After 20 years of working for Laban in Haran, God told Jacob it was time to go home: “The Lord said to him, ‘Go back to the land of your fathers’” (Gen. 31:3). Do you wonder how God spoke to Jacob? Did He speak in an audible voice? Did the voice come in a dream, as at Bethel? Or did God simply lay the burden on Jacob’s heart that it was time to go home? All we know for certain is that the Lord spoke to Jacob, directing him to go home.
As surely as God directed Jacob long ago, He directs believers today. The question is how does He lead us? The ways God directs us today are not limited to but include these five ways:
The Scripture is the primary means of divine guidance. The Bible is inspired, authoritative, inerrant, infallible—we often use these rich and meaningful words to describe the confidence we have in the Bible. But perhaps we can express it even better in the way a child could understand: What the Bible says, God says. Consequently, if you want to hear God speak, read your Bible.
- “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path” (Ps. 119:105).
2. The Holy Spirit
Not only did the Holy Spirit inspire men of old to write the Scriptures, through illumination He enables believers today to understand truth and He directs us in doing God’s will.
- “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you” (John 14:26).
- “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13).
- The Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2).
- “For it was the Holy Spirit’s decision—and ours—not to place further burdens on you beyond these requirements” (Acts 15:28).
- “When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them” (Acts 16:7).
3. Godly counsel
The Book of Proverbs makes a strong case for seeking the godly counsel of others:
- “Without guidance, a people will fall, but with many counselors there is deliverance” (11:14).
- “A fool’s way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise” (12:15).
- “Plans fail when there is no counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (15:22).
- “Listen to counsel and receive instruction so that you may be wise later in life” (19:20).
- “For you should wage war with sound guidance—victory comes with many counselors” (24:6).
4. Common sense
God gave us brains, and He expects us to use them to make sound judgments. Of course we must not lean on human understanding alone (Prov 3:5-6). But when we are yielded to the Spirit of God, He helps us think clearly and sensibly. He will guide our minds as we walk in a close relationship with Him.
First Peter 4:7 tells us to “be alert and sober-minded.” “Sober-minded” translates the Greek verb sophroneo, which means “to be of sound mind, to be reasonable, sensible, or in one’s right mind.” In other words, use your God-given common sense.
- “Learn to be shrewd, you who are inexperienced; develop common sense, you who are foolish” (Prov. 8:5).
- “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment” (2 Tim. 1:7).
Though we may not realize it at the time, sometimes we can look back and see how God was working in our circumstances to accomplish His will in our lives. Take an example from the Book of Acts. How did Paul and Silas end up sitting in the house of the Philippian jailor, eating and rejoicing with a family of new believers? (Acts 16:34) It was not the result of some heavenly vision, nor by the Spirit’s prompting. In addition, the sovereignty of God would rule out coincidence. Paul and Silas got there through all the circumstances described in Acts 16:16-33. Seeing the whole story, we are able to say it was a God thing.
- “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good … (Gen. 50:20).
- “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
Aren’t you thankful we can sing …
“He leadeth me: O blessed thought!
O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be,
still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.”
Mike Livingstone works at LifeWay Christian Resources as content editor for Explore the Bible materials.