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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Preached At:Pilgrim Canadian Reformed Church
 London, Ontario
Title:Show me Your Way, O Lord
Text:LD 49 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Calling

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 61:1,2,3                                                                                               

Reading – Psalm 25

Psalm 25:1,2,3,4

Sermon – Lord’s Day 49

Psalm 25:6,7,10

Hymn 3:1,2,3 [after Apostles’ Creed]

Hymn 82:1,2
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved in Christ, who gets lost anymore? Who has a hard time getting from Point A to Point B, and back again? Probably very few of us. Because nowadays, it’s pretty easy to find your way around. We’ve got lots of navigating assistance! On your computer, you can access Google Maps, or go to Mapquest. There you can print out precise directions from your home, to pretty much anywhere. Or if you have a Blackberry or iPhone, it’s all right there in the palm of your hand. And then there’s the nice GPS gadgets you can get for your car. They’ll even gently admonish you when you missed your exit, or when you turned right instead of left! If you’ve got the right tools, it’s pretty hard to get lost.

            Well, if only all of life was like that! If only it always was so straightforward: to find our way to good decisions, to navigate the twists and turns of life’s journey. And we’re not just talking about those big decisions. We understand already that deciding on a career, or choosing a spouse, or making a big purchase, can be a difficult process. Those are the big “highways” we decide to take, the general direction we might follow for years on end.

But even from day to day, we’ve got countless choices to make. These are the little “avenues and side-streets” on the way—small decisions about what words to say, or what attitudes to have, what habits to make and to break; decisions about what we’re going to do with this hour of free time, or with these few extra dollars.

            Sounds like small stuff, but finding our way isn’t a simple matter. For so often, our heart inclines us in the wrong direction. So often, we’re knocked off course by temptation. As Christians, we know we should be constantly attentive to the route our lives are on—yet we all like to put it on “auto-pilot.” So easily, we stop considering what Christ would have us do. We get into a comfortable rut, and just coast on down the highway.

            It’s with good reason then, that Jesus taught us the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer:
“Our Father who is in heaven, your will be done.” That is to say, “Lord, may you be the one giving direction to my life. May your way be the way that I consciously follow, and follow always.” This is also David’s prayer in Psalm 25. Here he prays to receive a spiritual compass; he prays for instruction in God’s will. That’s our theme, based on Lord’s Day 49,

             “Show me your ways, O LORD:”

1)     not taking my own way anymore

2)     but finding out God’s way

3)     and walking in it every day

1)     not taking my own way anymore: If you’ve ever been lost before, you know that it’s easy to start arguing. The driver gets annoyed with the navigator for instructions that are less than helpful. The navigator, on the other hand, thinks he’s been quite clear—it’s the driver who’s not reacting fast enough, or who’s going the wrong way. An argument is also at the heart of this Lord’s Day about finding our life’s direction. For we learn here that we must “deny our own will, and without any murmuring obey [God’s] will” (Q&A 124). That is to say, there’s a difference of opinion. We think we should go one way, and God thinks we should go another.

            And it’s a difference that has real consequences. It’s not that one route is a more scenic, the other more direct. We want to take our own way, because we think it’s actually better for us, that it’ll bring us where we want to go. Yet God is saying that taking our own way could be fatal. It’s a highway to nowhere, and it could even turn into a “Dead End.”

We know what this kind of “inner argument” is like. Maybe you want to buy something special for yourself, but you know it means your church donation this month is going to be a lot smaller. So what do you do? Or maybe you really want to stay out really late, but it means you won’t be effective tomorrow at work, or attentive in worship. So what do you do? Or you know you should help someone out, have a fellow saint over for coffee, but it’s probably going to be inconvenient, and it’s going take some of your time. So what do you do?

Aren’t there countless situations in life where we’re faced with these basic options? We wrestle with it: “Am I going to do what I want here? Am I going to take the easy way out? Will I have tunnel vision, and just seek my own goals, my own comforts? Or will I do what’s right? Will I do what God has said in his Word, and what God has placed on my heart?” Even some of life’s smallest decisions can be reduced to these opposing directions. “Will I be turning right or left? Doing good or evil? Listening to God or someone else?”

            And the temptation to go the wicked way, the selfish way, is always there. The Bible says that’s the way we “incline.” It’s like when the wheels on your car are out of alignment. Maybe you’ve had that before: the car’s always pulling in the one direction. You have to fight it whenever you’re driving, keeping your grip firm on the steering wheel. In the same way, we incline to sin. We keep pulling toward disobedience. We keep pulling away from God.

            David knew this struggle. You can hear it throughout his prayer in Psalm 25. It’s true, he begins by looking to God: “To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; O my God, I trust in you” (vv 1-2). He commits the direction of his life to God. He resolves to listen to the LORD’s instruction. But it’s not easy, because right away, the pull is there. “Let me not be ashamed,” David prays, “Let not my enemies triumph over me” (v 2).

            We don’t know exactly what situation David was in, but it’s clear that certain people were trying to discredit him. He was probably the king at this time, and some enemies were dragging his name through the mud. By making their accusations, they were trying to get a violent reaction out of him. Then, they hoped, everyone would see what kind of nasty person David was: that he couldn’t be trusted, that he shouldn’t be king.

            This was a tight spot for David. Do nothing, and his enemies might get the last word on his character. But react to their slander, and his enemies only get more ammunition to fire at the king. No wonder David prays for God’s guidance, to navigate this minefield! And no wonder David prays that he will not sin. For David knew his own weakness. He knew he’d reacted badly to his enemies in the past. He knew he’d been self-reliant, instead of dependent on God. So he makes this his prayer, “Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions” (v 7).

            It takes a lot of humility to say that, and to say that with sincerity. As Christians, we like to pretend we’ve got it all figured out, that our track-record is pretty good. But when faced with any decision, the first thing we ought to do is acknowledge our need before God. We should admit our sins and our transgressions. We ought to pray, “Father in heaven, help me not take my own way, like I did last time, and the time before that. Help me not to be so stubborn. My paths have always been sinful and rebellious, even from my youth. And that’s why I need your guidance so badly, right now and always.”

That’s the struggle of praying the third petition. We have to pray, “Your will be done,” even when we have our own idea of how things should go. We have to pray, “Your will be done,” even when our body wants to do its own thing. We have to pray it, even when our mind is straying back toward those evil thoughts.

            It’s true, the decisions that we have to make aren’t always so clear cut. In the complexity of this life, there’s not always a clear line between calling something good, and calling something evil. Nor do we always recognize those thoughts where rebellion begins. We don’t always notice when talking with God becomes arguing against God.

            But David’s prayer again instructs us. He prays, “Look on my affliction and my pain and forgive all my sins” (v 18). He’s saying: “Even in this troubled time, may I not sin against you, O LORD. Even in my present distress and confusion, may I do the right thing.” David knows that we’re always just a moment away from sinning. We’re always just a moment away from asserting ourselves, instead of entrusting ourselves to God.

So let us ask God to take away our hidden faults, and to correct our inclination to sin. Let us humbly acknowledge to God that what we want doesn’t matter, that what we think is beside the point. Let us pray that in any of those inner debates over what path we should follow, that we would have the wisdom and strength to do what pleases the Lord.

2)     but finding out God’s way: When we’re faced with a decision on a course of action, it can sometimes be quite obvious what we must NOT do. We know not to put anything before God, notto neglect worship, not to be unkind, we know not to give in to greed or anger, and so on. In our heads, we all know the “big rules” about what’s wrong, and what’s right. But where do we go from there? How can I find out God’s will more specifically? In that particular place where God has put me in this life, how can I put his instructions and commands into practice? To us it’s not always clear.

            Sometimes then, we’d like nothing better than for God to speak to us directly. Here the Catechism says we should be like the angels in heaven, carrying out God’s will, “willingly and faithfully” (Q&A 124). “Well, if only we got what the angels get,” we might say, “messages straight from the heavenly throne: ‘Do this. Go there. Say that.’” That’s divine direction we could follow! Or maybe we wish that we could have a special dream. Maybe a fully detailed map for our lives could be given us by God. Yet we know it won’t happen this way.

            And there’s a good reason for this. Probably all of us like to have everything figured out ahead of time, to have our lives nicely planned out. But God’s direction to his children is often given simply from day to day. He might only show us the next small step we need to take—the next duty, the next obligation—and nothing more.

You could compare it to the petition about our daily bread. Just like for our material needs, God promises to give us a knowledge of his will, just one small portion at a time. And why? Because this keeps us humble. It keeps us from looking too far ahead, keeps us from getting too comfortable. Most importantly, this keeps us going back to God for our needed wisdom and direction—dependent on God, each new day again. “Father, what must I do today? In the day that lies ahead of me, how can I most effectively serve you?”

And whenever we ask God for guidance, we do so in the confidence that God will answer. That’s what David does in Psalm 25. He was in a tight spot, we said. And he could’ve despaired or given up, just not knowing what to do. But notice again that he begins with that confession of faith: “To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; O my God, I trust in you” (vv 1-2). Before he says anything else, before he mentions anything about his confusion or his uncertainty, David will confess that God never abandons those who belong to him.

Beloved, that’s the proper way to begin any prayer for God’s direction: “O my God, I trust in you.” And in that right spirit, David prays, “Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me” (vv 4-5). Notice that David doesn’t ask here for a mysterious sign, or to hear a voice from the clouds. Rather, He asks for knowledge. He asks for truth. He asks for teaching. What’s he asking for?

Above all, he’s asking for insight into the Word of God! That’s where he begins his search for God’s will: in the Book! Whenever Scripture speaks of God’s “ways,” it’s referring to the ways of the covenant. Whenever Scripture speaks of God’s “paths,” it’s describing those paths He’s set out in the law. David asks to see the things in Scripture that he needs to know: “Show me these ways.”

            “Father,” we pray with David, “teach me your paths.” And that verb “teach” means that we have to “learn.” It means that it won’t necessarily be a straightforward thing, finding God’s will. A sign in the sky is easy. Opening the Scriptures, and searching the Scriptures, often is not. Yet if we want to find the will of God, we first have to look in that place where hundreds of thousands of his words are written down.

We must fill our minds with his Word. We must fill our minds with it, because the more do so, the more we’ll think in the ways and patterns of God. We’ll correct our bad alignment, and start to align ourselves with Him. If our minds are thoroughly informed by the Word, we’ll begin to know more and more of God’s will: “This is what God wants—He told me in the Word. I know that He wants me to deny myself. I know that He wants me to use my gifts. I know that He wants me to serve others. He wants me to put Him first.”

And this is training that we need to do ahead of time. For let’s face it, in that moment of decision, we don’t always have the time to contemplate questions of right and wrong. Life is dynamic. Life hurries past quickly. Like merging onto the highway, we might only have a second to decide: accelerate or slow down, move to the left, stay on the right.

Even when we’re having a simple conversation, or we’re tackling a small project, or we’re starting our day, we’re faced with the immediate questions of how we’re going to live, of whose will we’re going to do. What is God’s way for my words to this person? What is God’s way for my labours in the office? What is God’s way for my daily planning? The questions and the challenges are immediate. But if we’ve prepared ourselves well, if we’ve studied ahead of time, then the answers will begin to come. “This is my calling in each of these moments—that I glorify the name of the LORD.”

Finding out God’s will calls us to become sensitive to his leading. For God nudges us. He prods us. He opens doors for us, and he closes others. And we have to pay attention to these things, by living close to the LORD. As David says, “The secret of the LORD is with those who fear him; and He will show them his covenant” (v 14).

That’s a powerful statement. When we fear the LORD, when we serve him daily, God takes us into his confidence. He tells us his “secret,” his wisdom for our lives. Like two people going for a walk together, strolling side-by-side; it’s a great time for a close conversation, for an intimate sharing of information. In the same way, when we walk closely with God through prayer and meditation, God shows us what covenant life is all about. He confides in us, and trains us in what’s good.

He does it through his Word, we said. But God also teaches us his will through the people He’s placed around us. We’re blessed to have a life in communion, a life shared with fellow believers. So we ought to listen to parents, or to friends, or to teachers, or to office bearers, to those we know have been given the Spirit and a good knowledge of God’s Word. If we’re humble enough to seek advice, and patient enough to listen, we can receive so much good insight into life. Sometimes all we have to do is ask, and through others God might show us the way. 

            And yet, beloved, we understand that the struggle can still remain. Even after many days of searching for God’s will—and searching humbly, intensely, prayerfully—it can still be so unclear about what God wants you to do. You can feel lost, unsure of where to turn. And in response, you could despair. You could go your own way. Or far better, you could again offer that simple prayer of faith: “Father, your will be done, for your will alone is good. If I have to wait, that’s OK. If I have to search a while longer, that’s fine. Even if I have to endure some more rough roads, that’s all right. For your will alone is good.” For a period of our lives, God might not show us the way to go.

But He’ll never leaves it at that. Beloved, the Father will always hear the prayers of his children, when they’re offered in the name of Christ! We keep praying Psalm 25:4, again and again, “Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me.” When we keep praying that, God will surely answer. As David confesses: “Good and uprightis the LORD; therefore He teaches sinners in the way” (vv 8-9). See that connection! Notice the “therefore.” Because God is good, because He is upright, He will surely instruct us in his ways, He will surely guide us in what is right. It’s what He does. He is faithful to those who call on his Name.

When we search for God’s will, we can do so with this confidence: God will never let his gifts be wasted. After all, He’s given also to you precious talents and abilities. He’s given also to you abundant resources and opportunities. He’s given also to you a holy purpose here on earth. And God doesn’t want these things to go to waste! No, He’ll show us when and how and where to put them to use. Because his will is good, God will show us how to walk in his ways!

 3)     and walking in it every day: We all know there’s a big difference between knowing and doing. That is, you could have clear sense of what God calls you to do, but you might still resist putting it into practice. That’s why the Catechism puts the emphasis on action. More than just knowing God’s will, we must “obey” God’s will. More than just having a job or position, we have to “carry out the duties of [our] office and calling” (Q&A 124). We’ve got to do it!

For sometimes when we’ve become sure of what God wants us to do, there’s still a struggle. Because it’s not what we wanted. It’s the harder way. It’s the way of sacrifice, perhaps. It’s the way of tears. We almost wish we could be wrong about what we’ve learned, wrong about our conviction—wished that we closed our ears to God’s “confiding.” Oh, how we still wrestle with our bad alignment, our sinful inclination!

But this petition encourages us take it out of “park,” and to put it into gear. Accept his guiding. Listen to his leading. Go forward, knowing that God always blesses us our obedience. That taking his way is the way to glory. As David contemplated his life’s direction, this is what he held onto: “All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth, to such as keep his covenant and his testimonies” (v 10). That is, the Father notices the faithfulness of his children. Though we owe God every bit of our obedience (and more), God graciously rewards us when we keep our obligations. He blesses us when we’re not only hearers of the Word, but doers.

So daily let us press on, and let us do God’s will! For what do all of us—without exception—know about his calling for our lives? We know this: that our purpose here is to bring glory to God and to his Son! As it is for the angels in heaven, we’re here on earth to serve our God, “willingly and faithfully.” Let that high purpose shape every decision you make. Let that unchanging compass point direct every path you take.

As Christians, we have an office and calling: to live as prophets, priests and kings. We’re called as prophets, to confess God’s Name wherever God has put us. We’re called as priests, to present ourselves as a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him. We’re called as kings and queens, to fight against sin and the devil in our lives, and to make his Kingdom come. In Jesus Christ, God has given us the most important calling in the world—to live for him. Let us do so now! Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2011, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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