To Be Open To Discern God’s Will And Ways
8 Great Guideposts For Discerning God’s Will
Have you ever had times where you do not seem to grow? That your spiritual life seems stagnant? That there is no joy, no peace, no contentment? Maybe it is because you are not discerning God’s will.
Could the reason why so many believers make no progress in their spiritual life is either because they do not walk in God’s will or because they do not know how to walk in God’s will?
They have in their mind so many thoughts, each seeming to be God’s will, that they cannot discern God’s will. Due to their not walking according to the will of God, their spiritual lives remain stagnant.
For those that do not want to walk in the will of God, I would just to remind you of this.
You were bought with a price. The price was the precious blood of Jesus falling to the ground on Golgotha’s hill.Remember how much He loved you. How much He walked in God’s will for you. That love if understood should set you on the path to start wanting to walk in God’s will.
For the rest of us, that struggle to know what God’s will really is, consider these things.
There is only 1 will of God not 3
There is only 1 will of God.
There has been a lot of confusing teaching out there on there being 3 wills of God Romans 12:1-2. The assertion being that The words good, acceptable and perfect show 3 wills of God.
However the rest of Scripture does not teach this and the Bible always interprets the Bible.
The will of God is good.
The will of God is acceptable.
The will of God is perfect.
The direct will of God is that original plan in the heart of God which He wants us to follow.
To try to discern if something is 1 of 3 wills of God only brings confusion and God is not the author of confusion.
Don’t misuse the Bible
We must not take any text of the Scriptures context. The will of God has already been clearly shown in the Bible. All who desire to know the will of God need only search the Scriptures and they shall know His mind on a certain matter.
Many believers, however, will simply seize upon one or two verses in the Bible as the will of God for them and act on it. They do not seek to know how the whole Bible resolves this problem.
This is playing Russian roulette with the Bible. They will open their bible, point at a verse and say this is it. This is God’s will for me, without understanding the context or the rest of biblical teaching.Example, what if a person opened their bible and pointed at the scripture which says tells of Judas hanging himself. Then they turn to another scripture that quotes Jesus as saying “go and do wise”.
Are we supposed to believe it is God’s will for us to hang ourselves?
In our seeking to know the will of God, we must not pluck a text context, randomly choosing and accepting a single verse or passage of verses, in isolation, as the teaching of the Scriptures on a specific issue facing us.
We always need to search out whatever other Scripture passages might teach on the particular issue or subject confronting us. Let us never make a hasty decision.
Follow the peace of God
We should not do anything if there is no peace in our hearts: Col. 3.15 Is. 26.3.
When we are confronted with a difficult problem and we do not know what to do, ask yourself this.
Do I have peace about it?
Now be careful because sometimes our soulish nature will have peace for the wrong reasons. not facing a problem, or because of the relief from stress.
However I have learned that if I have no peace about moving forward, it should weigh heavily, but not totally on my decision if something is the will of God.
Do not let circumstances determine the will of God
Do not assume that just because circumstances work out, or that there is great need, that it is necessarily the will of God.
Many people depend way too much on circumstance confirming the will of God or showing the will of God.
Now I do believe that where God guides, God provides, but just leaning on circumstances to show you the will of God is dangerous.
Look at Jonah. He was running from God, and when he got to Tarshish, He found a boat heading the wrong direction. Are we to assume that it was God’s will for Jonah to go anywhere else but Nineveh?
So just because he found a boat did not indicate that it was God’s will.
Look at Paul when He was planning on heading to Asia Minor to preach the gospel. Was their great need? Had not God been sending them that general direction?
But He was restrained by the Holy Spirit. And it ended up that God sent them to another region.
So circumstances and need are not indicators in and of themselves. Do not make your decision these alone.
Do not determine the will of God solely on a dream or vision
Do not trust a vision or dream alone in discerning God’s will. Visions and dreams are fickle. They can be interpreted widely.
In fact I have found that a vision or dream rarely means what you first thought it to mean. That is because we were the one experiencing it, our objectivity is limited and it takes others to point out things that might be missed by us because of our subjectivity,But you say, “Didn’t Paul get a dream of a Macedonian man asking him to come preach the gospel?” The answer is yes, but was the decision made solely on that vision?
You will notice in Acts 16:10 that once Paul, had shared the dream, that it stopped becoming a one-person thing, and it became a team thing. They sought the Lord, and they concluded that it was God’s will.
Don’t Make Assumptions
Do not assume that your way has to be God’s way. God’s will quite often will be outside our preconceived idea of how God works. He loves to prove that He is God and not limited to your box.
Example, when I came to this church one of the things the former pastor was concerned with is people who wanted to have more traditional worship music.
Now I pastor a Vineyard church, which has as a group of churches, have prided themselves in how contemporary our music is. In fact it is a Vineyard value.
But we are the only church in our town. I asked him if he had considered having 2 services. 1 contemporary and one traditional.
He looked at me the thought had never crossed his mind.
We can sometimes miss the will of God because of our own prejudices and preconceived ideas about how God works. I remember the days that guitars and drums were called of the devil and couldn’t be God’s will. Do you?
Take your time discerning God’s will
Do not rush! Let the will of God unfold. You do not know the future but He does.
I spent 8 years waiting for God to place me back into ministry. Many times I was tempted to do it myself by starting a church. But I was determined to let God work it out.
I had the ability. I knew how to do it, because I had done it twice before, but I chose to wait.Many times we are just Saul in the Old Testament where he had been told by Samuel to wait until he arrived to give the offering to the Lord. Saul waited a little bit, but then thought He would help God out and gave the offering himself. And just as he was finished, who shows up? You got it! Samuel.
Saul was impatient and did not trust God to make it all work. He had to help God out a little. Do not give into the temptation of helping God out.
Have a tender heart waiting to hear from God
Finally don’t be such as stubborn donkey as I have been so many times that it takes the rod of correction to set you on the right path.
Don’t be so self-centered, self-willed, and self-directed that God has to bring trial and tribulation on your path in order to get your attention.
Do you need Balaam’s donkey to speak to you?
Or are you as the servants at the wedding of Cana, who did what Mary told them to do, which was, “Whatever He tells you to do, do it.”
Have a tender heart, willing and waiting to hear the voice of Jesus speak softly to you. Go and fill the pots with water.
Did you realize that no one at the wedding knew where the wine came from other than Jesus and the servants? I want to be one of those servants that knows where the wine comes from!
Understanding God’s Will Is About Relationship
Understanding and knowing the will of God is much more about relationship with Jesus than it is about methodology.
What I have given to you here is some tips that I have learned.
Please do not use this as some sort of checklist.
Incorporate it into your own personal relationship with Jesus.
Ponder each one and let God start showing you His only will for your life!
To Dig Deeper Into This Topic, We Recommend
4 Ways God Speaks to Us
There is an old story preachers tell about a man trapped on the top of his house during a flood or hurricane or tsunami (insert your own natural disaster). The water is swiftly rising. As this man sits on his roof, fearful of being swept away by the current, he cries out to God, “God please deliver me.”
A few moments later, a farmer friend arrives with his boat. “Hey, friend, want a ride to safety?” he asks.
“No,” replies the man on top of his house. “God is going to deliver me.”
An hour later, the water is up to the gutters. A voluntary rescue person comes by on his yellow raft. “Hey, let’s get you off of there—and on to safety,” he yells.
But the man on top of his house refuses to go. “God is going to deliver me.”
Another hour passes and now the water is halfway up the roof. Roof Man is now on top of his chimney, nervously looking down at certain death and destruction.
Fortunately, a Red Cross volunteer swings by in a canoe and offers to ride Roof Man to safety. But Roof Man refuses. “No, God is going to deliver me.”
A couple of hours pass by and the water sweeps over the top of Roof Man’s house. He is carried away by the current and drowns. When he gets to Heaven, he meets Jesus and says, “I though you were going to deliver me.”Jesus looks down at Roof Man and says, “I sent a boat, an inflatable raft, and a canoe—but you refused each one.”
We’ve all heard this story and every time we hear it, we laugh, right? But quite often this is the story of our attempts to discern God’s will.
I can’t tell you how many college students who tell me, “I just want to do God’s will.”
This is good. I wish more young people would surrender themselves to God’s plan for their lives.
But quite often those well-meaning college students or teenagers or even young married folks act as if God’s will is some sort of vague, hazy thing. It's a vapor that can’t be grasped. It’s almost as if they want God’s Will, but don’t every think they’ll have a shot at actually finding it.
It really doesn’t have to be this way. Here are two truths that should change the way we think about God’s will.
(1) It is Satan who wants us to be confused, directionless, and ineffective.
(2) It is God who has a preordained plan for us, who has given us specific steps, and who wants to see our lives matter.
So, knowing those truths, how do we wrap our arms around that seemingly mysterious thing called, “God’s will?” Here are four concrete ways in which God speaks to us:
1. God speaks through circumstances
It's funny, Christians routinely blast atheists and atheism, but we often act as if there is no God. We complain about the uncontrollable events in our lives as if we’re just here by chance, left to sort life out on our own.
But life isn’t dog-eat-dog. God is in charge of this world. God is in charge of our little world. And the events that He allows—getting fired from a job, meeting a future mate, getting rebuked by a pastor or Christian leader, the family we were born into, the town in which we live, the skill sets, talents, and gifts we possess—are all part of God’s divine blueprint for our success.
None of this happens by chance. God is not up in Heaven pounding his fist against his head saying, “Whoops, I really messed up with Dan.” No, God didn’t mess up. God didn’t make a mistake. God isn’t ever caught by surprise.So you can do one of two things. You can continue to live as the world lives. You can stick to the motto, “Life is random. You get it what you make of it. I can’t help the way I am”…or you can embrace your life—your life right now—as God’s will.
Yes, what happens to you–that’s your control–is God’s will for your life.
2. God speaks through opportunities
Remember the guy with the boat? God presented to him opportunities and he refused them. A long time ago, I had a friend who constantly agonized over every decision, every opportunity and wondered, “Is this God’s will?”
Meanwhile, God presented him opportunity after opportunity. He wanted to get married, but no girl was good enough. Oh, but he didn’t say that. He said really good spiritual things , “It’s not God’s will.” Oh yeah? Did you talk to anybody about it? Did you pray about it? Did you ever consider that this could be an opportunity to explore?
And on and on it went with this guy. A dozen ministry and job opportunities were presented, but he never pursued any of them. He hemmed, hawed, quoted a lot of scripture verses, but never made a move.
Ten years later, I had lunch with him. And even though he has held down a job and even gotten married (finally found Ms. Right), he is still in that pondering, hemming and hawing stage. I fear that at the end of his life he’ll be Roof Man and God will say, “I brought along this opportunity and that opportunity and you refused to take them.”
God works through open doors and opportunities. It’s that simple. These are not just “lucky” occurrences. If you want to do God’s will, do as one of my Bible College professors used to say, “Go. Do something and God will direct you.”
3. God speaks through spiritual counselors and mentors
This is where most of us slip up. We live a lone-ranger Christianity and refuse to listen to wise spiritual counselors. I believe that God’s plan for the Christian in this age is through the local church. Every believer should not only be a part of a local church, but should voluntarily put himself under the accountability of that church.
Now, for young people, this is a tough swallow. Why should I let any pastor or anybody control my life? But the truth is this…the Bible talks over and over about the value of wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to make good decisions, spiritual decisions, and God-honoring decisions.
But young people don’t have a lot of wisdom. That’s why we need to sit at the feet of pastors, trusted lay-leaders, parents, mentors, etc. Every major decision I have ever made in my life I have done with the approval and consent of my pastor. Why? I trust my pastor. He’s a man whom God has sovereignly put into my life to help guide me.And you know what? I’ve been blessed every time. There have been many moments when I have had what I thought was a really good idea. But people I trust, who have more spiritual wisdom than I do, raised questions. They said, “Hmm, I’m not sure this is a good idea and here is why.”
You too have spiritual mentors in your life. If you don’t, find some in your church. Seek their wisdom. Seek their accountability. Seek their unbiased opinion.
A wise person will take such advice as God speaking to them. That is God’s will.
4. God's will is revealed in God's Word
How basic, but how true. The fact of the matter is this: 99 percent of what God wants to you to do in your life is spelled out in His Word. And here’s a news flash for you. God is not going to mysteriously lead you to do something that contradicts His Word.
Ask yourself these questions:
How much of God’s revealed Word are you following now?
Are you faithfully seeking Him on a daily basis through Bible study and prayer?
Are you active in ministry at a Bible-believing church?
Are you sharing your faith?
Are you doing your best to live apart from sin?
Are you faithful to your spouse?
Are you seeking satisfaction in Christ instead of the world?
These are just a few of many areas where the Bible touches our lives, where God’s Word is revealed to us in simple, concrete, direct language. And you and I can’t escape it.
Quite often, Christians try to blend their own sinful lifestyles with the teachings of scripture and then they wonder why they can’t ever seem to discover “God’s will for their lives.” But, unconfessed sin keeps you from closeness to God.
It’s not that God expects us to be perfect. But are you honestly living for him, seeking him, and doing your best to obey his commandments?
If so, guess what, pinch yourself, you’re in God’s will.
8 Ways to Know God’s Will
And 3 things to do about it
There is a you-shaped hole in God’s global mission. God has prepared good things specifically for you to do. Yet even if you already agree with those statements, determining the will of God concerning cross-cultural service can be frightening. How do we hear God’s voice? Will he make me do something I absolutely detest? How do I know?
There is no set formula for discovering God’s will. Instead, consider this discovery viewing a constellation. When we look into the night sky, we need to see clusters of stars to view a constellation. Only by looking at the overall group of stars will we see Orion or the Big Dipper. Focusing on one star does not give us the big picture.
In the same way, discerning God’s will involves looking at the big picture. When all of the “stars” come into view, we begin to understand the big picture we call the personal will of God for us. Here are eight “stars” that contribute to this big picture:
1. Biblical guidance
God will never ask us to do something contrary to his Word, but he demands obedience in the clearly revealed things, and obedience to the commission to make disciples may thrust us out.
2. The opinion and counsel of others
Especially older, wiser leaders who know us well. If many people around us commend us on our cross-cultural sensitivity and encourage us to pursue international service, maybe God is speaking through them.
3. Gifts and abilities
God has entrusted us with certain unique personal resources; how will we use them?
4. Opportunities and situations
If our job asks us to take an overseas position or our church leaders invite us on a short-term mission trip, God might be speaking to us.
A veteran missionary once told me that my desire to travel might be God’s way of directing me toward service.
Taking steps of faith in one direction can help us affirm God’s will as he either redirects us or confirms the direction we take. The Student Volunteer Movement taught that we all should take steps toward cross-cultural service until God called us to stay home: “planning to go, but willing to stay.”
While it is not the only star in the picture, it certainly shines brightly. God may use our knowledge of people without Jesus to compel us out.
This certainly motivated Paul (Romans 15:20; 1 Corinthians 9:16-17) and many of the great leaders of missions history.
When Cam Townsend met people who did not have the Bible in their mother tongue, God called him to learn their language and translate the Bible. He later founded what is now the Wycliffe Bible Translators.
8. Miraculous means
In her book on God’s guidance, A Slow and Certain Light, Elisabeth Elliot includes angels, dreams, audible and visible signs, and prophecies as ways that God guided in the Scriptures and how he might guide us today.1
As the big picture starts to get clearer, whatever the picture, we are all called to obey. But how do we get started? Three action steps may help us find out where God might be calling us globally:
1. Start Small
Malcolm Muggeridge writes, “Christianity is not a statistical view of life. That there should be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over all the hosts of the just is an anti-statistical proposition.”2 In other words, our little efforts do matter!
Todd and his friends decided that they could not respond to the more than 20 million people in Mexico City, but they went down to serve through Galo Vasquez, who ministers there, by offering collateral for a no-interest loan program designed to help break the cycle of poverty.
Their efforts at the beginning affected two or three families at the most, but they got started. As their ministry grew, a micro-finance ministry—which is now self-sustaining (i.e., without assistance from outside Mexico)—developed. The English translation of the ministry name? The Good Seed.
A small “seed” now affects hundreds of families.Our small efforts do matter. We belong to the God of the “mustard seed,” who takes the smallest of actions and makes them significant in his economy (see Mark 4:30-32). Tom Sine writes in The Mustard Seed Conspiracy, “God has chosen to change the world through the lowly, the unassuming, and the imperceptible.”3
Start small to investigate how we might be used to serve someone else in our world.
2. Start Here
Involvement with internationals, serving other cultures in our cities, or developing a second language skill can all take place without going overseas. Yet God can use these efforts to prepare us for something international.
Mr. and Mrs. Anderson decided to start building their world vision right at home. Each night they watch the network news together, but their growing world vision caused them to add a new response.
They listen to the news, taking special note of the international reports. During the commercial breaks, they turn down the volume, and they pray together for the country or the issue that was cited.
After praying about famine needs in North Africa, God led them there on an exploratory trip with World Vision.
Dick and Karen—aged fifty-seven—decided they should start right at home to explore the potential of serving overseas in their retirement years. They spent a year getting trained in personal evangelism and another year getting training in cross-cultural adaptation. They have no firm direction yet, but they are making themselves available to God anywhere by starting here at home.
3. Start Now
“These are good ideas. I’ll have to try them out some day when I have the time.”
We will never find out where else God might have us if we procrastinate and never ask. If we are to grow in our vision of God, his world, and our part in it, we need to make it a priority. We need to start today.
The first action we can take is to submit ourselves daily to the Lordship of Christ. If we realize that we belong to him—“bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20)—we will desire to grow in our ability to see the world as he sees it. Our desire to understand and care for our world will arise our relationship with Christ.
Lou and Donna are starting now to ask if God wants them to serve in another culture.In spite of the pressures of being young parents, they tell others, “If we say, ‘Our lives are too hectic to evaluate where God might be calling us internationally’, we’ll develop a pattern of running from that question for the rest of our lives. Life will always be hectic, so we need to be opening ourselves to God’s worldwide plans for us now—even if we think we’re in no position to respond.”
Dr. Ralph Winter, the brilliant mission leader and founder of the U.S. Center for World Mission, stated, “Nothing that does not occur daily will ever dominate your life.” If we do not start now to open ourselves to God as his living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), we may never hear him call us into an exciting opportunity to serve him worldwide.
This article is adapted from How to be a World Class Christian by Paul Borthwick, (InterVarsity Press, 2009). Used by permission of the author.
1Elisabeth Elliot, A Slow and Certain Light (Waco, Texas: Word, Inc., 1973).
2Malcolm Muggeridge, Something Beautiful for God (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1971), 81.
3Tom Sine, The Mustard Seed Conspiracy (Waco, Texas: Word, Inc., 1978), 23.