All throughout our lives we are faced with decisions and, as believers, we have a desire to make these decisions according to the will of God. However, how do we know? It’s not always easy to know exactly what God wants us to do. A new opportunity presents itself and we find ourselves wondering if we should take it. Maybe you’re presented with two good options and want to know which way the Lord wants you to go. Let me encourage you with three vital steps we must take when trying to discern God’s will:
Examine the Scriptures
Scripture reveals God and his ways and without it we are simply ignorant in any decision we make. We must start by asking what Scripture says. If we’re trying to decide to do something that Scripture already says is wrong, then we need not go any further! There is no need to pray and ask God if he wants us to have an extra-martial affair or embezzle money from our company.
On a positive note, we don’t have to ask if God wants us to glorify him, share the good news, or minister to the suffering, he has already told us to do so in his word. Sometimes Christians become paralyzed waiting to “hear from God” or “feel led” to do something he has already told us to do in his word. If Scripture already told us to do it, then there’s no need to wait until you hear from God again about it!
However, many times we are making decisions that aren’t specifically addressed in Scripture. Should I marry this person? Should I take this job? What college should I go to? We have to make decisions like these all throughout life.
This is where we must understand that Scripture is not merely an encyclopedia that we use as a reference tool for finding answers (although it does give us many answers!). Scripture is God’s revelation of himself to us, and it is a living word that transforms the reader. If you are Spirit-filled believer, as you read, study, and memorize the word, God is slowly transforming your thinking, your emotions, your motives, your whole being. As Kevin DeYoung says:
He wants us to know him so intimately that His thoughts become our thoughts, His ways our ways, His affections our affections. God wants us to drink so deeply of the Scriptures that our heads and hearts are transformed so that we love what He loves and hate what He hates.
This means that digesting Scripture should be a regular part of our life. If we ignore Scripture until it’s time to make a “big decision,” the we’ve missed many vital moments of transformation. Such change is slow and not always visible, but each time you read, listen to a sermon, read an article, or anything else that confronts you with God’s word, he is using it to transform you.
Seek Godly Counsel
Do you have friends in your life who are being transformed by Scripture and who know you well? Do you have people you can go to who will speak truth to you and not just give you the answer they know you want? In our individualized society, the importance of seeking counsel is minimized or non-existent. However, consider the teaching of Scripture:
- “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance (Proverbs 1:5).
- “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice (12:15).
- “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed (15:22).
- “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future (19:20).
The Lord has designed it so that the church is vital to individual believers making decisions. Again, this seems strange to us, doesn’t it? How many of us consult a fellow believer before making a big purchase to see if it’s wise? How many of us go to our Sunday school/small group leader when deciding whether or not to move jobs? However, Scripture tells us that a wise person listens to the advise of others.
But, be careful. We can all find someone who will tell us what we want to hear. We need to seek “godly” advice…that means someone whom we know who is constantly in Scripture, who walks in the Spirit, and who loves us enough to tell us the truth (even if it’s not what we want to hear). Sometimes we can become so blinded to what we want that we are on the verge of making a foolish decision, but a godly friend can help us see more clearly.
We’ve examined the Scriptures, we’ve sought godly counsel, and all throughout the process we pray to God and ask for discernment. We pray for God to give us wisdom in understanding his ways. Maybe we are deciding between two good options, neither of which is morally superior than the other, so we ask God to lead us. We pray what David prays in Psalm 25: Make me to know your ways! Thankfully, we know that he will direct our steps (Proverbs 3:5)!
These three steps are not a magical formula, but they will put us in the best position to know what our Lord wants us to do that we may best glorify him!