Excerpt from The Making Of An Ordinary Saint

In the Christian discipline of guidance, we are learning to live under the theocratic rule of God. This is no small task.

In the beginning we discover our will in opposition to and in struggle with the will of God. We want what we want when we want it. In time, however, we begin to see the goodness of rightness—that is, that God’s will is not only right but altogether good. So there comes through time and experience—sometimes much time and experience—a releasing of our will and a flowing into the will of the Father. When this time comes, we desire more than any other thing to do the will of God. Hence, we are thrust into the lifelong task of learning the skills of guidance.

One of the very first things that occur through this learning process is that acquaintanceship with God gives way to friendship with God. In human relationships, close friends are easily able to distinguish the voices of one another over all others. So it is with God. Instinctively, we come to recognize the quality in the voice of God, for it is one of drawing and encouraging. We recognize the spirit in the voice of God, for it is full of grace and mercy. And we discover that the content of what is being said is always consistent with what God has said before. We have a huge biblical witness by which to test our leadings. 

Then there comes to us a fuller understanding of the means of divine guidance. Most common to Christian believers is the direct revelation of the Holy Spirit upon the human heart. E. Stanley Jones notes that the Holy Spirit “does not argue, does not try to convince you. It just speaks and it is self-authenticating.”1 In addition, the Christian community is given to us to help affirm and clarify any particular word we might receive from the Lord. Then too, it is helpful to consider the role of personal integrity in guidance. The wise writer of Proverbs says, “The integrity of the upright guides them.”2 Divine providence is yet another means of guidance, whereby God causes circumstances to work for his will. Of course, there is Holy Scripture, which shows us how God has worked in the past. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path,” says the psalmist.3

There are, to be sure, exceptional means of guidance. I am thinking here of such experiences as signs, visions, dreams, and angels. Such experiences do indeed happen and are at times used of God to guide his people. But, as I say, these are the “exceptional” means of guidance. The most common way God guides us is by means of the “still small voice” of the Spirit. 

Jesus tells us that he is the Good Shepherd and that his sheep hear and know his voice.4 What wonderful, good news! We have a divine Shepherd who is always with us: accepting us, forgiving us, teaching us, guiding us. This is the confidence we can have as we learn the ways and means of guidance.

Now Underway: The 2018-19 Renovaré Book Club

How do we read for transformation, not just information? First, choose books that stir the soul and have an enduring quality. Then read with God and others at an unhurried pace, attentive to what the Holy Spirit wants to teach. The Renovaré Book Club is designed for transformative reading. It runs October 2018—May 2019.

Learn more >

Foster, Nathan. The Making of an Ordinary Saint: My Journey from Frustration to Joy with the Spiritual Disciplines. Baker Publishing Group.

For each chapter in Nathan’s book, Richard Foster writes an introductory essay—like this one from the chapter on Guidance.

[1] E. Stanley Jones, A Song of Ascents (Nashville: Abingdon, 1979), 190.
[2] Proverbs 11:3
[3] Psalm 119:105
[4] See John 10:14