I took some time to respond to an inquiry from a radio listener about God’s will this morning and thought that perhaps my response could be useful in some way to any readers. Feel free to critique as well.
By Joshua Lindsey 7/11/2017
When we face a decision, we need to seek God’s will. What does this involve? If we are living close to God day-by-day, and walking with Him, walking in the Spirit, then we will be more able to understand what God says in His word. 1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us the things of the Spirit of God are Spiritually discerned.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1Co 2:14)
What this means is that we won’t be able to understand God’s spiritual truth as well if we are dull in our fellowship with His Spirit. So let’s take a normal situation. You are trying to decide whether it would be a good idea to quit your job and work at a different company. How can you find God’s will on this?
The correct answer is not that God will give you a feeling that one decision is better. Scripture doesn’t support God using our feelings to show truth. The correct answer is not that you should flip to a verse in the Bible and try to “read the tea leaves” and out of context use that verse to make the decision. The correct answer is not that you will say the next day “I feel that God has directed me to this” but not be able to provide a reason for why you feel this way. Also, just because a “door is open” so-called, does not mean God wants you to step through it. Stepping through every open door is what leads people to follow their own instinct and not God’s direction.
So what is the right answer? First, make sure you are walking with God when you are approaching a major decision. How can you expect to understand God’s will unless you are close to Him? Secondly, look for all principles in the Bible that apply.
For example, in the case of a new job, what are the motivating factors? If the major motivating factor is money, ask yourself why you want or need the money. Consider Proverbs:
Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven. (Pro 23:4-5)
Suddenly, you can see that if desire to be rich is the only factor, there is a clear principle to not follow that decision. I have known people to take a job further away so that they could move away from people whom they dislike, or from relationships that were never properly resolved. If you move away without first following God’s principles of properly resolving disputes between you and your brother, then you are making it more difficult to ever resolve them.
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. (Mat 18:15-17)
In this case you will be maintaining an unbiblical relationship with a brother, and as a result, your relationship with God will be strained as he desires you to resolve issues with your brother before you seek to offer to Him.
Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. (Mat 5:23-24)
Also, what Biblical principles would the new job make it more difficult to follow? If the job is very far from a good church, you would need to consider Hebrews 10:25
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Heb 10:25)
God doesn’t lead people into situations where it is impossible to follow His principles. If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t follow the principles for life that God has established, then be sure that you have made a step out of God’s will somewhere along the way. So before you make those decisions, consider whether it will be difficult to follow God’s principles by making one choice or the other.
Think of other principles that would affect the decision- Would the new job make it harder to witness? Make it more difficult to care for family needs? Would the job compromise your moral convictions? Put you in difficult situations or situations where you would not be able to be above reproach? Would the job make it more difficult to serve in ministries you are a part of?
Godly principles can often work positively as well. Will the new job bring you closer to a church? Will you be better able to care for your family or give to ministry with this new job? Will you be able to witness in ways you couldn’t before? Wil the job provide flexibility so you can now go on short term missions trips?
There are of course hundreds of other Biblical principles to consider. This is why it is important to maintain a relationship with God and to keep His word in front of you. A person who is always reading God’s word will be able to recognize the subtle difficulties with their decisions, and see how one decision may cause them difficulty in following God’s principles. A person who is not as familiar with God’s word, or is dulled in their understanding of it due to sin in their life, will not be able to see where their decisions will take them out of God’s will. Instead they will make decisions on what suits them best and will end up out of God’s will not knowing how they got there.
So let’s say you are close to the Lord, and you pray for His direction, and seek all the Biblical principles of His word, and find both decisions still seem like good decisions. Perhaps there are positives and negatives to each. What do you do then?
Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety. (Pro 11:14)
Seek Godly counsel. You should already have a group of people that you trust to provide good insight. These people should also be close to God. They may recognize some principles from the Bible that play on the decision, which you had not considered.
Don’t take advice only from those who support what you want. Don’t try to sway their counsel. Don’t weigh those counselors who say what you want to hear over those who don’t. Look to the Bile to verify if what they recommend is correct.
Counsellors are not prophets who can utter something not in the Bible and it is valid or even worth hearing. Counselors are only useful in that their walk with God and experience with tough situations may enable them to show you how God’s principles apply in your decision in ways that you had not considered. A counsellor’s counsel should only be considered when it shows you how God’s word applies to your situation. Their counsel is only weighty when the word of God backs it up. “Common sense” answers or thoughts off the top of a counsellor’s head can be discarded when they aren’t biblical. Psychological and philosophical answers will often fall into this category. They cause us to lean on man’s wisdom, not God’s direction.
Very often you will find that once you apply God’s word, and then apply it more from the counsel of Godly influences in your life, there will be an apparent answer. Or if not apparent, you will find that the principles are causing you to lean one direction as you see how it fits more with how God has directed your life so far.
This is how you can determine what God’s specific will is. Very specific applications of his general will. If in any decision you find that you just can’t seem to find one decision to outweigh the other in how you can serve God, think harder. What would make your family happiest? (What do they want?) And why would it do so? What would give you more useful life skills? What would best reflect God’s role for you in life?
In the end, one decision will always outweigh the other by some amount. If it comes down to you just wanting one option over the other, you can apply Biblical principles to ask why you want it, and whether that desire is biblical.
In the Old Testament we read stories of God telling people exactly what to do. God told Moses and Joshua what to do in navigating through the wilderness and conquering the Promised Land. He told Abraham to offer his son, and then to substitute a ram. He told the Kings through his prophets when to go to war. We like this kind of certainty. Surely it is available to us today?
But God told these people what to do because that is how He communicated when his word was not recorded or available. They had no written Bible. Now God has all that we need to know written in His word. We had tongues and prophecies when we didn’t have God’s perfect word. But now we do, and God expects us to go there to find His will. This is why He doesn’t give extrabiblical prophecy today.
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. (1Co 13:8-10)
It’s a big job to take God’s word for ourselves and apply it, which is why we need the Holy Spirit, which comes to all those who have trusted Jesus Christ for Eternal life. (This booklet describes how one can get eternal life: link) God wants us to seek for His principles in His word, and then to make decisions on faith after having applied his principles to those decisions. God is pleased when we act by faith.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Heb 11:6)
If each Christian would use these guidelines for determining God’s will, we would not have to deal with the false claims of those who sin and try to justify it by saying that it was God’s will. God’s will is never for a person to sin. God’s will isn’t some mystical idea that we can just claim to excuse our decisions. If it doesn’t match God’s principles, be assured it is not God’s will.
Understanding this we can also answer some other questions. How should I pray for God’s will? Don’t just ask God to reveal his will and then not look for it. You must deliberately apply biblical principles to your decisions. How do I find God’s answers to my questions? God’s answers to any question or situation can be found through His word. If you cannot find an answer there, then you can know that either you haven’t dug deep enough, that you aren’t close enough to God do discover the answer, or that God doesn’t want you to know the answer. How can I know God better? You can get the mind of the Lord by finding what He’s revealed in His word. Those who think the way God thinks and seem to know God’s will easily are those who have a good grip and understanding of His principles and His word through personal study. God can grant understanding, God can give spiritual gifts of teaching, but we must grow these through digging into His word.