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.

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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