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This is lesson 3 of 5 in the What If? sermonlink series. See also the kids edition of this lesson, or go to our Proverb a Day reading plan on YouTube.

When it comes to the big choices in life – like career, marriage, family, or retirement – we all want to get those right. But sometimes it feels like we’re just rolling the dice. Does God have a plan for our lives in those areas? If so, how can we discover it?

God’s will and our choices both determine our future

Living out God’s will involves a paradox. On one hand, God is in control of even the details of life.

Proverbs 16:33 We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.

On the other hand, our choices matter and we are accountable for them.

Proverbs 21:5 Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.

These two perspectives seem to be opposite, but in the Bible, both are true and compatible. God’s plans and purposes will be accomplished. At the same time, God has given us freedom to choose. We have to own the consequences of our choices. Yet we can make those choices with confidence under the umbrella of God’s will.

[Related: How Can I Know God’s Will?]

Make your best decision and trust God to lead

The apostle Paul was traveling to tell people about Jesus. He had a plan for where to go, but God kept steering him in a different direction.

Acts 16:6-10 Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there… That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.

Paul didn’t wait passively for God to reveal his will. He kept pursuing his plan. Yet God kept blocking Paul’s moves until eventually God used a vision to redirect him. God can use many factors to guide us. Paul experienced that guidance as he was pursuing decisions that made sense to him.

Proverbs 16:9 We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.

This verse shows both sides of the equation. Make the best plans you can. Get advice. Consider every factor. Then, as you move forward, you can trust that God will direct your steps into his will.

[Related: How to Discern God’s Leading]

[Related: Did I Really Hear from God?]

Trust God with the decisions other people make

Genesis 37-50 describes many hardships inflicted on Joseph by others. His brothers sold him as a slave to a foreign land. There, he was falsely accused and thrown in prison for years. Finally, God opened a door for him to work for the king. Joseph rose to a prominent position of power. He was able to reunite his family and save them from a serious famine. Looking back on years of mistreatment, Joseph told his brothers:

Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.

People made choices that hurt Joseph badly, but God’s will prevailed. Don’t assume that if a situation is hard or painful, God is not involved. He can use people’s evil to bring about good. Whatever happens, you can trust that God is in control of your ultimate path.

As you seek to do what honors God, you can trust God with those big life decisions – and the small ones. You will make mistakes. You may not be able to see the outcome. It may not take you on an easy path. Yet you can take action in the confidence that God will guide you to the end he has in mind.

[Related: Don’t Just Follow Your Heart]

[Related: How Can I Hear God’s Voice?]

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. What are the big decisions you have felt most uncertain about in your life?
  4. Read Acts 16:6-10. What can we learn about the interplay of our choices and God’s will?
  5. Read Proverbs 16:9. What is the relationship between our plans and God’s plans?
  6. What have you learned in life about how to make good decisions?
  7. Read Genesis 50:20. Does this reflect only Joseph’s experience, or is it a universal truth? Explain.
  8. What does Joseph’s story reveal about how God might lead us into his will?
  9. What major decisions are you facing? How does this conversation give you greater confidence?
  10. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.

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