PART 28 – LOOKING FOR SIGNS OF GOD’S LEADING (7/2/20)
Updated: Feb 10
Today, we continue to look at this account of Jonathan and his armour bearer. In this text, we see that Jonathan trusted God to be with him and to reveal if the daring action he desires to take was actually what He wanted him and his armour bearer to do. Likewise, you and I need to learn how to discern God's voice so as to take faith-action. We must we wary of presumption and have the humility to seek God to know what He wants us to do.
God leads those who actually seek to do His will
Jonathan and his armour bearer are not under the tree with Saul, they are on the field of battle. God will lead, and we will listen more intently, if we are living by faith - doing things that scare us.
A boat in the harbour does not need the wind in its sails or someone manning the rudder. However, a boat on the sea requires empowering and direction. A person or church that is actively seeking to do God's will, will depend on God and listen to Him...and He will empower and speak. Jack Deere wrote,
'God speaks to those who are willing to do whatever he says to them.' (Surprised by the voice of God)
God gives various kinds of 'signs' to lead us
Jonathan said, “Come on, then; we will cross over toward them and let them see us. If they say to us, ‘Wait there until we come to you,’ we will stay where we are and not go up to them. But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ we will climb up, because that will be our sign that the Lord has given them into our hands.” (1 Samuel 14:8-10)
In 2018, I went on holiday to Montenegro. One afternoon, I decided to go for a run in the rocky hills. I set off without any idea of where I was going only that I wanted to get to the top, so up I went. As I was getting hotter, exhausted, and fighting off the biting flies, I was getting ready to give up when I saw 'MB' (my initials) and and arrows painted in red. I took this as a sign to continue so on I went and, finally, got to the top.
Jonathan, in effect, asked God to act in a certain way so as to confirm His will. We can do the same. Perhaps you are wondering about a job, a home, a relationship, joining a serving team at church, doing something new... you can ask God to speak to you through various kinds of signs.
What are the various 'signs' that God speaks through?
i) He (principally) speaks through His word
All the different ways that God speaks are taught by His word and will always concur (are in accord) with it.
Prayerful study - Is how I think God is speaking in line with the clear teaching of scripture?
Does God cause any aspect of scripture to stand out that leans you toward a decision?
As you listen to bible teaching listen for direction from God through what’s being said (1 Peter 4:11).
ii) He leads through prayer
Pray about all decisions and ask God to speak and lead.
Pray with a friend or leader and ask their advice; do they have any sense of leading from God?
iii) He speaks through providence (Divine appointments)
Providence - this is the belief that God controls all things and, therefore, we can 'read' His will through the circumstances of our lives: ‘Coincidences’, circumstances, provision, ‘open/closed doors’, serendipitous meetings... can all point to God's will.
This incident with Jonathan and His armour bearer show God giving signs in providential actions as the Philistines invite them up the hill.
iv) He gives signs through prophecy
The prophetic – Dreams, visions and prophetic words – God speaks in these ways.
Do you have past prophecies that help?
v) He inspires desires
God’s leading can be as simple as an inner compulsion to do a certain thing. .
What do you want to do? – A pointer to God’s will can be a desire that He’s put in you - compassion is a particularly powerful sign of God’s leading.
A cautionary example is that of David desiring to build the temple. Initially, Nathan, the prophet, thought that this must be God's will, only to be told that David had got it only partially right; it was right to build a temple, only it was Solomon who would do it. We read,
“My father David had it in his heart to build a temple for the Name of the Lord, the God of Israel. But the Lord said to my father David, ‘You did well to have it in your heart to build a temple for my Name. Nevertheless, you are not the one to build the temple, but your son, your own flesh and blood—he is the one who will build the temple for my Name.’ (2 Chronicles 6:7-9)
vi) God leads through wisdom
The bible is full of encouragement to live wisely and seek advice. Taking a wise course of action may sound boring, but it is the most common way of discerning God's will.
Questions like, what will this cost in terms of money and sacrifice? Does this opportunity fit with my gifts and capacity? Is this relationship going to help me to 'love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength'? Is this decision going to hinder or promote the most important things - loving God and loving His people?
All forms of guidance need to be weighed thoughtfully and prayerfully. Jonathan did not have time in this moment to seek godly council. In fact he avoided speaking to Saul his father, who, no doubt, would have given him poor advice. However, most of us, most of the time, have plenty of time to seek wisdom.
'Confirmation bias' (seeing the signs that we want to see) are a constant threat. Therefore, it's vital that we seek wisdom. We often fail to do so because we don't understand its value (our popular culture certainly doesn't) or want to be challenged on our decisions. As this Proverb teaches us,
'How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver! The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.' (Proverbs 16:17-18)
So both of them showed themselves to the Philistine outpost. “Look!” said the Philistines. “The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in.” The men of the outpost shouted to Jonathan and his armour-bearer, “Come up to us and we’ll teach you a lesson.” So Jonathan said to his armour-bearer, “Climb up after me; the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.” (1 Samuel 14:11-12)
After coming to a conviction that something is God's will, we must take appropriate action. In this account, they have a desire to attack, but they hold off; firstly, they agree on a sign that would confirm this action as God's will (a providential sign). Secondly, they 'push the door' by showing themselves. Finally, when the sign is given they take faith-action.
God gives us success as we do what He says
'Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armour-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armour-bearer followed and killed behind him.' (1 Samuel 14:13-14)
In the end, Like Jonathan and His armour bearer, you and I will have to take a step of faith – we will have to 'climb the hill' in obedience. Oftentimes, the reason that we don't see various kinds of victories is because our faith remain academic; we study the bible, we may even pray, but we are not listening to perceive what God wants us to do.
Hearing God's voice requires being open to the Holy Spirit speaking to us in a variety of ways. By the Spirit, God in present and is in us, ready and willing to speak if we are ready and willing to listen.
If we are not regularly hearing God's voice, we will be 'timid' - "What does God think of me? Is He with me? I'm too worried to take action..." However, those who are filled, and are listening to the Spirit have 'power, love and self-discipline' - they are content act or wait as the Spirit leads.
To this end, let's continue to memorise 2 Timothy 1:7
TIPS ON MEMORISING SCRIPTURE
We will only do this, and persevere in doing this, if we believe that it's truly important to hide God's word in our heart. So get faith!
Don't disqualify yourself if it's hard - it is hard!
Write the text somewhere that's easy to find and use - a note on your phone, a post-it on the fridge...
Include the reference (book/chapter/verse) throughout the process
Read it slowly and carefully x 10 (Don't rush or dismiss this accurate repetition)
Recall it, without looking as much as possible x10
Do this a few times through the day - a habit is best formed by doing this at the same times, and places each day.
Revise regularly (and revise previously memorised verses)
Make it a habit to learn new verses - skill comes over time
USE IT! Actively use it to pray, worship, counsel, prophecy, and counter temptation and lies by quoting truth - it’s the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).
TIPS ON BIBLICAL MEDITATION
Biblical meditation is to prayerfully read, repeatedly, a section of the bible and pray, worship and respond as God leads. Here are a few tips and questions to help you when meditating:
PRAY - Ask for the Spirit to help you and to speak to you. Keep the goal in mind - having a relationship with God!
WRITING- Writing/journaling is often a great help as you answer the questions below. Remember, don't allow worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar, perfection... stop you from writing - it's between you and God.
GOSPEL- What does this text say about salvation through Jesus?
UP- What does this text say about God – His worth, character, attributes, will, promises…?
IN- What does this text say about you, the church and how we are to relate?
OUT- What does this text say about non-believers and our mission?
RESPONSE – Is there anything you want to pray, worship God about, do, ask forgiveness about, ask God to help you to change…?
COMMUNITY GROUP STUDY
(FOR THE WEEK OF 3/3/20)
Introduction (Please read this intro to the group)
This week, in our devotionals, we have been looking at the account of David and his armour bearer achieving a great victory against all the odds. It's a story that teaches us about Faith, leadership, following and listening to God. The Father has good works for us to achieve together. Allow this story to inspire you to expect God to speak to you, and lead you into His good works.
Please read and discuss 1 Samuel 14:6-7.
'Jonathan said to his young armour-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.” “Do all that you have in mind,” his armour-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”'
Jonathan is encouraging his 'young armour-bearer'. Why is it important to mentor younger Christians and are you looking out for people that God wants you to help to train?
According to this text, what can hinder the Lord from saving? (We should take 'saving' as referring the broadest range of categories in which we desire God to change things).
What other texts might you use to encourage someone who was doubting God's abilities?
Perhaps the verse we memorised a few week's ago would help - read Psalm 56:3-4
What are the kinds of things that cause us to think that God cannot save or act on our behalf?
Is there anything in which you are desiring to see victory?
How does this text encourage us to take more daring action, and into what do you think God might be calling you?
What does 2 Timothy 1:7 say about how the Holy Spirit will help us to act like Jonathan and his armour bearer?
NOTE - Please ensure that everyone knows where to find the devotionals (our blog). Encourage the members of your group to use it and to memorise 2 Timothy 1:7 this week.
Please pray for our Community Group ministry. We need to multiply groups and, therefore, need loads more leaders. Like Jonathan and his armour bearer, more of us need to be prepared to lead. Please pray for the multiplication of this vital area of church-life.
Please look at the church news together.