Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
Wherever God Leads
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil… Psalm 23:4aNKJV
This morning we will begin to study Westminster Larger Catechism Question 195, which asks, “What do we pray for in the sixth petition?” The first part of the answer states: “In the sixth petition (which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,) acknowledging, that the most wise, righteous, and gracious God, for divers holy and just ends, may so order things, that we may be assaulted, foiled, and for a time led captive by temptations… .” Today we consider the goodness of God’s sovereign leading of His people.
“I never imagined I would be here; I never would have chosen to do things this way.” Perhaps you find yourself saying these words or something like them, or maybe you could have said them some time ago, during some traumatic episode of your life. If we are believers in Christ, God promises never to leave us or forsake us. He assures us that wherever He sends us He will go with us. Even death cannot separate us from Him. He guarantees that whatever He puts before us we will be able to handle in the way that pleases Him. Like Paul, by faith, each one of us should know and believe, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (Phil. 4:13). All of these promises and many more certify God’s grace will be sufficient for us. However, this does not mean that it will be easy, that it will be fun, or that we will necessarily like everything we will face on the journey! Even the great apostle at one point repeatedly “begged” his loving Lord to take some painful thing out of his life. But God said “No,” explaining, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness,” (2 Cor. 12:9).
We know Israel was made to go through a difficult wilderness for forty years. David was anointed king and then had to go on the run for his life for decades before he actually became king. Joseph was likewise promised preeminence and yet suffered many hardships to get there, including betrayal, slavery, false accusation, and imprisonment. Elijah despaired of life and asked God to kill him. Moses did too. Job would never have chosen to experience what God allowed and even willed for him to endure. In each of these examples the people of God were subject to many difficulties and temptations. They were tempted by the world, the flesh, and the devil as they were brought to the place where God was leading them. If we are going to affirm that God was fully in control in each of these situations then we must admit that it was God’s will that His faithful people were “assaulted, foiled, and for a time led captive by temptations.”
Yet at the same time, by faith we must confess that God never ever tempted His people. God never tempts anyone (James 1:13). Scripture often shows that God does indeed bring His people to those places wherein they will be subjected to many temptations. The Catechism explains that God does this “for divers holy and just ends.” That is, even though God may take us to a painful place, a difficult place, a place where we do not want to go, and where we would quickly leave if we could, we must understand that when God does this, He does it only and entirely because He loves us and wants to bless us. No matter where you are in your life, no matter how bad you feel, if you are a Christian you must confess that God is working for your good. We may not be able to see how in this life, but we know that God is “most wise, righteous, and gracious.” He is all-powerful and He is all-knowing and He is all-good. If we believe in Christ we are God’s children, and God will never allow any real harm to come to His beloved children! Even if we cannot see how, we must know and believe that God is working for our good in all things (Rom. 8:28). This is where we walk by faith and not by sight. If I trust God I don’t need to understand how, I don’t need to see why; I can say, I must say, I WILL say with the great saints of Scripture, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps. 27:1). May God grant that you and I would ever more believe and live by this truth, no matter what may befall us.