How do you know where to go and what to do in life? How does God guide you?
The ALPHA* course gives great suggestions for discerning God’s direction in our lives. Over the next five weeks I will talk about each suggestion and how, by God’s grace, He has used them in my own life experience to draw me closer to Him. These little gems are known as the five CS’s.
Here’s numero uno: Commanding Scripture.
God speaks to us through His Holy, divine and inspired word. As Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer states: “You will find your Lord in the Bible, and that is why your contact with the revealed text has a special meaning. It is contact with God who loves you and desires to affect you with his grace...If you enter into a person-to-person relationship with Christ, who is present throughout the inspired text, this text will permeate you. Then you will begin to listen intently to the Word of God, understand better the thoughts and desires of Jesus, and begin to know him even better. St. Jerome warns: ‘Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.’ Listening intently to the Word of God will influence your choices and decisions. You will want them to be in accordance with his teachings and his desires.”
So how do we read God's word and discern His will? Do we just close our eyes, open the Bible, point our finger and read the first thing that it lands upon? Although God has used that method to guide some, I wouldn’t recommend it.
A much better way is to familiarize yourself with what is in the Bible. You can read a little bit each day, or listen to the readings during Mass, or systematically read through an entire book or books, like the four Gospels. Working through a Bible Study can also help. Because God’s word is Inspired--meaning His Holy Spirit filled and used the hands of each writer to record the thoughts of God-- this book is unlike any other ever written.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states this:
104 "In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, "but as what it really is, the word of God".67 "In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them."68
105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. "The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit."69
On countless occasions in my own life, God has given me specific direction in certain situations by reading His word. As a freshman in college I felt a nudge to go to Africa on a mission trip with a peer group. The call became so compelling that I applied. To my delight I was accepted. By God’s doing the trip that had originally been scheduled for politically safe Kenya was changed at the last minute to very volatile Uganda (Idi Amin had not long been gone and, according to some, an even more ruthless leader was now in his place. We were among some of the first missionaries allowed back into the country at that time.) Though I knew there would be danger, I felt the call of God to go even more strongly than I had before. When I spoke to my parents they were, understandably, very much against it. In their opinion, the trip was far too dangerous for someone of my age and inexperience. I prayed to God to show me what to do, to give me direction and to give me the words I needed to convince my parents. As I prayed I was given a scripture address: Jeremiah 1:6-9
“‘Ah, Lord GOD!’ I said, ‘I do not know how to speak. I am too young!’ But the LORD answered me, ‘Do not say, ‘’I am too young.’’ ‘To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you’—oracle of the LORD. Then the LORD extended his hand and touched my mouth, saying to me, ‘See, I place my words in your mouth!’”
When I went home and read this to my parents, they cried... and they let me go. That trip forever changed my life and, in spite of contracting malaria, facing incredible dangers and needing to overcome deep fears, God used it to form me in faith and set me on fire with a zeal for evangelism that has lasted until this day.
“Wow! Does God always speak so dramatically and directly?” you may ask?
Nope. He usually works when we just read His word and act upon it in daily life. Here are some bits of wisdom:
“Be angry but do not sin, do not let the sun set on your anger.” Ephesians 4:26
“Honor your father and mother...don’t kill...don’t commit adultery…don’t steal” Exodus 20:12-15
“whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
God loves us and wants to guide us through His Holy Word. Ask Him...He will show you.
“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Help! I want to know what to do and how to do it in a way that is pleasing to You. Please guide me through Your Holy and Inspired word. Give me a desire to want to read Your word, enlightening me through Your Holy Spirit, showing me what You are saying to me through it. I know that You love me, so as I read, please reveal that love to me more deeply with each new verse. Show me Yourself and Your will for my life, for without You to guide me, I’m lost! Thank You God for hearing and answering this prayer.
I ask this in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
*Are you in the DC area and looking for an ALPHA course? Come hear Jamie Haith LIVE! at the National Cathedral, Thursdays, 7-9pm, March 2-April 27 (excluding Holy Thursday, April 13) http://cathedral.org/event/alpha-cathedral-lenten-series/2017-03-02/