Finding the will of God (Part 1)

Over the years, most pastors will tell you that there are a handful of questions that come up over and over again – no matter what size church you serve and no matter what type of community you serve in. One of the most common goes something like this, “Pastor, how do I find God’s will for my life?”  Most of the time there is some impending decision that prompts this question. Occasionally, it will be a feeling of “spinning my wheels” or frustration with the status quo.  No matter what prompts the question, it’s a good question. How do Christians find the will of God in their life?  Are there Biblical principles for making decisions?  In this post and the next one, I will share how I answer this question when it comes my way and how I attempt to make decisions in my own personal life and ministry.

First, answer the question, “Does the Word of God provide instruction?”   If we really believe that the Word of God is actually totally true and inerrant (and I steadfastly believe that), then it only makes sense to begin there in all decision making.  Certainly, the primary reason that the Lord gave us the Bible is for our salvation (John 20:31), but we also have God’s Word for spiritual growth and guidance in life…

How I love Your instruction! It is my meditation all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are always with me. I have more insight than all my teachers because Your decrees are my meditation. I understand more than the elders because I obey Your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path to follow Your word. I have not turned from Your judgments, for You Yourself have instructed me. How sweet Your word is to my taste— sweeter than honey in my mouth. I gain understanding from Your precepts; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:97–105, HCSB)

There are many issues which the Bible speaks to directly.  For instance, one Christian might be struggling with whether or not to marry a person who is not a believer.  Scripture is very clear that Christians should only marry other believers. Another Christian might wonder if viewing pornography is actually wrong – given its acceptance in today’s culture.  Scripture is clear that all sexual activity outside the marriage relationship between husband and wife is sin. Jesus himself said that if you look at another person with lust, then you are guilty of adultery of the heart.  So, those issues are quickly settled with an honest look at the Word of God.  If the Word of God speaks to an issue directly, the decision is made.  It’s just time to obey at that point.  One reason that many Christians today are running into so many problems is because they no longer want to let scripture be authoritative for their individual lives.

This principle is also true in a positive sense as well. Scripture is clear that we are to be witnesses for Christ and “make disciples of all nations.”  Scripture is clear that we are to pray consistently.  Scripture is clear that we are to train up leaders in the church.  Scripture is clear in how we are to treat our spouse. Again, the issue is really how we act on these truths in our context of life, not whether or not we should do them.  If we are honest, many (yes, even most) of us know far more of these scriptures than we are consistently acting on.  If God’s Word says to do it, then it’s God’s will that we do it.

In addition, there will also be times that the Lord speaks to us through the Word. If you consistently read the Bible, you will find that there will be times that certain verses seem to leap off the page and speak to just what you are struggling with at the time.  Too many Christians open their Bibles to find one verse that gives them permission to do what they have decided to do already.  That’s totally backwards. Open the Bible consistently every day of your life and as you do that the Lord will use it to guide you in your decisions day by day. It’s amazing how often you will just happen to be reading at a place in the scripture that particularly applies to this moment in your life. That’s not coincidence. It is the Holy Spirit of God using the Word of God in your life.

After a look into the Word, then it’s time to get on your knees in prayer. Certainly, if you have read this far, you are not surprised that this is one of the principles.  However, let’s not let familiarity prevent us from asking the hard question:  Do I really pray about decisions I have to make?   It’s been my experience that more Christians “believe in prayer” than actually pray.  The Lord Jesus had an important decision to make:  choosing the twelve. So, how did Jesus respond?

During those days He went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God. When daylight came, He summoned His disciples, and He chose 12 of them—He also named them apostles:” (Luke 6:12–13, HCSB)

The only time scripture records that Jesus spent all night in prayer is before he chose the twelve.  I could fill an entire blog post with verse after verse of examples of Jesus himself praying on all types of occasions.  If our Savior himself needed to pray and seek the Father, how much more do we need to follow that example?

So, when struggling to find the will of God, the first two places every Christian should go is to their Bible and on their knees in prayer. Certainly, this idea is not original and new.  It’s just foundational.  The Word of God and prayer are foundational to all decision making in the Christian life. Very often, these two great spiritual resources are the only resources we need to make decisions.  God often speaks clearly through the Word and prayer. Start there.

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