Last time we considered the supreme importance of the Scriptures in finding God’s will or in discerning His direction in our life. Here are several more important elements to help in the process:
1) Be filled with the Spirit.
This is one of the foundations of knowing God’s will because we cannot really discern His will in the Bible without the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit illumines our hearts to understand the Word and gives us insight into His will. Without the Spirit we are blind to God’s truth.
Now being filled with the Spirit means that one is filled with the things of Christ, especially His Word. So when Col. 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you with all wisdom,” in effect, it is saying the same thing as being filled with the Holy Spirit. For the Spirit’s ministry is to illumine the things of Christ to us, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you” (Jn. 16:14). In other words, the Spirit will take the truth of Christ (Jn. 16:13) and impart it to us, so to be filled with the Spirit is to be filled with Christ and His truth.
The more one has the word of Christ richly dwelling in them the more the Spirit will enable them to walk in the wisdom and will of God. And the more one walks in the revealed will of God found in the Scriptures, the more they will be able to discern God’s will in matters not specifically addressed in the Bible.
2) Seek out wise counsel.
It is a sound and biblical principle to seek out godly counsel. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel” (Prov. 12:15). Consider also, Prov. 1:5 A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, Prov. 11:14 Where there is no guidance, the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.
Prov. 15:22 Without consultation, plans are frustrated, But with many counselors they succeed. Prov. 19:20 Listen to counsel and accept discipline, That you may be wise the rest of your days.
Wise counsel will usually help us to see things from a different perspective. Even though we may not take their advice, we will be better off for the time we spend carefully weighing what they say.
3) Be suspicious of your own inclinations.
Why do you think “A” is God’s will and not “B”? Evaluate your motives in what you think is God’s will. Is your pride involved in some way? How about selfishness? Are your lusts guiding your desires? Are your feelings based on worldly ambitions? It is important that we seek to understand why we “feel” a particular path is God’s will and not another. If sinful motives are there, they will need to be exterminated before we proceed further, or it may indicate that this whole course of action is not God’s will. Only a heart that is seeking after God is able to ward off some of the misleading voices of the flesh.
Another key component of finding God’s leading in our life is prayer. One can rely too heavily on prayer if that is all we do to try to find God’s will and ignore the Word, but one can never underestimate the importance of prayer in the overall process. We need to seek God’s assistance in helping us discern His will. Godly wisdom comes to those who seek it from Him. The Lord delights in the prayers of the righteous (Prov. 15:8), and in answering our prayers for His guidance. Paul prayed for the saints at Colossae that they would be “filled with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9), and he sets a good example for us.
5) Sanctified common sense.
In the NT the apostles were often guided by visions (Peter in Acts 10), dreams (Joseph in Mt. 2), prophets (Agabus in Acts 21), and by the Spirit speaking (Acts 13:2 – also probably through a prophet). But sometimes God directed the apostles through their reasoning things out and making a choice that seemed best to them. For example, in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem Council when the necessity of circumcision for Gentiles was debated, the elders and the apostles arrived at their decision and course of action in large part as a result of what “seemed good” to them. Four times in Acts 15:22-34, the phrase “it seemed good” describes the cause of their actions. “It seemed good to the apostles and the elders and the whole church to send men to Antioch” (v. 22); “it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you” (v. 25); “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials” (v. 28); and “it seemed good to Silas to remain there” (v. 34).
The principle here is that they gathered all the information they could from the Scriptures, consulted the wise among them, thought through the circumstances carefully, and then chose to do what seemed good to them. Sometimes, the Lord chose not to lead His disciples through supernatural means but simply by sanctified common sense.
6) A bad decision is not going to ruin your life.
God is gracious and will forgive and restore us if we repent of a sinful decision. But even when we end up running down a dark path because of a bad choice on our part, yet even then the Lord’s good will is not ruined for us. He can sanctify our mistake or sinful action and use it to further His grace in our life. There is much to gain from the humiliation, sorrow, and broken heartedness that comes from our folly. This is not to commend foolishness, or call evil good, but to exalt God’s amazing grace that can even use our sin to accomplish His good will in our life.
Once we are aware that we have made a bad decision we should repent immediately and seek to follow the Lord again. We may need to even backtrack, if possible, but in any event when we humbly return to the Lord, He will continue to lead us down His blessed paths. “He teaches the humble His way” (Ps. 25:9).
7) Keep in mind the over-ruling providence of God.
“The mind of man plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps” (Prov. 16:9). We may have searched the Scriptures and followed all of the principles above and finally come to believe in our hearts that “this is the way you should go, ye man of God, walk ye in it,” and BOOM, all of a sudden it all collapses like a house of cards. What has happened? You have just been “redirected” by the providence of God. What appeared clearly to be God’s will, is now impossible, or totally out of the question. The key is to learn submission to God’s over-ruling providence. Since God controls all of our circumstances, He will use them at times to be the final and determinative factor in our choices. This is God’s prerogative because, after all, He is God. Just don’t be fooled into letting circumstances outweigh God’s word.
8) Finally, be patient.
God is not in such a hurry as we are. It is His plan for us to have to sit often at an intersection of life while the light is red. We usually sit there rapping our fingers on the steering wheel, growing more impatient by the minute, waiting and waiting until we are tempted to run a red light. But rest assured that God will give us a green light when the time is right. Until then, wait patiently on the Lord and be content with His red lights knowing that His plan for you is taking shape even as you sit motionless in one spot. And don’t forget that God usually guides us one intersection at a time.
These are some of the biblical principles to help us discern God’s will. May the Lord use them to help you find your way out of the darkness into His marvelous light.
Your servant in Christ,