Last week we looked at how resting in God’s sovereign will and submitting to God’s revealed will leads to confidence in decision-making.
How do you know you are in Gods will? When you trust God’s sovereign will and when you obey his revealed will, you are in God’s will and are doing God’s will. If you don’t trust God as a loving Father and you don’t submit to scripture, you are living contrary to God’s will. It is as simple as that.
Today we will see how “Discerning God’s will leads to clarity in daily decisions”.
What do you do when you have to make a decision? Do you go ahead with something or not? How do you know which option to choose? Do you leave job or stay in a job? Do you say yes to an opportunity or say no? Do you do what parents ask you to do or do you decide something for yourself? Do you study more or find a job? Do you write this exam or choose a different one? Do you try to look for opportunities abroad or move to another city?
When we talk about decisions in our context, we are talking about non-moral and non-ethical decisions. Decisions that are moral and ethical are clearly commanded in scripture. We don’t have to think about it, debate about it or ask someone about it. These are commands for us to obey.
Does God help us in making decisions? Yes! He does not by reveal the future, and often times that’s what we expect God to do. But he helps us by guiding us to discern his will. When you seek his guidance, God guides and we then have to trust and obey him as he guides us. Here are a few passages that talk about God’s guidance:
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.
Is 30:21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
Ps 31:3 For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me;
We may wonder, why doesn’t God just tell us? That’s much easier and direct. We have to understand that God’s desire for us is not just to be making right decisions, but he desires that we reflect his image, his character, walk in holiness and be wise in how we live. Revealing our future will not make us wise. We assume more knowledge about the future helps us, but it does not. If my wife knew everything I would do in the future, she would not have decided to marry me. Revealing the future does not help you grow or it does not transform you. Trusting and obeying God, learning to discern his guidance, this makes you wise. My 5-year old son asks if he could watch the Ipad. And I decide if this is the right time for him, does he have some schoolwork, does he have to eat or has he been watching Ipad the whole day. But I don’t want my son to ask me, “Dad can I watch the Ipad” when he is 20 years old. By then, I want him to be making wise choices on his own. He is free to decide. God wants us to grow in wisdom.
We are looking at how to discern God’s guidance in 3 broad areas.
A. Caution while discerning God’s will
1. Looking for the miraculous
Balaam was an Old Testament in Numbers 22. He was making a decision contrary to God’s plans and was heading in the wrong direction. And God miraculously opened his donkey’s mouth and the donkey spoke and warned him. This is unbelievable and clearly a miracle. We end up looking for donkeys to speak sometimes. Can God do miracles, yes! But that’s not his normal way of communicating and guiding. Clearly we all wish that God spoke to us like that, through a heavenly voice or a clear sign. But he does not. And he will not. We have to learn to discern his guidance in our normal day-to-day life. So stop looking for signs, the miraculous, some sound, voice, numbers, right time or whatever we are looking for.
2. Looking for open doors
An open door is nothing other than an open door. A student in the exam hall forgot a formula and was struggling with an answer. He started praying that God would reveal the answer and behold the answer is right in front of him, in his neighbour’s answer sheet. This illustrates that an open door does not mean its God’s will. Some times a closed door does not mean its not God’s will. An open door might mean run! And a closed door might mean wait, go slow, pray more and persevere or even a no. Be cautions about making decisions solely based on open and closed doors.
3. Looking for a Fleece
In Judges 6, Gideon asks God to prove that he will save them in the battle ahead. He tells God that he will put a wool outside overnight and in the morning if the wool is wet with dew while it is dry all around it, then he will know that God will save them. And he finds in the morning that the wool is so wet that when it was squeezed, it filled a bucket with water, while the ground around it was dry. Miraculous! But he again tells God and says please don’t be angry with me, let me test you again. This time he wants to put a fleece outside overnight and he asks God that if the fleece is dry but the ground is wet with dew and God again does the miracle. Some think that this kind of test is a good thing. We have to be careful that in scripture something is simply described as historical actions of people and it is not a prescription for our living. Jesus warns us in Matthew 4:7,you shall not put the Lord your God to the test. Be warned of this fleece mentality and testing God this way.
4. Looking for random verses
Some one was making a decision on marriage and they came to Gen 24 where it says Isaac married Rebekah, she became his wife and he loved her. The person decided to marry based on the verse. Maybe it was a good decision to marry, but this verse is not speaking specifically about our decision to marry. We have to be careful of taking bible verses out of context to justify our desires and actions. In Psalm 75, it says promotion comes from God. But not all promotion is from God. If the promotion is going to take you away from your family, from the church and your spiritual growth, you have to decline some promotions.
Beware of taking the bible out of context and us random verses to justify our decisions.
5. Looking for peace
Be cautious about basing your decisions on feelings and impressions. Sometimes feelings are a good indicator and sometimes its not. When we say don’t look for peace, what I mean is that peace is not the only indicator for making decisions. Sometimes in some circumstances, we have to decide even when we are not at peace. It does not mean that we are not doing God’s will or making a wise decision. For example, when Jesus was in Gethsemane facing the cross, he prayed about God’s will. And one thing he did not have was peace. He was sweating blood! He was terrified at the prospect of facing the wrath of God and to be abandoned from the Father for the sake of our sin. But it does not mean that the cross was not God’s will.
We have heard of people having cold feet before the day of their wedding. Suddenly they are anxious, unsure, worried and lack peace. Does this mean you have to cancel the wedding based on your feelings? No. Peace is a result of trusting God and it is not based on circumstances. Even when we face uncertainty and trials ahead of us, when we trust God completely, we have his peace in the situation. The situation itself can make us nervous and anxious but God gives us peace. Be cautious about making decisions solely based on feelings.
B. Obstacles to discerning God’s will
Is 59:2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
There is no small sin or big sin. Some times we think some sins are no big deal, its just nothing, no harm done, God forgives anyway. Sin is an obstacle to discerning God’s will. Sin enslaves, it blinds us to reality, deafens our ears to God’s voice, darkens our path, hardens our heart and dulls our conscience. If you are living in sin and engaging in sin, you are not living in God’s will, I urge you to repent and submit to God. Don’t linger any longer or delay. It is presumptuous to think that we can disobey God’s revealed will and expect God to guide us in discerning his will for our future.
2. Self will
James 4:6 God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble
I remember once driving in the wrong direction for one hour simply because I did not want to stop and ask for directions. Some of us are strong willed, proud and we don’t ask God to guide us. We want to make up our own minds and we consider it weak to ask for help. Our ego gets in the way and we find it hard to accept advice. This behaviour is an obstacle to discerning God’s will.
3. Ignorance of God’s word
Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge
If we don’t know God’s word, we cannot be sure of God’s guidance. God’s word reveals his heart, what pleases him, his purposes and commands. Ignorance of God’s word is an obstacle while discerning his will.
4. Listening to wrong counsel
We see tragic decision making in 1 kings 12 where Rehoboam decides to listen to his friends while making a crucial decision and ends in disaster. We see 2 Samuel 13 where Amnon falls in love with Tamar who is Absalom’s sister. And he seeks counsel from his friend about what to do and it is one of the saddest passages in scripture. Be careful of listening to wrong counsel.
Prov 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
If we are someone who lack trust in God as our loving Father, then we can never be sure of his will. We will keep oscillating in our decisions and will lack confidence and clarity. Lack of trust becomes an obstacle in discerning God’s will.
C. Process to discern God’s will
Most decision regarding college, work, relationships, marriage, money, children are not clear-cut. But God guides us when we make these decisions. He does not reveal the future but he guides us.
1. God guides us through Prayer
If God does not reveal future or give me the answers then how does prayer help? If I cannot ask about the future, then what am I supposed to pray for? Here are things we pray for while discerning God’s will.
Pray for illumination. Ask God to open your heart and mind to understand and apply his word.
Pray for wisdom. God gives us wisdom as we ask and seek him.
Pray for grace to trust and obey God as he guides us.
Pray for your heart, that you will be humble and teachable.
Pray for discernment.
Pray submitting to his will.
Don’t pray asking God to show you what to do but rather show to show how to submit and where to trust him.
Pray by worshiping God. When we worship we surrender to his sovereign control over our lives.
Pray by repenting of our sin when God convicts us for our lack of trust or disobedience.
Pray by thanking God in all circumstance. We give thanks before the outcome trusting that God leads and guides us.
Prayer shows dependence on God and reveals what I trust. But often times we use prayer as the last resort. Then we are impatient with God because we want an answer immediately, we are upset because we feel God is not answering us or is delaying us by his response, we are angry about the outcome. All these are symptoms of a lack of prayer.
2. God guides us through his word
The bible does not directly speak about specific areas of work, college, dating, marriage, etc.
If Bible does not reveal my future like horoscope, then how does God guide us through his word? We wish we could open to a chapter and verse and there the answer lies for all our questions.
When we read, ponder, meditate, delight and discover God’s word, he renews our minds, transforms our hearts and makes us wise.
a. God’s word speaks about our situation: When we are making a decision about marriage, learn about what God’s word says about marriage. When making a decision about work, learn what God’s word says about work. God’s word speaks about friendships, marriage, saving and investing and all kinds of life situations.
b. God’s word speaks about our anxieties: when we are anxious about certain decisions, God’s word speaks to us about what makes us anxious. In Matt 6, Jesus says don’t be anxious, I will clothe you and feed you.
c. God’s word speaks about our fears: In Is 41:10, God says do not fear for I am with you. God’s word reveals our fears and calls us to trust God.
d. God’s word speaks about our heart idols: 1 John 2:15 says “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the wrld, the love of the Father is not in him”. God’s word speaks about what is ruling my heart, what do I love most, what controls my decisions and what do I fear losing. It speaks to my motivations.
3. God guides us through counsel from his people
How do I know God guides us through prayer and by his word? It is confirmed by counsel from God’s people. How do I know I am not misled? How do I know I am not blinded by my own sin and desire? How do I know I have not misinterpreted scripture? When I listen to counsel from his people. When you are confused, ask someone who is not confused.
Prov 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.
Prov 19:20 Listen to advice & accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.
Do you want to make wise decisions and discern God’s will? Ask for counsel. If you are someone who avoids counsel or avoids people because of what they will tell you, it’s a big red flag in your life.
Why would we not ask for counsel? Often times it is because we know what counsel we will get and we don’t want to listen.
Another way we can shutdown God’s counsel from his people is by using the phrase “God told me”. If we use this phrase, then we shut ourselves from any counsel because now no one can disagree with you even though you are making an obviously disastrous decision. Please avoid such phrases if you want counsel from others.
The question is whom can you ask for counsel? We are considering people who love and follow Jesus faithfully. Yes, God counsels us through people who don’t know him personally as well. But for our context we are looking at followers of Jesus.
a. Ask for counsel from those you want to imitate in life: Are you deciding about marriage? Ask a couple who have a healthy marriage and you would like to imitate one day. Same with work, money etc.
b. Ask someone who is in a different season of life: If you are single, ask counsel from someone who is married and so on.
c. Ask someone who has nothing to lose: Someone who can give you an honest answer without having to fear or worry about your reaction.
d. Ask someone who knows you well and someone who does not know you well so you can get an objective counsel.
e. Ask counsel from more than one person.
How do you know you are walking in his will? When you are seeking God in prayer, reading God’s word to discern God’s heart and your heart, when you are humble to ask and receive counsel, then you are doing God’s will.
How do you make a decision according to God’s will? Pray, read scripture, ask counsel and confidently decide. Trust that God is in control of your life, submit to what he has revealed in scripture and confidently decide. It is as simple as that.
The Greatest picture of someone seeking God’s will in scripture is Jesus himself. In Gethsemane, Jesus faces the cross, the weight of our sin upon him, the wrath of God because of our sins. And in that moment, Jesus cries, Is there another way? Can this cup pass? But he prays, not my will but yours be done. Jesus trusted the Father completely and submitted to his will implicitly. He obeyed even if it meant suffering and the greatest trial humanity has ever faced. He was in God’s will. He knew God was in absolute control of his life and destiny. And he rose again from the dead.
Jesus trusted God and went to the cross on our behalf. Can you trust Jesus with your future?
If Jesus died to set you free, will he not complete what he started in you?