The principles that I mentioned in Part One of this article were rather general. They may not always fully help us with a particular issue, whether it be if I should take this job, buy that house, marry this woman, etc. But they offer much help in the overall process. We will still need to pray a lot, think a lot, and wrestle with God a lot about some specific decisions we are trying to make.
So here I want to offer some more biblical principles about finding God’s will for your life. These ten principles offer more detail in this process of Christian decision making. Here then are some other biblical principles which we need to be aware of.
One. The Bible is not a book of magic. We should not take a ouija board approach to divine guidance. Some Christians think they should just close their eyes, open the Bible, put their finger down and hope for the best. But that is the wrong way to go.
Here is a humorous example of how unhelpful this can be. A person tried this method and came up with Matt. 27:5: “Judas went out and hanged himself”. A bit troubled, he tried again, and got this: Luke 10:37: “go and do likewise”. Now he was really rattled, so he did it one more time, only to get this: John 13:27: “and what thou doest, do quickly”!
Two. Much of divine guidance is really all about knowing God. As already mentioned, we can more easily know God’s will as we come to better know God and understand his ways. In that way his desires start to become our desires. As we read in Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” We should not see this passage as being about our desire for a new Mercedes or a new house, but as being about having our desires mesh with his desires.
Three. God’s will for our lives is more of a life-long goal than a specific blueprint. In many respects, God is far more concerned with who we are than what we do. Consider these passages:
-Rom 8:29: For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
-Gal 4:19: My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.
-Eph 4:13: until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
The lesson is this: if concentrate on allowing God to extend the depth of our character, he can concentrate on extending the breadth of our ministry, and what we do for him.
Four. Related to this, finding out God’s specific will in a particular situation is really not all that difficult. What is difficult is getting us to bend the knee. God is quite able to guide us, but he can only do that properly when we have humbled ourselves, died to self, said no to our own selfish desires, and said yes to him big time. God is looking for those kinds of people, and it is those kinds of people that God can and does guide, and use for his purposes.
Five. Following on from the above, having a humble spirit and a clean heart are indispensible for clearly discerning God’s will for your life. Plenty of passages speak to this. Consider just a few:
-Prov 11:3: The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.
-Psalm 25:9: He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.
-Psalm 37:23: If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm.
Six. We need to remember that not every activity or incident recorded in the Bible is condoned or approved of. Scripture records plenty of activities which are not to be emulated, such as lying, theft, murder, adultery, and so on. Thus many passages are to be regarded as descriptive rather than prescriptive.
In fact, there are godly Biblical characters who have sinned in various ways, but we are not to follow their example, such as Solomon’s polygamy, David’s adultery, or Noah’s drunkenness. Of course those incidents which Scripture does approve of we may follow and apply to ourselves, such as the faith of Abraham, the love of the Apostle John, the obedience of Moses, the loyalty of Elijah, etc.
Seven. We must realise that specific and express commands given to individuals in Scripture may not be for anyone else. Again, the Bible may be providing description here, not prescription. An obvious example of a one-off and limited command would be when God ordered Abraham to go and sacrifice his son. That is not meant to be obeyed by everyone else, although we may draw spiritual lessons from it (eg., we should be willing to let go of what we most cherish).
Eight. We always have to be quite careful about subjectivity. We must make sure our leading lines up with God’s word. We may have had a dream or a vision, for example, but we cannot automatically assume that it is from God. It is just as likely that it is due to last night’s spicy pepperoni pizza. So careful and biblical discernment is always necessary here.
Nine. Do not always expect the sensational, the extraordinary, or razzamatazz when we seek his leading. We should not rely on pyrotechnics, or some dramatic sign, such as walking along and finding 87 dead worms on the footpath spelling out: “go to Pango Pango”. God usually guides through the ordinary, not the extraordinary.
Ten. Don’t always expect individual guidance. The truth is, God has put us in a body of believers, and God often guides in a corporate fashion. He usually helps us to discern his will in the context of relationships with others. Thus we must seek out the counsel of fellow Christians. As Proverbs 11:14 tells us, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure”. Or as the KJV renders this passage, “In the multitude of counselors there is safety.”
There would be plenty of other principles which could be mentioned here. But what has been provided in this two-part article should be of real help to all of us as we seek to find God’s will. And it should go without saying that we are not just to seek to find God’s will, but be willing to do it once we discover it.
Indeed, unless the prior willingness to obey is there, we may well find it difficult to find out what God is seeking to say to us individually. He will likely withhold divine guidance if he sees that self, instead of Christ, is still on the throne of our lives.
For further reading:
Blackaby, Henry and Richard Blackaby, Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, rev. ed. B&H, 1994, 2008.
DeYoung, Kevin, Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc. Moody, 2009.
Elliot, Elisabeth, A Slow and Certain Light. Word, 1973.
Friesen, Garry, Decision Making and the Will of God, rev. ed. Multnomah. 1980, 2004.
Huffman, Douglas, ed., How Then Should We Choose? Three Views on God’s Will and Decision Making. Kregel, 2009.
Jensen, Phillip and Tony Payne, Guidance and the Voice of God. Matthias Media, 1997.
MacArthur, John, Found: God’s Will. David C. Cook, 1998.
Petty, James, Step by Step: Divine Guidance for Ordinary Christians. P&R, 1999.
Robinson, Haddon, Decision Making by the Book. Discovery House, 1998.
Smith, M.B., Knowing God’s Will. IVP, 1979.
Sproul, R.C., Can I Know God’s Will? Reformation Trust, 2009.
Swavely, David, Decisions, Decisions: How (And How Not) to Make Them. P&R, 2003.
Waltke, Bruce, Finding the Will of God: A Pagan Notion? Eerdmans, 2002.
Part One is here: billmuehlenberg.com/2011/05/20/on-finding-god%E2%80%99s-will-part-one/