Sunday, 20 December 2015

Go God's way!

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it". Isaiah 30:21

One Sunday morning in church someone was blindfolded and asked to walk round the building. It meant negotiating plenty of chairs, turns, legs, not to mention a step, an umbrella or two, and perhaps a baby buggy. But he did it, and with very little difficulty (and he even seemed to know when he had reached the place where he could aim a friendly kick at his wife).

How did he manage it? Simple: someone else was walking behind him and whispering instructions into his ear - "Left turn here, two steps forward, right foot up here...”.

The prophet Isaiah foresaw a day when the people of Zion - that is, Jerusalem - would hear the voice of God in their ear: "This is the way, walk in it".

I love the simplicity of those words. Originally they applied to God’s people as a whole, the nation of Israel. But they also  apply, I believe, to every individual child of God, to you and to me. God has a way for each of us to go, if only we will hear and obey. The secret of fulfilment in life is to walk trustingly in the way of God.

Of course, it isn't always as easy in practice as it sounds. There are times when we genuinely don't know which way is God's way. We get puzzled and even confused. At times like that we need to rely on four key things.

First, scripture. If our minds are soaked in God's word then we are more likely to sense his leading at vital times, even if there is no specific Bible text that relates precisely to our concern.

Second, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit lives within us, and we can ponder and reflect on his will for us through prayer.

Third, common sense. Christians shouldn't be afraid of applying this. Certainly, there are times when God asks his child to do something that seems pretty strange - not common sense at all! - but they are the exception rather than the rule.

Fourth, the wisdom of others. If we bounce our uncertainty off a trusted and mature Christian friend, their advice is likely to help us. A book or some other written material may set us off down the right track.

Whatever, the fact is that if we are humble and genuine in our search for God's way, he will make it clear to us in time. Why wouldn't he? If he loves us, why would he want us to go wrong?

Jesus spoke of the wide gate and the broad road that "lead to destruction", and of the narrow gate and the narrow way that "lead to life" (Matthew 7). As if to say, "Don't just go with the crowd! Don't opt for the easy way, don't take the line of least resistance!" The narrow gate may be harder to find, and the narrow way more difficult to tread - but it really is the difference between life and death. How many lives have been ruined because someone decided to step outside God's chosen way! How sad that is.

Someone might say, "But this is too late for me. It's years ago now that I took a wrong turning and lost my way. There's no possibility of retracing my steps. My life is ruined!"

But no. God has this wonderful knack of giving us a new start at any point in our lives, even right towards the very end, in our old age. He can even weave the follies and mistakes of the past into a new pattern which will turn out beautiful.

So don't despair! God is the God of new beginnings. True, the past can never be undone, but it can be reshaped into a new purpose and meaning.

So let's be careful how we walk. To step out of God's way is to step into trouble, danger and sorrow - to step, in fact, into deep darkness. Has anyone reading this done that? Is anyone actually doing it at the moment...? Yes? Well, it’s time to stop and take a long, hard look at where we’re going.

To walk with God is to walk in the light. Are you always straining to hear that quiet voice: "This is the way; walk in it"?

Lord Jesus Christ, you said "I am the way". Help me to take that simple word seriously, and so help me to walk with you every minute of every day, until that day comes when I will see you face to face. Amen.

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