4 Steps to Discern God’s Will

What to Do When God’s Will Seems Unclear

It seems to me that there are two extremes when it comes to the will of God. One extreme is demonstrated by those who are willing to let their experiences trump the Word of God. The other extreme is the position that the only way God speaks to man today is through His Word.

It seems to me that those who place the emphasis on experience quite often wind up following their own feelings and blaming God for living after their own desires. On the other hand, those who believe that God does not speak through His Spirit to our spirit leave no room for individual guidance. To them, I would ask the question: “Why does the Holy Spirit indwell us?” What is His function and purpose in the life of the believer?”

In either case, the extreme position leaves man in charge of his own life. Granted that those, who believe God speaks only through the Bible, will limit themselves to behaviors which are not contrary to Scripture. But if I follow their position, I could leave Michigan and move to Florida because I like warmer weather. I could give less than I do because after all, the Bible only commands a tithe and a gift, and I am going far beyond that—and God has no individual will about how much money I place in His work. Both extremes leave man to be more in charge of his life than God intends. Here are four simple Scriptural steps to knowing the will of God.

1. A Commitment to Do His Will

If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.—John 7:17

The idea of this verse is that a man must determine to do the will of God. In other words before God has any obligation to reveal His will to me, I have an obligation to submit to it, even while not knowing what it is. God doesn’t have the responsibility to tell me His will so I may examine it, discuss it with Him, and decide whether or not I wish to follow it. God shows me His will so I may live in compliance with it.

2. Consistency in the Word

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.—Psalm 119:105

Most of the decisions I need to make in life are given to me in the Word of God. The Bible tells me how I should treat my spouse, how I should raise my children, how I should deal with my enemies, and how I should handle my money. It also tells me what kind of a friend I should be, what my relationship should be to the local church and its pastor, and so forth.

It’s interesting that the analogy of the Scripture as a light unto our path is misunderstood by most of us in twenty-first century America. We think of a flashlight shining some distance down the trail. However, in Bible times, the reference was to an oil lamp worn on the ankle of the traveler which would only illuminate the path enough for him to see where to put his foot for the next step.

God doesn’t always tell us His long-range plan for us. But He will let us know, step by step, day by day, what He wants us to do. He has promised this in Psalm 32:8: I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.”

3. Counsel from Wise Men

Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counselors they are established.—Proverbs 15:22

For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.—Proverbs 24:6

These verses do not teach that we should run from person to person until someone agrees with what we already thought. They do teach that we should have godly, Spirit-filled, biblically-based counselors who can give us insight to the Scriptural approach for the decisions we are making.

4. Conviction from Within

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.—Colossians 3:15

The word rule here is the same as umpire. It’s very important to note that this verse must only be applied after the first three points have been practiced thoroughly. Those who tend to say, “The Lord led me…” or “God wanted…,” but haven’t been faithful in the Word of God and had a commitment to do God’s will, will usually make a mistake. However, having followed steps one through three, God does promise to give me an inner peace that will help me know the path He wants me to take.

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