What About Learning to Discern the Will of God?

Posted: June 15, 2011 by Nathan in What About...
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Cultivate a Heart for God

Do you find yourself increasingly desiring the things God desires? When you look to Jesus do you see yourself reflecting Him a little more than you used to? Do you find yourself now more willing to be willing in areas God is prompting you about?  Let us pray with eagerness “Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (Ps. 86:11).

When we cultivate a heart for God we produce in us a heart more like God’s. When our heart is more like God’s we desire that which God desires.  Our will becomes more like God’s will.

 

Pray for God’s Wisdom and Leading

If you are unsure what God’s will is in any given situation . . . ask Him! There are numerous examples of prayers for wisdom in the Bible. The following are two of them. James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul . . . Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” (Psalm 143:8, 10)

It is so easy for us to forget to ask God for wisdom in making decisions; prayer is absolutely essential to this process.

Seek Sound Advice and Wise Counsel

Let’s face it however wise we think we are we’re never as wise as we think we are!!  We might not like to admit it but in most things that are important, we need help. Not many areas of our lives are more important than seeking the will of God and His purposes in our lives and the life of His church.  The book of Proverbs is full of passages encouraging us to bring wise counsel into the process of seeking God’s will. For example: “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise” (Prov. 19:20). Here’s another: “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice” (Prov. 12:15).

I would say that when looking for wise counsel there are two main types to lookout for.

Biblical counsel. Who is someone in my life saturated with the Word of God who can help me discover what the Bible says about my situation?

Experienced counsel. Who is someone who has been in this same situation? Who has special expertise in the area where I need advice?

Examine Your Motives

Earlier we said that the more we mature in Christ, the more we will be able to follow the desires of our heart. But we also need to critically examine our motives, because the blinding effects of sin often keep us from seeing how selfish we can be. The prophet Jeremiah put it this way:

“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

It is good to ask ourselves some tough questions. Why are we doing this? Are we being selfish here? Will others benefit from our doing this? Sometimes we can become so preoccupied with finding God’s will that it becomes unhealthy. We either are presented with several options and freeze up (paralysis by over-analysis) or we walk around thinking and talking about ourselves all the time!

Ask God to reveal to you the motives of your heart.

 

One way of doing this would be to pray as David prayed in Psalm 139:23–24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Use Your Head

God created us and gave us a mind to think and to reason with. Now we are not infallible beings or anything, but we possess the ability to think critically about life’s situations. It is good to wait on God’s direction and leading. However, this doesn’t mean that weighing various options or scenarios is unspiritual—far from it! However, we need to learn to use our head wisely and learn to make godly choices in the face of other alternatives. We need to make decisions using a sound mind and this means that our thought process is being renewed (Romans 12:2) and is under the control of the Holy Spirit. It is far better than common sense.

Cultivating a sound mind is part of possessing the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:15,16) as a result of God’s transforming and renewing work (Romans 12:2). We need to surrender to the direction of the Holy Spirit by faith and thus receive wisdom and guidance from God. By contrast, dependence upon man’s wisdom will lead us away from God’s best for us because it is based on self-interest with an undue emphasis on emotions and chance circumstances.

Steps to making a sound mind decision.

1. Pray for wisdom  (James 1:5,6).

2. Be sure you are walking in the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

This includes doing what you already know to be God’s will.  Why should God reveal His unknown will when we’re not even doing His known will?  This also includes being faithful in the small things (Matthew 25:21).  God may want to adjust your life and character in the smaller assignments in order to prepare you for the larger ones.  God develops character to match the assignment.

3. Determine the options in the decision and list the pros and cons for each option.

4. Search the Bible for any relevant principles and commands.

5. Collect available information and godly counsel on each option.

6. Trust God for His wisdom, evaluate the options and make a decision according to His promises in Psalm 37:23,24 and Proverbs 3:5,6.

7. Do not depend on feelings:  God promises wisdom not the feeling of wisdom.

8. Take steps to act on your decision by faith.  Sometimes a step of faith may be to wait on the Lord

Believe That God Is at Work in the Circumstances of Life

God is always at work in the circumstances of life. Sometimes His providence is imperceptible to us; but other times He will reveal His thoughts and ways . . . if we are paying attention.

Be Sensitive to the Leading of the Holy Spirit

This one makes some people nervous. Who hasn’t heard the words “God told me to . . .” and then cringed at what was said next?  We must be reminded that we should be wise as we try to discern whether the Holy Spirit is prompting us or not. We must not ignore Him in our decision-making. Even though this is a subjective process, God could be trying to get your attention; the question is are you listening and open to what He may say?

Now this principle is best understood in light of the previous ways of seeking and we should always test our “impressions” with God’s Word and with wise counsel. The Spirit’s leading is not a trump card to be used selfishly—remember to check your motives.

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