First, Seven Myths about God’s Will
Few elements of holy living are misunderstood as much as “finding God’s will,” especially for young people. More mature Christians often keep secret from younger believers “how it works,” not wanting the discourage youth or rob them of their passion and “spirituality” about these things. The biggest problem for young people are the myths which have grown up around God’s will which we older folk do not take the time to correct. No wonder, it’s no fun bursting these “spiritual” balloons. So we are silent. And the young people get burned. Or they think they’ve understood God’s will but don’t. Or, worse, they simply give up figuring they are not “tuned in” to God’s voice like others seem to be, and they drop out.
There are probably a dozen myths perpetuated about God’s will–maybe more. Here I will deal with the more confusing ones, though I invite the reader to submit others to me for addition to later drafts of this essay. What are these commonly believed myths about God’s will? Here are seven:
1. I need to FIND God’s will.
God’s will is not lost–you don’t need to “find” it. We often act like God has hidden His will somewhere and it is all a big game to Him–we are supposed to try and find it. We seek to discover His will. This heavenly game of hide-and-go-seek-His-will is totally off base. God does not hide His will from us. God wants us to know His will. People who are always seeking God’s will are often too distant from God to know it. God’s will for them first of all is to get to know Him. As Tony Evans says, “If you’re serving God you don’t need to find God’s will; His will will find you.” A pre-occupation with “finding God’s will” is usually a sign of an immature or carnal Christian. The mature Christian is more concerned about serving God today than finding God’s will for tomorrow.
2. God’s will relates to every decision I make.
We developed this myth by twisting the verse, “a man’s steps are ordered by the Lord.” Well they are. Does God guide us? Yes. Does God direct us? Yes. Does God help us with decisions? Yes. But, does God have a “will” for us in every decision of life? No. I suppose it does not hurt to seek His will for every decision you make, but frankly God doesn’t even have guidance for many decisions you make. God has given us general principles and values that we must apply to practical situations. And He gave you a mind to use in applying these principles. That’s what so confusing for the immature Christians. They want to make everything a rule, and everything a matter of God’s will. Perhaps that’s OK for a new child in Christ, just as it would be for a child in the home. But once you come to college you shouldn’t be calling home to your mother asking her to help you decide whether to eat Jell-O or pudding for desert. Your mother has given you general principles of good nutrition and you are supposed to make all the individual decisions from now on based on these. So has God. He gave you the “Golden Rule” (which is, of course not a rule at all, but a principle). You are left to make the decisions about how to apply it. Same for the “Greatest Commandment” and the second greatest. Even the Ten Commandments aren’t exactly “rules.” So what does it mean to “honor your parents” or “remember the Sabbath day?” Even these most famous rules look a lot like principles. (The Pharisees of Jesus’ day tried to help God out by turning them into a pile of detailed rules). So doesn’t God care if you eat Jell-O or Pudding? Probably not. Instead, pray about the fighting in Sierra Leone, the lost in India, or the poor in Chicago; forget clogging up the lines with pudding prayers. (I know, I know… the Bible says “Pray about everything” but we’ve taken that wrong, too.) I have no doubt that there are big issues we must seek God’s will about. But getting in the habit about praying for His will while setting your alarm clock each night will not make it easier to find His will for the bigger things later.
3. God’s plan is elaborate and mostly hidden.
Bill Bright’s, “Four Spiritual Laws” trained a generation of Christians to say, “God has a wonderful pan for your life.” Well, he does, but the whole plan is detailed in the next three “Spiritual laws.” That is, God’s “plan for my life” has already gone to press. God’s primary plan for my life is already printed up in my Bible. His plan is for me to be saved, trusting Christ alone. His plan is for me to read the word, and pray, and worship. God’s plan is for me to disciple other believers. His plan is for me to put off sin and put on righteousness. His plan is to lay aside even the weights that slow me down and hold me back from spiritual progress. His plan is for me to clothe myself with godliness and exhibit the fruit of the spirit. His plan includes my growing, changing, and becoming holy so that my every word, thought, and deed is as pure as Christ’s. This is His primary plan for my life. And none of it is hidden–it is all right there in my Bible. Yet is curious how many Christians will live in direct violation to God’s primary plan for their life–in the Word–then turn to seek God’s will for their summer–shall I go to Cambodia or home to get a job? Is it any wonder why God does not guide such a piddling decision as what to do with your summer–when you live in direct violation of the will that He has already revealed to you? 99% of God’s will for your life has already been revealed to you. If He never speaks to you again you have enough to go on–that’s why you’ve got a Bible. The 1% is important to you and me. But the 99% is most important to God.
4. God’s will, when I find it, will be distasteful to me.
Why do we think that once we find God’s will out for sure, it will likely be unappetizing? One young man at youth camp struggled with surrendering to Christ. In dealing with his resistance he finally blurted out “If I give in to God I know He’ll make me marry an ugly girl and go to Africa–and I can’t stand snakes or ugly women!” This fellow misunderstood God’s will because he misunderstood God. God is not some twisted demon-in-the-sky just waiting for our surrender to Him so he can then get about making our lives as miserable as possible… as if he watches our misery like some gladiator contest arranged for his amusement. This kind of god is a devil and not worthy of being served, let alone seeking his will in life. So, who is this God we serve? He loves us, gave His Son for us, and His will for us is always good, pleasing and perfect for us. God’s yoke fits well. In fact, His will for you may fit so well it might seem your are “getting paid to do what you’d do for free.” Indeed, that’s the kind of God He is. If (assuming the constraints of Scripture) you imagine what would be the most wonderful way to spend your life for Christ–you may have gotten a picture of the sort of thing He has in mind. In fact He probably has abundantly more than you could even ask or imagine. God’s will is good.
5. God’s will is a private matter between God and me.
Wrong. God’s will is primarily for God’s people. God seldom reveals His will individually and not in context of a gathering of His followers. Thus we often think God’s will for me is a private affair best worked out between God and me in my room, or while I am praying, or while walking beside the lake on a Day Alone With God. But God’s will always involves God’s people. After Scripture, God’s primary way of revealing His will to believers is through the body of Christ on earth–the church. To find God’s special will for me–the final 1% not already revealed to me– I must always turn to His mouthpiece on earth–the church. And the modern “Marlboro Christian” hates this notion. We like to think our walk with God is a completely individual matter–“just between me and my God as I know Him.” But God has chosen to speak on earth through His Son, through His Word and through His church. If I am seeking God’s will I might spend some time “seeking God’s face” in devotions…but when I get up off my knees I ought to go talk to the rest of the body. God’s will is never a private matter.
6. God’s plan for my future is very important to discover.
Well, sure it is. God’s future plans are most important to me. We want to see the “map.” That is, when we want God to tell us what we will be doing after graduation. Will I be a missionary in Zaire or a nurse in Chicago? “Tell me Lord, I need to know right now” she prays. Yet God does not tell her. Why? “God, am I going to be a single teacher in the Midwest, or will I marry a preacher and move around a lot; tell me please, tell me.” God says nothing? Why won’t God tell these two women what His will is? Why withhold the “map” of their life? They would be much better equipped to plan if He just showed them the map! So why does He not reveal His will? Because they do not need to know. What is most important to God in both cases, is not His will for them two years later…but His will for them this semester…even this week. God occasionally gives us a peek at His “map” of our life (we often call this a “call”) but usually his will unfolds like a scroll—we only get to see one segment of His will. Why? Perhaps because He wishes you to keep on following His leading day by day, looking into His word, getting advice from respected Christians, growing, developing, continuing in the nursing courses you now have. And when graduation comes, then He will show you what to do as that section of the scroll unfolds. Perhaps you have no business knowing the rest of His map.
7. God’s will is fixed and I must not “miss it.”
We teach this notion in our testimonies. We talk about “finding God’s best” and not missing out on “His perfect will.” Or we sometimes whisper about how Doris “settled for God’s second best will when she married that old rascal Pete.” It is a popular notion: God has “ordered our steps” for our entire life and we can screw up the whole thing at every fork in the road by making the wrong decision. “Oh my, I missed God’s will and came to Taylor University instead of Indiana Wesleyan where God wanted me to go–now I’ve missed out on God’s will for me and must settle for second best the rest of my life.” Tommyrot! Your God is too little. God is a God of infinite variables. You can’t screw up His plan by choosing between two good choices (well, I’m biased here, I think one of these schools is a better choice, but you get my drift). God is in the business of redemption. Not just redeeming us from sin, but redeeming our lives from poor choices we make. And even if you marry the “wrong guy” he’s not the wrong guy the moment you are married. Now he’s the “right guy.” And God has a fresh will for you. Perhaps you thought he wanted you to go to Mozambique as a missionary before you fell for Charlie. He seemed like the sort of fella’ you might take along, though he never came right out and said so. (You could tell it from the way he sang choruses in chapel though.) Now you are married and Charlie says, “no thank you” to a life in missions. Your life is ruined and you’ve “gotten out of God’s will” right? Not so fast. Maybe God was prodding you to go into missions. So what are you to do now, leave Charlie-boy and tromp off to Mozambique? Not likely. God has a new plan for your life now.
God’s will is revisable. He has a perfect will for you no matter where you are in life, even if you’ve taken a “wrong fork in the road.” Have you messed up already? God still has a will for you–look for it, it is probably right there around you. And it is not “second best” either. (How could we ever call God’s will “second best”?) Through God’s grace, He will even pick up the shattered pieces of your life and make something beautiful out of them. You can’t ruin God’s plan that easy, because it is not a fixed plan. God’s more creative than that. He’s hard to circumvent. So worry less about ruining God’s plan for your life and simply follow His leading today.
Yet this is not to say we are free to be casual about disobedience, figuring God will “clean up after us.” This sort of intentional disobedience tempts God and puts my relationship with Him in jeopardy. If you clearly know something to be God’s will and you refuse to obey Him there will be consequences– unpleasant even severe consequences. But one does not miss God’s will by accident. Knowing, willful, intentional disobedience has serious consequences. But God does not play hide and seek with us. He is not crouching in the dark, gleefully waiting for you to make the wrong choice without His guidance only to play gotcha’ with you announcing you’ve just ruined the rest of your life. On the contrary, God can turn our choices in ignorance, even unknowing bad choices, into a new life which still brings glory to His name. We might lose out on one future–but God can recover us and create another future for us that still brings joy and meaning. God is bigger than we think.
Knowing God’s will …a proven method: Ask four questions
So, how can we know God’s will for sure? How can we know if we are to marry Joan or Jane? What does God want: attending college in Indiana or Iowa? How do we know God is calling us to Africa or Arkansas? Or, how do we know it is God’s will to continuing pastoring the church where I am now or move on to another? Perhaps we “feel led” or have received an “impression” from God. How are we to know for sure that this is His will for us? While the process of testing these impressions as not a simple one, there are some simple time-tested questions that help us do this. The next four sections provide four questions to ask in coming to know God’s will.
Question # 1
Is it SCRIPTURAL?
What does the Bible say?
Face it, ninety-nine percent of God’s will for you has already been revealed. It’s in the Bible. You don’t need to pray about it, or “seek God’s will.” It has already been sent your way–in the Bible. We must recognize that when we say we are “seeking God’s will” we are speaking of the remaining 1% of God’s will not already in the Scripture. Indeed, if God never again spoke to you for the rest of your earthly life you’d still know what to do–just follow the 99% He already showed you in His Word.
If Scripture commands a thing you need not pray about it. There is no need to seek God’s will about those things already explicitly commanded in Scripture. Scripture commands us to give generously, witness to unbelievers, pray, and show mercy and compassion. These are not things we need to seek God’s guidance about. They are already God’s will for us. In fact, could it be that some Christians are so obsessed about the 1% unknown will because they obey so little of the 99% they already have. If scripture commands us, don’t pray about it: obey.
If Scripture forbids a thing you need not pray about it.
Perhaps here us how Scripture is most useful to us. God will not impress you to do something contrary to His word. If your impression and the Bible disagree, let the Bible trump the impression. Sheryl was sure God had led her to leave her husband for a fellow she met at the office. “But I’ve prayed about it and the Spirit has confirmed it to me.” Sheryl may have heard from a spirit, but it was not the Holy one. If the Scripture forbids a thing, no “seeking God’s will” is needed.
Scripture is not a “Magic Eight-Ball” either. .Some Christians use their Bibles like those Magic Eight Balls you get at Spencer Gifts. You know, the ones you “ask a question to” then shake up, and wait for the little triangle answer to appear in the window: “Most decidedly so.” These Christians abuse the protestant emphasis on Scriptures by seeking the answer to their latest personal journey questions in the Bible. They ask their “magic Bible” a question, then ruffle through its pages until they find a verse which seems to answer their question. Of course, what they are really doing is using the Bible as a mirror. It is themselves they see in the verses, finding the answer they really wanted all long, then pinning the blame on God. “I’m sorry Jesse, the Lord told me to break up with you. You see He gave me this verse last night…”
Now I am not saying that God can’t use the Bible this way. He can. God can reveal His will through a billboard, U2 or a Ouija board in spite of the medium if He wants to. But it is not His normal means.
So do you wonder if God wants you to transfer to another college? Are you are seeking His will about dating either Josh or Jim? Wondering if God “wants me to go to Cambodia or Chicago this summer? Start first with the Scripture. If the thing is commanded or forbidden, then don’t even pray about it — just obey.
But if the Bible is not explicit on these things… and you shouldn’t get an answer from it like a magic eight ball or a Ouija board, then what can you do next? Ask Question #2.
Question # 2
Is it ADVISABLE?
What do your advisors say?
You are trying to discover God’s will about marrying Sam or Steve but the Bible doesn’t forbid either guy? You’ve read the Bible but it just doesn’t tell you explicitly whether to stay home and work this summer or go to Croatia? Or, maybe you’re trying to decide which college to attend or are thinking about transferring but there is no clear guidance on either issue in the Scripture. What to do next? If Scripture does not disallow your impression get some advice. To whom should you go to for this advice?
1. First, ask those who know you best.
Who loves you most? Who is your “mentor?” Who says “I pray for you” often? Who would you say “believes in me?” Of all the people within your reach who do you respect the most? Who do you know better than others? Who knows you better than most others? Of the people you know who do you think “has wisdom?” Go talk with these folk. Now, this is not always an easy thing to do. Why? Because our pride and self-sufficiency restrains us. We resist asking advice — we might have to take it! We’d much rather hunt-and-pick through the Scriptures and find “a verse just for me” which trumps everybody else’s godly advice freeing us to pursue our personal strong-headed desires. In Protestant America–where individualism reigns supreme–we especially prefer to “get God’s will direct.” This is not how God works. God speaks through his body on earth–the church. Whatever God does not make explicit in Scripture He normally makes clear through the body of Christ. After all, what is the ‘body of Christ” anyway? So, seek God’s voice from respected members of the body of Christ. What do they say about Sam and Steve? What do your godly mentors say about your impression that God wants you to go to Croatia or transfer to another school? Better yet, what is God saying through these people?
2. Ask those who know the church’s history.
Every decision you can face has already been faced. At least in kind. Millions of Christians through history have “sought God’s will” in the matter of whom to marry or whether to become a minister or missionary. What has God usually said to these people? Do you know? Or are you a prisoner of the present? How does God usually speak on these issues? What has His answer usually been to this question? God is pretty consistent. If your impression is totally out of sync with what God has usually said to his children over the last several thousand years, your impression is probably wrong. So, do you really know how God has answered this question over history? If not, go find out. Get advice from someone who knows the church’s past. Present your impression or question and ask, “How has God led people like me in the past? See if there is a consistency or pattern. Most of us can agree that we should seek guidance from the Body of Christ present–but forget that the real Body of Christ includes millions of Christians who lived and died down through the ages. Seeking input from them by finding out how God has spoken through history “gives them a vote too.”
3. Advisors can help you determine if this is right.
Everything about which the Bible is silent is not automatically right. Face it, some things are wrong about which the Bible is silent. The Bible says little or nothing explicitly about drugs, pornography, racism, sexism, or a whole set of other activities and attitudes which are immoral. Even more complicating, the Bible seems to tacitly approve some things most Christians consider wrong, like holding slaves or polygamy for instance. So how can we decide these things? By realizing that a thing can be immoral even if the Bible does not condemn it. That is why God has built within us a sense of morality. It is to “know in our heart” when something is wrong. When Southern slave-owners quoted this and that verse from their Bibles supporting slavery, the abolitionists of the day replied with, “Quote me a thousand verses and I shall not be convinced… holding another human being as a slave is wrong, wrong, wrong.” An advisor can help you sort through the morality of an issue, even when the Bible is silent on it.
4. That is not to say that you take all advice at face value.
All this is not to say that you should simply go to your favorite mentor or your mother and let them decide for you. It’s not that simple. You are searching for God’s voice through your advisors. Advisors are human too. For instance you may have to discount some advice because of the advisor’s self-interest. Are you thinking of transferring to another school? When asking your favorite mentor-professor in your present school, he or she may have a conflict of interest: wanting you to stay, their advice may be skewed. Or, say you are a freshman seeking God’s will concerning getting married this summer. Your parent’s self-interest might cause them to exclaim, “That’s an impression from the world, flesh or Devil–not God!” So it is up to you to evaluate all advice and “consider the source.” That does not mean you ignore it completely–just discount it a bit due to their own self-interest.
But at other times you will need to inflate the value of the advice you get. If your favorite mentor-professor advises against his or her self-interest and actually encourages you to consider transferring to another college, his or her advice should be considered at an inflated value. Or, if you’ve fallen head over heals in love as a freshman and want to get married right away this summer, and both sets of parents think it is a stupendous idea, the value of their advice should be doubled (perhaps tripled!).
So, you’ve asked, “Is it Scriptural?” and found it to be allowable in the Bible. Now you’ve asked, “Is it Advisable?” and gotten sound advice, some of which may conflict with the advice of others. But a picture is starting to appear. You are narrowing down the decision. God’s will is becoming clear. What to do next? Ask question #3
Question # 3
Is it PROVIDENTIAL?
What do the circumstances indicate?
If the Scripture does not forbid your impression, and your advisors recommend it, look next to the providence of God — the circumstances. Has God “opened doors” for you? Or are they closed? God does not call you to do a thing you cannot do.
1. We can’t consider God’s providential circumstances alone.
Just because you find an open door does not mean you must walk through it. Jessica is a high school senior praying about which college God wants her to attend. “Jessie” applied to three colleges and was delighted to get her acceptance letter for one in Kansas yesterday. She announced in Sunday School “This must be where God wants me.” The only trouble: Jessica got accepted at the other two during the following five weeks. Carl loves Cindy with all his heart and asked her to marry him last weekend. Cindy said,” Yes.” Does this open door to marriage automatically mean it is God’s will? Or consider Steve, a wonderful loving and successful pastor. Last summer his conference elected him District Superintendent, which means he had to leave pastoring–to which he has always felt called. Is “the call of the church the call of God?” Is this open door a “sign” that he must walk through?
The answer to all three cases above is “no.” An open door is not automatically the will of God for the providence of God alone is not enough to determine His will. Circumstances are a tricky thing. The Devil can also arrange circumstances, you know. And worse, we can manipulate them ourselves. (OK God, if you want me to marry Lois, make that light turn green…”) Providence must always be considered along with other factors when deciding. As G. D. Watson put it, ” The Holy Ghost never guides us contrary to the Word. The Word never guides us contrary to providence, and providence does not guide us contrary to the Word or Spirit.
2. Providence is often a better veto than confirmation.
Since an open door is not automatically God’s will, the providence of God in circumstances is often better used as a veto than a confirming answer. For instance, if Jessica (the senior applying to three colleges) was turned down at all three she might better say, “apparently God did not want me to go to any of these schools.” When Carl proposed to Cindy if he had gotten a firm and final “no” in return, he might assume their marriage is not God’s will for him, though it may still be his own will for himself! And, at the same conference last summer where Steve was elected D.S., Jerry came having “already prayed through” on the job; he would accept the post if elected. But Jerry garnered just nine votes. He was heard saying, “The conference is out of God’s will, and so is Steve for taking the job.” Sure, sometimes college admissions committees miss God’s will, and so do girls like Cindy and conferences in their elective processes. But if the circumstances make what I think to be God’s will impossible, then functionally at least, I should dismiss the idea as not His will after all. You have an impression that God wants you to go to Russia for a year but you have not been able to raise even 10% of your finds? It is time to consider the providence of God. Going to Russia is certainly approved in Scripture, and perhaps all your advisors also affirmed the idea (especially if you selected the right ones). You want to go badly. But nobody seems to be inspired to give to your support, even those carefully selected advisors who encouraged you to consider going. What to do? Reconsider. God will always open the door for His will. He never leads you to do what cannot be done. Perhaps you should spend a year working at the downtown mission in your own town? Circumstances don’t automatically confirm an impression, but they can veto it.
“Putting out a fleece” is a high-risk means of confirming God’s will. Gideon did it, why shouldn’t we? He forced God to confirm His will by a “miracle” or two. It is an attractive option. But Gideon didn’t have the resources we have, including the Scripture. But using a fleece to “Ouija” God’s will out of circumstances is still common practice for modern day, magically inclined Christians. “God, make the college you want me to attend be the one who sends an acceptance letter first.” This is a “fleece.” “Lord, if you want me to marry Lois, have her show up late at the dining hall tonight.” “God, if you want me to be District Superintendent, make it rain two days straight during April.” See the difficulty? Fleeces force God to rearrange the universe to confirm His will to us. It removes God from the center and puts me there. Fleeces “tempt” God–forcing Him to act. And we can manipulate the test too easily to favor the odds of our own will (rain in April two days straight?!) A modified fleece might work when you have concluded both ways are within God’s will (i.e. any of the three colleges are acceptable to God). But don’t pin the decision on God then; admit you are fleecing yourself, not God.
So, in summary, what is the value for decision-making in God’s providential circumstances?
An open door is not automatically God’s will.
A closed door often indicates a thing is not God’s will, at least for now.
If God calls me to do something, He will provide a way to actually do it.
Conversely, if there is not way to do it, I misunderstood God’s call or His timing.
Circumstances can be used by God, but the Devil and I can also manipulate them.
Fleeces are a lousy way to confirm God’s will.
You’ve asked so far, “Is it Scriptural?” and found it to be allowable in the Bible. Then you’ve asked, “Is it Advisable?” and gotten sound advice. Now you’ve considered the providential circumstances of God. Some doors are closed, others are open. But say there are still several “open doors.” How to know which door to enter? Move on to question #4.
Question # 4
Is it reasonable?
What does my sanctified good sense tell me?
If you have tested your impression by Scripture, run it by respected advisors, and examined the circumstances, now ask if this makes good sense.
1. God’s will is usually reasonable.
God gave you reasoning power, expecting you to use it. He did not give you reason as a trick so He could then ask you do things totally against all reason “just to test you.” What kind of God would do that? God’s leading is usually in concert with our sanctified good sense. After all God renews our mind–so we will be able to know His good and perfect will. Are you totally dedicated to the Lord? Have you surrendered your life to Christ? Has he transformed your mind? Then what you want and what He wants will increasingly be the same thing. I once heard the popular seminar speaker Bill Gothard, say, “God’s ways our not our ways: so if you want to know God’s will just think of whatever is obviously logical to you, then do the opposite.” (I did not make that up!) Such a notion may be true for a godless anti-Christ pervert, but the thoughts of a sanctified Christian mind will increasingly reflect the mind of Christ. So the question is, are you totally committed? If you are your own mind will be close to God’s. And if you’re not, finding God’s will won’t work anyway–He’s concerned with a greater priority: total surrender to Him. When you are committed to Him his call will seem reasonable to you– it will be a “reasonable service.”
2. Listen to the Holy Spirit.
God deals with us as rational beings. He does not expect us to deposit our minds outside the door of church. Nor does he want us to discard reason when seeking His will. You say, “The Holy Spirit is leading me.” How does he lead? Where do you hear the Spirit speak? The Spirit speaks to our enlightened and sanctified mind. Where else do you hear Him–in your ear? Shoulder? Knee? Of course not, it is to your “heart” He speaks–by which you mostly mean your mind. God has told you to drop out of school and hitchhike to Nebraska to sit by the roadside until a black car picks you up? If so, ask “Is this reasonable?” Is this how God works usually? But you say, “But it must be God, it is so irrational.” What? What sort of God is this? Would a god who makes humans in His image with rational minds, then plays jokes on us by being irrational? No. If you are totally surrendered to God, your plain good sense will almost always agree with God’s leading.
On the other hand, don’t put God in a box.
However, there is another mistake we can make on the other side of the road. This mistake is to make God’s will such a rational thing that we do not even need God’s guidance. Most of these essays have tended that way, probably because more mistakes are made on the mystical side of the road than the reasonable side. For the most part we ought to err on the side of a rational view of God’s will. But let us never forget that God does sometimes ask his children to do crazy things. He impressed Noah to build large boats when it had never rained. He nudged Abraham to kill his only son. He called a stuttering murderer to return to the scene of the crime and free his people with a stick. He led Joshua to defeat Jericho by hiking around the city repeatedly. Gideon heard God tell him to win with lamps and jars, not swords. David faced a giant with a sling. If these guys had followed “the four questions” advice in this series, they’d never have accomplished what they did.
So, sure, God sometimes asks His children to do nutty things. Sometimes, that is. But not usually. If you are absolutely sure that God has told you to take your child to a nearby mountain and sacrifice him to God, please take some time working through these four questions first. It might be God, but I doubt it. God can command you to do the unscriptural, inadvisable, unprovidential, and unreasonable, but he seldom will. You’d better have an Abraham-grade walk with God before you “obey” that impression. Until then, use these four questions to clarify God’s will for you.
what to do
when God’s will still isn’t clear?
What if a Christian has a decision to make and they’ve asked the “four questions,” sought God’s leading, prayed, got advice, examined the circumstances, searched the Scriptures, and they still don’t know what to do? What then? Does this describe you? Are you trying to decide ifs this person is really the one God wants you to marry, but you still can’t figure out what He wants? Or are you about to graduate from college and you still don’t know if God wants you to become a youth pastor or go to seminary this next year? Perhaps you are about to finish school and you once thought God was calling you to be a pastor, but now you are not so sure… you are not doubting God Himself, just if He really called you or not. So you are trying to decide if you should get a “regular job” for a year to sort this out, or float your resume to some churches and see what happens. You’ve worked through the “four questions” and you still haven’t the foggiest idea what God wants. What’s a person to do when they’ve followed all the advice in this booklet and still do not know God’s will on a decision?
Are you really that desperate? Most Christians get ants in their pants while seeking God’s will. Often He waits until the “last minute” (in our eyes) to show us where to turn. We, of course want to know in advance–after all we have plans for our life. It is as if we are taking a trip from New York to somewhere out West. We are driving and God is riding “shotgun” telling us how to get there. We cross the Hudson River and start bugging Him to mark the route on a map for us. He chuckles and says, “turn right here.” You screech the tires and swerve down the exit ramp exclaiming–“Can’t you tell me sooner–I coulda’ wrecked!” He smiles and says, drive on. At each corner you ask, “turn here?” He smiles and says quietly, “just drive straight ’till I tell you to turn.” Now, what’s happening here? A power struggle. You want to know now so you can be in charge of this trip. But God wants you to listen to His instructions every step of the way. So, if graduation is looming and you’re still not sure–who knows, maybe He’ll say, “Turn here” the day after you get that diploma. Why dos He delay sometimes? Because we are most interested in the destination. God is most interested in the relationship. Indeed, perhaps the relationship is the destination. So cool your heels. Chill out. Just relax. If you’ve got God riding shotgun, He’ll be speaking up in due time. Until then…”just drive on.”
2. Wiggle some doorknobs.
You don’t have to get God’s clear will to wiggle some doorknobs. Sure, an “open door” does not mean automatically something is God’s will. But you can try a few and find out which ones are closed at least. If the deadline is coming up for applying to graduate school and you just don’t know if that’s God’s will or not, apply anyway and see what happens. If you apply to five grad schools and you aren’t accepted at any of them, you can probably figure this wasn’t God’s will. (or perhaps you should have applied to 20!) Wiggle some doorknobs and see what’s behind them. Start moving. Do something. Quit sitting around on your talents waiting for God to tell you to invest them. My goodness, do you want to be more like the man who hid his money in the ground than the ones who invested it? Can you hear the man whining, “Buuuuut God, you never told me where or how to invest this money for your sake.” Sorry, the master gave the money and simply expected the servant to invest it to “get the biggest bang for the buck” when the master returned. If God has not yet told you where to go, start planning to invest the gifts, abilities, and skills to get the “biggest bang for the gift” for the Kingdom’s sake. Apply to six seminaries and for eleven local church jobs. Show up for every interview you hear of. Wiggle every doorknob you might be interested in and see what opens up for you. Back to the trip out West again. If you sit in the parking garage in New York waiting until God draws you a complete map to your final destination, you may spend your entire life in the parking garage. Start the engine. Get moving. Head out of the garage. Quit sitting in a parked car. It is far easier for God to steer a moving car.
3. Look for “blocks.”
Hey, if you’ve got God with you, He will let you know if you are driving off the pier into the Hudson River. If you’re moving, wiggling doorknobs, moving down this or that road. If you are making a big mistake God will let you know. How? Through your advisors. Through the circumstances (God’s providence). Through His “still small voice.” So if He “blocks” you, simply do a big U turn and try another street. Face it, the reason why we want to know God’s will before we start driving is so we won’t get “egg on our face” by having to make a U turn, or (God forbid) stop and let the gas station attendant know we’re not sure where we’re going. We want to look on top of things. Like we’re “on the ball.” “Really in command.” Maybe that’s the reason? Perhaps God lets some of us get lost awhile to remind us that the “Lord knows the way through the wilderness.” All we’ve got to do is f-o-l-l-o-w.
Look for “Confirmation.” On one of these streets–after you’ve started on your way–God will likely confirm, “This is the way.” You’ll know it. You’ll “just know it.” This is called a “confirmation.” Do you know that many Christians go through their entire life never once having received God’s will in advance of a decision. These are not carnal or baby Christians either. (On the contrary, they are often the most mature and holy saints.) These believers have to simply “start driving” through life seeking God’s blocking or confirmation as they go. Why does God work this way with some folk? We don’t know, but perhaps He trusts them. And, after all…there are a thousand ways to get from New York to San Francisco– so God just rides along and only speaks up to block you when you’re headed east. After all, we are interested in the fastest way to get to our destination. God is more interested in the journey with us. (And most great Christians of the past would agree with me that God loves the back roads best.”
By Keith Drury
For more writings by Keith, visit http://www.drurywriting.com/keith