“I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” Psalm 32:8
I have a little radio in my car which I keep tuned to a local station. And I’ve noticed that when I stay within the city limits the signal comes through loud and clear. But every time I get out on the highway and move farther away from the city the signal grows weaker and weaker until it is all but static. And I’ve found it to be the same with God’s will. As long as I live my Christian life close to God I don’t have to find God’s will. The signal comes through loud and clear as I go about the tasks at hand. But every time I begin to turn my back on God and move away from Him in disobedience the signal begins to fade and I grow confused over what is or isn’t God’s plan. Then I have to talk about “finding” God’s will.
Following are some basic principles for living close to God, for hearing His signal, and affirming His will for your life at any given moment.
Proverbs 13:13 says, “He who despises the Word brings destruc¬tion on himself, but he who respects the commandment will be rewarded.” See also Proverbs 30:5, “Every Word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” And II Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is inspired by God and pro¬fitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…”
Clearly then, anyone wanting to affirm the will of God must first look to the Bible for guidance. For instance: “Should I indulge in sex with my girlfriend even though we are not married?” What does the Bible say? That sex is for married partners. Otherwise it is adultery. That one should learn to take a wife in all purity.
Every decision large and small must be brought to the Bible for testing. And you can be sure that God will never lead you to do something not in keeping with His Word.
“The sum of Thy Word is truth; and everyone of Thy righteous ordinances endures forever” (Psalm 119:160), “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
So, the question here is, “What does the Bible say?”
A young lady wanted to teach school in the city system but was only offered a contract with the rural system. Two weeks after she signed to teach for the county, she was offered a position with the city. So she broke the first contract to accept the new one, thus leaving the county in the lurch, but justifying herself saying, “It’s God’s will.” Amos 5:24 counsels, “Let justice roll down like waters.” Exodus 20:16 is a commandment not to bear false witness. Jesus said let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no” (Mt. 5:37). And in Romans 13:1 we are told to be subject to governing author¬ities.
God expects us to be loyal, truthful, perform our duty, and uphold justice. The young lady, in breaking a written agreement on short notice, and then blaming it on God’s will, actually wit¬nessed poorly for her Savior. Had she asked if her decision were just she would have to have answered no.
“What is just? what is legal?” These are vital questions to ask in all decisions, for God is not the author of confusion, or anarchy.
A third means of affirming God’s will is to consider the counsel of one’s pastor.
The marvelous little book of Philemon in the Bible is about a thief and a servant who has run away and met the apostle Paul and been led to Jesus. Now Paul wants to send him back to his home. So he writes the servant’s boss telling him to forgive him and receive him back as a new brother in Christ.
Clearly Paul as a pastor expected Philemon to affirm God’s will through his counsel. And this principle still abides with us today when we counsel with church pastors over marriage, con¬flicts, points of theology and more.
“What does the pastor have to say?” Not a bad question to ask in considering an important course of action.
Moving along, in affirming the will of God, it is important to seek numerous advisors. The Bible says in Proverbs 11:14, “In an abundance of counselors there is safety.”
And in the church we have not just been given one counselor, the pastor, but many counselors, the elders and deacons. And to them should we look also for advice.
In I Peter 5:1-5 Peter wrote, “So I exhort the elders among you,…tend the flock of God that is your charge…not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock… Like¬wise you that are younger be subject to the elders.”
Should you take that company promotion and move to Boston? Is Tulane the right college for you? Are you ready for marriage with this man? Is this new business venture sound? The counsel of one’s elders in private, over lunch, or as a body is invaluable here.
“What do the elders say?” This is another directive from Scripture in making decisions.
Another method of affirming the will of God has to do with common sense. The Bible says in Psalm 32:9, “Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle else it will not keep with you.” In other Words, God is saying, “I gave you a head. Use it!”
Should you go out for the football team even though you only weigh 137 pounds? Should you ride home from the party with Harold who obviously has had plenty to drink? Should you with no exper¬ience and poor equipment try to fix the shingles on your second story home? Use your head, man! Let common sense inform you!
Moving along, in Revelation 3:7 God says He has the key to the door and He “opens and no one shall shut,” and He “shuts and no one opens.” Here, God tells us that He opens and closes doors for us. He opens and closes opportunities to each believer. Paul spoke of this in I Corinthians 16:9, “For a wide door for effective work has opened to me.” Notice Paul said “wide door”. God doesn’t open any door half-way. Nor do we have to force doors open. We’ve but to walk through the open doors which God provides to do His will.
“Should I go to medical school?” Have you been accepted? “Should I buy a new home for $75,000?” Have you got the money?
The question here is, “What are my circumstances? Do I have the opportunity?”
If you are married, a primary consideration in decision ¬making is your mate.
Wives are admonished in Ephesians 5:22, “Be subject to your husbands”.
But, men, let me point out this is not a one-way street!
I was counseling with a man who’d gone bankrupt a few years ago. He’d had a chance to make some quick money with some business associates who were urging him to throw in $100,000 for the venture. To do so he’d had to mortgage his home and borrow another $40.000 dollars. His wife had been uneasy about the deal and protested. But he did it anyway and ended up losing everything.
When he told me that, I began to show him some Scripture. Proverbs 21:5, “But everyone who is hasty comes only to want.” I also showed him how in Genesis 2:18 God made wives to be “helpmates” with whom we “become one” with (Gen. 2:24). And I showed him in Proverbs 31:11 how a man could “trust in” his good wife. Then I showed him I Peter 3:7, an admonition for husbands to live “con¬siderately” with their wives…lest their “prayers be hindered.”
You can even see these principles at work in non-Christian lives as well. Matthew 27:19 tells us that Pilate’s wife sent him Word at Jesus’ trial saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much over Him today in a dream.” Hearing his wife’s warning, Pilate immediately washed his hands of the entire matter. Often, then, God will give us His counsel through the lips of our wives.
So, “What does your married mate say?” It’s a valid question to consider in all decisions!
If you are not married (and even if you are) God will give you guidance from those under whose authority he has placed you– particularly your parents. In Exodus 20:12 the fifth commandment says, “Honor your father and your mother.” Then it goes on to promise that by so doing, “Your days will be long.”
You see, God protects us through our parents. Many of life’s biggest decisions must be made when we are least mature to make them—where I’ll go to school, whom I’ll marry, and which friends to choose and what job to pursue. So God gives us into families with parents for guidance.
You can see this principle at work in the Christmas story. God told Joseph in a dream to take the child and flee to Egypt (Mt. 2:13). And even today you may well expect God to protect you through your parents as well.
“Is this a proper bathing suit for me to wear?” “Should I join this club?” “Is it right for me to go to the beach Easter with this crowd?” “Should I go to Carolina?” “Am I ready for marriage with this person?”
The question here is, “What do my parent’s advise?”
Friends in Fellowship
A further source of correction and accountability in discerning God’s will is your companions in fellowship. Often our close friends can see in us what we can’t see ourselves– some immaturity, some pride or stubbornness or stupidity or self-delusion. And if we go to them humbly and ask for their counsel in a matter they may be able to give us better advice than anyone else because they know us so well. See Proverbs 13:20, Psalm 1, Proverbs 20:18, and Proverbs 27:6.
“What do your close friends in Christ say?” Another good question to ask habitually as you seek to affirm God’s will in your pilgrimage!
A tenth abiding principle for guidance is prayer. The key here, Jesus said, is to seek and ask and knock (Mt. 7:7).
I honestly believe that if a person wants to know God’s will for his life God is well able to find some way to show it to him. But it all begins with submitting your will to God in prayer. “Lord, I want to know your will. I want to please you in what I do. Show me, Lord, what to do about this. Guide me.”
Often we use our prayers to try to get God to bless what we’ve already made up our minds to do. So, be careful here. Don’t tell God what you’re going to do. Ask Him what He wants you to do. And you can believe He will show you. James 1:5 promises, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously… and it will be given him.”
“What decision does prayer lead you to?”
Living the Christian Life Daily
Passing on, have you ever noticed how hard it is to steer a car that is not moving? Yet a vehicle in motion steers with ease. And it is the same with Christians. A person moving with Christ in his daily life will be easy for God to guide. But a believer whose Christian commitment is lazy and disobedient will be hard to steer.
Note that Jesus never took time off from God. He didn’t say, “Hey! It’s summer time. I think I’ll skip fellowship and dispense with Bible study and obedience until September.” No, indeed. Christ’s wasn’t a faith of fits and starts, a sporadic fellowship of God. His was a daily devotion.
Good questions to ask yourself at this point are. “Am I lazy? Sleeping too much? Am I clearly disobedient to parts of God’s will that He’s already shown me? Am I in the Word, in the Spirit, in fellowship?”
The Apostle Paul asked us to, “Walk by the Holy Spirit” (Gal. 5:16). And when we are walking, moving with the Lord, then we are more easily guided.
“Am I keeping up with the Lord on a daily basis?” Another important question.
Another key to affirming God’s will for our lives is learning to wait. Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the Lord.’”
Some of us, impatient to forge ahead with our plans, get out of step with God’s timing. We are in a hurry when He is not. And we are going to do something even if it is wrong.
You can see an example of this in King Saul (II Samuel 13:5-15). Saul is about to fight the Philistines. But before he does he pauses to worship. However, the prophet Samuel has not yet arrived to offer the appropriate sacrifices, so Saul goes ahead and offers them himself, even though God’s Word expressly forbids such. And for King Saul such lack of patience, such insistence that God keep pace with his schedule of battle, is but the beginning of the end.
The key principle here is this: If you’re not sure, then wait. Seek God’s timing.
Throwing Out the Fleece
Judges 6:36 following provides us with the account of Gideon affirming God’s will by “throwing out the fleece.” Shall we ask for signs? Shall we put God to the test as Gideon did? While I’m certain it is okay to ask God to lead you, to give you wisdom and wise counsel and opportunities, often our “throwing out the fleece” is a smokescreen for our unwillingness to do what God has already made plain to us.
Israel in the wilderness constantly put God to the test and suffered for it. “God, if you’re really there, give us water or meat of some convincing sign.’” Jesus said, “Thou shalt not put God to the test” (Mt. 4:7). He said that only an evil generation seeks for a sign (Mt. 12:38-39). So, be careful with this one!
No study of guidance would be complete without looking at some of the false yet very popular means people use in making their decisions. Signs like tradition; “We’ve always done it this way.” And feelings, “I just feel in my heart that it’s right. After all, how can anything so beautiful be so wrong?”
Or what about these? “It’s not illegal!” “My boyfriend says it’s okay.” Or “people say…” Or “I read in a book where it’s okay to…”
Then there are the usual occult means of discernment prohibited by God in Deut. 18:9-14. These forbidden practices include such practices as Tarot cards, Ouija, astrology, horoscopes, seances, palm reading, divination, spirit writing and the like.
In conclusion, let me point out that there is no ten-step formula for finding God’s will. Rather, we are to “walk by faith, not by sight” (II Cor. 5:7). That means that we are to pursue God and trust Him to guide us.
If you believe God is, if your desire is to trust Him, to obey Him, and you ask Him for guidance, then be sure He is God enough to find the means of leading you.
These 14 principles I have shared with you are like sights along the barrel of a rifle. To aim and hit the bull’s eye it is necessary to line up all the sights. And something of the same thing must be done in affirming God’s will for your life. When you approach a decision, begin to line up the sights. Is it Biblical? Is it just? Do I have the opportunity? What does common sense say? What do those over and around me in authority say? Do I need to wait? Am I walking daily with the Lord? Have I really prayed about this?
For the guidable the promise of a guide remains: “I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”
Lord, be my Shepherd. And make me your sheep. For Christ’s sake. Amen.