I once bought a new kitchen for my house. It was a self-assembly kitchen. I was never very good at woodwork and stuff like that in school, so I was really pushing out the boundary of my ability, to say the least! I asked the guy at the store if it was easy to build the units. “Oh yes!” he said, “once you’ve done the first unit, the rest is easy.”

He wasn’t joking! I think it took me three or four days to assemble the first one successfully. I actually assembled it lots of times, a different way each time – and I was always left with an extra bit at the end, and the extra bit wasn’t always the same extra bit! Finally, I understood what the instructions were trying to tell me – it wasn’t my fault, you see – they just weren’t speaking to me clearly enough. I hate instructions that mumble, don’t you?

Some people don’t read instructions, some do. Some people don’t need to read instructions, because they know what they are doing. Some people really, really should read the instructions, because they inevitably end up phoning the people who know what they are doing – and for all my friends out there who have just bought a new computer – I am going to start charging!

If all else fails, read the instructions, they say. I wonder what God says to that? I wonder if he sometimes thinks, “Here we go again….”

It seems to me that we often batter on with our lives, get in yet another mess, and then decide that it is time we read the instructions. We turn to the greatest instruction manual ever written – the Bible, and ask God for help. We might open at Psalm 16 and read the very first verse –

Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge. (NLT)

That’s it! We start to take heart, our spirits lift from the gloom and doom. As we read on, we get more encouraged. We learn our lesson that when we chase other gods, our troubles or sorrows will multiply (v4). Yes! We are going to learn from our mistakes and get it right. This time it will be different!

9 No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.
My body rests in safety.
10 For you will not leave my soul among the dead
or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.
11 You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.
(Psalm 16:9-11, NLT)

We rejoice! Everything is going to be fine! Hallelujah! God will show the way!

But wait. Remember the kitchen units? I had all the bits. I had the instructions, and the easy-to-follow diagrams. I could read the instructions, then build the units – and I did that on every occasion. But I still messed up. It was only when I followed the instructions that I actually got it right.

The Bible is a wonderful set of instructions, and through it God will show us the way of life. But reading it isn’t enough, listening to God when he tells us the way of life isn’t enough. We have to follow the instructions.

So, when all else fails, follow the instructions!