God is the shepherd of His people. He leads them (Psalm 23:1). He sent His Son to lead them (John 10:3). The assurance of God's guidance is one of the characteristics of the Christian. The very idea that God guides us implies that we live according to the path which He has laid down, that our lives have a purpose in the present, as well as a destiny for the future.
The Destiny God Has Planned
Why has God made me? What is my life for? The perspective of the believer throughout Biblical times was forward-looking. He was going somewhere, expecting something in the future. The epitome of unbelief is consequently illustrated in Lot's wife. Warned to flee, she looked back (Genesis 19:26). By contrast, the heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11 are, without exception, characterized by anticipation, hope, and an expectation for the future (Hebrews 11:13).
Because we have a destiny, we become pilgrims (1 Peter 2:11). The point is that our residence here is temporary. We do not really belong to this age. The child of God is a citizen of another world. His call to go home will one day come, but meanwhile he is establishing his life according to heavenly, rather than earthly principles. He has set his heart on the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1).
Do you notice that this elementary principle of the life of faith immediately solves some of the problems which many Christians have in knowing God's will? When he sets his mind on establishing a life patterned on heaven, many of these issues become irrelevant, because his life is being lived on a different plane altogether.
The Purpose God Has Ordained
The essence of the Christian life is that God should be glorified in us. All that Christ did during His ministry had this motivation (John 12:28; 14:13; 17:1,4). The glory of God is a determining factor in the Christian life or ought to be. The purpose of our obedience and fruitfulness is always to bring glory to our Father (Matthew 5:16; John 15:8). When we have differences of opinion about a course of action, the decisive factor is to be "what tends most to the glory of God?" (1 Corinthians 10:31).
There is, in fact, no more basic question for us to ask than this: Will this course of action tend to further the glory of God? If we do not seek His glory, we cannot be walking in the way of His blessing. If we seek His glory, then we can be sure that we shall discover light shed on our paths.
The Path God Has Laid
God means to guide our lives so that they may reflect the glory of His Son. In order to accomplish this He calls us to be imitators of Christ. Jesus was called to leave aside His glory by taking the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7). Christ humbled Himself under the mighty hand of God, and was in due season exalted (1 Peter 5:6). He suffered and then entered glory (Luke 24:26). The shape of His life was the pattern of the cross.
We can never repeat too often to one another that this remains the pattern of God's will and purpose in our lives. A familiarity with the way in which God works will bring enormous stability to our lives. It will make it possible for us to trust the purposes of God, even when they seem to be most painful. We will learn thus the paradox of the Christian life: it is a path to glory, through tribulations (Acts 14:22). The way in which God leads us is the way of following Christ in bearing the cross. Any "guidance" which contradicts this principle will lack the familiar autograph of Christ. Any "voice" which beckons us to forsake this pathway will lack the accents of our Master.
So, when we come to Christ and ask: "Will you be my Shepherd and my Guide through life?" He asks in return: "Will you take up the cross daily, and follow Me?" Is that really our ambition? Do you really want this kind of divine guidance? Have you counted the cost? Will you deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow Christ into His perfect will for your life?
—From Discovering God's Will copyright (c) 1982 Sinclair B. Ferguson. Published by Banner of Truth.
"I know not the way He leads me, but well do I know my Guide." —Martin Luther