You’re not smart enough, strong enough, or godly enough to handle everything life is going to hurl at you. Part of growing up and growing deeper involves learning that lesson. Fortunately for us, however, our Lord knew it from the start and made provisions for our weaknesses.
What He did was to give us our two best friends for the living of these days: the Holy Spirit as our Guide and the Holy Bible as our Light.
Whether you pastor a church, run an office, or till a farm, you will frequently find yourself in situations beyond you, times when you need a wisdom more than yours, direction about choices facing you, and guidance for the labyrinth we call modern living.
The Holy Spirit. The Holy Bible. The Person of the Lord indwelling you and the Word of the Lord instructing you. It’s an unbeatable combination.
In his biography of Thomas Wolfe, Andrew Turnbull tells how the famous writer’s parents made the decision to marry. During only their second conversation, W. O. Wolfe proposed to Julia Westall. Protesting that she hardly knew the man, Julia suggested that they should open at random the book she was holding in her lap. They would let the book fall open, she said, then choose the middle paragraph on the right page, and let it speak to their situation.
Fortuitously or disastrously, depending on one’s viewpoint, the book opened to a wedding ceremony which contained the words, “till death do us part.” Three months later they were married.
We’ve all heard stories of people seeking God’s wisdom who tried that approach with the Bible. “I just opened the Bible at random,” they exclaim, “and my finger fell on that verse.” Almost always the verse has a completely different meaning than the one in which the speaker used it, but, they were convinced God had sent divine guidance for their situation.
There’s good news and bad news about such a methodology for finding God’s direction. The good news is that a Sovereign God may decide to use it. Throughout Scripture, we find God dispensing His wisdom by a fleece on the ground, the shadow of an apostle, and the casting of lots. My personal objection to this was forever quietened when I found Psalm 115:3. “Our God is in the Heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”
If He chooses to use a roll of the dice, whom am I to object?
The bad news is that this approach tends to make of the Bible a book of magic. Sincere followers of Jesus Christ treasure His Word and want to learn the depth of its treasures and the scope of its riches, but must be warned against making of the Bible the equivalent of a ouija board.
Better to spend time each day reading and relishing and rethinking Scripture. Then, when guidance from it becomes necessary for our lives, one will not need to resort to trickery or shortcuts.
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet.” (Psalm 119:105) The Bible is a light for God’s children.
Incidentally, after reporting on the wedding of W. O. Wolfe and Julia Westall, biographer Turnbull’s next sentence states, “It was an epic misalliance.”
So much for the “close your eyes and let the book fall open at any page” technique.
Jesus Christ promised His people, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.” (John 10:27) We do not need the toss of the dice, a flip of the coin, a reading from a palmist, an interpretation of a dream, a consultation of our horoscope, a lucky hunch, or a guru’s best shot. We have, not “some thing” better, but Someone better. We have the Lord Himself.
Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have two things going for us which make a world of difference in these dark and confusing times. We have both a Guide and Light, one to accompany us and the other to illumine the way. We need never be lost or confused again.
The Holy Spirit is our Guide; the Bible is our Light. He will always guide us in conformity with the revelations of His word.
I found an important reminder about the way darkness stymies even the best-intentioned in the autobiography of John McElroy, a Yankee soldier held at the infamous Confederate prison in Andersonville, Georgia, during the Civil War. McElroy and his colleagues were attempting to tunnel under the stockade walls in order to escape. Inside their tent and hidden from the view of the guards, they dug a hole large enough for one man to lie inside and crawl. For several days and nights, they took turns laboring at their escape route, convinced they were close to freedom. Eventually, the diggers began to wonder why they had not reached the stockade wall. By measuring the tunnel, they determined they had dug twice as far as was necessary. The answer to their puzzle came when a fellow prisoner walking near their tent fell into a hole. It was the far end of McElroy’s tunnel. The diggers had gone in a long, nearly completed circle.
Analyzing this, McElroy concluded that since all the tunnel-diggers were right-handed, they tended to curve the tunnel to the left. In pitch blackness, with no light and nothing to set their course, they had no way of keeping their work on a straight line.
They needed a light or a guide, or both.
Cindie and Scot Brown belonged to a church I pastored while he served in the Air Force. Cindie was blind from birth and, as the mother of three sons, amazed us all by her abilities and confidence. In a Bible class, Cindie told of something she experienced when they were stationed in Germany.
Each day Cindie rode the subway into the city where she was taking some classes. A friend accompanied her until Cindie learned the details of the route and thereafter she made the trip alone. One day, a power outage plunged the subway into complete darkness. Cindie was able to calm the other passengers and assure her that she knew the way outside. She had them line up behind her with arms on the shoulders of the person in front, then follow her to daylight. She returned several times until everyone was outside.
In life’s darkness, it’s great to have a guide who sees what no one else can.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day brought a woman to him they claimed to have caught in the act of adultery. In her moral darkness, they were pointing out, she had violated the commands of God and deserved death. But other darkness was present here. Spiritual darkness was clouding the minds and callousing the hearts of these hard-hearted judges. Their lack of love for the woman, their willingness to use her to make their theological point, and their insistence on vindicating their position no matter the humiliation to the woman, made them failures as leaders, stumblingblocks for the fallen, and enemies of righteousness.
After turning his righteousness upon their hypocrisy and watching them scatter for cover, Jesus explained, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Recently, a pastor in Lucedale, Mississippi, invited me to speak in his church. By his directions and from the internet map, I determined the drive would require less than three hours, so left home Sunday morning at 6:30 am. I arrived in the county seat town in plenty of time and stopped for a cup of coffee at a fast food restaurant, then pulled out the directions to the church. Fifteen minutes later, I knew I was in trouble. The pastor’s instructions assumed I would enter the city from a highway I could not locate, and my internet map was confusing and useless. I stopped the car and made numerous phone calls to the pastor. To my frustration, I kept getting his answering machine on both his cell phone and the church phone. Now it was approaching 10 o’clock, the time of the first service, and I was feeling anxious. Just then the phone rang.
The pastor said, “I heard the phone in the church office and thought it might be you.” Then, he stayed on the phone with me for the next several minutes and talked me down the various highways and intersections and turns until I pulled into the church parking lot. We walked inside the church auditorium just in time for the service.
The only thing better than having a personal guide is having both a Light and a Guide.
As Israel negotiated their way across the Sinai Peninsula and through the barren wilderness, the only thing they had going for them was the Lord who had called them out of Egypt and was accompanying them. You will recall how He led them forth in the day time through a cloud and at night, a pillar of fire in the sky. Moses wanted them to be aware of the great resource which was the Lord, and called their attention in two sentences found in Deuteronomy chapter 4, verses 7 and 8.
“For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him?”
“Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?”
A Guide and a Light. Don’t leave home without them.
The prayer chorus goes, “Lead me, Lord. Lead me in Thy righteousness. Make Thy way plain before me. Amen.”
You’re not admitting to weakness when you open the Word and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you. You’re using your two greatest resources, gifts of the Lord Himself to make you successful in the ways that matter the most.
Amen Joe. Too bad that sometimes the ‘light’ of Jesus seems too bright. There are many who willfully choose to remain in the dark. It is as though they feel comfort hiding in the darkness. Let us pray that we ‘insiders’ will let our actions be so appealing to those ‘outside’ the light, that we will draw them out and into the light by the way we show love to each other and to them.
A message for Joe.
I found the article interesting, however, have you a connection with the Civil War, that is, a family link? Reading an article from a fellow McKeever I thought that I should say Giday.