Guidance: God’s Direction For God’s People

Fifth in a “Life’s Problems” series
Delivered August 8, 2004 by Rev. Michael Coles.

Sermon Text:
Proverbs 3:5-6

Let’s open up in a word of prayer and then we will see what God has to say to us today.

Father, again we thank you for this opportunity to hear your word Lord and I ask you now that I may decrease and that you may increase through the Holy Spirit who indwells within me and I just pray O God that our hearts and our ears are tender to your Word, that if we are not doing what you have called us to do, that we may be convicted from this Word; if we are that we may continue to be sustained in your Word and as the pain may come Lord because we are not being obedient to your Word, we just pray now that you would comfort us in your word and we pray this in Jesus name and all of the EPIC people say amen. Amen.

Alright, those of you who have your Bibles and I am praying that you do because what good is a soldier without a sword or without his weapon and we know that the word of God is the weapon to the Christian and that God gives us the word of God to not only sustain us, but also to use against our advisory who is the devil, who is out to destroy us. So if you have your Bibles if you will turn with me to Proverbs, chapter three and I will begin reading verses 5 and 6, a very familiar text, hopefully to most of us. Proverbs, Chapter 3 and if you have Proverbs, Chapter 3 say amen. Amen. Alright, some of you all are still turning. I am going to give you a second here. Alright. Now if you have Proverbs, Chapter 3 say amen. Amen. Okay, that is most of you. I am going to begin reading at verse 5 and you can just follow along. I will be preaching from the New American Standard Translation. Verse 5 says this:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart. And do not lean to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your path straight.”

The thought that I would like to leave with you just for memory sake because you know after you hit 50 you begin to lose your memory, so this may be more for me than you, but God’s guidance for God’s people. Now this message is predominantly geared to God’s people. There may be some of you who are not God’s people. I did not say you were not the creation of God, I am saying you may not be a child of God and there is a difference. So what I am going to do is go through this and then we are going to give an invitation, we won’t make it long, for those of you who do not know Christ to have that opportunity to at least know how to receive him. But what I would like to do is to focus on the people of God being guided by God.

Now, how many of you by the raise of your hands, how many of you have something or someone that you hold very dearly and you know it’s time to cut it loose? Anyone? I am the only one in the house. Alright. Everyone has something you know you need to get rid of or had at one time had that situation in your life. Well you know God desires that he would give us total guidance in everything that we do and that includes letting go of things and its very difficult to let go of things. Why? Because we are control freaks. We like to hold on. I like to be in charge. It’s mine. It’s mine. How many of you have seen “Finding Nemo?” So this is the kind of congregation that I am preaching to? These are my people. I like this. Do you all remember the gulls, “mine, mine, mine, mine, mine?” Look at you. Well that’s how we are isn’t it? When we have something and we don’t want to let it go, it’s mine, it’s mine, it’s mine and God is trying to take us to a different place and we keep yelling out to him, Lord but it’s mine, it’s mine, it’s mine. But you know what, scripture tells me in Psalm 24 that the earth is the Lord’s, you all hear me? The earth is the Lord’s and the form is thereof the world and they that dwell therein, so that means that everything that you have is not yours. Amen. I got one amen out of that. He’s the only one outside of me who is saved in this place. I am just joking. I am just having a good time in the Lord. Amen. Amen. But you look at that and when you understand that everything you have is on loan to you. God is in charge of all of our lives if we belong to him. He owns everything that we have including your wife, your husband, your sister, your brother and some of you all may say well I wish he didn’t have my brother and sister, but he does. God owns everything in your life and there is a direction, a specific direction that God wants us to go in. So we are going to look at just a few points here out of this text and with this in mind, understanding that God’s desire is that we release our lives over to him and that we are fully guided by him. Again, we like to control things and we let God have just enough, just to be holy, don’t we? Just enough to be called a Christian, just enough to look good in front of our friends or I read my Bible once a year, oh you must be a Christian? No. But just enough. But see, God wants our full person, our full being, no matter how old we are, no matter how short you are, no matter how tall you are, no matter where you live, no matter what color you are, no matter how ugly you are, God wants you. Only the ugly ones left, did you all hear that one.

So what do we need to do in order for God to direct our paths as we see in verse six. There are four points that I would like to share with you; some things that God needs us to do. Point number one and for those of you who are writing, I am going to make it easy for you and these are going to start with “G’s”, all of these. The first one is give up and that comes out of verse five that says trust in the Lord. And I don’t know if you all recognize this or not, but I have been saying for a while, now you don’t need to recognize that, but you need to recognize this, that in order to trust in God you have to give up you. In order to fully trust him, you must relinquish, you must surrender everything over to God. Okay? And I talking about fully trust. Now what I am talking about trust is this. You must place your heart, you must place your mind, you must place your soul, your very inner being, the very seat of your emotions, everything of who you are, the essence of your character into God’s hand and say “Lord I am yours, take me and use me for your glory and for your honor.” Most Christians do not, including myself at times, do not follow that formula to prosperity and I am not talking about money, I am just talking about living a good quality type of life because we want to be in charge. When we talk about trusting in God, we are talking about giving him everything. No matter what situation, no matter what circumstance comes in our lives, we fully trust in him.

I am going to give you this illustration that I used the last service. I am talking about Peter. Anybody here named Peter? No Peters in here. Alright, good. So I didn’t want you to think that I was talking about you today. But we are talking about Peter who walked on the water. No let me just set this up for you. Here are the disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee and everything is going well until a nor’easter comes down out through the mountains and all of a sudden the sea is in a rage. Jesus sends the disciples out and says, “look I’ll catch up with you guys later because I got some things that I got to do back here” and so they launch out and they are out in the middle of sea and all of a sudden the little boat becomes tossed in the tempest and they begin to throw things over sort of looking at their survival and saying, you know we are not going to make it and all of a sudden in the middle of the night comes this entity who was walking on the water, unrecognized at first and still unrecognized when Peter launches out, out through his mouth and he says, “Lord is that you?” Here he is in fear and trembling, there is an entity, a phantom walking on the water and Peter, no one else, says “Lord is that you? And if it is, would you bid me to come on the water?” Now, Peter is in fear believing that he may die, he is now at the point of saying, you know I am just going to give it up. “Lord if that’s you, I don’t know if it’s you, but if that is you, bid me to come out to the water”, and Peter heard a response that he probably didn’t expect. “Come on.” “But no, no, no God, I was just kidding. But is that really you?” That’s what I would have said. Lord is that really you and the Lord says, “Peter come on. Come on Peter.” And I can just see the hesitation of Peter’s leg climbing over the side of that boat and to just put that first foot you know on the water knowing that the depth of the Sea of Galilee was great, knowing that he could possibly die and all of a sudden he has footing in the water. And he steps out on the boat and he begins to walk toward the Lord. Now, I am saying this because of the trust factor, that knowing that he could perish, knowing that he could die, knowing that all life could end where it is and the suffering of drowning probably, he relinquishes or surrenders all of that and he says, “I am going to trust in God” and he begins to walk towards the Lord. Now where he failed as most of you know, is that he began to look at his circumstances. In other words, he had a pathway to walk and Jesus Christ was guiding him towards himself and all of a sudden Peter began to look at other things in his life. He began to look at for example, his financial situation, his friends, his neighbors, all the troubles in his life and he takes his eyes off of Christ and the scripture says he begins to sink and the Lord reaches down and he pulls them up.

Another illustration that I use that is a little more practical for me is the illustration of Indiana Jones, when they are going after the grail. Now I know you all have seen Nemo. How many of you have seen Indiana Jones? Alright. You all are my people. I love you. You all remember the last task that Indiana Jones had to cross before he went in to the cave to find the Holy Grail, was a great chasm that he had to trust. Now he had a script that said you need to trust. You just need to trust. You just need to give up, surrender all of who you are and just trust and see he is standing on the edge of this thing and he’s looking down and he’s looking around and he is saying to himself, his flesh, you know if I step off of this thing I am history, but I am going to believe and that very intensive moment he reaches up his foot and he steps down on a crosswalk from here to there. Now, we are looking at Indiana Jones trusting what he had read, trusting that all things would go well with him. And you know this is God’s desire for our lives: is that all we have to do is to just take a step and trust in him and we will be able to do things that we would normally not be able to do, of just trusting him. Trusting him in your relationships. Trusting him in your marriages.

Now I don’t see my bride out here, and I call her my bride because that is who she is. We have been married for 23 years and I know some of you all saying, well how in the world. Thank you. Praise the Lord. Yes. How in the world can someone be married for 23 years and still be a bride? It’s all a matter of perception. Because she has gone past being my wife. Anybody can be a wife. But she’s my bride because every time I see her, I see her when she walked down that aisle and the beauty and the magnificence of who she is and she took on a scrub like me. She is somebody. I want you to know that. So she is my bride. But I look at that and say okay, here we have been married for 23 years and for those of you who are not married, don’t get married, unless, that was a comma, see you all thought I put a period behind that. That was a comma. Don’t get married unless you are willing to commit your life to your relationship and you can only do that through the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. And those are married people who are saying amen, I want you to know that. I will have you to know that being married has been the hardest task that I have ever done in my life. Any other witnesses out there? Amen. Alright. Amen. Why? Because you have two different personalities, two different sets of baggage. She got her baggage, I got my baggage. We get to the point and I am saying you take your baggage and leave out the door the same way you came in and I tell her about it all the time, that same paper bag that you brought in here, you pack that thing up and get right on back out here. Now I want you to know that if it were not for Jesus Christ in my life and in our lives, and him directing our paths, ain’t no telling where we would be. But you know what, I can honestly say in spite of the percentage of Christian marriages that are now broken in divorce has reached over 53%. Christian marriages. I am not talking about the world. Why? Because people will not trust in the Lord with their marriage and in their relationships.

Not only that, but you have to trust in God with your finances. How many of you have ever been broke before? How many of you all are still broke? Amen. But see broke is just a perception. Poor is a perception, that’s all. How many of you did not eat because you could not eat this morning? I am talking about outside of illness. Okay, so you had the opportunity. Alright. Everyone in here is clothed, thank the Lord. Alright. So we have clothing. I don’t think anyone slept out on the street last night, so we have housing. God is still taking care of us. We are blessed. It’s just a matter of perception on how big your house is and what clothes you have on and how big your car you ride in. But the thing is that when you trust in the Lord and allow him to guide your footsteps he will provide all of your needs as far as marriage, as far as finances, as far as relationships. So we are looking at trusting in the Lord. So we just have to give up. Just give it up. If you really want and desire God to direct and guide your footsteps, you need to trust him and give up you.

Point number two. We need to give in. Not only do we need to give up, we need to give in. Scripture says that we are to lean, not to your own understanding. Now contrary to the first point of trusting and giving and doing, we have point number two that says give in, that you don’t rely, you don’t rest, you don’t trust, you don’t support your own thinking or perception. You don’t rely on your own thinking, because I am telling you brothers and sisters in the Lord, some of our thinking is warped. It’s wrong. It’s whacked. It’s out, you know we have issues. We really do. People have issues. I am going beyond problems. You know anybody can have a problem, but most people today have issues. It is deep-rooted stuff within them and we begin to perceive things out of our issues, because all of us have this grid and you know we perceive things through our own grid, about how we were raised, what we were thinking and so forth and so on and most of it is it ain’t right. It ain’t right. But scripture tells us don’t rely on our own understanding. We can not perceive with our finite minds an infinite God. I was sharing with the other services, I had the opportunity to go up in to the mountains in Pennsylvania a couple of days ago and we went to the top of the mountain about ten o’clock at night because we were doing some star gazing. Now I will tell you it was the most awesome sight that I have ever seen. Now I have seen some really nice panoramic skyviews at night. I mean they have been phenomenal, but this particular night it was absolutely crystal clear and the Milky Way was so white, I mean you could see it streaking through the sky and we saw comets flying, shooting stars and it was so clear that you could actually see satellites circling around the earth. And I am looking at this, I am looking at the clusters and the universes and the galaxies, now understand what Psalm 8 says when David says “Lord when I consider the sun, the moon and the stars in your handiwork, who am I that you are mindful of me and who am I that you send the Son of man down for me” and I understand this and I look at those stars and I say, “O my goodness.” I couldn’t even start to count and everything looked like the Big Dipper to me. I couldn’t tell which one, everything looked like everything and I am saying to myself, Lord you know the number of those stars and the scripture says that you call them by name. We are talking about infinite. This is the God that we serve and this is the God that is willing to direct our paths if we trust in him and not trust in our own finite knowledge of how we need to do stuff.

So God’s desire again is to trust him, not to lean to your understanding and point number three, so not only do we give up, give in, but we also have to give to. All right? And he says here in the verse, he says, “In all your ways acknowledge him”. In all of your ways, everything you do in your journey, in all manner of who you are, in your habits, in your course of life, in everything acknowledge him, not only with praise, not only with worship, but how you get up in the morning, acknowledge him. What you see, acknowledge him. You know it’s easy to see good in good. But it is very difficult to see good in something that may be evil, because then you can understand that God has allowed evil to happen because it is part of a fullness of his good plan. And see when we look at God working in this world today, understanding that in him all things consist in him, in him all things are held together, then I am trusting that whatever happens to me, to you, to this world is part of God’s good plan and that he is going to work it all out. So we look at acknowledging him. That means this in Hebrew. It means to learn about him. It means to perceive him, find out, get acquainted with him. You see many of us know about God, but very few of us know who God is. I am talking about having a personal relationship with him. You know, my understanding is that Christianity, and I am talking about the Christian faith, is the only faith walk where the recipients of salvation can have a personal relationship with their God. In any way, Buddha is too ugly for me to be worshipping. It don’t do that for me and all the other fellows: Mohammed and all the other fellows who have gone on, they are dead and still in the grave, but I serve a risen savior and his name is Jesus. And my thing is this, if I can serve a God who rose from the grave and conquered death and he is willing to guide my footsteps, I am his and I am going to acknowledge him every way I can, whether it is through worship as you guys are already doing, that’s one way. Whether it’s through a Bible study, that’s another way. Through fellowship, sharing with one another, testifying with one another. You know what sister, let me share with you how God did this for me. And you know what, you need to realize that maybe that sister or that brother may be going through the same thing that you are going through and they just need to hear a word from you that God is working in their lives. Because once they hear that, they can conclude that God can also do the same thing. But you acknowledge him and don’t be afraid. Don’t be ashamed. Now why would we be ashamed of a God who can speak and all these things come in to being? Don’t be ashamed, but acknowledge him. So God is saying to us, he says “Michael I want you to give up and trust in me”. He says, “Michael I want you to give in. Lean not to your own warped interpretation.” He also is saying “Michael I want you to give to, acknowledge me in every thing that you do and here’s what is going to happen.”

Point number four. I want you to go forth. So I want you to give up, give in, give to and finally to go forth. And it says this, “and he shall direct your path.” I don’t know about you, but sometimes we or I will fall off the pathway. Well I guess most of us do, we bunny trail our pathway most of the time, because again we want to do what we want to do, and not really hear what God is saying, and we begin to sway away from what God wants us to do. And God has a tendency of bumping us back on the road by whatever means are necessary. He will get us back on the road. But the thing is this. When we are talking about, “and he shall direct your path” this is very interesting in the Hebrew language. It actually means that he will smooth it out. It means that the road is crooked and God in his infinite power will work it out so that he will straighten it out. He will lay it out for you and it’s talking about every situation. God just does not guide us in certain things and don’t guide us in other things. God guides us in all things when we trust in him, when we lean not to our own understanding, when we acknowledge that he is our Lord, he is our Savior and then he will guide our footsteps.

Now I just want to read a portion of… no I am going to read the whole thing, Psalm 23. Psalm 23 and I will be finished this morning. Let me just run through that quickly and we will be done. For those of you who may be a little slow, it’s right after Psalm 22. Alright. Psalm 23. The first thing we recognize in this very familiar Psalm is that the Lord is our shepherd. In other words, it is he who guides and directs. Shepherds do not follow sheep. Sheep follow shepherds. Shepherds have the perspective, they have the perception, they have the wisdom and knowledge where to carry the sheep so that it may benefit the sheep. So when we look at this Psalm here it says, “The Lord is my shepherd” and then the Psalmist says,” and I shall not want.” So that means that the shepherd is going to give us everything that we need, even the desires of our heart. But look at this, it says here in Verse 2.

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures and he leads me beside the still waters.”

So we are talking about the shepherd leading the shepherd guiding.

“He restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his namesake.”

The reason that we are children of God, he has called us to be children of God is so that we may live righteous lives thereby glorifying his name.

Now, we sit here in this congregation and some of us and I have done this before, ask the question, “why do I exist?” “What is the reason that I am here?” And we even get to the point, “I wish I wasn’t here.” I wish I was dead. I wish I was gone. All these excuses of the situation and circumstances that you are in. Let me just share this with you. You are here because God put you here. Because if he did not want you here, you could have been aborted. Amen. So you think about that. There is a reason why you are here. And the reason is so that you may live a life of righteousness before him.

And he has a desire to guide and direct your footsteps. So he restores our soul. He guides me in the path of righteousness for his namesake and it says here,

“…even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”

It didn’t say there was not going to be trouble. God never promises that there is not going to be trouble. There will always be trouble in our lives because we live in a society of sinful people and we understand that wherever there is sin, there is trouble. Amen? How many of you have ever sinned and didn’t get caught, but saw that it wasn’t trouble? You know it was trouble. Amen. You knew it before you did it. Well you know it is because God has given you a conviction and the consciousness to know what is right and what is wrong. But the thing is this: that everyone will walk through the valley of the shadow of death at one time or another. And understand this, that when the scripture says the valley of death, we must understand this. That wherever there is a valley, there is also a mountain. Amen. There is no valley without mountains. And there are no mountains without valleys. So they kind of go together. So once we walk through the valley we must understand that there are also mountains and God is guiding us to those high points in our lives. He says,

“I will fear no evil for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You have anointed my head with oil. My cup runs over. Surely goodness and loving-kindness will follow me all the days of my life.”

And again, when we are looking at the procession of scripture here, we are looking at the shepherd leading and guiding. We are looking at the sheep following the shepherd as they trust in him, as they acknowledge him, as they lean not to their own understanding, and then following the sheep comes the loving kindness and the righteousness that comes in everything we do under God, everything that we say if we are living a life of holiness and righteousness. Why? So that men may see your good works and thereby glorify God.

You see, brothers and sisters, this journey that we are on is not our journey. There is a purpose for all of us being here. It’s not “mine, mine, mine.” The journey that you are walking on is the Lord’s, is the Lord’s, is the Lord’s and we have to look at how we can submit ourselves to the process of God using us for his glory, because he deserves all of it.

And then the writer says, “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

God’s guidance for God’s people. When we look at God’s people, again we lose and have lost the importance of who we are. I am not talking about as Presbyterians or Baptists or any other human denomination. I am talking about the people of God and I am going to share this with you and then I am done and finished here.

In my transition, my wife and I have had a chance to visit other churches in the Baltimore/Washington area and we have come to a valid conclusion that the churches are some sad state. It is a sad state, it really is. The stuff that is coming across the pulpits, and the behavior of pastors, and preachers, and people in the congregation. Men are being deceived and they are actually leaving the faith and with tickling ears, just gone off and are having themselves a good ole time. And I look at that and I say, well that is really no different than the Church at Colossae, it is really no different than the Church of Corinthians or Ephesus where the same old behavior of sin was still rampant and people were doing their own thing and God acknowledges that in scripture, but he also acknowledges a way that you can get away from those things. When he says in Ephesians “and so we were that way,” saying that there is a past behavior and there is a pathway that we all need to walk. Central Presbyterian has always been a church that is dear to me just because of our relationship and I can honestly say and earnestly say that in order for this church to continue to be the light on this hill and the salt of the earth out in this area and areas around Baltimore, then the people of God here starting from the pastor, to the elders, to the session, all the way down, everyone needs to walk the pathway in which God has given us. His purpose for Central and any church who will obey, is that he will be glorified.

All of you young people here, what a great model and example you could be, not only at home, not only to your community, but also in the school settings and your learning situations, every setting you can be in, you can be that model that God desires for you to be. But it can only happen when you trust in Him, acknowledge who He is, lean not to your own understanding, acknowledge who He is, and then going forth in the path that He has directed you. This is the way that God will guide you and it’s open to anyone and all you have to do is just do those things and God will keep his promise and show you which way to go.

So if there is anyone of you today who is confused about your walk, confused about your journey and just feel that you don’t know which way to go, listen don’t feel bad, we have all been there and there is more people in that state of mind than you think, you are not in there by yourself, but you listen to God’s Word, just trust in who He is, don’t worry about what you think and how you perceive things, but acknowledge that He is God, He is great, He is awesome and He will, He will, according to his promise, direct your path. Amen. Amen.

Let’s close in a word of prayer. Father, thank you again for your Word this morning. And I just pray Lord that you would just continue to bless us as we not only regurgitate, but meditate and just continue to chew on what you have given us today. We thank you for the power of your Word and we thank you for your presence and it’s in Jesus name. Amen.