“This God is our God to time indefinite, even forever. He himself will guide us until we die.”—PS. 48:14.
When we consider things that are valueless or harmful, it is easy to deceive ourselves. (Prov. 12:11) If we really want to do something that is not appropriate for a Christian, our heart will often come up with persuasive reasons to do it. (Jer. 17:5) Hence, the psalmist demonstrated wisdom when he prayed to God: “Send out your light and your truth. May these themselves lead me.” (Ps. 43:3) He trusted in God, not in his own limited wisdom, and he could have looked to no better source for guidance. Like the psalmist, we do well to look to God for direction.
Why, though, should we trust God’s guidance above all other? When should we seek it? What attitudes should we cultivate to benefit from it, and how does God guide us today? These important questions will be discussed in this article.
Why Trust God’s Guidance?
God is our heavenly Father. (1 Cor. 8:6) He has a thorough knowledge of each one of us and can read our very hearts. (1 Sam. 16:7; Prov. 21:2) King David said to God, “You yourself have come to know my sitting down and my rising up. You have considered my thought from far off. For there is not a word on my tongue, but, look! O God, you already know it all.” (Ps. 139:2) Since God knows us so well, how can we doubt that he knows what is best for us. Besides, God is all-wise. He sees everything, looks deeper than any human looks, and knows the outcome of things from their beginning. (Isa. 46:9-11; Rom. 11:33) He is “God, wise alone.”—Rom. 16:27.
In addition, God loves us and always wants what is best for us. (John 3:16; 1 John 4:8) As a loving God, he is generous toward us. The disciple James wrote:
Every good gift and every perfect present is from above, for it comes down from the Father of the celestial lights. (Jas. 1:17) Those who let themselves be guided by God benefit greatly from his generosity.
Finally, God is almighty. In this regard, the psalmist said: “Anyone dwelling in the secret place of the Most High will procure himself lodging under the very shadow of the Almighty One. I will say to God: ‘You are my refuge and my stronghold, my God, in whom I will trust.’” (Ps. 91:1, 2) When we follow God’s guidance, we are seeking refuge with the God who cannot fail. Even if we meet opposition, God supports us. He will not let us down. (Ps. 71:4, 5; Proverbs 3:19-26.) Yes, God knows what is best for us, wants what is best for us, and has the power to provide what is best for us. How foolish it would be for us to ignore his guidance! When, though, do we need that guidance?
When Do We Need Guidance?
Really, we need God’s guidance throughout our lives, from youth to old age. The psalmist said:
This God is our God to time indefinite, even forever. He himself will guide us until we die. (Ps. 48:14) Like the psalmist, wise Christians never cease to look to God for guidance.
There are, of course, times when we feel an especially urgent need for help. Sometimes we find ourselves in “sore straits,” perhaps facing persecution, a severe illness, or sudden unemployment. (Ps. 69:16, 17) At such times, it is comforting to turn to God, confident that he will strengthen us to endure and guide us to make good decisions. (Psalm 102:17.) However, we also need his help on other occasions. For example, when we set out to speak with our neighbors about the good news of the Kingdom, we need God’s guidance if our witnessing is to be effective. In addition, whenever we have a decision to make—be it about recreation, dress and grooming, association, employment, education, or anything else—we act wisely only if we follow God’s guidelines. In truth, there is no end to the situations in which we need guidance.
The Dangers of Not Seeking God’s Guidance
Remember, though, that we have to be willing to follow God’s guidance. God will not force us to do so if we do not want to. The first human to choose not to follow God’s guidance was Eve, and her example shows how serious such a bad decision can be. Think, too, of the implications. Eve ate of the forbidden fruit because she wanted “to be like God, knowing good and bad.” (Gen. 3:5) In doing so, she put herself in God’s place, making her own decisions as to good and evil rather than following God’s guidelines. Thus, she turned her back on God’s sovereignty. She wanted to be her own master. Her husband, Adam, pursued the same rebellious course.—Rom. 5:12.
Today, if we do not follow God’s guidance, we are likewise failing to acknowledge his sovereignty. Think, for example, of a person who develops the habit of watching pornography. If he is associated with the Christian congregation, he knows God’s guidelines on this matter. Unclean things should not even be mentioned, let alone be gazed at with lascivious enjoyment. (Eph. 5:3) By rejecting God’s guidelines, such a man is denying God’s sovereignty, rejecting His headship. (1 Cor. 11:3) That is most unwise, since, as Jeremiah said,
it does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.—Jer. 10:23.
Some might question Jeremiah’s words, feeling that since God gave us free will, he can hardly criticize us for using it. Still, do not forget that free will is a responsibility as well as a gift. We are answerable for the things we choose to say and do. (Rom. 14:10) Jesus said,
Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” He also said, “Out of the heart come wicked reasoning’s, murders, adulteries, fornications, thieveries, false testimonies, blasphemies. (Matt. 12:34; Matt. 15:19)
Hence, our words and deeds reveal our heart condition. They show what we really are. That is why a wise Christian seeks God’s guidance in everything. In that way, God finds him ‘upright in his heart’ and will “do good” to him.—Ps. 125:4.
Remember the history of Israel. When that nation made good choices, obeying God’s commands, God protected them. (Josh. 24:15) Frequently, though, they misused their free will. In Jeremiah’s day, God said of them:
They did not listen, neither did they incline their ear, but they went walking in the counsels in the stubbornness of their bad heart, so that they became backward in direction and not forward. (Jer. 7:24-26)
How sad! May we never, because of stubbornness or self-indulgence, reject God’s guidance and walk in our own counsels and thus become “backward in direction and not forward”!
What Does It Take to Follow God’s Counsel?
Our love for God makes us want to follow his guidance. (1 John 5:3) However, Paul pointed to something else that we need when he said, “We are walking by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:6, 7) Why is faith important? Well, God leads us in “the tracks of righteousness,” but those tracks do not lead to wealth or privilege in this world. (Ps. 23:3) For that reason, our eye of faith needs to be fixed on the incomparable spiritual rewards that come from serving God. (2 Cor. 4:17) And faith helps us to be content with modest material provisions.—1 Tim. 6:8.
Jesus indicated that true worship involves self-sacrifice, which also takes faith. (Luke 9:23, 24) Some faithful worshippers have made great sacrifices, enduring poverty, oppression, prejudice, even severe persecution. (2 Cor. 11:23-27; Rev. 3:8-10) Only strong faith enabled them to do so with joy. (Jas. 1:2, 3) Strong faith makes us confident that following God’s guidance is always best. It is always for our ultimate good. We have no doubt whatsoever that the reward for those who loyally endure is far greater than any temporary suffering.—Heb. 11:6.
Consider, too, the role of humility in following God’s guidance. The example of Hagar, Sarah’s maidservant, demonstrates this. When Sarah continued childless, she gave Hagar to Abraham, and Hagar became pregnant with Abraham’s child. Then, Hagar became arrogant toward her barren mistress. As a result, Sarah “began to humiliate her,” and Hagar ran away. An angel of God met Hagar and told her:
Return to your mistress and humble yourself under her hand.” (Gen. 16:2)
Perhaps Hagar would have preferred some other guidance. To act according to the angel’s direction, she would have to abandon her arrogant attitude. Nevertheless, Hagar humbly did as the angel said, and her son, Ishmael, was born in the security of his father’s encampment.
Following God’s guidance might mean that we too have to humble ourselves. Some might have to accept the viewpoint that a form of recreation they enjoy is displeasing to God. A Christian might have offended someone and needs to apologize. Or he might have made a mistake and needs to admit it. What if someone commits a serious sin? He needs to humble himself and confess the sin to the elders. An individual might even be disfellowshipped. To be accepted back into the congregation, he must humbly repent and turn around. In these and similar situations, the words of Proverbs 29:23 are comforting: “The very haughtiness of earthling man will humble him, but he that is humble in spirit will take hold of glory.”
How Does God Guide Us?
The foremost source of divine guidance is the Bible, God’s inspired Word. (2 Timothy 3:16) To make the most of that Word, we are wise not to wait for a challenging situation to arise before seeking helpful words in the Scriptures. Rather, we will make Bible reading a daily habit. (Ps. 1:1-3) In that way, the inspired words become familiar. God’s thoughts become our thoughts, and we are ready to face even unexpected problems.
In addition, it is important to meditate on what we read in the Scriptures and pray in connection with it. When we ponder on Bible verses, we consider how they might apply in specific situations. (1 Tim. 4:15) When we face serious problems, we pray to God, asking help to find the guidance we need. God’s spirit will help us to recall helpful Scriptural principles that we have read in the Bible itself or in Bible-based publications.— Psalm 25:4, 5.
Our Christian brotherhood is another valuable resource in seeking God’s guidance. The body of Christ, his church, is made up of Christian fellowships who are mature individuals, especially the pastors, who are qualified to give personal help and Scriptural counsel. (Isa. 32:1) Young ones in Christian households have an additional valuable resource. Their believing parents are a God-ordained authority to whom they are always encouraged to look for guidance.—Eph. 6:1-3.
Yes, in a number of ways, God offers guidance, and we do well to take full advantage of it. Speaking of a time when Israel proved faithful, King David said,
In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you kept providing them with escape. To you they cried out, and they got away safe; in you they trusted, and they did not come to shame. (Ps. 22:3-5) If we trustingly follow God’s guidance, we too will “not come to shame. We will not be disappointed in our hope. If we ‘roll upon God our way,’ instead of relying on our own wisdom, the results will be rich blessings even now. (Ps. 37:5)
And if we loyally persevere in that course, those blessings will be eternal. King David wrote, “God is a lover of justice, and he will not leave his loyal ones. To time indefinite they will certainly be guarded…. The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”—Ps. 37:28, 29.