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Devotion by CRU
Should you marry the person you’re dating? Should you take that job offer in a different city? Which college should you attend? Should you adopt a child? At some point in your life, you have probably faced a major decision and wondered how to know which option to choose. If you have a relationship with God, you also probably hoped you were doing what God wanted you to do. Some aspects of God’s will are very clearly spelled out in the Bible. Instructions are clear about giving thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:18), avoiding sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3) and doing good (1 Peter 2:15) for example. But other things, like knowing the right time to buy a house or whether you should go back to school, are not covered in the Bible.
If you’re facing a big decision, you may wish God would just write His will for you on the wall or speak with an audible voice. But He rarely chooses to make His will for your life that obvious. Instead, He wants you to be persistent in seeking His guidance. As Jesus said, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33, New Living Translation). God knows that the process of seeking Him is as important as the answer He might give to any question. As you take steps of faith and learn to recognize His leading, you grow spiritually and strengthen your relationship with Him. It is not always a simple process, but in the end, it’s worth it. Paul, the early Christian leader who wrote much of the New Testament, prayed this for the church in the city of Colossae: “We ask God to give you complete knowledge of His will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better” (Colossians 1:9-10, NLT).
In one sense God’s will is something that will always happen no matter what. This is sometimes called God’s sovereign will. When God states that something will happen, it does. No person could have stopped Jesus from dying on the cross for the sins of the world. That was God’s will, and it was going to come to pass no matter what. When we make big decisions, we can take comfort in His sovereign will, because no matter what we do, we cannot ruin God’s ultimate plans. In times of uncertainty, you can remember God’s permanent will that once you become a child of God, nothing can separate you from His love. The apostle Paul put it this way: “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, NIV).
The other aspect of God’s will is what He asks His people to do. This is often referred to as His prescriptive will. God has given many commands to His people, but He also allows people a choice: whether or not to obey His commands. There are many specific instances of God’s will recorded throughout the Bible. There are not specific commands for every possible situation in your life, but understanding God’s character through His words and specific commands enables you to seek His will in any situation. When you do know God’s will, you can choose to obey or disobey Him, but ultimately, God is still in control. Our disobedience cannot derail God’s ultimate plan.
How to Seek God’s Will: Six Principles
1. Surrender your personal desires
As you seek God’s will, it’s important to be sure you are fully open to whatever God wants. If you have actually already decided what to do and are only coming to God so He can approve your decision, you are not really seeking His will. Don’t ignore your emotions and desires when seeking God’s will. God gives you emotions and desires, so listening to them is part of this process. But you shouldn’t let them cloud your vision as you consider different sources of guidance. Also, learn to surrender your desire to please other people. The apostle Paul says, “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (Galatians 1:10, NLT).
2. Meditate on God’s Word
Psalm 119:105 (NLT) says, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” The Bible can light the way as you choose your next steps.
3. Spend focused time in prayer
The most obvious answer to the question, “How can I know God’s will for my life?” is to ask Him. Turn to God in prayer and ask Him what He wants you to do.
4. Seek other people’s advice
Find mature, dedicated Christians and ask them what they think you should do. The pieces of advice you receive may conflict, but they should give you another perspective to think about. Talk to your mentors, parents, friends, pastors or church leaders.
5. Consider your circumstances
God can open and close the doors of opportunity in your life. You may have heard someone say, “God closed the door on this opportunity,” or “God was opening doors to give me the job.” God, not circumstances, should guide your decision-making. But God may use events in your life to point you in a certain direction. Sometimes, your decision is made for you. For example, when a job or college application is rejected, God has likely closed that door. On the other hand, not all obstacles are closed doors. Some are just things you need to overcome as you follow God. Similarly, just because a door is open does not mean God always wants you to walk through it. This is another reason to consider a number of sources when seeking God’s will.
6. Think through your decision logically
God’s Spirit can direct your mind and reasoning. Sometimes Christians are so focused on hearing from God that they forget to use reason and common sense. Just as the Holy Spirit can influence your emotions, He can also influence your mind. Jesus promised that when the Holy Spirit came, He would teach us and help us remember Jesus’ teachings: “When the Father sends the Advocate as My representative — that is, the Holy Spirit — He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you” (John 14:26, NLT). The Holy Spirit helps us to understand God’s Word and follow God. As the apostle Paul told the Galatians, “Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives” (Galatians 5:16, NLT). Using Spirit-filled reasoning and wisdom, create a list with all of your options and write out the benefits and drawbacks of each. Using reason or a pros and cons list is not unspiritual. God created reason, and He gave us minds so we could use them. But as with all of the principles, you should not rely exclusively on this kind of logical exercise.It’s also important to apply your reason with God’s values rather than using the values of our culture. In our culture, doing the thing that will be the most successful or prestigious is logical. But God does not value success and prestige for their own sake the way we do, although He sometimes puts us in positions of influence. He cares about helping you grow and using you to help others know Him and experience His love. This may come with worldly success, because God can use success and prestige for His purposes, but His purposes may be accomplished better by something that is less impressive in the eyes of others.
Once you discern God’s will, the next step is to actually do what He says. Remember Philippians 2:13 (NLT): “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
God will give you the strength and courage to do whatever He calls you to do. You are not alone. Whatever the outcome, remember God is still in control. Proverbs 16:9 (NLT) says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Again, even if you choose the wrong thing or knowingly defy what God is calling you to do, “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail” (Proverbs 19:21, NLT). So take a deep breath. Work through the six principles, and remind yourself that what you choose to do matters to God, but God is ultimately the one in control.