because if it is right to go now, it'll still be right after a year, even if we don't like it."
Tremendously wise insight.
And when we came, we came, everyone in the family knowing "I made this decision" because each one made the decision.
And you know we didn't know how smart that was until having arrived here and realizing that there are a lot of adjustments to make, a lot of people and things that are missed. But the knowledge "I wasn't brought here; I was part of the decision to come" has been tremendously helpful back in those early days.
And so Proverbs is not just a book about wisdom, you know, off the shelf wisdom. The first nine chapters are about wisdom found in the family context.
But then later in Proverbs it talks about the benefit of wisdom from outside of the family, and input from outside. So Proverbs 12:15 says,
"A wise man listens to advice."
"Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise."
"Make plans by seeking advice."
"Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed."
So there he talks about the wisdom of listening to advice. Notice the word, by the way, advice. Not instruction, not decision - don't delegate that to anybody else. Advice.
And often other people know us better than we know ourselves. Often other people see our gifts and our abilities better than we see them ourselves. Parents know their kids better than anybody, even better than they know themselves in terms of what they are good at, what hurts them, what they warm to, what energizes them, because you have been observing it as they have grown up.
But letting other people input and see what your gifts are.
Somebody came to see me one day and in the first minute of conversation I realized this person was very awkward socially. They weren't very articulate, weren't very confident. And the story he had to tell me was he had gone through Bible College to prepare to be a pastor and now he was wondering why no church wanted him. And it was very evident he wasn't gifted in this area. That was not his calling.
And I remember thinking to myself, why in the world didn't somebody tell him that before he invested thousands of dollars in educating himself to be a pastor, which he will never be?
And the best way to know you have a gift is that other people recognize it and draw you into those areas. I have been asked many times, "How do I know if I have the gift of preaching?"
My answer is other people will ask you back. And if they don't ask you back, draw some conclusions.
You know in Acts 13 when the Holy Spirit spoke to the Jewish leaders about Barnabas and Paul, I can be very sure, and I am reading into this, but you can be very sure by the speed in which they sent them on their way, that when the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work for which I have called them," the other leaders said, "Of
course, of course, that's exactly what they should be doing. I can see it. Look at them - they are the best men we have got and they are the men to send out on the missionary enterprise."
Nobody said, "Barnabas? Goodness me!" People recognize it.
So we need other people's spiritual insight. We need other people's practical wisdom. And the third thing I suggest to you is we need other people's personal experience.
The first time Joshua gets mentioned in the Bible is when they have led the Israelites; Moses had led them out of Egypt; they have crossed the Red Sea; they are in the desert; they meet their first enemy, the Amalekites, and Moses asked Joshua to form an army to go and fight against the Amalekites.
He had recognized in Joshua something. He was a young man then. It was many more years before Joshua became the leader. And he put him into a situation where he could develop, where he could grow, where he would learn, where he would gain experience.
Why did Elijah take Elisha around with him for the latter part of his ministry? Because he was giving to Elisha the benefit of his own experience and taking him along with him. And Elisha was learning. And when Elijah eventually was taken up to heaven, Elisha cried out for a double portion of what he had seen in Elijah.
Jesus called His twelve to be with Him. And after being with Him for a while, in Matthew 10 (and Luke has a record of this too), He sent them out two by two, gave them their instructions, "Go to a community, find a home where they will receive you; stay with them; start there." And Jesus took some weeks off on His own and let them go on their own.
And they came back and they were so excited. They said, "Even the demons listened to us and bowed down when we told them what to do." And being with Jesus, sharing His experiences, they had seen in Jesus what He was now telling them to do.
Why did Paul take Timothy, and there are others he took around with him in order to share the experience of what God was doing in his life, to be a means of instructing and developing Timothy.
And of course we learn mistakes. Don't ever think if you follow the leading of God you will never make a mistake.
I remember when I was in high school we had a teacher who tried to turn our mistakes into virtues, because he used to say to us, "You learn from your mistakes", which is true, but if you can learn from the mistakes of somebody else, that's even better.
And being alongside somebody else, you can learn from other people. We learn from mistakes, we learn from seeing other mistakes.
I heard about a man who was known for his good judgements, his wisdom. And one day a young man said to him, "How come you are so wise?"
And he said, "Well, I make good judgements because I have had lots of experience."
And the young man said, "Yes, but how did you get all that good experience?"
He replied, "I got it by making lots of bad judgements."
Bad judgements make good experience. And I am going to talk in a couple of Sunday's time on that verse "If you go to the left or to the right, you will hear a voice behind you saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'"
Not if you go to the left or the right, good-bye; you are on your own; you're in trouble now. No, go to the left or the right and God brings us back. But we've gone down a cul- de-sac; we've learned something usually.
I love to read biography. I am usually reading a biography all the time - I mean all the time there is a biography that I am reading. Some take weeks and weeks. But I love reading about other people's lives - not the hagiography type where everything is wonderful, but the real biographies where you learn what made this person what he was, what enabled him to do what he did (or she)? The age and experience gives wisdom.
I think age has a lot of virtues attached to it and every time I get older (which I do every year), I have learned to think this way: it's like going up in an elevator on the outside of a building.
Some of you have been down to the CN Tower here in Toronto, and if you take the elevator up, it's outside the building, so you see the world as you are going up.
And the view from the 10th floor is one thing. The view from the 20th floor is a different perspective. You see everything you could see on the 10th floor but you see actually more. The 30th floor - when you get to the 50th floor and the 60th floor your perspective is very different to what it was down on the 20th floor.
And I think sometimes, as we get older we get wiser. You can become more foolish as you get older. Two things happen to people as they age - I have said this before and I think it is true because I have seen it in people - you either get more and more bitter and negative or you get more and more positive and joyful and kind.
And as you grow, as the elevator rises with age, you have perspectives that you see that you don't have when you are younger. And so the experience of people is valuable to us.
Winston Churchill, who made a lot of very profound statements, was a historian. And he wrote a number of books of history. And Churchill made this great comment: he said,
The further back you look, the further forward you can see.
He was talking about the big scope of history. The further back you look, the further forward you can see.
But I think it is true in our own lives as well. The further back you look, the further forward you can see. And that's why it is good to have people who have been around for a while, who are older than we are, who have got wisdom that has accumulated over the years.
But when it comes to drawing on other people's experience, we need to be wise because experience, whilst it can be a good teacher, it can also be a bad teacher. It can be a good teacher because we remember things that we learned that are beneficial. It can be a bad teacher because if we have a bad experience we often generalize that experience out to the wider sphere.
Mark Twain writes about a cat who sat on a hot stove and he says that the experience taught the cat never to sit on a hot stove again. But says Mark Twain, but it never sat on a cold stove either. Because the bad experience of the hot stove taught the cat never go near a stove. That's not good experience to generalize by.
So we need to be careful about people's experience. And we need to be careful about learning from only one person's experience.
Many of us have our mentors. I honestly think the best mentors are people who don't know they are mentors so they are not trying to be a mentor; they are just being themselves.
And I have a number of mentors. I didn't know they were my mentors - I didn't know there were such things are mentors when I was growing up and they certainly didn't know they were my mentors. They were just people whom instinctively I began to think, "how would that person respond in this situation?" because I trusted them and I knew them, or knew enough about them to trust them. What would they do in this situation? How would they react in this situation?
In Hebrews Chapter 13 and Verse 7 the writer says there,
"Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their lives and imitate their faith."
Those people who talked to you about the Word of God; consider the outcome of their lives. What made them tick? Consider it, think about it; why did they influence you the way they did?
And imitate their faith - notice - not imitate their activity. Don't become little imitators of them, but imitate their faith. That is, imitate their dependence on God and depend on God as you saw that they did.
Now he speaks specifically about those who spoke the Word of God to you, but you know, there are people in your lives and my life; whether they spoke the Word of God in a formal setting or just their lives spoke the Word of God to us, there are people you say, "What made them tick? Consider the outcome of their life." And then you find yourself imitating their faith. "As they depended on God, I am going to depend on God."
Which is why it is good to read biographies, it is good to read stories of things that God has done in people's lives - not to imitate them but to learn what is the secret that enabled God to work in their lives as He did.
Let me finish with a caution. Be selective in the advice. Too much advice will only confuse. Isaiah wrote about this in Isaiah 47:13 where he says to the people,
"All the counsel you have received has only worn you out!"
And if you look into the context there of that passage, you find that counsel that they had received extended on the one hand to astrologers and to the other extreme, to prophets, and in between every Tom, Dick, Harry, Mary that they met and asked advice for. And he said, "All the counsel you have received has just worn you out."
A few weeks ago somebody came to talk to me and they talked about a situation they were in. And in the course of conversation this person said to me, "I talked to a pastor yesterday who told me so and so" (quoted what this pastor said) and then said, "what do you think about that?"
And so I said, "Okay, just hold on a second. Was this your own pastor (because this person was not from this church)? Was this your own pastor you were talking to yesterday?
And they said, "No it was one that I contacted like I contacted you."
So I said, "So really, you went to see somebody else yesterday and then you come to see me today. Um, what are you trying to do? Are you just taking a poll of what different people say and then go with the majority? What are you doing? I don't think I can help you because I think anything I say now you are going to put into a grid whereby, okay it agrees with this, it doesn't agree with this or it agrees with and doesn't agree with that. You know you are going to too many people."
And as I have already said, the danger with advice is we can be tempted to pass the buck. "Well please tell me what to do." So when it goes wrong, they say, "Well, I talked to so and so and they said..."
No, have the guts to make a decision and to make it responsibly knowing, when it comes to the will of God, and this is may experience and I think it is probably true, that we are rarely 100% sure; we can only maybe 80% sure, we step out in faith. And having stepped out with that 20% of doubt, the confirmation normally comes in retrospect. You look back and you see, yes, God guided me.
And if you make a wrong mistake, don't worry. Isaiah 30:22  "If you turn to the left or to the right, you will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way'", and He'll call you back.
But the benefit of going to those we trust, going to those who have spiritual insight, to those who have practical wisdom, to those who have personal experience so they can help us to navigate our way through in the issues that we are dealing with.
And I find the best way to help people when you are talking about an issue where they have to make a decision is not by giving people answers but by asking people questions. And if you try to discern what is the right question here and you ask questions, which help the person then to come to conclusions for themselves, I think we help people more that way than giving them answers.
But we started by reading Proverbs Chapter 2, and that was my introduction. So now let's look at Proverbs Chapter 2 (no that's not true; we're going to finish now). But this is Solomon saying,
"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..."
Let me pause there. You start; "you accept my words, you store up my commands" (this is a father who has the right to speak that way to his son, but then he turns away from "my words, my commands, then turn your ear away from me; turn it to wisdom; apply your heart to understanding,"
"...If you call out for insight, if you cry aloud for understanding, if you look for it as for silver, if you search for it like hidden treasure" (that's pretty intense),
"then you will understand the fear of God and find the knowledge of God.
"For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding."
"For he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones."
That is, the road you are on, He will guard the course that you follow. He will protect the way of His faithful ones.
I love the progression there. As a father to a son (my words, my commands) - that's the starting point in your life and that's the privilege and the responsibility as parents as we bring up our kids.
But then he says, "Now you turn your ear to wisdom, you turn your heart to understanding. You call out insight, you seek it; you seek it more than silver, you seek it more than hidden treasure. And then you will know the fear of God, you will find the knowledge of God and He will guard the course of your life and protect you.
We need other people's spiritual insight, we need other people's practical wisdom, we need other people's personal experience. We are not islands; we are interdependent. But then when it comes to a decision, you make it.
Now put what I have said today and what I have said in previous weeks - this is not the definitive word on guidance; this is to be understood in the context of the other issues as well. But this is a very important ingredient.
Tonight at 6 o'clock I am going to pick up this theme again because I had to miss a Sunday a couple of weeks ago because I lost my voice, I want to talk tonight about guidance and prayer. I want to show you how God guided people in Scripture on many occasions when they were spending time alone with God. Which is why this Book and the principles that this Book is teaching, are so important to us, that we spend time alone with God and we listen. And we will talk about that tonight - guidance and prayer, the role of prayer in guidance.
And there will be one more message I am going to give; it will be the first Sunday of the New Year now. And that will be putting together all these pieces into one picture that I hope will be helpful. Not that that will be definitive because it is all about working out of a relationship with God. You can't put that into a box.
Our experiences are different but hopefully it will help us to get a compass that gives us direction - this is where I go and this is how I determine where I go - in order that we may live lives that are fruitful and glorifying to God.
But if you are here this morning and you don't know God for yourself - and there will be those amongst us, and we're so glad you are here - you might get bits and pieces from what I say, but the central spinal cord from which all these other things come out about other people's experience, other people's wisdom; the spinal cord of all of this is a personal living relationship with God Himself.
And if you don't know that, I hope you will come to know that. Right now this morning you can say, "Lord Jesus Christ, I understand that I am by nature separated from You and from God but You on the cross opened a way back that I might be forgiven and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and that He, living in me, will be there to lead and direct and guide. And nothing that I said will work apart from God Himself being central in your life.
And so we are going to close in prayer, and if you are saying, you know, I don't know this kind of relationship at all, but even as we talked today, the Spirit of God has been drawing you, because that is His prerogative to do, and He will have picked out one here, one there, one somewhere up here, one down here, and you will be hearing a voice that is not a human voice that says, "I want to know God in this way." And let me lead you in prayer as we close.
I am going to pray words that you can pray with me. They are very simple. Lord Jesus Christ, thank You that You are not only interested in me, but You love me. Thank You that You have planned for my life. Thank You, You have promised to direct my life if I will acknowledge You as my Lord. And I want to surrender my life to You. Please forgive me of all those things that have kept me apart from You. And come by Your Spirit to live in me, to impart life and new direction and new perspectives, that my life might fulfill the purpose that You have for me. Thank You for hearing my prayer. In Jesus' Name.