Navigation in the Spirit

By Bob Mumford

Part 1

Prior to electronic navigation, a certain harbor in Italy could only be reached by sailing up a narrow channel between dangerous rocks and shoals. Over the years, many ships have been wrecked there, and navigation is extremely hazardous. To guide the ships safely into port, three lights have been mounted on three huge poles in the harbor. When the three lights are perfectly lined up and seen as one, the ship can safely turn to begin navigation up the narrow channel. If the pilot sees two or three lights separately, he knows that he is off course and in danger! He must continue to maneuver his vessel until the lights perfectly line up before he can safely turn into the harbor.

For our safety in navigating our ship of life, God has provided three beacons to guide us. The same rules of navigation apply to us as to the harbor pilot. The three lights must be perfectly lined up as one before it is safe for us to proceed up the channel. The three harbor lights of guidance are:

  1. The Word of God (objective standard)
  2. The Holy Spirit (subjective witness)
  3. Circumstances (divine providence)
Together they assure us that the direction and guidance we have received are from God and will lead us safely along the way that is His revealed will for us.

The Supreme Criterion

The written Word of God is the supreme criterion in all guidance. In his second epistle, Peter refers to his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, James, and John. Here they saw Moses and Elijah and heard the voice of God from heaven say, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased" (II Peter 1: 17).

Can you imagine what it would have been like to have been with Jesus on that mountaintop? Can you imagine what it would have been like to have seen Jesus transfigured before your very eyes and to have heard the audible voice of God with your own ears? And yet Peter says, "And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation" (II Peter 1: 19-20). Peter had heard the audible voice of God from heaven, yet he says that the written Word is more sure.

The Bible is the Word of God. Jesus Himself said, "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished" (Matthew 5:18). He later said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away' (Luke 21:33).
The amazing thing about God's Word is that it never goes out of style. Over the last decades we have seen the remarkable changes in concepts of science as research has uncovered evidence supporting the views of the Bible. It is interesting that, as man's empirical knowledge of his nature and environment increases, the seeming gap of conflict between God's revelation in the Bible and man's knowledge of himself and of human behavior narrows rather than widens. The pseudo-scientific concept that suggests, "We can no longer accept or depend upon the truth of the Bible," simply cannot stand the close scrutiny of behavioral research.

The Bible is the living Word and by the mere reading of it can quicken hearts, change lives, and heal broken bodies and spirits. Jesus, who is God's Word become flesh, uses the expression, "I am the vine, you are the branches" (John 15:5). I would like to use the same illustration about the written Word of God, the Bible. The first three chapters of Genesis make up the root of the vine. To cut off the root would mean the rest of the vine would wither and die. The whole Bible stands or falls on the story of the beginning. The same is true with the story of the beginning of the life of Jesus. To say it doesn't matter whether Jesus was born of a virgin or not is like cutting the tap root of the vine but still expecting a harvest of grapes in the fall. The Bible is an organic whole.

The book of Corinthians was written in A.D. 56. That was over 1,900 years ago. What if you wanted to study electronics, automobile mechanics, medicine, or aerodynamics? Would you pick up a book written in the first century? Probably not! Most likely you would not ever take seriously a textbook written fifty years ago. But the problems and solutions of the Corinthians are still applicable to us and our society today. Thus the Word of God stands as a valid criterion for human behavior today. It does indeed speak to the whole of life.

It is interesting that in the past 2000 years there has not appeared any "new" sin, i.e. one that the Scriptures has not already addressed. God has given us "... all things that pertain to life and godliness" (II Peter 1:3).


Can God speak to us today? Of course He can, and He does. But how can we know it is God and not demonic or perhaps our own super-heated imagination? We are able to accomplish this by measuring God's spoken Word by His written Word.

Jesus spoke directly to His disciples; yet they always seemed to misunderstand Him. He became a little exasperated with them a few times because He had to tell them things over and over again and they still did not understand what He meant. Once, when in a boat, He told the disciples, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees."

The disciples discussed this among themelves and then decided that Jesus was disturbed because they had forgotten to bring bread. Jesus knew what they were thinking and said that was not what He meant at all; after all, did they not remember how He had fed the five thousand with just a couple of loaves? At last the disciples began to understand what He meant. Leaven was the dangerous doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:5-12).

Another time Jesus stood in front of the Temple and said,"Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19). Again they misinterpreted completely what He said.

Several years ago I was riding in a car with a friend when the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit seemed to fill the entire car. We had been praying, praising, and worshiping as we drove along. Suddenly the Spirit of God was so real and overwhelming that we pulled over to the side of the road and stopped. The atmosphere was supercharged with the wonderful presence of the Holy Spirit, and the voice of the Lord was distinct in my mind, "I want you to go to Peru!"

It was a dramatic and direct call. God wants me to go to Peru immediately, I thought. My wife and I sold all our belongings, believing that God was going to miraculously supply the needed five thousand dollars so we could fly off to Peru and minister to the Indians. We waited week after week, but still no provisions arrived. It was seven years before the Lord sent me to Peru, and even then it was not in the manner that I had expected, but as an invited teacher for an on-going ministers' training course. For five or six years we invested ourselves in Peru as the land of God's call. The outworking was certainly different than I first interpreted!

Go to [Part 2].
Copyright: 1994 by Morningstar Publications and Ministries. All rights reserved.

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