We are not alone. This is more profound that a science fiction story introduction.
We are not alone. This is usually heard from someone who is speculating on the possibility of life on other planets. The argument focuses on the unlikelihood that humans would be the only species in the universe to “evolve” from the chemical soup of primordial ooze into an intelligent, emotional, volitional being. Surely, out of the billions of stars and possibilities of exo-planets surrounding them, there must be someone on one of them!
The problem with this argument is that the evolution of human life on this planet is so astronomically unlikely, it is equally to more unlikely that intelligence developed by chance anywhere else. Yet here we are: intelligent, emotional, volitional. And there persists an almost innate sense, another voice inside our heads that still whispers, “We are not alone” (Romans 1:19-20).
Loneliness (see April 24, 2016) is one of the most disheartening and deadly feelings in our world. (The universe will have to wait for our evaluation until we know more about it.) Something within us cries out for significance, for purpose, for meaning. And we feel terribly lonely and lost without it. The search for meaning among humans really is a pointless endeavor unless one begins with a radical assumption: We really are not alone!
If you begin with the common assumption that man made from the beginning of time, that God exists and wants to live with us and share His life with us, the search for meaning becomes instead a search for guidance. This assumption may appear to have been easier for people to make closer to the Garden of Eden, with miraculous demonstrations of burning bushes and walking on water, but the assumption still required faith. Just look at Israel’s history in the wilderness with Moses, and you can see that God’s clear manifestation was not a cure-all for disbelief! Even after Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples had to exercise faith or they could fall into disbelief (Matthew 28:17).
So this is where we have to start in the Discipline of Guidance: faith (or trust, if you prefer; see April 19, 2015) that God is there and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). However, guidance from God is much more than merely trusting Him for eternal life. It is also much more that we can find in prayer, although we must not minimize the importance of prayer!
But the first step for guidance is to look at the record of how God interacted in the past with mankind. He never changes in His character or attributes, and we can learn much about how He would guide us if we just study how He guided others in times past. If He instructed Adam and Moses to be faithful husbands, it is very unlikely He is going to “guide” someone to be unfaithful to his wife. When He gives consistent instructions in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 7:1-5), one can be assured that this guidance for faithful relationships is clear and unequivocal.
This is to say that if the Bible commands something, we have secure and clear guidance on any issue which it addresses. The warning against disobedience to the Bible’s clear teaching is equally clear: “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” (Galatians 1:8) So much for the Mormons or the Jehovah’s Witnesses or any other religion that claims to have a special revelation from God. The Bible contains all “the very great and precious promises” we need to live a godly life, participate in the divine character, and escape the corruption of the world (2 Peter 1:3-4). So Peter goes on to encourage the believer in Jesus to add to our faith goodness and knowledge, knowing that knowledge of the Bible will help one follow The God Who Is There.
But there are concerns for guidance that go beyond what the Bible teaches. These include the immediate circumstances of life and situations that arise for which there is no explicit direction in the Bible. These tend to be more personal in nature, but require more wisdom that we have from our experience: where we should attend a university, whom we should marry, what career should we pursue, whether or not to go on a trip.
The Bible is not a magic talisman that you can open and point to a verse for guidance. It is a collection of short textbooks that provide the example and basic framework of following God to our ultimate purpose: to live with Him and enjoy Him forever. Within it, it provides the “guidance” for how we should find more individualized guidance for any circumstance in our lives.
The principles for divine guidance are these;
1. If the Bible says “Do this,” we better be doing it. If the Bible says, “Never do this,” we better never be doing it!
2. There are those who have studied the Bible extensively and lived by it for much of their lives. We should consult these when we have questions about specific guidance. (Proverbs 12:15, 19:20). A great resource for this is weekly meetings with a group of believers. This can be a “legacy” church, a house-church, a mentor-disciple meeting, a Life-Transformation Group or books and videos of those who have walked this road for some time.
3. However, whenever humans give advice, even the most experienced believers, always weigh in with it the internal counsel of the Holy Spirit (James 1:5). Even the best advice of another man or woman may be misdirected as we are all flawed and Father may not tell someone else what He wants to tell you (John 21:20-22). So when faced with a decision, immerse yourself in prayer as you consult older and wiser Christ-followers. There may be times that God might call you to do something very different from what conventional wisdom may dictate, even the conventional wisdom of fellow-believers.
4. Finally, trust your Father. “ If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13) The fact that He is your Father means that even if you err, His love will continue to sustain you and guide you back to what is right. Paul told the Philippians that if they pressed on in following Jesus, God would reveal any way in which they could improve their relationship with Him (Philippians 3:14-15) and that His peace would guard their hearts (4:6-4).
Remember, we are not alone!