6 Jan 2017
Directions for Life
Pippa and I are often in a hurry. We are not good at planning our car journeys. We often set off in the wrong direction and frequently get lost (even with a satnav!). I don’t know why it has taken me so long to learn the importance of getting good directions and following them.
Many of us are like this with life. We charge off in a hurry. We don’t realise the importance of getting good directions for life. If you follow God’s directions for life, you will enjoy his blessing and bring blessing to others.
1. Start each day waiting for directions
When embarking on a journey the best time to get good directions is before you begin.
In this psalm we have a wonderful example of how to begin each day: ‘Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation’ (vv.2–3). David is ‘waiting for directions’ (v.8, MSG).
There is something special about beginning your day by laying your requests before God. The whole day has a different dimension as you ‘wait in expectation’ (v.3).
Lord, today I lay my requests before you and wait for directions. Lead me, O Lord. Spread your protection over me. Surround me with your favour as with a shield.
2. Study Jesus’ directions for life
There are some general directions that apply to every car journey. They are the rules of the road. In the UK they are found in The Highway Code. Jesus’ directions in the Sermon on the Mount are like a ‘highway code’ for a life of blessing.
Following Jesus’ directions involves a radical lifestyle. He challenges us to be ruthless in dealing with every wrong attitude, thought, word and action.
Our words should be words of blessing, not anger. We must not speak angry words against our brothers and sisters (vv.21–22). ‘The simple moral fact is that words kill’ (v.22, MSG).
We are called to do everything within our power to bless those we have fallen out with (vv.23–26). If we remember a ‘grudge’ a friend has against us, we should go to the friend and try to ‘make things right’ (vv.23–24, MSG). If we encounter an ‘old enemy’ we should ‘make the first move; make things right’ with them (v.25, MSG).
We need to guard what we do with our eyes and our heart. If we allow them to become corrupted then, far from being a blessing to others, we will be rotten ourselves.
Take radical action. It is not simply about the physical act of adultery. Jesus says, ‘Don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices – they also corrupt’ (v.28, MSG).
Jesus speaks of the eye as the starting point of adultery. Take radical steps to avoid such a course (vv.29–30). As Job said, ‘I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl’ (Job 31:1).
Marriage is intended to be a place of blessing one another and a source of blessing for others. This means a life of radical faithfulness within marriage (Matthew 5:31–32). Jesus speaks against using divorce as ‘a cover for selfishness and whim’ (v.32a, MSG).
We are to live lives of radical integrity in which we say what we mean, and mean what we say: ‘Simply let your “Yes” be “Yes”, and your “No”, “No”; anything beyond this comes from the evil one’ (v.37).
Blessing others means blessing even those who do bad things to us (vv.38–42). ‘Don’t hit back at all… No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously’ (vv.39,42, MSG). To return evil for good is demonic. To return good for good is human. To return good for evil is the way of Jesus.
Lord, help me this year to follow your directions for life. Help me to be ruthless in dealing with every wrong attitude, thought, word and deed. Thank you for the great blessing of being called by you to be your follower. Help me to spread blessing wherever I go.
3. Follow God’s directions one step at a time
What I love more than anything when I set out on a long car journey (even better than a satnav), is to have someone in the car with me who knows the directions and will tell me, one step at a time, where I should go. In the journey of life God offers to accompany us and direct us one step at a time into a life of blessing.
This is one of the key moments in the Bible, as God initiates his rescue plan for humanity. The previous chapters have been a tale of ever increasing sinfulness and separation from God. In these verses suddenly everything shifts as God reveals his solution – Abraham!
God promises Abraham: ‘I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you’ (vv.2–3).
God chooses one individual and blesses him, and then one nation and blesses them – but his plan is always that they will pass the blessing on (v.3b). This is key for our understanding of the Old Testament, as it explains why God chose Israel – so that through them the whole world might be blessed.
Ultimately this promise is fulfilled in Jesus. He is the fulfilment of all the promises and hopes of Israel (as we have seen this past week in Matthew’s Gospel), and through him ‘all people’ can be blessed.
This is now God’s purpose for you. The apostle Paul writes, ‘Those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announce the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith’ (Galatians 3:7–9).
The church is blessed, like Abraham and Israel, not for its own sake but in order to bring blessing to the whole world. If you have been blessed by God, it is not for your own selfish indulgence or self-congratulation; it is in order that you can be a blessing to others.
God calls Abraham to leave his country, his people and his father’s household and go to the land God is going to show him (Genesis 12:1). Abraham did exactly as the Lord directed him (v.4, AMP). He trusted God to direct him one step at a time. He could not have seen the next steps at this time but he trusted God’s promises.
This has been my experience in life. God may give us a general picture of what he wants us to do – but as far as the details are concerned he leads us one step at a time. The life of faith involves following his directions one step at a time.
The journey is not always entirely smooth. Abraham was very much a flawed human being just like us. God blessed him with great wealth (13:1, MSG) and a ‘stunningly beautiful wife’ (12:14, MSG). Nevertheless, in an act of weakness and deception, he allows Pharaoh to take her as his wife (vv.10–20).
Then, after ‘quarrelling arose between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s’ (13:7), Abraham decides that there has to be a parting of the ways between himself and his nephew (vv.8–11). Actually, it was not Abraham and Lot who fell out – it was, as so often happens, their followers. The reality of friction in human relationships is very evident.
Lot chose the best land and left Abraham with what looked less good. But, again, God gives Abraham directions. He tells him: ‘lift up your eyes’ (v.14).
God said, ‘I’ll make your descendants like dust – counting your descendants will be as impossible as counting the dust of the Earth. So – on your feet, get moving! Walk through the country, its length and breadth; I’m giving it all to you’ (13:16–17, MSG) .
As Joyce Meyer writes, ‘Instead of becoming discouraged, depressed or angry when people disappoint us, God wants us to lift up our eyes, look around, and trust him to lead us into an even better situation. He wants us to look around and count our blessings instead of focusing on what we do not have. He wants us to fix our eyes on him, not on the work of the enemy, because he has plans to bless us.’
It is only because of the grace of God that Abraham is promised these amazing blessings. The intention was that he would be a blessing to the whole world. Likewise for you. You are called to live under God’s blessing and bring blessing to those around you.
Lord, help me this year to follow your directions, one step at a time, to live under your blessing, and bring as much blessing as I can to everyone around.
We all need guidance every day in all the difficult decisions of life. Following a straight path saves us wandering off wasting time and energy: ‘Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness… make straight your way before me’ (Psalm 5:8).
Joyce Meyer, Everyday Life Bible (Faithwords 2013) p.23
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