I believe that something we will all agree on is that all of us are on a journey through life. This is often said but rarely does anyone speak about where they are going on their journey. So, I feel like asking you today, where are you going? What is your final destination?
I believe that ultimately there are two directions you can travel on this journey through life. Yes, all of us walk different paths through life but these paths can only lead in two directions. The reason I say this is because I believe that there are only two end destinations that we can reach at the end of our journeys.
As you have heard me say before, the journey through life is not an easy one for anybody. Regardless of who you may be, there are going to be many hardships that we face in life as we try to reach our destination. From flat land, to hills, mountains, and valleys, there always seems to be another hill, mountain, or valley on our journey. In other words, we are seemingly always met with more trials and tribulations on this journey. So, the hope would be that your end destination is a good one, right?
So, I believe that every single person is always in need of good support, guidance, direction, and encouragement to be able to head in the best direction rather than be a lost and wandering soul on this journey. To think or to believe you can reach that good destination without good direction, support, guidance, and encouragement would be very arrogant and quite frankly, very foolish. So, again I ask, where are you going?
When I think about the journey that we are on, my mind always goes back to the children of Israel and their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land; it is the best representation of the journey that we are all on to me. You see, there is a land of promise that has been promised to all people by the Lord. This land is not a land that is of this world but a good land that is beyond it (John 3:16; 14:1-6). Are you headed in the direction of that good land?
Guided to the land of promise
So when I think about the children of Israel journeying to the Promised Land, I think about how they did not have to guess about which direction to go. We know the story well – God led the children of Israel by day by a pillar of cloud and by night the Lord led them by a pillar of fire (Ex. 13:21-22). The Lord even directed the children of Israel when it was time for them to rest on the journey and when it was time for them to move (Ex. 40:36-37). When you think about it, the Lord was as a shepherd guiding His flock through the field and back into the safety of the fold.
As shown by their journey, there were two end destinations they could reach – the Promised Land or the wilderness. Due to not following God’s direction, a generation of the children of Israel never reached the Promised Land and died in the wilderness. The generation that was obedient to God’s direction joined Joshua and crossed the Jordan to enter the land of promise.
Again I tell you, there are two destinations that one can reach at the end of this journey. There are many different paths on this journey but in the end, you’re going to reach one of these destinations depending on the direction you traveled. You will either reach the land that the Lord has promised (heaven) or a land of destruction and waste – a land of death
Now, if you desire to reach the land of promise from God, you will want to travel in the direction that the Lord guides and directs you. Some walk with confidence towards that land of promise. At the very same time, some will confidently walk in a direction away from that land of promise. Then there are several others who will wander in circles – unsure of which direction to go.
Now, how or why does one end up wandering aimlessly on this journey? I suppose our first answer to this question will fall back to one not believing in God. Faith certainly plays a role in this matter but I tell you today that the wandering soul is not a soul that is confidently walking in a direction of faith. The one that is confidently walking in a direction away from heaven is confident in their faith of not believing in God.
The wandering soul
You see, the wandering soul is a soul that is lost and does not know which way to go — they are confused. So, for the wandering soul, we have to figure out where this confusion is coming from.
When I think about where such confusion comes from for the soul, I consider all of the doctrines present in our world; this has been a subject that I have touched on the past couple of weeks. There are many doctrines in the world today that speaks to what one should do in order to live. What this means is that for the wandering soul, there are many advisers that are advising what one should do and it can become quite hard for a confused soul to discern what is helpful or not.
I honestly believe this to not only be true for the wandering soul but even for the soul of one who is confidently walking in the direction towards heaven. On this journey, there will be times where the path can be filled with fog that can confuse us and throw us off track. So, I share with you that I am one that turns to my faith and I diligently pray for God to clear up that fog of confusion.
God, as we know, is not the author of confusion – He is the one that clears up the fog of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). So, in my prayers to God, I pray for Him to be with me, to guide me, to give me direction in where He would have me to go. I also pray that should I fall off course that God puts me back on it. My desire is to always be headed in the right direction – the direction towards His land of promise.
I tell you today that we are all – both the one that walks confidently in faith and the wandering soul – is in need of God’s support, guidance, direction, and encouragement while we are on this journey. Sadly, as we know, the right direction to some is the wrong direction to others while the wrong direction to some is the right direction to others. This is the confusion of the world.
Going the wrong direction
In Isaiah 30, the Lord clears up for us any confusion as He spoke to Israel to which direction is proper.
By the time of Isaiah, Israel had been influenced by the counsel of others to head in a direction that caused them to stray from the Lord. We will see that in straying from the Lord, God said that Israel had devised plans that were not of His Spirit. In devising and committing to plans that were against His Spirit, God said that Israel added to their sin (Is. 30:1).
During that time, rather than put their trust in the counsel (advice) of God in the way that they should go, Israel chose to turn to Egypt. At that time, Israel was under the threat of the Assyrians – a great and mighty power during that day. So, Israel was in a moment of great need where they should have sought the Lord. Yet, they chose Egypt and the strength of Pharaoh in the face of their enemies (Is. 30:2).
Now, let’s keep in mind that the forefathers of these Israelites had received the law and commandments; they had received guidance and counsel from the Lord in the direction they should go in all matters! Yet, Israel was choosing to ignore God’s direction for their own direction!
Now, where do you suppose going in a direction that is opposite of where the Lord tells you to go will lead you? For Israel, we will see that this was a choice that led to shame and humiliation (Is. 30:3). As we know, the northern kingdom (Israel) was conquered and destroyed by the Assyrians (Is. 30:6-7). When they chose to go in a direction that opposed the Lord’s direction, He considered them to be rebellious children (Is. 30:1,9-10).
The foggy path
So, the one thing I always wonder about this is the “why” – why did Israel choose to ignore God’s counsel? Why did they not trust in Him? I suppose that this same question could be asked for many today. Why do so many refuse to seek or heed God’s counsel?
I certainly believe it is due to the many doctrines that are present in the world today that can cloud one’s judgment. We were born in a world filled with doctrines of wickedness and we still live in that same world. By birth and growing up, we were indoctrinated by many of these doctrines and they became part of our way.
For some of the children of Israel, it became really difficult for them to break away from the ways that some of them picked up from the Egyptians. During the days of Isaiah, it was hard for many of those of Israel to break away from the doctrines of those that lived in the land of Canaan. They practiced idolatry, pagan worship and sacrifice, along with fornication – wickedness. When confronted by prophets of God, they would say to the seers, “do not see,” and to the prophets, “do not prophesy to us right things (Is. 30:10).”
For the one who is a genuine believer, our judgment can also be clouded by the doctrine that comes natural to us. We have a nature in us that will tell us to do one thing while the Holy Spirit that dwells in us is telling us to do another. Actually, I have found in our trials and tribulation that our old nature is what obscures and fogs up our direction! Instead of heeding the voice of the Spirit in our times of great need, we end up rushing with clouded judgment in the wrong direction with all sorts of fear and anxiety.
So I can only imagine how obscured things are for those who are confused by the many doctrines that are present in the world. Now, the Lord, we should understand, will not allow our vision to be obscured by the fog should we choose to listen to Him. God will not allow this to happen because He desires for the righteous one to remain on the right path and for the wandering soul to know the right way to go.
Following God’s Direction
To the one who is of genuine faith and to the wandering soul, you are encouraged to get out of the fog of confusion by getting away from all of the various voices that try to advise and influence your direction.
Breaking out of the fog
You will recall from my sermon last week – Living for the Good Fight of Faith – that I referenced what Paul said to Timothy about certain voices that are present in our world. Paul told Timothy, and therefore us as well, that there are voices in the world that are proud and know nothing; they are obsessed with disputes and arguments over words that produce only envy, strife, and reviling (1 Tim. 6:3-4). From those, Paul said that we, the genuine believer and wandering soul, should withdraw ourselves from them (1 Tim. 6:5).
In the book of Hebrews, the writer essentially repeated this same statement. The writer of Hebrews wrote, “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them (Heb. 13:9).” We should let our hearts (spirit) be established by the grace of God and not by the doctrines of man or the doctrine of our old self!
When this statement was written, Christ had come and fulfilled His purpose – the people were now living under grace. Yet, what was happening was something that happens today – people were letting their hearts be established by the voices of others who were proud and knew nothing. They also participated in performing certain rituals like offering up sacrifices with the belief that doing those things would please the Lord. The days of offering up vain sacrifices and performing rituals had long past, but people were still listening to those who were going in the wrong direction!
Listen to God!
Are you going in the wrong direction because you are listening to and following the wrong doctrines? Break away from those doctrines! Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines!
To clear up some confusion: God does not ask for you to participate in any strange rituals of religion. What God desires from you is genuine faith in trusting in Him and His word. In my key verse for today, we will see that the Lord said through Isaiah, “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.”
This word, I want you to understand, was God’s counsel to Israel and His counsel towards us. When the Lord tells us the way we should move, we should go that way; it’s as simple as that! His guidance and encouragement comes through the Holy Spirit. At the very same time, the same Spirit resides in others who are of genuine faith and they may share with you wise counsel as well so be sure to listen to the Spirit when the Spirit speaks!
Do you realize that the children of Israel had to be obedient and follow the cloud and fire of God in order to have reached the Promised Land? Had they not been obedient, they would have remained lost and never reached the Promised Land.
What do you suppose that means for we who the Holy Spirit desires to lead to the land of God’s heavenly kingdom? In order for us to reach the end destination that is the Lord’s kingdom, we need to heed the voice of God; we need to heed His guidance and direction to ensure that we are going the right way. Should we not heed the voice of the Spirit, we will end up lost and wandering aimlessly until we reach the destination that is separate from God.
Which way will you go
Whether you realize this or not, you are currently being watched and even judged on the direction you go on this journey. First, you are being judged by all of those around you. Now, you may actually feel like Paul about this to know that others are judging you.
To the Corinthians, Paul wrote about his feelings on being watched and judged by the Corinthians. Firstly, Paul found it to be a very small thing to be judged by others as he did not even judge himself (1 Cor. 4:3). However, I do want to note that Paul said to the Corinthians that those who judge us should see us as both servants and stewards of the Lord (1 Cor. 4:1-2). Are you going in the right direction on your journey? Those around you will even be able to tell!
At the very same time, you should know that the direction you are taking is also being watched by the Lord who will also have the final ruling over where you will end up. You see, the Lord will determine who enters into His land and those that will be barred from entrance. So, if you desire to enter into the land of the Lord, then you should definitely listen to His guidance and direction – He won’t mislead you!
So, Paul was not all that bothered by how others judged him because he knew there was a far higher judge in the Lord. With that thought in mind, Paul considered that he would do his best to go down the right path right in God’s eyes rather than go another direction. So, he would seek and listen to the counsel of the Lord rather than heeding the counsel of those who do not carry with them the voice of the Spirit.
You and I should always turn to the Lord and seek His direction while we are on this journey. Yes, this is another message of encouragement that ends up focusing on the final judgment of the Lord! Sadly, we have gotten away from preaching and teaching about God’s judgment but we need to know and live our lives with the knowledge that God is watching and will judge where we end up. If we travel through life with this mindset, then we will certainly move in a direction towards the land of promise by the Lord.