While in seminary I served a church in NC and one day I needed to make a visit to the Greensboro hospital. This was before GPS and google maps so I got directions, looked at a paper map and headed off. I was a few blocks from the hospital and could actually see the building when I realized I wasn’t in a lane where I could turn left to get to the hospital, so I missed the turn. No problem, I thought, I’ll go up a block, turn left and come back down the road that paralleled the road I was on. So a block later I turned left only to discover that the road parallel to mine was a one way road – in the same direction. I had no choice, I turned onto that road and kept heading out of town looking for some way to turn around.
The problem now was that I was on a limited access road so there was no place to turn around so I had to keep going, and keep going. When I finally could pull off I realized there was no easy way to get back to the hospital and I had no idea where I was, so I did what most good men do, I just kept going. After all, if I keep going I’ll find a sign for the hospital and then just follow the signs – right. After about 30 minutes I finally recognize where I was, on the complete opposite side of Greensboro where I got on the highway and came back into the city from the other direction. I finally made it to the hospital – about an hour later than I had planned.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to stop and ask for directions. I’ll drive around lost for an hour instead of asking for help and yet today we are going to learn that asking for directions is a practice we have to learn if we want to discover God’s will. Last week we learned that discovering God’s will is a journey that begins by understanding the Providential Will of God and following the Moral Will of God. The providential will of God is all the things God will do because God said he would do it and the moral will of God are all the commands and directions God has already given us. So the more we know of God and the more we follow God’s law and direction, the easier it will be for us to find and walk in God’s personal will for us.
Now all of this is a process. It takes time to understand who God is and learn his ways and it takes time to trust and then follow God’s instructions, so discovering God’s will is a journey and takes time, but if we don’t have a lot of time. How do we discover God’s will when we are facing a deadline and time is of the essence?
I was given 48 hours to make a major life decision. I was very happy as the pastor of St. Paul’s UMC in Lewisburg and I had no plans on leaving when I got a phone call on a Sunday night telling me I was to be in State College Monday for a meeting to discuss moving to a new church. After the meeting I was told it was my decision and I had until noon on Wednesday to decide. 48 hours. What do we do when we need to know God’s will quickly? Is there some way we can jumpstart or bypass this process so we can get some clarity on God’s will when we need to know it NOW?
The good news is that there is, but let me be clear, what we are going to talk about today is not to replace growing in our faith and working to understanding and follow the providential and moral will of God. That process is important and in so many ways it provides the foundation on which we build the rest of our lives, but there are times when we are faced with decisions that need to be made quickly and when that happens, God does not abandon us but provides for us a way for us to discover his will.
To help us understand how to do this, we are going to turn to a story from the history of Israel found in 1 Kings 12. The context of the story we need to understand is that King Solomon was near the end of his life and while he had started out as a good king, his heart turned away from God and toward the foreign gods of his many wives. Because of this unfaithfulness, God said that when Solomon died, his son, Rehoboam, would not rule over all of Israel but only over a small portion of it and that a man named Jeroboam would be king over Israel. Through a prophet, God also made his will known to Jeroboam. Now this news did not make King Solomon happy so he set out to kill Jeroboam so Jeroboam fled to Egypt until Solomon died. This is where we pick up the story. 1 Kings 12:1-5
So Rehoboam and all of Israel just assumes that he is going to be king so they go to Shecham to crown him but then Jeroboam shows up. Now remember, Jeroboam has been told that he is going to rule over Israel when Solomon dies so he and his followers begin to challenge Rehoboam saying, we will make you king and serve you if you will lighten the load your father placed on us. While Solomon had been a good leader, he was also a hard leader. He taxed the people heavily and worked them hard in order to build huge building in Jerusalem like the Temple and the people wanted a break. So Rehoboam had a choice to make. Will he listen to the people and lighten their load or will he continue to carry out the practices of his father? Like many of us, Rehoboam had a choice to make and he needed to make it quickly and as we keep reading we will see the principle we need to follow when we need to make a decision quickly. 1 Kings 12:5-7
What Rehoboam did was ask for help. He asked for directions. Rehoboam went to the leaders of Israel who had not only given direction to his father Solomon but had also learned from him and remember Solomon was one of the wisest men to ever live. They had seen Solomon lead well and they had seen his failures so they were in a good position to give sound advice. They had experience leading a nation and motivating people and they knew firsthand the concerns that the people of Israel had just raised. So Rehoboam sought wise counsel which is what we need to do when we have a decision to make quickly and we will come back and explore that in moment, but let’s go back to Rehoboam’s story. 1 Kings 12:8-15
Rehoboam had gotten some good advice from the elders in Israel but he didn’t like what he heard about serving the people so he turned to the young men who followed him and served him and asked them what they thought he should do. Now these men didn’t want to see their leader become a servant because that would mean they would also have to serve, so they told Rehoboam to be harsher than his father, which is what he did. Rehoboam went back to the people and said, I am not going lighten your load, I am going to make it even harsher, at which point the people revolted and turn away from him to follow Jeroboam which was exactly what God said was going to happen.
Now let’s just step aside here for a second and talk about the providential will of God in this situation. God had said that Jeroboam was going to lead Israel and that is exactly what happened, but it happened because Rehoboam made a choice to reject the wisdom of the elders. Maybe you are asking yourself, what if Rehoboam had taken the advice of the elders and become a servant to the people? Would God’s providential will not have taken place? I don’t think so because we can’t change the will of God. God said that Solomon’s son was not going to be king so even if Rehoboam had chosen wisely and been a servant to the people, God’s providential will would still have been accomplished and the kingdom would have been taken away from Rehoboam in some way, but maybe things would have gone better for everyone if he had followed the good advice. Look at 1 Kings 12:19.
The end result of Rehoboam’s bad decision was internal strife and conflict in Israel. What would have happened if he had followed the wisdom of the elders and been a servant leader in Israel? He still may not have been king over all of Israel but maybe things would have been better for everyone.
Now let’s go back to what we see as the key to discovering God’s will quickly which is asking for directions. There are 5 simple guidelines we need to follow in choosing people to ask.
#1) Choose people who are where we want to be in life and faith.
Rehoboam actually got this right. He first went to the elders in Israel and asked for their counsel. He went to seasoned leaders who had walked with his father and learned with him and from him. To get wise counsel about the decisions we have to make it only makes sense to ask people who have had to make those same decisions. If you want to know how to stay married and work through differences with your spouse ask a couple who has been married for 40 years and not 40 days. If you want to know the secret to raising solid children, talk to parents whose children you admire. If you want to know how to walk with God through difficult times, ask someone who has been a follower of Jesus for decades and learn from them.
This really is one of the blessings of the church. There are people sitting here who have had to make the same decision you are facing today. Whether it is learning how to survive in your marriage, keeping your family together, overcoming financial setbacks or job loss or fighting through the fear of health concerns or the pain of loss – there are people right here who have faced those same situations and we can learn from one another if we are willing to ask for help. We need to ask people who are where we want to be in life and in faith.
In Lewisburg we were faced with an opportunity to buy an old school which was a block and a half from our church. It seemed like the perfect solution to our space problem and while it would have pushed us financially – we trusted God to provide and it was one of the best solutions we could find. The problem was that the town needed a sealed bid on the building with 10% down in 2 weeks. We looked at a calendar and realized we could actually do this but only if we held a meeting every night in order to work out all the details. That time line, however gave us no opportunity to talk or pray as a church about this major decision. I didn’t know what to do and I needed help so I looked to my brother in law who was working at a larger church that had just gone through a major building expansion. As a leader, he was where I wanted to be and had all the experience of just going through what we were going to have to go through. So I called him and got some wise counsel.
I really wanted to move forward and buy the school. It would have be exciting and a real step of faith but my brother in law said two things that I will never forget. He said going through the process that quickly did not honor the process and life of the church. We needed time to really talk and pray about it together. He was right. He also said that if you have to work that hard to get it and violate principles that are important to the health of the congregation – then maybe it’s not worth it in the long run. And then this is what has stuck with me since that day. He said, besides, if God wants you to have that building there is nothing in the world that will stop you from having it. In other words – if it was God’s providential will for us to have that building, one way or another we would have the building. What we needed to do is keep in line with God’s will and respect the health and life of the church. It was wise counsel and we didn’t buy the building.
So it’s important to choose people who are where we want to be in life and faith because we can learn from them, but we also need to
#2. Choose people who have nothing to lose.
This was what Rehoboam got wrong. When Rehoboam asked the young men who followed him what they thought he should do the truth was that they didn’t want him to become a servant leader because they didn’t want to lose their status. These men were already in positions of power and authority and if Rehoboam gave up some of his power and authority then these young men stood to lose theirs. People have a hard time giving objective advice if they have a lot to lose.
After I made the decision to come to Faith Church I was talking to some of my leaders in Lewisburg and I told them how God had spoken to me through his word and as I shared this one of the leaders said, well you heard that wrong, that’s not what God was saying. I appreciated what she said and could see her point, but I also understood that she had something to lose with my decision and wasn’t being objective. It’s important that we ask people who can be objective and don’t have something to lose or gain. It’s just human nature for us to give advice to people according to what is going to be good for us so finding faithful objective people is important.
A couple of other things to consider when we are asking for direction and counsel:
#3.) Choose more than one person. It is always a good idea to get several different sides of an issue, but we have to understand what people’s perspective is when we ask.
#4.) Choose people who know us well and people who don’t know us well. Again, both sets of eyes can give us perspective.
The most important thing to keep in mind is this:
#5.) Ask with a genuine desire for God to speak through them. We need to ask God to use the people we choose to share His will with us. It doesn’t mean we take their words as the word of God, but we need to be open to hearing God through them.
So there are 5 principles we can follow in asking people to give us direction and once we find these people, here are 3 questions we can ask them:
#1.) Are any of my options outside the teaching of scripture?
#2.) What do you think is the wisest thing to do?
#3.) What would you do?
And very quickly, let’s at least name the reason why we don’t ask people for help, it’s why I didn’t stop and ask for directions on the way to the Greensboro hospital – pride. We don’t want to look weak. We don’t want people to think that we don’t have it all together or know what we are doing. Pride keeps us from asking for direction and if you are saying to yourself, yeah, that true for me, then I hope you will listen to this. This is a teaching that Rehoboam should have learned from his father because he was the one who said it, Proverbs 16:18, pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
So God has given us a method for finding his will when we need to know it quickly, he has given us one another. We need to set aside our pride and learn how to use this resource wisely so we can make decisions that are in line with God’s will.
Discovering God’s Will – Asking for Directions
What decision do you need to make in the next few months?
Who have you already ask for advice and what direction have they given?
Read 1 Kings 12:1-19 and review what we learn here about asking others for advice:
• Choose people who are where we want to be in life and faith
• Choose people who have nothing to lose
• Chose more than one person
• Choose people who know us well and people who don’t
After some thought and reflection, who do you need to turn to now for wise counsel and direction?
Ask them these three questions:
1. Do any of my options conflict with scripture?
2. What do you think is the wisest thing to do?
3. What would you do?
And don’t forget: Ask God to show you His will through those you are asking for directions!
For Further Study: Proverbs 1:5, 11:14, 12:15, 13:10, 15:22