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Led by the Spirit - Shepherd of Hope

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” – Romans 8:14

 

Circumstances and plans in life do not always pan out as we expect. We in fact are very limited in perspective and therefore very limited in our capacity to make decisions. On our own we make an unholy mess of our lives. Most of us did before we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior. But once a person accepts Jesus as their Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to reside within their heart and make His presence known. A spiritual relationship is established with Jesus by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer. This holds great benefits. A person can have a personal relationship with the Lord of Eternity, the Ancient of Days, and the King of kings and Lord of Lords. This relationship is very practical.

Led by the Spirit

 The Bible tells us that those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior and entered into a personal relationship with Him in the Spirit are “led by the Spirit of God.” We see this in the following verse:

  • Romans 8:12-14 – “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”

The person who has been born again of the Spirit no longer lives “according to the flesh,” or limited by their own desires or personal resources. The person who lives according to the flesh, in their own strength “will die,” they will live a life that reaps spiritual disorganization, disarray and death. The person who has been born again, “by the Spirit” puts “to death the deeds of the body” and lives spiritually. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” Sons of God are led by the Holy Spirit in life. (See also Galatians 5)

This can be a great source of comfort in making life decisions. The child of God who has been born again of the Spirit no longer has to fend for themselves but has the Holy Spirit to lead them. Imagine, those hard life decisions can be orchestrated by the Spirit who has heavenly eternal perspective, not just our own guesswork to go by.

Praying to Be Led by The Spirit of God

In Romans 8 it states:

  • Romans 8:26-27 – “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”

We are weak because we are very limited in perspective in life. We cannot see into the hearts of others, we cannot even see into our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9-10), and we certainly cannot see the future. But God can see into the hearts of people and He does know the future. In light of this who or Who would you rather have making decisions for you? God of course! And it is in prayer that we relinquish and surrender our will and life to God through the Spirit for Him to do what is best for us. In prayer we give ourselves over to the Spirit to do as He sees fit and right. Paul was inspired to put it like this:

  • Romans 12:1-2 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

We are to give ourselves to the Spirit as living sacrifices, dead to ourselves and our own will and desires. This is a critically important step in being led by the Spirit because unless we present ourselves as living sacrifices to the LORD, we, the sinful natured me-myself-and-I will misinterpret God’s leading. Unless we crucify our flesh with is passions, lusts, and selfish desires, we will mislead ourselves and miss the leading of the Spirit. So beware of over emphasizing one of the aspects of study to get your way. You don’t want your way, you want His way.

God’s Priority

God’s ways are not our ways. He has a different set of priorities for us than we would have for ourselves. Our perspective is for the most part very temporal, very “now” oriented. God’s priority is not very “now” but is eternal in perspective. His ways are not our ways as Isaiah is inspired by God to write in the Old Testament where it states:

  • Isaiah 55:8-11 – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.10 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater,11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

Notice how God connects “His ways” with “My word . . . that goes forth from My mouth.” What does God’s word tell us is His priority for us? Very simply, God’s word tells us God’s priority for us is to conform us or shape us into the likeness of Jesus Christ and everything He does is aimed at this creative process in us. Back in Romans 8 it states this very clearly:

  • Romans 8:28-29 – “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

All the things which God does in the life of the believer are aimed at this work in our lives. This creates a conflict in us however.

The Inevitable Conflict

Because we are limited and God is not, there are times when what we want or desire is not what God wants or desires for us. We are inclined to take the easy more comfortable road in life, but that is not the way God frequently leads us. He knows that discomfort, difficulties, trials and hardships are often the tools needed to mold us into Christ-likeness.

The apostle Peter knew this and wrote in his first epistle:

  • 1 Peter 1:6-9 – 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your

The “revelation of Jesus Christ” refers primarily to the soon return of Jesus at the rapture. But secondarily, the revelation of Jesus Christ refers to what we learn of Jesus in and through trials.

We may pray for that promotion, but God says “No, I’m going to teach you to live a simpler life.” We may pray for God to work out a relationship, but He says, “No, that’s not My best for you.” We may pray to escape a mess we’ve created, but God says, “No, I’m not going to let you off the hook so easily so that you learn a lesson from this.” God always answers our prayers. His answers come in one of three responses, “No,” “Yes,” or “Wait.” Whatever His response, it is all aimed at bringing His best for us into our lives and that always means to in some way mold our character into Christ-likeness. We need to trust Him in that.

Who Does God Lead?

We have already seen how we need to prayerfully give ourselves to God as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). But more basically, God leads those who humble themselves before Him. The psalmist wrote:

  • Psalm 25:9 – “The humble He guides in justice, And the humble He teaches His way.”

To be led by the Spirit we have to humble ourselves before God.

Also, God leads those who are attentive to Him. The psalmist writes:

  • Psalm 32:8 – “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.”

Like two people who can direct each other or communicate with eye contact, that’s how God wants to lead us. We need to be in personal intimate contact with God and watch for His eye directions.

God leads those who delight in Him. When we delight in God, He puts His desires in our hearts and leads us. The psalmist states this when it is written:

  • Psalm 37:3-5 – “Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.4 Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.5 Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.”

God leads those who humbly and intimately delight in Him.

The Nature of God’s Leading

How can we discern the path of God, His will in our lives? Well, we need to understand and accept that His way is not always the easiest way. His way is often difficult and longer than we’d like because He is working to build us up spiritually. That’s why even in trials we can be joyful because God is working good into our character. James was inspired to say it best when he wrote:

  • James 1:2-8 – “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

Even in troubling trials that He permits in our lives, He is at work. But what is like to be led by the Spirit, to be led by God? Below are a few characteristics of being led by God.

First, God leads us like a Shepherd in ways that feed us spiritually. In Psalms it states:

  • Psalm 23:1-2 – “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.”
  • John 10:4 – “And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”

With the LORD as our Shepherd we “shall not want.” That doesn’t mean that whatever we want we will get it from God. That means whatever we need God will provide. God is not a sugar daddy. God is a wise Parent who knows what we need and is strong enough in His convictions to not give us what we want at times even though we cry and tantrum to get it. God won’t let us settle for   second best.

Second, God leads us by the hand. The scriptures state:

  • Psalm 139:8-10 – “If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.9 If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,10 Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me”

 

When my children were younger (and even sometimes today) and we used to go to a mall, especially when it was crowded, they would look to hold my hand. You see at around three feet tall the mall is a land of giants that are stampeding around you. They looked for security and strength from their daddy to guide them through the chaos and confusion. That’s what God does for us; He takes us by the hand and guides us through securely.

Third, God leads us by a still small voice, by the impression of the Spirit in us. The Bible also says:

  • Isaiah 30:21 – “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.”

 

There is an inner voice of the Spirit that leads the one intimately connected to God. But let us be cautioned here. God’s voice will never lead us in contradiction to His word.

Fourth, God leads in unexpected ways.

  • Isaiah 42:16 – “I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them.”

 

In Romans 12:2 it tells us not to be conformed to this world. When you are led by the Spirit you need to be ready to be led in ways you might not expect from the world’s perspective. You see the things that would appear to be an insurmountable obstacle or crushing defeat or fatal blow by the world’s standards or ways, are all overcomeable in the Spirit. In fact, the Spirit is able to take all these things and use them to further His cause and will in and through us. Joseph is a perfect example of this (Genesis 37-50).

Fifth, God leads in a profitable way.

  • Isaiah 48:17 – “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, The Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, Who teaches you to profit, Who leads you by the way you should go.”

 

We’re not only talking about monetary gain here, but the greater profit of spiritual maturation and being conformed to Christlikeness.

Sixth, God leads in the way of truth.

  • John 16:13 – “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”

 

God’s leading will never contradict His word. There are no exceptions here. The Spirit leads us in truth. The way He leads confirms and illumines the truthfulness of God’s word.

Seventh, God sometimes says “No” when He is leading us.

  • Acts 16:6-7 – “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.”      

 

Sometimes God says “No.” But that “No,” is sometimes only a “Not now.” If we look at the book of Acts, we see that Paul and his company eventually did go into Asia and the gospel was established there (Acts 19:10,22; 20:4). In fact, Paul wrote the letter to the Corinthians from an Asian church (1Corinthians 16:19; 2 Corinthians 1:8). (See also 2 Timothy 1:15; 1 Peter 1:1; Revelation 1:11).

Following God doesn’t mean there won’t be bumps in the road.

When God commissioned Joshua to lead His people into the Promised Land read what he said to him:

  • Joshua 1:1-9 – “After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying:2 “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel.3 “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.4 “From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory.5 “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.6 “Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.7 “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.8 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

God instilled confidence in Joshua. And Joshua’s first excursion was a victory in Jericho (Joshua 2-6). But in a little city called Ai Joshua experienced a big defeat because of an unknown sin in the camp (Joshua 7-9). God’s ways are not always smooth or what we expect, but if we remain true to him and walk in faith by the Spirit leading in the word, we will reach out destination. That’s God’s promise.

George Muller and the Will of God

 George Muller was born in Prussia on September 27th, 1805. He accepted Christ as his Savior when he was twenty years old. In 1826 he moved to England where he would spend his life in ministry. From the start Muller was moved by the Spirit to be a man of prayer and the study of God’s word. Throughout his ministry he chose to receive no regular salary but to prayerfully trust in God to provide for his every need, including the needs of the ministry he was in. such as The Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad. The purpose of this institution was to help Sunday schools, circulate the Scriptures and aid missionary efforts. Muller’s primary ministry work however was ministering to orphans. It was his ministry to orphans in England that Muller is most noted for. Throughout that ministry he never begged or manipulated people into contributing to the work, he prayed in the resources for the needs of all the thousands of children he ministered to in his lifetime.

But how did Muller know what the will of God was for his life? This praying man, this man of the Word had a very definite practice of discerning the will of God. His way of discovering the will of God involved six parts, which were as follows:

“1. I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord’s will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is.

“2. Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impressions. If so, I make myself liable to great delusions.

“3. I seek the will of the Spirit of God through or in connection with the word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also.” [1]

In this last regard, toward the end of his life in 1897, Muller was invited to preach at a Bible Society but was unable to attend. IN his apology for not being able to attend he wrote, “Will you have the kindness to read to the meeting that I have been for 68 years and 3 months, viz., since July, 1829, a love of the Word of God, and that uninterruptedly. During that time, I have read considerably more than 100 times through the whole of the Old and New Testaments, with prayer and meditation, four times every year.” “It is estimated that he read the Bible through more than two hundred times, one hundred of these times being, as he here suggests, on his knees.” [!][2]

“4. Next, I take into account providential circumstances. These plainly indicate God’s will in connection with His Word and Spirit.

“5. I ask God in prayer to reveal His will to me aright.

“6. Thus, through prayer to God, the study of the Word and reflection, I come to a deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly. In Trivial matters and in transactions involving most important issues, I have found this method always effective.”

Muller went on to testify, “I never remember,’ he wrote three years before his death, ‘ in all my Christian course, a period now (March, 1895) of sixty-nine years and four months, that I ever SINCERELY AND PATIENTLY sought to know the will of God by the teaching of the Holy ghost, through the instrumentality of the Word of God, but I have ALWAYS directed rightly. But if honesty of heart and uprightness before God were lacking, or if I did not patiently wait upon God for instruction, or if I preferred the counsel of my fellow men to the declarations of the Word of the living God, I made great mistakes. (Italics his.)” [3]

God leads in a way that stretches us spiritually and builds us up, in a way that conforms us to the image of Jesus. Jesus went to the cross, in a way, so will we. The Bible says:

  • Luke 9:23-25 – “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.24 “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.25 “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?”

In Deuteronomy there is an interesting verse, which states:

  • Deuteronomy 32:11-12 – “As an eagle stirs up its nest, Hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them on its wings,12 So the Lord alone led him, and there was no foreign god with him.”

Eagles make their nests high up on mountain cliffs. They make nests that are strong with good sized branches. Now when a little eaglet is hatched and born the branches don’t much bother them because they can fit within them. But as they grow the branches begin to be a source of discomfort as their larger bodies are poked and prodded as they move around. As their feathers form from fluffy to firm the time comes where they must be taught how to fly. How does the mother eagle teach her young to fly? By pushing them out of the nest! That’s right, the mother eagle pushes the young bird out of the nest from a great height. I’m sure its scary and confusing to the young eagle, but necessary.

As the young eagle is pushed out of the nest by its mother and plummets to the earth it does what’s natural and flaps its wings. Early on its wings aren’t strong enough to do the job and all that happens is that a young eagle looks awkward as it plummets to the ground. I wonder if Ernie the eaglet has a passing thought of, “Mom, I know I said I didn’t like your cooking but this discipline is a bit ridiculous don’t you think?” As young Ernie gets fearfully close to the ground flapping its wings wildly, majestic mommy eagle, at the last possible moment swoops down and catches young Ernie on her back and brings him back up to the nest and deposits him safe and sound, though maybe a little bit rattled, back in the nest to the young eagle’s relief.

But the lesson isn’t over. The next day the same sequence occurs, and the next and the next. Young Ernie eaglet, though he doesn’t realize it yet, is becoming an eagle. At one point Ernie thinks, “Mom, do you love me? Mom, why are you doing this to me? Mom, is this some cruel game for you to blow off some steam at my expense?” He looks at his mom’s parenting tactics as unloving and even cruel. He thinks of his mom as abusive. He might even think, “I’ll bet you didn’t learn this from one of your old Dr. Dobson books.” Ernie becomes a bit fearful and his trust in his mom’s tactics comes into question. He anxiously muses, “What’s her motive? Why is she doing this? I don’t understand.” He comments to himself, “One day I’ll learn to fly and I’ll fly this coop!” He didn’t yet understand the significance of this thought.

After a while of this treatment, young Ernie the eaglet notices a change in his body. His wings seem stronger. He’s feeling better about himself. He looks in his mirror and sees changes, eagle changes! And in some weird way, he is beginning to get accustomed to the wind in his wings. He’s becoming more comfortable and is learning how to control the wind. He notices how the wind is actually a helper in his fall. By positioning his wings in a certain way and flapping them, he can move around in the wind.

One day mom goes through the same routine with Ernie only there’s a monumental change in the outcome. Ernie, more relaxed, more accustomed to the wind, looks at his mom as she flies above him, looks at his wings, imitates what she is doing, flaps a bit, holds strong and then, he glides! He glides and all of a sudden, he swoops! He swoops up! Right before he is to hit the ground Ernie the eaglet in an eagle-hearted transformation, swoops upward and with a few more majestic flaps of his wings, is flying alongside his mom. At that moment, the light goes on for Ernie. He realizes what his mom has been doing. She’s been teaching him how to fly!

At this point Ernie just looks at his mom with a thankful knowing smile. Sometimes lessons we learn are like that. The process is no fun, sometimes confusing, and often fear producing. But God has a plan, for our good. You see, God, like this majestic mommy eagle, forces us out of our comfort zone in order to teach us to mount up with wings like an eagle. Our part is to trust and keep flapping.

What God allows to happen in our lives at times may confuse us, may even seem unfair or cruel, it may cause us to question and even fear, but we should know what the end result will be, we will learn to fly spiritually. In Isaiah it states:

  • Isaiah 40:31 – “But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

God wants us to soar with Him spiritually. He wants what’s best for us. He wants us to realize the purpose for which we were created, to be like Jesus. And God will do anything necessary to bring that eternal purpose to pass in our lives. Don’t get caught up in the “now,” but look to God’s later future purpose. Trust the LORD. He is good, gracious and merciful. He loves you so much and wants only the best for you. Be led by the Spirit and God will fulfill His will in your life and you will never regret it. Be led by the Spirit and soar with Him!

[1] Basil Miller, George Muller, Man of Faith and Miracles, (Minneapolis, MN: Dimension Books, Bethany Fellowship, Inc.) p. 50

[2] Ibid. p. 142-142

[3] Ibid. p. 50-51

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