Note from Eric:
Would you like to read through the Psalms with me this year? It’ll be easy… we’ll just read one Psalm a day for five days each week. Then once a week, in our regular Sunday messages on “This Day’s Though from The Ranch,” I’ll share with you something I’ve learned from one of the five Psalms from that week.
As we’re reading through the Psalms, I’ll be looking particularly at how to have a more effective prayer life. Psalms is one of the most beloved books of the Bible and one of the most quoted books in the world. Why? That’s what we’re going to find out!
You don’t need to do anything special to receive these weekly messages. Just look for the Sunday message each week, which you already receive as part of your subscription to “This Day’s Thought from The Ranch.”
What you can do, however, is invite someone else to read through the Psalms with you this year! Just forward this email to them and ask if they’d like to sign up for our free daily emails as well. Your friends will get our inspirational quotes each day, just like you do, including this new series on the Psalms on Sundays. Just invite them to sign up for “This Day’s Thought from The Ranch” on the home page of our website at this link: http://theranch.org.
We’ll start with Psalm 1 next Sunday, February 19th. I’m looking forward to this new series. I hope you are, too!
Receiving God’s Guidance
by Christian Cheong
This is the story of how God guided Abraham’s servant to find the wife for his son Isaac. We’re going to learn some principles in receiving God’s guidance.
Our God is a God who guides, and who wants to guide.
• He did that for Abraham – bringing him out from his homeland to Israel.
• He did that for Moses and the people – from Egypt to Canaan.
• He did that for the wise men who wanted to see baby Jesus – so He showed them the way through a star in the sky.
Today, God wants to guide you in your choices – if you allow Him.
2 Chron 7:14 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Rom 10:9 “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
It is not that God do not want to guide us, it is more often the case that we do not want to listen to His advice. We ignore His guidance.
RETURN TO THE CABIN
A flight attendant spent a week’s vacation in the Rockies. She was captivated by the mountain peaks, the clear blue skies, and the beautiful forest. She also was charmed by a very eligible bachelor who owned and operated a cattle ranch and lived in a log cabin.
At the end of this week, after a wonderful time with this bachelor, she has to return home to her job. While on board the place, she was pondering, “Should I go back to the city or return to the woods and stay with this man in the cabin for the rest of her life?” She was struggling but believes that God will give her an answer.
To refresh herself, she went into the rest room and splashed some water on her face. Just then, there was some turbulence, a ‘ding’ sound went off and then a sign in the rest room lit up: PLEASE RETURN TO THE CABIN.
She did – to the cabin back in the mountains.
…Modified from Reader’s Digest [1/81], p. 118.
I hope this is not the way you make decisions in life.
• Making the right choice is a dilemma for many people, including Christians.
• How can you and I be certain that we are in God’s will and that the decisions we are making are the right ones?
• This is an important subject for all of us since we all must make important decisions.
This passage in Genesis 24 deals with this subject and problem.
• In this chapter we not only see God providing guidance to His people in an important matter but we also see the conditions under which that guidance was provided.
• These conditions, which could also be referred to as principles, are what I will discuss today.
There are 4 key principles that can help us.
The 1st principle for receiving God’s guidance: Knowing God’s Word.
[See verses 3-4]
We must know God’s will and purposes to help direct our actions and decisions.
• And that knowledge comes first and foremost from God’s Word.
• God’s Word reveals God’s plan, principles and purposes.
• We need to start with that. Without this knowledge, you might as well do whatever you want.
Abraham knew right at the start what he was looking for.
• He gave very clear instruction to the servant where to find a wife for Isaac – not among the daughters of the Canaanites.
• Boundaries have been set because Abraham knew what was right in God’s sight.
Knowledge of God’s Word is the first step in the right direction.
We see Abraham taking steps to see that God’s plan is fulfilled.
• God promised to make him a great nation.
• Isaac must marry and have children for the covenant blessings to be received.
• Abraham understands this, so he doesn’t sit idly and wait for God’s plan to be fulfilled.
• He does his part and takes appropriate action; in this case he begins to look for a wife for Isaac.
Sometimes we think that if God guides us, it means we do not have to do anything.
• Like people who are out of work and yet refuse to go look for a job because they are waiting for God to provide a job.
• Such thinking is unbiblical. God wants us to do our part, but to do it while being guided by the knowledge of God’s Word.
This was what Abraham did!
• His search for a wife wasn’t based on human standards or desires but guided by his knowledge of God’s will.
• Why did he insist that Isaac’s wife be from his own relatives and not from the local people of Canaan? Why did he insist on this condition?
• Because he knew enough of God’s will to know that God wouldn’t bless a marriage to a Canaanite woman.
God did not tell him specifically, “You cannot take a Canaanite woman for Isaac.”
• Although no specific command, God did reveal to Abraham the wicked character of the people of Canaan.
• And he knew that to marry one of them would not be pleasing to God.
• Although no clear command from God, he did have enough information to make reasonable inferences.
In other words, we apply biblical principles to the situation.
• There are many situations in life that we do not have a specific command in the Bible, but we are to apply the principles we come to know from the Scriptures.
• And make a decision that is in line with the character of God.
So, the first principle for receiving God’s guidance is: Knowing God’s Word.
• Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”
NO LIGHT ON THE RUNWAY
Consider the experience of a friend of mine, who was a recreational pilot when he was younger. On one occasion, he flew his single-engine plane toward his home base at a small country airport.
Unfortunately, he waited too long to start back and arrived in the vicinity of the field as the sun dropped behind a mountain. By the time he maneuvered his plane into position to land, he could not see the hazy runway below.
There were no lights to guide him and no one on duty at the airport. He circled the field for another attempt to land, but by then the darkness had become even more impenetrable. For 2 desperate hours, he flew his plane around and around in the blackness of the night, knowing that probably death awaited him when he ran out of fuel.
Then as greater panic gripped him, a miracle occurred. Someone on the ground heard the continuing drone of his engine and realized his predicament. That merciful man drove his car back and forth on the runway to show my friend the location of the airstrip. Then he let his lights cast their beam from the far end while the plane landed.
…James Dobson shared this about his friend in The New Strong-Willed Child, p. xi.
It is very critical that we know the will of God.
• Jewish proverb: “It is better to ask the way ten times than to take the wrong road once.”
• “For a painter, he cannot do without a brush. For a carpenter, he cannot do without a hammer. For us, our life can do without God’s Word.”
The 2nd principle for receiving God’s guidance: Be Committed to God’s Will.
[See verses 5-6]
We have to DECIDE, right at the start, to keep to God’s plan.
• Abraham was serious about doing it right. It is one thing to know, it is quite another to be completely committed to it.
• It would not be easy to get a wife who is willing to follow the servant back, but he was committed to staying within the boundary lines.
• And it was a success. This story shows us that God guides us when we are committed to His will and not our own.
“If no woman is willing to come to this land (so far), can we just take Isaac back home and settle there?”
• The servant is basically asking: Can we change plan if it doesn’t work?
• Abraham said NO! God has already revealed to him that He is going to give him and his descendants this land.
• So Isaac is not going to leave this ‘promised land’.
Abraham makes it clear that he is totally committed to following God’s plan.
• It makes the servant’s job very difficult, but Abraham is committed to doing it God’s way.
• You see, he is determined to align himself to God’s plan, not the other way around. We don’t change plan and fit ourselves.
King Solomon, the wisest man of all times, wrote Proverb 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 make your paths straight.”
• NLT translates as “Seek His will in all you do, and (then) He (The Lord) will direct your paths.”
• For a person with great wisdom to say this is special. He is so wise, and yet needs to consult God in all ways.
God eventually worked supernaturally to fulfil His plan.
• God will work supernaturally in your life to bring about His plans, but only when you are committed to doing His will.
The 1st principle for receiving God’s guidance: Knowing God’s Word.
The 2nd principle for receiving God’s guidance: Committing to God’s Will.
The 3rd principle for receiving God’s guidance: Trusting in God’s Ways.
[See verses 7-8]
Faith is crucial. You must trust God.
• Without that, you won’t keep to His plan. You don’t believe that it will happen as God promised.
In verse 7 Abraham recounts that God had made promises that included his offspring staying in this land.
Since God made that promise, Abraham expects Him to keep it by supplying a wife for Isaac.
• His confidence is based on God’s promise, not on personal desire.
• God honours those who trust in His Word!
In verse 8 Abraham acknowledges that it may not happen as he expects.
• This isn’t a lack of trust in God – just an acknowledgment that God may provide in a different manner that he expects.
• Whatever it is, “only do not take my son back there.” We are not going to change God’s plan. We must have this determination to stay the course!
• One way or the other God will provide for His will to be done without His people compromising on His Word!
Many people express a trust in God but their trust is that God will provide what they want and desire, according to their own plans
• Abraham really believes that God will provide on this trip, even though it looks extremely remote.
• What are the chances that his servant can travel 800km, meet a qualified woman from Abraham’s own family, and convince her and her family to let her travel to a distant land and marry a man she or the family has never met?
• Human insight or understanding would say, “No chance!”
• Nevertheless, in verse 7, Abraham clearly expects God to do just this by sending an angel to guide and provide.
• He is not trusting in his own understanding or insight but is rather trusting in God’s ways.
King Solomon says (Prov 3:5): “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
Whether the issue is marriage, career, studies, ministry, or some other life issue, we must trust God to supernaturally arrange the circumstances at the right time and in the right way.
That’s the 3th principle for receiving God’s guidance: Trusting in God’s Ways.
The 4th principle for receiving God’s guidance is to pray for God’s Wisdom.
The servant did not assume that he would recognize the woman God had prepared.
[See verse 12] He prayed.
• Notice something – after travelling a 800km journey on camel, the servant arrived at the perfect place to meet a young, unmarried woman at the very time the women would be coming to the well to draw water.
• What a coincidence. No, it’s what providence!
• God had arranged the circumstances perfectly for His will to be fulfilled in this situation.
Abraham’s knowledge, commitment, and trust were not in vain.
• God was working behind the scene.
• God will direct our circumstances so that His will is successfully fulfilled in our lives if we do our part to KNOW His Word, be COMMITTED to His Will, TRUST in His ways, and then PRAY for wisdom.
• I believe many of you can look back on your life and see evidence of God working and guiding your circumstances in remarkable ways!
• It is reassuring to see how powerful and wise our God is in directing our lives.
The servant realizes that this is a divine opportunity, so he prays for success and guidance.
• James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
• We miss God’s guidance and divine opportunities because they do not pray.
Often we go through life just making decisions based on our own wisdom.
• We need to recognize that we do not have the wisdom to direct our own paths or to make right choices; we need to pray for God’s wisdom if we are to receive His guidance.
Continuing, James 1:6-8 “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”
These biblical stories are recorded for our practical application today.
We can receive God’s guidance if we have the knowledge of God’s Word, are committed to His will, trust in His ways, and pray for His wisdom.
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