Guidance learning to read the map
Where I am at I love maps! I used to draw them and sell them. I used them for car rallying (not with undiminished success). I love what they can tell about a locality, culturally as well as geographically
But i also love that they can save me and many others from getting lost; that they can sometimes point out an interesting and surprising detour or shortcut.
In Charlotte maps became indispensable, and I began to draw my own mini-maps to get both to a new destination and safely home again. – just simple single lines and a few strategic names…and of course a compass.
for a map to be any use I have to trust it and then have to follow it…would be kind of absurd to buy or create a map that I them chose to ignore.
What a pity there isn’t a map for helping us navigate the difficult and life-consuming decisions and pressures we face – or maybe there is!
Celestial Direction In our reading, Jesus offers Himself as the answer to our perceived and very real need for direction. Those whom He has called into the community of faith (His flock) are addressed by Him in order to give direction as well as protection. [As an aside many talk about His protection, but without following His direction how can they expect to know His protection.]
Jesus assumes that we’re listening for His voice of guidance. When a Middle Eastern shepherd leads his flock, he’s assuring that they get all they need to prosper – food, direction, protection, rest, shelter. (All this is community with others being similarly directed – safety in numbers.)
Unlike most shepherds though, this Celestial Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, has given His life to ensure the relationship in which we experience continued direction and ultimate rescue. Hois life is given to win our undying commitment to follow Him and to bring us into an imperishable relationship with Him.
This latter is the prime key about guidance that emerges from this parable. When we lose our grip on relationship with Him we lose our grip upon His guidance and the confidence in His purpose that comes from being ably guided.
However the parable of the Lost Sheep [Luke 15] warns that it is possible for competing voices (especially our rebellious fleshly nature) to lead us down false and dangerous paths – but it also promises that the Shepherd, our Lord, doesn’t let go of us so readily.
Reading the map The most important question about guidance is, do you actually have a relationship with God – through Jesus – in which you can feel confident of his direction? This is completely and utterly essential it you are ever to go where God wants you.
However an important consequent question is about those competing voices that can distract you from God’s revealed plan and direction for your lives (and mine for that matter). Be aware that the strongest voices are already in you, and those to which your personality and interests incline you.
What are the competing voices for you? What fuels them? What distracts you from following the Lord’s guiding voice?
So how do you keep this relationship alive, so that you’re awake and responsive to His voice? The old three legged stool of prayer (conversation), Bible study (enquiry and research), and Godly counsel (knowing your limits). Through all this needs to run a serious intent to know and follow the map that God is charting for all He has for you even now (and into an unimaginable future).
Travelling together We also need to work on guidance, following the Shepherd’s voice, as a community (albeit of a network of people relating personally to God). What is God’s direction for us for us, and what is distracting us from either perceiving or grasping and obeying that call? And where is that call leading us? What would we look like if we followed that call?
Three kinds of God’s will
Providential Will. the big plan; the plan for everybody; the plan that is already settled and determined and explicitly revealed in the Bible. [Galatians 4.4-5] Concerns things like God’s covenants with Abraham; Jesus coming in the flesh and His eventual triumphal return.
Moral Will. What’s right and approved as established by God as the behaviour He desires of us. The directives that apply to everyone and are revealed in the Bible. eg. The Ten Commandments. [1 Thessalonians 4.3]
Personal Will. [This is where we need guidance.] Which car to buy; where to live; who, or whether, to marry; where to holiday. [Matthew 6.8b, 32; 10.29-30]
“Like trying to smell the colour nine” [Chris Rice]