Wednesday, 28 September 2016

A word in your ear

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

Jesus said, “I am the way...” John 14:6

You’ve probably seen this in an all-age service one Sunday morning...

Someone is blindfolded and asked to walk round the building without bumping into anything or falling over - which means negotiating chairs, turns, bags, umbrellas, legs, baby-buggies, not to mention a step or two. But he does it! - and with very little difficulty (he even seems to know when he has reached a place where he can aim a kick at a friend).

How does he manage it? Simple: someone is walking behind him and whispering instructions into his ear - "Left turn here; now two steps forward; right foot up one step...”.

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

I love the simplicity of those words. Though directed to the people of Israel, they apply also, I think, 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 (unless, of course, we’re tempted by obvious, glaring sin). We sometimes get puzzled and confused; and, let’s be completely honest, this can be long-term and really quite stressful. 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 instinctively sense his leading at vital times, even if there is no exactly relevant Bible passage to turn to.

Second, the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit lives within us, and we can ponder and reflect on his will for us through prayer. This calls for quietness, seriousness, honesty, and humility.

Third, common sense.

Christians shouldn't be afraid of applying this. Certainly, there are times when God asks us to do something that seems pretty strange, indeed clean contrary to common sense, but those times are the exception rather than the rule.

Fourth, the wisdom of others.

If we bounce our uncertainties off a trusted and mature Christian friend - perhaps, even better, a small group of such friends - their advice is likely to help us. Wise advice may not hand us an answer on a plate, but it can have the effect of clarifying muddy areas and highlighting principles.

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 "leads to destruction", and of the small gate and the narrow road that "leads to life" (Matthew 7:13-14). 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 small  gate may be harder to find, and the narrow way more difficult to walk - 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, "Yes, yes, I see it! 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 going back. My life is completely messed up!"

But no. No! God has this wonderful knack of giving us a new start at any point in our lives, even right towards the 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. It is to step into darkness. To walk with God is to walk in the light.

Has anyone reading this stepped out of God’s way? Is anyone reading this actually doing so at the moment...? It’s not too late to redirect your steps. Listen - please! - for 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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