This is part 10 in the Basic Practices for Growing Christians series.
We all need direction in life, and the best source of guidance is God himself. God’s will is good. But it’s not always clear how to discern how he wants us to act in each particular circumstance.
God Wants Us to Know His Will
God’s plan for our choices is not some needle in a haystack. He is not hiding his will to make us jump through hoops to discover it. But in order for us to know it, we need to have certain attitudes in place.
To Know God’s Will, We Need to Trust Him
To discover God’s direction, we have to believe that his will is the best path for our lives.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
We tend to follow our own ways. We trust our own understanding of things. Yet we don’t always know or admit that we’re going in the wrong direction. God’s path doesn’t always feel straight, but God knows where he is leading us. So if we’re smart we will trust God’s word instead of our own feelings.
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
To Know God’s Will, We Need to Submit to Him
Jesus had compassion for the multitudes, who were living without purpose and direction.
Matthew 11:28-30 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
A farmer uses a yoke to steer animals. As such, a yoke speaks of submission. We have to be willing to be steered by God.
Romans 12:1-2 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I please with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Knowing God’s will comes on the heels of submitting ourselves as a sacrifice to him.
To Know God’s Will, We Need to Be in Relationship with Him
John 10:9-10 (NKJV) I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they might have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
Sometimes the door is narrow. The flow of the world is going in one direction. At times we will feel like we are going in the opposite direction. If we live in union, in with Christ, we will be living life the way it was meant to be. Coming through Jesus is the way to experience life in the fullest sense.
God Guides Us Through His Word
One way to know what God wants us to do is to search the Bible. The Bible is our compass for life because it is the word of God.
1 Thessalonians 2:13 When you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God – which, of course, it is.
The Bible is from God. It contains the wisdom God has given to guide our lives, and it covers a majority of the big issues that will arise in daily life. If a decision goes against God’s word, it cannot be God’s will.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
In many decisions, God gives us the freedom to decide whatever we want. When the Bible doesn’t speak, we have freedom. For example, it may not matter to God what city you live in. He is more concerned about what kind of people we are.
God Guides by His Holy Spirit
Concerning those issues or decisions where the Bible doesn’t speak directly, we need to wait on God and seek him for direction, trusting the Holy Spirit to lead us.
Acts 13:2 One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Appoint Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.”
In Acts we see the church praying when the Holy Spirit spoke to them about an important decision. We don’t know how the Spirit spoke, but it suggests a subjective, internal leading from God. Just remember that if the leading you receive is contrary to what has already revealed in the Bible, it isn’t from God.
1 John 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if they spirit they have comes from God.
God guides us through the counsel of others.
Godly counsel is an important way to test your own opinions as well as the subjective promptings you receive. Listen to people to love Jesus, know God’s word, and care about you. Don’t just choose people who will tell you what you want to hear.
Proverbs 12:15 Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.
God Guides Us through Circumstances
Sometimes circumstances seem to line up for or against a particular course of action. When we’re praying and fasting for guidance, God will often use a seemingly chance event or encounter to confirm his leading – as one factor along with the rest.
Psalm 32:8-9 The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”
God wants to lead you to his very best for your life. As you consider how to discern God’s leading in your life, remember that you can trust him. As you do, you can experience the best life that God has in store for you.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- What methods or principles do you usually use to make a decision? Give an example.
- Read Proverbs 3:5-6. What does it mean to trust God? How have you seen God “make your paths straight”?
- Why is important to be willing to follow God’s will, no matter where it leads?
- Identify some issues where the Bible spells out God’s will for our lives with clarity. Name some issues where it does not.
- Why must we give the Bible the final say about what is or isn’t God’s will?
- Have you experienced the subjective, inner leading of the Holy Spirit? What happened?
- Read 1 John 4:1. Why must we be cautious in interpreting inner feelings?
- Read Proverbs 12:15. Give an example of how good counsel helped you make the right decision.
- How might God use circumstances to steer us into his will? Why must we be cautious in interpreting circumstances?
- Read Psalm 32:8-9. What promise does God make? What does it mean to “not be like a senseless horse or mule?”
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.