Sometimes your wise and worshipful decisions will lead to fun; other times they will result in misery. Sometimes God will use your decisions to provide riches in abundance; other times he will take you to the poor house. Sometimes your best plans can come to nothing while your worst decisions result in everything. However, keep in mind that your experiential negatives are often part of God’s positive program. So don’t second-guess. Don’t live in the past. Don’t wonder “What if I’d taken the road less travelled, or more travelled?” God is sovereign. He is in control. He loves you.
Have you ever asked yourself the question, “What would God have me do?” Have you ever longed to be in the center of God’s will, but you found yourself paralyzed because you could not seem to figure out what he would have you do? Are you presently at a fork in the road and wish to desperately honor Christ in your next decision? Wouldn’t it be exciting to have the ability to instant-message God and receive a personal response on your smart phone in just a few minutes?
Well, I have not a “God App” to recommend for your I-Phone, nor do I have a “word of knowledge” from him regarding your current dilemma. I am not a prophet, and I do not know where to go to find a legitimate one. However, I still might be able to assist you in making your next decision. Allow me to share with you some of the guiding principles that have assisted me. These I have gleaned from Scripture, from experience, and from the counsel of others.
I. Find Comfort In Your Desire To Know The Lord’s Will
The natural man is not overly concerned with knowing and doing God’s will. He is pretty happy to be independent and focused on his own preferences. Therefore, when you pray like David in Psalm 143:10, “Lord, teach me to do thy will,” this is a sweet sign that you have been redeemed and justified; that Jesus Christ is your Savior and Lord. Such a passion to honor, obey, and be led by God is sweetly odd; it is an evidence that the Holy Spirit dwells within your soul.
II. Find Comfort In The Doctrine Of God’s Sovereign Will
The bible teaches that God knows the end from the beginning. The reason he knows the end from the beginning is because he decrees that which happens from beginning to end. Yes, God sovereignly plans all, and then he performs all that he plans. Job writes that God does as He pleases, and only as He pleases, and there is no one who can frustrate His plans of hinder His purposes. (Job 42:2) David writes, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” (Psalm 115:3) Likewise Daniel teaches, “He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the people of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35) It is Isaiah who states, “For the Lord Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?” And later he continues, “I [God] make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” (Isaiah 14:27; 46:10) Yes, God has a sovereign will, and it will be followed to perfection. Now, sometimes he makes his sovereign, perfect, or decretive will known, but in most times he keeps his plan hidden for a season. Most times you can only see God’s will when looking backward. However know this my friends — whatever his sovereign will is, whether you know it or not, you cannot mess it up or thwart it. You do not have to worry about taking the wrong fork in the road and causing all the forces of heaven to panic and reassess the situation. God is sovereign, and his will will be done regardless of your right or wrong decision.
III. Focus On Communion
The Holy Spirit is Christ’s gift to all who are united to him. The Holy Spirit is called the Comforter and Counselor. He is the one who is placed within to guide all Christ’s friends into all truth. Therefore, spend time keeping in step with the Holy Spirit and enjoying the process of bringing your heart into alignment with the Godhead. Adore, confess, thank, and supplicate God. Scripture expresses you have not peace, wisdom and assistance because you ask not for it. Therefore, start the process of seeking guidance on your knees, and then pray the entire day without ceasing. God is the Good Shepherd who promises to lovingly guide his sheep. When you call to him, he will answer. In Romans, Paul writes, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” I can’t think of any better way for your mind to be renewed than for you to spend quantity and quality time in communion with your Savior — especially communing with him while his Word is opened on your lap.
IV. Focus On God’s Revealed Will
In certain times and places, God has spoken to individuals through prophets, audible voices, handwriting on the wall, angels, and talking donkeys. Therefore, if your dog starts speaking in an audible tongue, take him seriously. Like Balaam, you may be a foolish individual whose attention God is working hard to get. However, the normative means whereby God intends to speak to you is through his inspired Word. In the Bible you can find that which God has revealed to all men. Within the ancient pages are laws and principles for all centuries and cultures. Within the Bible you can find those things which God prescribes and those that God prohibits. Simply put — read and heed! Friends, this is the revealed will of God for you, and experiential blessings or consequences follow those who walk in obedience according to God’s good direction. It is the manual for decision making and daily worship, and the wise man looks at God’s Word as declares, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
V. Forget Finding God’s Revealed Will For Every Decision
Scripture says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29) Clearly, there are some things that God wishes for you to know. There are other things that he wishes you not to know at the present time. Consequently, there will be decisions, such as whether one should purchase a Ford or Toyota, or whether one should marry Jill or Janet, that are not outlined for you in holy Scripture. When this happens, your question should shift from, “What is the will of God for my life?” to “How can I honor the Lord by making a wise and worshipful decision?” Friends, most of your decisions will have to be made on the basis of wisdom and trust, and not on the basis of a specific divine command. Sure, you can foolishly try all sorts of ingenious methods to turn God into your genie in a bottle (Flipping coins, rolling dice, trusting circumstances, random turnings in the Bible, trusting feelings, trusting friends, trusting elders, magic eight-balls, utilizing fleeces, etc …), but in doing so you are seeking to turn God into your divine fortune teller. He has never promised to give you divine revelation regarding each and every issue in your life. However, he has promised to love and guide you as you walk in love, in wisdom, and by faith. He is your Good Shepherd, but he doesn’t always tell you where he is going and what will be experience around the corner.
At this point, I can almost hear you exclaiming, “Joe, you have not yet helped me answer my question or solve my dilemma. I do trust God; I accept that I cannot know the future. I do love God; I want to obey what He has written in the scriptures. However, I still have to make a decision? What I am to do?” Well, here are some additional thoughts.
VI. Find That Which Is Allowable, But Focus On That Which Is Excellent
It was the Apostle Paul who said, “all things are allowable, but not all things are helpful.” Therefore, after determining which options are still on the table after running them through the filter of the Bible, start narrowing down your options by asking questions such as:
- Which option helps you best maintain personal purity?
- Which option helps you best express the love of God to your chiefest neighbor — your spouse?
- Which option helps you best express the love of God to your nearest neighbors — your family?
- Which option helps you best express the love of God to your watching neighbors?
- Which option helps you best be successful in accomplishing your personal ministry?
- Which option helps you be free from entanglements that hinder your personal ministry?
- Do I have the option to wait, and what happens if I make no immediate decision today?
Sometimes you need to say “no” to the good in order to say “yes” to the best.
VII. Forsake Wicked Counsel While Finding Wise Counselors
It was the inspired David who said, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers ….” Foolish counselors should be avoided at all costs. However, it is not sufficient to merely avoid unwise advisors, you must also heed the counsel of wise and honorable friends. Why don’t you take my counsel now and listen to the counsel of the wisest man ever to live:
- Proverbs 1:5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance,
- Proverbs 11:14 Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.
- Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.
- Proverbs 13:20 Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
- Proverbs 15:22 Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.
- Proverbs 19:20 Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.
- Proverbs 24:5-6 A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might, for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.
- Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
Fellow believer, are you wise in your own eyes? Are you too proud to get wise counsel? Are you always the most intelligent man or woman in the room? Are you really teachable? When you do surround yourself with advisors, are you simply assembling “yes men” who will flatter you by telling you what you long to hear? And, when you receive counsel that is not what you expected, do you consider it with all sincerity? Scripture says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Prov. 16:18) God has established a plurality of leaders in his church for your assistance. There is no need for you to make vital decisions on your own. Don’t be so independent. Don’t be so arrogant!
VIII. Fear Not, Be Bold, Follow Your Passion, And Make A Decision
There comes a point when a decision cannot be put off any longer. At this point, you who are enjoying the grace of God should not be panic-stricken and paralyzed. The advise of Saint Augustine comes in handy here, “Love God… Love God… Love God… Do What You Want.” So, after you have sought first the kingdom of God and his delight, follow the desires of your heart. (Ps. 37:4) Get on your knees. Do what the scriptures say. Listen to the godly advise of friends. Then, after all this is accomplished, heed your righteous passions, take advantage of open doors, and do what you would most like to do. Have faith in God that he is purposely affecting your heart.
IX. Forsake Second-Guessing Based Upon Painful Consequences
According to the providence of God, sometimes the most holy decisions end up with disastrous consequences. (I.e. Daniel praying in his residence) Additionally, oft times the most unholy of decisions end up with graciously sweet consequences. (I.e. Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery.) So there is no need to always be querrying, “What if?” Do not allow Satan to mess with your head. Instead, with boldness:
Commit to the Lord whatever you do and [know that] your plans will succeed. (Prov. 16:3)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and [know that] he will make straight your paths. (Prov. 3:5-6)
Keep in mind one of the most famous verses in Scripture:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Rom. 8:28)
Yes, sometimes your wise and worshipful decisions will lead to fun; other times they will result in misery. Sometimes God will use your decisions to provide riches in abundance; other times he will take you to the poor house. Sometimes your best plans can come to nothing while your worst decisions result in everything. However, keep in mind that your experiential negatives are often part of God’s positive program. So don’t second-guess. Don’t live in the past. Don’t wonder “What if I’d taken the road less travelled, or more travelled?” God is sovereign. He is in control. He loves you. Your only duty is to do the next right thing. And when you don’t know what the next right thing is, your duty is to make the next wise decision while trusting in the sovereign care of your Heavenly Groom.
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may work, growing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:9-10).
Joseph A. Franks IV is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of Palmetto Hills Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina. This article first appeared on his blog, and is used with permission.