Every true Christian should be especially zealous of discovering God’s will for their life. Much has been written and spoken about this topic, and the Bible says much about it. But in Part One of this article I want to focus on just two passages of Scripture, both of which I came upon in my daily reading recently.
Both come from Numbers 9, and both offer some general but quite helpful principles on discerning God’s will. The first one is Num. 9:8: “Moses answered them, ‘Wait until I find out what the LORD commands concerning you’.” The context has to do with a question asked of Moses by some Israelites.
Of course unlike Christians today, who have a complete Bible, Moses has no complete Scripture to resort to. So he did the most sensible and godly thing he could do: instead of blurting out an answer, he told these folks to wait as he sought some clarity from the Lord.
This is a tremendous principle, and one which every believer today should take to heart. Instead of rushing out and doing our own thing, we should always be checking with God first as to what his will is on any number of issues. Of course unlike Moses, we may not need some ‘new’ word from God.
That is, many, if not most, of the things we are trying to discern can already be found in our Bibles. Consider the issue of finding a marriage partner. We certainly should pray and ask for God’s guidance in terms of a life partner. It is a very important decision indeed. But we already have a fair amount of instruction on this, so that many of our questions should be already easily answered.
For example, we have the solid principle as laid out in 2 Corinthians 6:14 about not being “unequally yoked with unbelievers”. The teaching here seems pretty straight forward: when it comes to something like a marriage partner, it is unwise, dangerous, and in fact against God’s will for a believer to marry an unbeliever.
This principle could be extended, perhaps, to things like going into a close and significant business partnership with an unbeliever. It does not spell out specifically which alliances are being forbidden, but the issue of marriage seems to be an obvious legitimate application of this passage (see the whole context in 2 Cor: 6:14-7:1).
Indeed, there are so many things already clearly spelled out in Scripture that some matters we really don’t need to ask God about or wrestle with. We already know that certain things are obviously God’s will. Consider for example 1 Thess. 4:3: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality”.
This is crystal clear. You don’t have to pray about this or anguish over it. Anything involving sexual immorality, and/or anything which will compromise your holiness and sanctification is taboo. It is to be avoided at all costs. Thus you do not need to pray about whether you should take up a position at a sex shop.
You obviously do not need to ask God whether it is good for you to access pornography, visit prostitutes, or become involved in sexual trafficking. But in other more iffy areas this principle should still come through loud and clear. We just need to apply this clear principle to rather less clear situations.
For example, many years ago I knew of a Christian who worked as an usher in a cinema. Nothing wrong with that, one would think. Yet that cinema did on occasion show some rather decidedly adult-only films. Even if he was just an usher, he could not help being exposed to these sleazy films, at least to some extent. Unless he was some sort of super saint who was immune to temptation, he probably should not have been there.
And in another case I know of, there was a Christian couple who owned and ran a video shop. But this shop also had adult-only videos for hire. This couple tried to justify things, but there is no way they could square this activity with passages such as 1 Thess. 4:3. They were acting contrary to the will of God here.
Sure, other areas can be less clear, and in Part 2 of this article I will try to lay out some further principles of divine guidance. But many things can be prayed and thought through primarily as we seek to line up our actions with Scripture. Simply having a sound knowledge and understanding of Scripture will help us in most important decisions we must make.
The second passage also comes from Numbers 9. In verses 15-23 we read about the cloud above the tabernacle. In this familiar passage we read of a cloud by day and fire by night, signalling God’s presence. When the cloud moved, the Israelites were to move. When it stayed, they were to stay.
This is another somewhat generic principle, but it is a key one. The principle here is quite clear: wherever God’s presence is, we should be. We should not move ahead of him, or lag behind. We need to keep in step with the Spirit, to use Christian terminology. We should be very conscious of only doing that which God is involved in.
If God is not in something, neither should we be. And if we want to do something for God, we had better make sure that God is in it. Again, this is a great general principle, but one which may be a bit more difficult to appropriate in particular situations.
But as in many cases of decision-making, it is often more important that we concentrate on matters of the heart. That is, if it is truly your desire to only do that which pleases God, and to only be or go where God is, many of the actual details will take care of themselves. Indeed, much of the biblical data on God’s will has to do with the attitude of the heart, more so than specific individual decisions.
In conclusion, let me offer another general point here. It has to do with something I recently read on another site. Although it was probably not written in relation to finding God’s will, it does have some bearing on this topic.
A person had written about getting “fresh revelation” from God. Now there is a good and bad sense to this. We all can use further revelation about what God has already told us; a new awareness or new understanding of what his Word teaches. But if this means we need some new revelation, or new word from God, as if what we have in the Bible is not enough, then that can be very problematic.
The truth is, we have – in this sense – all the revelation that we need. We don’t need new revelation; we need the commitment to obey what has already been revealed. Most Christians are not obeying what they already know as revealed in Scripture, so why would God send us any further revelation?
As Mark Twain once quipped, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” Quite so. We already have enough in his Word which he has given to us. We don’t need to worry about finding new stuff – let’s concentrate on what we already have.
In Part Two I will explore ten more principles to assist us as we seek to discover God’s will for our lives.
Part Two is here: billmuehlenberg.com/2011/05/20/on-finding-god%E2%80%99s-will-part-two/