“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.” ~Psalm 32:8
Ok so it is clear that God has a general will for all of His followers. He desires that we be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) and that we “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). I have also mentioned before that God’s general will involves transforming our hearts to mirror that of Christ. But does God have a specific will for us? Does he care who we marry or where we go to school or what career path we choose? Yes He does! He has a plan for us and desires that we find it. That said, it is not guaranteed that we will find it..
Last week I talked about How God Leads and understanding the principles in that article will be crucial to finding God’s specific will for your life. After talking about God’s role in leading us, I want to now turn to our role in responding to that call. It is our response to God’s calling that is the differentiating factor between those who find their calling and those who don’t. God calls everyone but not everyone responds to His call.
What I am about to give you (and what I got from Chip Ingram) is basically a checklist for making wise decisions. Checking off the following four bases will give you ears to hear what God is saying to you!
Relationship – It is more important in knowing a “who” than discovering a “what” or “where” or “when”.. This is not how we like it. We would prefer something flashy. “I was praying to God about what job I should take and right then the phone rang and it was a military recruiter asking if I wanted to be a chaplain in the Air Force.. well I’ve always liked planes and I am a Christian so I guess I’m supposed to be a chaplain in the Air Force..” Let me tell you this is NOT how you should make a major life decision. I’m not saying that God never works this way but I am saying that it is rare. I have never heard of anyone but Moses who has received an assignment from God through the likes of a burning bush. And personally, God has never parted the clouds and said “Nate, this is the path that I have for you!” Frankly, we do a lot of things with the will of God that are simply not Biblical.
We learned last week that God leads us by the Holy Spirit. In order for us to hear the Holy Spirit we must abide in Christ. “I am the vine and you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Abiding simply means feeding your spiritual nature. What kind of stuff are you putting into your mind? What kind of music do you mostly listen to? What kind of people do you hang around? I definitely don’t think that reading PEOPLE magazine or listening to alternative music or going out to a bar is a sin. I just know that if I’m not feeding my spiritual nature, I’m not abiding. If I never spend time reading the Bible or hanging out with other followers of Christ or thinking of God’s grace and if I never spend time in prayer then I probably will not get much direction from the Holy Spirit! I look at it like this, if all I eat is brownies and ice cream, I’m gonna look and feel like crap. It’s the same with what we put into our mind: Garbage in, Garbage out!
Obedience – God gives more light to those who are acting on what He has already revealed in Scripture (Mark 4:24-25). Your response to God’s word will be your response to His will. Do you have obvious sin in your life? If so, then chances are you won’t be able to hear God’s voice
In a similar vein, willingness to do the will of God is a pre-requisite to hearing His voice. I once read a devotional on discerning God’s voice by Priscilla Shirer. She said that she used to ask her husband which pair of shoes she should wear even though she had already made up her mind which ones to wear. It didn’t take long before her husband stopped giving his opinion.. “you’re not going to listen to me anyway, so why should I tell you what I think!” God treats us the same way. I’ve heard a lot of people say “how could this have happened to me? I prayed about this decision and God didn’t tell me not to.” Well, He was probably silent because you already had your mind made up.
Protection – Sincerity, good intentions, personal experiences or circumstances are never a substitute for the truth. We are masters at convincing ourselves the wrong decision is the right decision. Oftentimes we even spiritualize our folly.. “I just knew, I looked into his eyes and I had this amazing feeling, it must have been the Holy Spirit..” We misuse the Bible all the time to make things that we want into the will of God. Use the following principles of protection before every big decision..
- Dig into the Word – what does God have to say about it. “Should I move in with my girlfriend?” By looking at 1 Corinthians 6:18 you know the answer is no. Simple enough.. If it violates God’s word, it is not a good decision.
- Go through due diligence, write out on paper the pros and cons – “if I take this loan I could reasonably get this business going within this amount of time. However, I will be personally liable for paying off the debt.. Is sharing equity a more viable option?”
- Seek mature counsel – “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22
- Pray earnestly – if you are serious enough about hearing what God has to say and are willing to obey.. He will let you know what He thinks. Consider fasting and praying.
Promptings – there are a few things that are confirmations of good decisions: Does it serve others and glorify God? Yes, then probably a good decision. Is it consistent with your desires and talents? Should you quit your job and become a singer if you have no rhythm? Probably not.
Warnings- you would be wise to listen to the following warnings!
- If it requires a major life change in a short amount of time then that is a big warning in itself. God works slowly and desires for us to learn patience. There will rarely be a time when we don’t have to wait for a vision or desire from God to be fulfilled!
- If mature counselors who love you for you and desire the best for you counsel against it, I would caution you not to proceed!
- If the decision hurts family relationships – Big warning!
- If the decision requires you to go into debt deeply or puts people in an awkward situation, it is probably not a good decision.
Faith – at some point you have done all you can do and you just need to pull the trigger and trust God. There will always be risk. Our objective is to take calculated risk.
God’s will is a highway, not a tightrope. If you have checked off this list and still don’t have clear direction from the Lord, just choose and move forward. God is not going to smite you for making a wrong choice. If you are walking in integrity, honestly want God’s will for your life and you are really trying to please Him, you can’t go wrong. God is on your team!