I have spent a fair amount of time in recent weeks contemplating how to describe the process necessary to determine the will of God. I have finally put together a few ideas that I thought I would share with you.
When we are faced with a choice several options generally appear. Our task is then to discern which amongst the various options are consistent with God’s will. This may result in one option or many that are within God’s will.
I believe that we arrive at God’s will concerning a given decision by combining God’s specific communication to us with the wisdom God has given us.
How do we do this?
First, it is essential to begin all processes of godly discernment with an open heart. George Mueller says, “Nine tenths of the difficulties [in determining God’s will] are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord’s will, whatever it may be.” In order to fully seek God’s will we must empty our hearts and minds of our own preferences and desires. If we have already made up our mind, no process of godly discernment will change anything. We must start in neutral.
Second, we must bring our question and the available options before God in prayer. We articulate the situation and share the various emotions that we may be experiencing with God. Then we simply listen. We want to hear from God in the subtle nudging of our spirit or in the powerful push of our soul. Most importantly, though, we are available and alert for God to communicate with us. We may experience a series of “coincidences.” We may experience God speaking through a sense of calm or the revealing of new details that indicate a particular direction. It is important to remember, though, that God will never advocate a position or direction that is contrary to His Word, the Bible. If we sense something that is inconsistent with God’s Word, we are not hearing from God.
We may hear a great deal from God or we may hear very little, but sufficient and persistent seeking is necessary. Once God has clearly been sought, we should begin to weigh God’s specific communication to us with our wisdom, which includes our God-given reason, abilities, and knowledge.
If God communicates to us in a super-natural and clear manner, our wisdom is less important, presuming that what we heard from God is not inconsistent with God’s Word. If our communication from God seems less clear or “loud,” we should rely more heavily on our wisdom. It is important to remember that our reason, abilities and knowledge are not based upon our world’s way of doing things, but on a biblical understanding of wisdom, which begins with a fear of the Lord and develops over time with a dedication to God’s Word and to fellowship with mature believers. (Proverbs 1:7)
I have put together two illustrations that I hope demonstrate this process of godly discernment very simply. The first shows a very clear message conveyed by God either during a time of prayer or through God’s super-natural activity in our life. Because God’s message is so clear, it is less important that the option chosen is practical, reasonable and “smart” by the world’s standards. An example of this is when Moses is told to hit his stick against a rock to produce water. This is not practical, makes virtually no human sense and could have been embarrassing if nothing happened since Moses did it “in the sight of the elders.” But since God’s message was very clear, Moses chose to hit his stick against a rock and it produced water. He made a choice consistent with God’s will. (Exodus 17:1-7)
The second illustration shows the opposite scenario. This illustration demonstrates little super-natural communication from God and thus a high reliance upon godly wisdom in arriving at a godly decision. An example of this might be the builders in the story that Jesus tells in Matthew 7. God did not clearly and super-naturally tell the builders what to do, but the wise builder relied upon wisdom in choosing to build his house on the rock while the fool built on the sand. When God’s super-natural communication is less prominent, we rely upon godly principles that we are taught through God’s Word and other believers.
Finally, when we reach the point of decision and have discerned God’s will rightly, we will feel a sense of peace and contentment about our decision, even if there are consequences to that decision that might be difficult to endure. (Philippians 4:4-9)