Spiritual Orientation

Spiritual Orientation

God offers us the orientation we need for our life journey.

At certain points on our life’s journey, we make unforgettable pauses to prepare ourselves for the succeeding stretches. One of the names we use to qualify those pauses is “orientation,” such as — life orientation, school orientation, professional orientation, and so on. They become points of reference that we frequently turn back to as we review other events, evaluate progress, consider change, make projections, or simply take the pleasure of reminiscing about companies, places, achievements, and learned lessons.

At times we are allowed to choose who will walk us through an orientation plan or program. Sometimes, the person we replace in a job or task will direct our learning. Yet other times, we do not even know who, if anyone, will assist in our orientation. We can only pray that we get the best assistance for our unique situation.

The Prophet Isaiah alludes to orientation as one of God’s promises to people who are willing to be agents of His love and grace to the world: “And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail" (Isaiah 58:11, ESV). We need orientation that answers the why, when, where, what, and how questions that come with the awareness of His calling.

The entire 58th chapter of Isaiah reminds God’s people of their need to not limit themselves to religious practices that may be focused on the satisfaction of their concerns with personal wellbeing. Outward acts of love and grace elevate our faith so that it becomes meaningful to others. We call this compassion.

To be compassionate one must be in a relationship with God. Compassion reflects God. God does not require that we do good in order to receive His goodness, but He is pleased with our innermost righteousness and responds to it by empowering us to do good. It is meaningful that on the list of things that God promises to compassionate hearts in Isaiah 58:11 is orientation and guidance.

The orientation that God promises includes more than preparation for a desired future. He also promises to guide us continually, in times of intense, laborious, well-informed planning, as well as in times of uncertainty — in situations when we are acutely aware of potholes on the road, as well as in times of ignorance and vulnerability.

Preparedness for a future under God starts with receptiveness to God’s way in the present.

In some of the most critical moments of His ministry to the disciples, Jesus talked about the future. One of those times is recorded in John 16:13 (ESV): "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” This is His promise of orientation in all areas of life, all dreams and goals, all opportunities and challenges. The truth that we need to know is the power that will guide us continually as long as we remain faithful to it.

We are invited to trust without fear.  In Acts, the official of Candace needed spiritual orientation and did not hesitate to ask for it when Philip came close to him and dared to suggest that he needed guidance to understand what he was reading. The officer was on his way back home. He knew the way to Gaza but not the way to God, and he did not hesitate to admit it. The dialogue between the two started like this: “Do you understand what you are reading?”  “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to guide him (Acts 8:30-31, ESV).

Either by the sweet and clear voice of the Holy Spirit Himself, or by using a Philip who teaches, counsels, preaches, writes, sings, lives, or prays, God offers us the orientation we need for our life journey — if only we acknowledge our need and ask for His orientation.

Eugénio Duarte is a General Superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene.

Holiness Today, Nov/Dec 2017