The Bible says: “Like cattle that go down to the plain, they were given rest by the Spirit of the Lord. This is how you guided your people to make for yourself a glorious name” (Isaiah 63:14 NIV).
It is clear from this verse that even in Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit was the Guide of God’s people. Verse 10 of the same chapter tells us that the people rebelled and grieved the Holy Spirit and verse 11 says that it was God Himself who set His Holy Spirit among the people.
So it is clear that the Holy Spirit moves amidst God’s people guiding them. And we are to note the fact that He is grieved when we rebel against Him. That can cause Him to turn and become our enemy and fight against us (v. 10)!
As we think about the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives there are some general guidelines that we need to remember about His guidance:
One, the Spirit of God will never guide you in ways contrary to the nature and character of God. For example, the Spirit of God will never guide you to sin. That is made clear thus: “When tempted, no one should say, `God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone” (James 1:13 NIV).
Second, the Spirit of God will not guide in ways contrary to the Word of God. That is because, “And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6 NIV).
Since, the Holy Spirit Himself has authored the Scriptures, He will not contradict what is written in the Word when He guides you. Therefore any guidance that you receive that violates the commands of God in His Word is not from the Holy Spirit. Be warned about this!
Another thing to note about the guidance of the Spirit of God is that the Spirit can close doors for purposes known to God alone at that point in time. In simple words, the Holy Spirit can guide you by saying “NO!” to your prayers or attempts to do something.
We find a classic example recorded in the Book of Acts. In chapter 16, it is first recorded that Paul and his companions were prevented from preaching the word in the province of Asia by the Holy Spirit (v. 6)! Again, when they tried to enter a place called Bithynia, the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to do so (v. 7)!
But during the night, Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia asking him to help them. They left for Macedonia immediately because they concluded that God had called them to preach the gospel to them (v.10). So, it is important to heed the guidance of God’s Spirit when He closes doors. Maybe He wants to guide you to another place where there is urgent need.
Again there are different methods of guidance that the Holy Spirit uses:
For example, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit as she heard Mary’s greeting and in a loud voice exclaimed: “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished” (Luke 1:45 NIV).
That would have greatly encouraged Mary and confirmed the angel’s words to her. This is one example of the Spirit of God’s confirming guidance.
Another example is that of Simeon, who was moved by the Spirit to go into the temple courts to meet Jesus and his parents (Ref. Luke 1:27 NIV). Similar to this is the example of the Spirit of God telling Philip to go the chariot of the Ethiopian Eunuch and stay near it (Ref. Acts 8:29 NIV). These are examples of the Spirit of God’s guidance to move out.
Another type of guidance is found in Acts 13, where the Holy Spirit told the group of disciples who were worshiping the Lord and fasting: “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work which I have called them” (v. 2 NIV). It makes clear that it is the Holy Spirit who guides in selecting right people for His work.
There are many other types of examples that you can find in the Scriptures. In this short article it may not be possible to list every type. But one more important point to be made is this: The guidance of the Holy Spirit does not necessarily mean that life will be easy at all times! This is important to note.
Just this passage will make it clear; where Paul says: “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me” (Acts 20:22, 23 NIV).
Another passage reads: “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52 NIV). But you might be surprised to note that this happened when they were persecuted (v.50). Therefore we need not be surprised if the guidance of the Spirit of God leads us through rough times in life.
Now a final word: God’s best and surest guidance often comes from a regular reading and meditating of His Word–the Bible. You might ask why? It is because the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Ref. Ephesians 6:17).
And again, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV).
So, read and meditate on the Scriptures much. The Spirit of God shall use this sword to guide you; for it also says: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Pslam 119:105).
When the Spirit of God guides you, this promise from God’s word will become real to you in a very personal way: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, `This is the way; walk in it’ ” (Isaiah 30:21 NIV).
He shall not mislead you into error but shall guide you in paths of righteousness (Psalm 23:3) for He is the Spirit of truth (John 14:17; 16:13).
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