How can you know God’s will for your life?
Every day we’re confronted with a vast array of confusing decisions that will have a real effect on our lives and the lives of those around us. Do we become members in this church? Do we go to homeschool, private school, or public school? Should I get into a relationship with this girl? Should I take this job opportunity?
How can we know that we’re doing the right thing and are in God’s will?
Proverbs 3:5-6 makes it really simple.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart…
God is worthy of our wholehearted, unreserved, unquestioning trust. He will take care of us, and lead us, and guide us, and shepherd us. He won’t leave us to flounder in the muck of life. We can and must throw ourselves upon the Lord and trust that He’ll hold us.
When we don’t know where to go, we’re tempted to stop trusting God. We fear. We tremble. We worry about the future. The first step to walking in God’s will is trusting in God with all our hearts.
…and do not lean on your own understanding.
We can either lean on our own understanding or God’s understanding. We lean on our own understanding when we trust our unstable feelings instead of God’s unshakable word. We lean on our own understanding when we trust our own opinions rather than the wise counsel of those around us. Our own understanding will collapse beneath us, causing us to fall off of God’s path. God’s understanding never crumbles.
We lean on our own understanding when we don’t trust God with all our hearts.
We lean on our own understanding when we neglect the straightforward commands of the Bible.
There will be times when it seems to make more sense to go our way rather than God’s way. In those moments, we must refuse to lean on our own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him…
We’re called to acknowledge God in all our ways. Not just a few of our ways, or most of our ways, but all our ways. Our attitude must always be, “Your will, not mine Lord.”
Every decision we make, from the job we take to the parenting style we choose, must be rooted in our commitment to serve and obey God.
We acknowledge God’s ways through the prayerful reading of scripture, depending on the wisdom of others, and prayerfully making decisions.
…and he will make straight your paths.
Isn’t this a wonderful promise? If we trust in the Lord, do not lean on our own understanding, and acknowledge him in all our ways, God will make our path straight. Period.
If we make decisions in humble dependence on God, he’ll lead us on straight paths. We don’t need to fear or worry because God is committed to making our path straight.
As you walk through life, don’t panic when big decisions come your way. You can be confident that his grace is sufficient for wherever he leads you. God is for you and wants to lead you on the straight path.
But what about decision “fleeces”?
You’ve got a big decision to make.
You’ve got a fat job offer, but there’s some potential. You’re thinking about this girl that you really like, but you’re not sure what the outcome will be. You’re trying to figure out if you should buy a house or keep renting. How do you decide?
How about putting out fleeces? You know, just like Gideon. In Judges 6, God called Gideon to deliver the people of Israel from the hand of the Midianites.
But Gideon was a jittery, nervous fellow, and he wanted to be sure that God was with him, so he asked God to give him signs.
In Judges 6:36-40 Gideon laid out a fleece. If the fleece was wet but the ground was dry, then he could be sure that God was on his side. Next day, wet fleece, dry ground.
But Gideon needed a little more assurance, so he decided to ask for one more test. If the fleece was dry but the ground was wet, then God was definitely with him. Once again, God came through. Dry fleece, wet ground.
So should we follow Gideon’s example?
Should we ask God for signs when we’re making decisions? Lord, if this job is from you, let me see a cloud in the shape of a cross right now. If I’m supposed to ask this girl out, let her text message me in the next five minutes. Is this what we’re after?
I don’t think so. If you read the story of Gideon closely, you’ll see that Gideon is not an example for us to follow. In Judges 6:12,14, the angel of the Lord came to Gideon and said:
The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor…And the LORD turned to him and said, Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?
God tells Gideon flat out that He’s with him, and then commands him to go and give the Midianites a beat-down. But Gideon isn’t buying it. Even though he is speaking face to face with God, he isn’t convinced that God is with him. So he starts playing the sign game.
In Judges 6:36, Gideon says, “If you will save Israel by my hand…”, and then he lays down the first fleece.
A few verses later, before putting down the second fleece, he says, “Let not your anger burn against me…Please let me test just once more…” Gideon knew that he shouldn’t be putting God to the test, but he just had to have a sign.
Why did God answer Gideon’s requests? Because He’s gracious and often stoops to our level of faith.
Should we ask God for signs prior to making big decisions?
No. Gideon isn’t our example. Don’t lay any fleeces before the Lord. Rather, go through the biblical process of asking God for wisdom, seeking the wise counsel of others, and then making a decision.
Having faith for your decisions
Many of us face difficult and life-changing decisions. I’m so grateful for God’s incredible promise in Psalm 32:8:
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
This is one of the Scripture’s most encouraging promises. I regularly pray “Thank you, Father, that you have promised to instruct me and teach me in the way I should go and counsel me with your eye upon me. Please guide me in this decision I am facing. Please show me what to do. Please give me wisdom. Thank, you, Father that you have promised you will.”
It is God Himself who instructs us
“I will instruct you… I will counsel you…My eye upon you.” God doesn’t delegate his counsel to an angel or anyone else. The very fountain of all wisdom counsels us. The one who devised the laws of nature, who knows how the whole universe works together, who knows all things, including the future; the one who knows us intimately, who knows what is best for us and loves us so deeply he shed his only Son’s blood to purchase us. This is the one who instructs us and counsels us.
God teaches and guides us for his own glory
He wants us to lead lives of maximum effectiveness and fruitfulness. He desires to display his goodness, kindness, mercy, and transforming power through us. God wants to counsel us more than we want his counsel.
He shows us the way to go because he is a loving Father
If any of my children faced difficulties and ask for my advice I wouldn’t say figure it out on your own. I want my children to do well. I want my children to have every good thing. I want my children to know and enjoy God. If I desire these things from my children, how much more does our heavenly Father desire them for us.
He speaks to us his by his Word and his Spirit
God’s word is a treasure chest of wisdom and guidance. It contains all we need to know about God and how to obey him. It is filled with his will from cover to cover. In addition, God fills us with his own Spirit, The Counselor, who guides us into all truth and shows us what to do in every situation.
God also speaks through the preaching of his Word and books written by Christian teachers. He also guides us through godly Christian counselors, our parents, pastors, wise friends, and fellow believers.
What are you facing today?
Before you make that decision, go to your loving Father and thank him for his wonderful promise to teach you, guide you, and personally counsel you. Seek him in big decisions and small.
Then trust him and don’t fret. He will certainly fulfill his promise to guide you in his perfect timing. If you have to make a decision and have sought him, and still don’t know what to do, just make the best decision you can. He will guide you.
I like how Kevin DeYoung puts it:
But Can You Miss God’s Will For Your Life?
Decision making can be a paralyzing experience.
Say, for example, that you have been offered a new job in a different state? Should you take it? Well, it depends. What are the schools like in the area? What is the traffic like? Are there any nuclear power plants nearby? Is the increased salary worth the emotional cost of moving your family? Will you be forced to root for the Dallas Cowboys?
All these different factors can make it difficult to decide.
Now throw the whole issue of God’s will into the mix? Is it really God’s will for you to move? It seems like it’s God’s will, but maybe it’s not. What if you make a terrible mistake and somehow miss the will of God? Are you going to end up in some purgatorial situation because you accidentally missed God’s will?
The fear of missing God’s will is enough to paralyze any Christian. But here’s the question: can a Christian miss the will of God for their life? Could you somehow go your entire life being outside of God’s good plan for you?
It seems that the Bible teaches that, yes, you can miss God’s will. It also teaches that no, you can’t miss God’s will.
You can miss God’s will if…
The way to miss God’s will is really simple: ignore the Bible. In the Bible, God has told us exactly what we should do when it comes to making decisions.
First, we should determine if our decision goes against anything clearly spelled out in the Bible. The Bible is clear that fellowship with other believers is necessary for our Christian growth. If taking a job will cut you off from fellowship with others, it’s not God’s will for you to take the job.
Second, we should ask God to give us wisdom. James 1:5-6 says:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting…
Getting wisdom from God isn’t a mystical, super spiritual experience. It means asking God to help us think clearly and biblically about the decision in front of us.
When we ask for wisdom we should believe God is going to give it to us. God isn’t trying to hide his good will from us. He wants to help us understand the right way to walk.
Third, we should ask the opinion of others. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”
This is so gloriously simple. Finding God’s will for your life is as simple as asking the opinion of other, godly Christians. Lay the situation out before them, and then let God speak to you through their counsel.
You can’t miss God’s will if…
If we heed the counsel of scripture, we won’t miss God’s will. God isn’t hiding his will or trying to trick us into making a bad decision. If we evaluate our decision by scripture, ask for wisdom, and then ask the opinion of others, we are doing what God requires of us. He promises to guide us through that process.
We don’t need to seek a subjective, mystical, spiritual feeling when it comes to decision making. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes God gives us peace about a decision, and that’s a blessing. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes we might not feel one way or another about a decision.
In general, feelings are a very bad barometer of the truth. A feeling of peace can come from God, but it can also come from a lot of other things, like a glass of wine or a good nap.
Plus, what exactly constitutes the “right” feeling when it comes to a decision? Is it peace? Or maybe joy? Or a sense of rightness?
The Bible doesn’t tell us what we’re supposed to feel about our decisions. Instead, it tells us how to make biblical, God-honoring decisions. So if you have a big decision to make, don’t freak out. Instead, go to the Word, ask for wisdom, and get others involved.