Ah… there you are at the crux of a life-altering decision, and you are repeatedly asking God to show you the way ahead. I know these feelings very well. It seems like a wrong move could send everything to ‘hell in a handbasket.’ Literally. I am going to challenge our reoccurring emotions on this and say that it really is not that hard. I know what you’re thinking, ‘he doesn’t know what I’m going through’ or ‘he doesn’t know how I feel’ and ‘he wouldn’t say that if he was in my shoes.’ Maybe that is true, but I think that helps me in this situation. Some objectivity amidst life’s turmoil is often exactly what we need.
I believe we have a pretty solid grid through which to discern God’s will.
- Scripture – We have more instruction in our Bibles about how we should live than we often like to think. Our first filter in discerning God’s will in a given situation must be HIS WORD. It just makes sense, right? If we want to know God’s desires we should look at the book he has provided for us. Often times we try to create loop holes because our own plans aren’t what we find in scripture.
- Prayer – This really goes hand-in-hand with scripture. Prayer plays a vital role in God working and preparing our heart for what we find in scripture. Without the accompaniment of prayer our scriptures become another self-help book we can buy at the local bookstore. Prayer is a necessary tool which often brings conviction and discomfort where needed. I believe one of the greatest purposes of prayer is to transform our hearts desires to God’s desires. This is vitally important as we constantly look to our Father for leadership in our lives.
- Church – There is more on this in a previous post titled, “Do you need the church?”. Simply stated, the Bible makes it obvious that God created us to be engaged in the local church. One of the reasons for that has great impact on this question of discerning God’s will. Within the church we are blessed to be surrounded by people who love Jesus, follow Jesus, and have an intimate and growing relationship with Jesus. Often times those people have more wisdom than we do and other times they just have a different wisdom than we do. The church, consisting of people with different gifts and experiences, is used by God to speak truth into our lives.
- Circumstance – This is the easy one. You will find that God removes some options as moments pass. As the churchy saying goes, ‘God will close a door and open a window.’
These work as a filter in our lives. If you are working through a tough decision and searching for God’s will and you have options that are inconsistent with scripture then you can remove those options. As certain options remain you continue to bathe those in prayer with an open heart, discerning in which of those God is providing peace or unrest in your heart. Then you take those thoughts to Godly men and women in the church and trust in God’s use of their wisdom to speak into your life. If you have one or two Jesus-loving people in the church telling you something is not a good idea then take that counsel as wisdom from the Lord. There are moments where you might want to include 3, 4, or 5 people in that discussion to hear wisdom, but know that God will use those people to speak truth into your life. Last, and most obvious, circumstances will change and God will remove some opportunities that might have been available at a previous time.
My final encouragement here is that time and time again we read stories in the Bible that demonstrate that God is often more concerned with the journey than the destination. After all, once you navigate this decision there will be another around the corner for him to grow you through.
Have you seen this process work in your life? Or have there been moments in which you neglected part of the process and felt the growth that comes through mistakes (I know I have)?
Matt Powell serves as teaching pastor at Crossings Community Church, a body of believers whose mission is to engage, equip, and empower homes for gospel transformation in Katy, TX.