How to discern God’s will in your life

There are so many decisions in life with unknown variables and consequences that it only makes sense to seek God for answers and guidance. How we go about acquiring that guidance though has been the subject of much debate, misinformation and controversy. And yet operating with the peace of knowing we are acting within God’s will and direction can help us avoid making choices that could prove disastrous, and effectively ruin our entire lives. Whether it’s deciding who to marry (or whether to marry at all), the kind of careers we pursue, or being faced with other monumental, life-changing decisions, there’s nothing more relieving than to know it is possible to choose wisely with the aid of our Divine Creator.

Will God indeed direct our course as long as we are willing to cede our will to His own? I absolutely believe it, and the Bible provides ample proof of this. We have numerous examples of the LORD directing military strategy, politics, and people’s financial decisions as long as they sought Him for answers. In the case of Jacob, God revealed in a dream how he could manage his flock so that his assets would increase dramatically and he would gain more in wealth than his own boss. The LORD also directed Joshua on how to conduct his military campaign and politics over the course of his life. Indeed, in Joshua’s example we found what happened when he DIDN’T seek God for council regarding military enemies that posed as ambassadors. Joshua fell for the deception and was forced to make a political pact that had far reaching consequences over Israel’s history.

Over and over in the Bible we see how it’s affirmed that God can direct our lives and aid us in making wise decisions in life. He offers us wisdom as a gift, promises that the “steps of a righteous man are ordered” by Him, and assures us those who seek answers will find it.

Yet in those times, learning God’s will seemed so much easier because He spoke directly to His people. In these days, that voice has been buried under a mountain of heresies, lies and false prophesying. How do we discern His true voice from the noise and lies?

One crucial element is to know His word (and not merely a polluted paraphrase of it such as The Message.) It’s amazing just how few Christians have read the Bible, much less memorized as much of it as they could. That simple effort would help blunt them from falling for many of the heresies that exist in the church today. Those who know God’s word through and through will be able to more easily spot when someone who claims to speak for God tells them something that winds up being in complete contradiction to the Bible. It also helps guide day-to-day decisions as well where the Bible specifically addresses the subject in question. The first step is obvious then: read and memorize the Bible as much and as often as you can.

Today we also have a massive amount of Christians leaders and “prophets” who claim to speak for God. Some may give you a “word” about your life and attempt to persuade you to follow it. They may even wow you with “prophecies” that reveal intimate details about your life that no one else would know. Can we trust such messengers?

It depends on a few factors: the message would not contradict Scripture, for one. As an obvious example, God will not tell you to commit adultery in complete opposition to His own spoken word. Secondly, such a messenger will not try to guilt induce you into believing him by saying if you question his prophecy, you are sinning or showing a lack of faith, etc. This is how so many false prophets get away with what they do. They terrify the people into believing that if they challenge that “prophet’s” word, they are “touching God’s anointed” and risking danger of eternal judgment. Again this is where knowledge of Scripture is crucial, because this attitude is completely unbiblical. Paul commended a group of believers who were natives of Berea by not accepting Paul’s message at his word, instead they searched and read the Bible to make sure he wasn’t telling them bold-faced lies. We are admonished to be skeptical and discern wisely, even when such messengers are able to do amazing, supernatural things. The Bible is truly our rearguard here. The Scripture is so unwavering in its finality that Paul also said if he or an angel from heaven began preaching something other than what was previously preached, to “believe it not.”

In order to gain more assurance that the answer we sense, hear or feel regarding a choice to be made is from God, I believe it’s also important to follow God’s dictate regarding testimony: “In the mouths of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” Whatever you feel might be the answer will be affirmed by the people you love, trust and are equally believers. I’ve seen this in my own life as well, people I confide in that I normally wouldn’t agree with about ANYTHING, and yet when it comes to important choices, suddenly they are in perfect alignment with what’s been in my own heart. If I wind up wanting to make a choice that nobody in my trusted circle can agree with, chances are I am falling out of God’s will.

So we know we can rely on Scripture and the witness of others for assurance that any “word” received is for real. But HOW do we get that word to begin with?

It would be awesome if we could plainly hear from God, but this is a rare thing in today’s world, mostly because deep down most of us do not want to hear from Him. The sooner we do, the sooner we must then confront the life we lead and our besetting sins. Hearing the LORD is equivalent to being consciously and uncomfortably aware of how depraved we are as sinners. We saw this in Israel, where the LORD provided the people an opportunity to hear His voice, and rather than rejoice, they panicked and begged Moses to continue working as an intermediary. Hearing God directly may be a supernatural blessing that will tremendously reinforce your faith, but it also comes at the cost of segregating you even further from the world and from others, and forces you to no longer be casual or comfortable when dealing with your own sins. God’s mercy and kindness though is boundless, and He will meet us somewhere in the middle if we remain too spiritually immature or fearful to truly hear His voice.

That middle ground comes in the most simple solution that somehow still seems to elude most Christians today: the prayer Jesus exhorted all of us to pray: “THY WILL BE DONE.”

James expounds on this a bit further (James 4:13-15): “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, IF THE LORD WILL, we shall live, and do this, or that.”

I apply this to my own life so often that it’s almost become a mantra. “If it’s your will, LORD… If it’s your will, LORD… nevertheless THY WILL BE DONE.” I even went so far as to write out a contract abdicating any control I had over what direction my life would take over to Him. Every crucial decision I have been faced with in life has been pretexted with “THY WILL BE DONE.”

God will grant us space to make our own decisions, even when they lead to disastrous results, but He WILL step in and take control when we genuinely cede our will to His, and actively seek His council. Many Christians though (to use a biblical term) “dissemble themselves in their heart,” in while they claim to want to follow God’s will, they wind up doing whatever they want anyway, and just assume any hedonistic desire or wish they have has the LORD’s automatic approval. (Read Jeremiah 43.) Only God knows who is being genuine and who is not here, but there are many who have sadly convinced themselves that they defer to God’s will, when in reality they are operating in complete rebellion of it.

I have nearly always pretexted all my major life decisions with “THY WILL BE DONE.” I’m completely confident that my steps have been ordered by God because my will has almost NEVER been what God’s will actually was. ?

I thought I would have a career in law enforcement. I thought God wanted me to be a lawyer. I thought maybe I could find a way to be self-employed by being a professional blogger. I also thought I could succeed in the stock market and retire that way. I thought I would find love here, or there. I thought I would finally find the perfect dog to own, or the perfect place to live. I thought many things. And in all that, I thought wrong. In one sense I had entrusted God to care for my entire life, and yet in another sense I was beside myself trying to crowbar open the doors He had effectively sealed. I guess because a part of me was intent to follow His will, even during those moments when I just COULD NOT accept that the LORD wanted me to remain where I was, He kept the doors sealed. THY WILL BE DONE.

The decisions I made all SEEMED like they were horribly bad decisions, and that I was completely wasting my life. The world kept telling me I was wrong, my conscience would tell me I was wrong, the mailman would tell me I was wrong. Even dogs trotting down the street would glance at me with a “You’re so wrong” expression on their faces. It’s tough to find any peace when a decision you feel was made in obeisance to God’s providence seems to be nothing but pure folly to nearly everyone else.

But while my life seemed to be a standstill of waste and failure, the wheels were slowly churning in the background, and looking back now, there is virtually nothing I could have done to successfully orchestrate the chain of events that would lead to my deliverance out of a dead end job, and into a new life granting me more blessings than I could have ever dreamed of. This is the LORD’s doing, and it is marvelous before our eyes.

It is a surely a baptism of fire to follow God’s will AND persevere in it. You don’t know what the end of it will be until much of it is behind you, and even then there’s no guarantee other than the peace of knowing your will is aligned with the LORD’s own. I thank God that He still saw fit to grant me many of my heart’s desires, even if they weren’t brought about the way I wanted them to be brought about. I can testify today that because of the goodness of God, my latter end is better than the former.

We CAN know God’s will in our lives. He will give us the answers we seek, even if it’s the answers we don’t initially want to hear. He is our Rearguard and our Caretaker. THY WILL BE DONE.

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