The availability of GPS has changed the way we travel in the developed world.
It was only about 20 years ago when I moved to a new community in North Carolina and took a job that required in -home appointments with potential clients. Back then, the only realistic option for getting street-level directions was a book called an Atlas & Gazetteer. You could go city by city and get a reference grid showing you the location of a specific street, but you still had to visually scan through the grid and find it. Then, believe it or not, you had to start tracing a backwards route to the major roadways so you could figure out how to actually navigate to where you intended to go.
Fast forward a decade and you had Garmin and Tom-Tom providing dedicated units that would (ostensibly) give you turn-by-turn directions. I recently did an internet search and confirmed that both of these companies are still selling GPS-only units, though to be honest I’m not sure why. One of them sells an “expert unit” for $500 that boasts a long list of features. But today my phone has three different GPS apps installed that, with one or two possible exceptions, provide all of the same functionality for free (if I’m willing to ignore an ad pop up every now and then).
Of course, all of this requires either an active signal connection or the foresight to download an offline version of the map. Folks in developed nations have a much better set of options than the third-world. It’s likely that some of my readers on the African continent don’t have any access to a workable GPS system. But wherever you are in the world and whatever level of cellular signal you do or don’t have at the moment, there is a guidance system that works anywhere on the planet.
Today’s verse tells us THE LORD WILL GUIDE YOU ALWAYS
And He will. Always. Let’s explore the ways you can participate in making God’s Positioning System (what I’ll call “Vital GPS”) a reality in your life.
First, like any other GPS, you need to have a connection to the source. Vital GPS works because, well, it is VITAL; meaning it is a LIVE connection to direction. Your connection to Christ is the vital link that enables the process. As I’ve said before, making that connection is as simple as A-B-C.
A stands for ADMIT that you’re a sinner in need of a savior.
B stands for BELIEVE that He died for your sins and was raised from the dead.
C stands for CONFESS Him as your Lord, the one to whom you give control of your life.
When a contractor builds a new house, all of the wiring that will supply power to every room, appliance and fixture is run inside the walls. All of the appropriate connections are made to switches and outlets. Then it is inspected to assure that everything has been done according to the building code. Once that step is done, you have a perfectly capable and unquestionably proper electrical system. The only problem is that the wires are not “live” because they’ve not been hooked up to the source of power. They’re ready to go — except for the one thing that makes every other thing work!
Your relationship to Christ operates exactly the same way. You can “know about” Jesus, have read the Bible, perhaps even tried a prayer or two. You could invest time every day reading a devotional that’s “Insightful, humorous, and inspirational.” 🙂 But until YOU have been directly connected to the source of LIFE, until you “know” Him; you’re going to lack the one thing that makes every other thing work! JESUS.
Second, once you’ve been connected to the “vital” part of Vital GPS, you’ve got to listen. God will speak to you about situations in your life. Just as when you’re driving in the car and using your car’s GPS, getting the benefit of the instructions requires that you hear them. If you’ve got the radio blaring while you hold a conversation with the passenger in the front seat, you may not hear your car’s GPS tell you, “In half a mile, turn LEFT onto Main Street.” And if you don’t hear the instruction because you’re distracted, you won’t know that you’ve got a turn coming.
Of course, there is a third element that makes the full process work. Once you’re connected to the network and you’ve heard the instruction — you actually have to FOLLOW the instructions you’re given. Even when you think you know better than the instruction you’ve received.
Last night I was driving home from church from the new church we’re planting in Jacksonville Florida. Even though I was on a road I’ve known for years, I had WAZE running on my phone. When I’ve been asked WHY I use GPS when I know where I am going, I’ve told people, “Well, I just like to stay up to date on road conditions up ahead so I can avoid problems.” And last night my GPS warned me that I should turn left at the next intersection. I was confused, because the shortest route to the highway I intended to use was STRAIGHT ahead.
I thought I knew better; I’d driven this road hundreds of times. I looked at the map on the screen, and saw nothing unusual.
So, even though my phone was connected to a live network with traffic data, AND even though I had heard my GPS instructing me to turn left — because I couldn’t see any issues on the map I decided to go straight. About a mile later the accident that the GPS knew about (but I could not see earlier) showed up on the map. Traffic was crawling for about 15 minutes, and I learned the lesson I’m sharing with you now. (Or, to be more accurate, RE-learned it; because I’ve done this before.)
What’s the lesson? That the BEST route to get from point A to point B may not necessarily be the shortest one. If someone (or even something) is in a position to know more current information, or better information, than you have; acting on the new information may actually save you a good deal of frustration. Had I obeyed the instruction and turned left when I was told to do so, I’d have saved a lot of time.
There’s a prayer that is prayed by Orthodox Jews every day. It’s called the “Shema” because that’s the first word of the prayer that begins “Shema Israel ….” In English, the prayer says, “Hear, O Israel, the LORD your God, the LORD, is one.” There’s an interesting aspect to that word “shema” in biblical Hebrew, which is the language that most of the Old Testament was written in. That aspect is that the word “shema” actually had two different meanings. The first meaning was “to listen” or “to hear.” So “Shema, Israel” is translated as “Hear, O Israel.” But the second meaning of “shema” is “to obey.”
Contained within the one word used in the prayer is the dual concept of hearing and obedience to what has been heard.
THE LORD WILL GUIDE YOU ALWAYS
And as He does, you must both LISTEN to what He is saying and OBEY what you have heard. If you’re not connected, you’ll not receive His guidance. Once you are connected, listening AND obeying are both required to end up on the proper route.
Of course, there is another problem that can arise when you’re relying on a GPS for direction. It’s one that Apple found out about the hard way when it released the iPhone 5 with their brand new GPS app. When they announced Apple Maps, they said, “Designed by Apple from the ground up, Apple Maps gives you turn-by-turn spoken directions, interactive 3D views, and the stunning flyover feature. All of which may just make this app the most beautiful, powerful mapping service ever.”
Except it was wrong. A lot!!!! Multiple major cities (as well as their roads and streets) were completely wiped off the map. Even entire nations were in the wrong locations. (Oops! Gomenesai, Japan) Steve Jobs had once boasted that doing LSD was one of the most important things he had done in his life; and some of the graphics looked like they had been designed while he indulged, with streets and bridges appearing to melt. Piccadilly Circus in London had roads that didn’t even connect, let alone form a circle. Some national landmarks were completely missing, while others were in the wrong locations. (Kind of makes a dent on your tourism plans.) The city of Hong Kong was no longer on Hong Kong island, but had been moved onto mainland China. (I’ll bet the Chinese were pleased!)
The situation was so bad that Apple literally had to resort to suggesting that people use competitor versions of GPS maps while they were “improving” Apple Maps so that it would, well, actually tell you where you were and then take you to the location to which you wanted to go. I said that Apple found out “the hard way” because Apple’s stock value took a $30 billion dollar tumble over the very public failures.
THE LORD WILL GUIDE YOU ALWAYS
The direction the world gives on how to live our lives and attain eternal joy would make Apple Maps look good. The world says there are many paths to heaven, Vital GPS knows there is only one road and can tell you how to get on it. People in the world flaunt their own wisdom and their ability to do everything “their way,” but Jesus promises to send His Spirit to guide you along the proper path.
If you find yourself following the wrong instructions on the highway to heaven, it will cost you a lot more than a mere $30 billion. It’s going to cost you everything.
Rely on VITAL GPS – let God Himself guide your steps in life, and on the highway to heaven.
THE LORD WILL GUIDE YOU ALWAYS