“He’s so full of the Holy Spirit, he won’t drink a cup of coffee unless God tells him to.”
Years ago, that’s what someone told me about a Christian leader he was all fired-up about.
Wow! I wish God spoke with me that way. Then I could be sure I understood His will for my life. No worries. No mistakes. 100% sure of God’s best for my life. That’s what God wants.
❯ HOW GOD GUIDES US
We all wish God’s guidance came as a voice from heaven from time to time. I know I do.
Moses had the burning bush. Gideon had his fleece. Elijah heard an audible voice. Daniel had dreams. Mary spoke with an angel. John and Paul had their visions.
Why not us?
We all want God to speak to us, to guide us. We all want the comfort and confidence of hearing, “this is the way, walk ye in it.”
But the plain and simple truth is that God usually doesn’t guide us with the miraculous. A survey of all the great Christian lives since the 1st century would show that 99.9999% of the time God guides His people in the same way He guides all people and nations: through providence, not miracle; through the ordinary, not extraordinary.
I’m pretty sure that Christian leader never received a sign from heaven when it was time for his next latte.
I’m not saying God can’t guide by extraordinary means. (No one wants to put God in a box.) And, it’s not that He’s arbitrary about giving guidance—sometimes miraculous, sometimes not. Neither is it that only super-spiritual people get a miraculous word from the Lord. It’s just that truly miraculous guidance always seems to be associated with moving the great story of redemption forward in some significant way. And that story has, essentially, been told in full. So, unless you’re a Patriarch, or Prophet, or Apostle, or personally associated with one of them (and we aren’t), then it’s probably unwise to ever utter the words, “God told me…”
❯ CONFUSION ABOUT GOD’S WILL
Right about now you may think this sounds like a new heresy, or an old, cold, dead religion. You have your own stories of how God did these amazing thing to lead you at a crucial time. You know God spoke to you.
I believe you. I have those stories, too. But you must admit that those strong inner promptings from the Holy Spirit, and those divine appointments, fall far short of the miraculous. And, more to my point, you know these are the exception in your experience, not the rule.
Does this mean God doesn’t want to make His will plain to us?—Not at all. Scripture rules out that possibility (See Psalm 32:8; Proverbs 3:5-6; and James 1:5.) God’s guidance is real. We just need to learn to perceive it in the way He gives it.
Well then, if God isn’t likely to make His will obvious with signs and wonders, visions and voices, how can you and I know what His will is? I think the first step is to clear away some of the mistaken beliefs we have about God’s will for our lives.
Here’s some of the mistaken beliefs about God’s will that I’ve had to unlearn myself.
❯ EIGHT MISTAKEN BELIEFS ABOUT GOD’S WILL
1. God’s will is this mysterious thing that you can get or lose.
False. God’s will is what everyone experiences every moment of their existence. Searching for God’s will? You’re living in it. (See Psalm 115:3; Job 12:9-10 and any of the hundreds of other Bible verses about God’s control of the affairs of men.)
2. God only reveals His will to people who really, really, really, want it bad enough. You have to earn it.
False. God is good, and makes His will plain as day for everyone to understand. That’s why we’re all responsible to Him. How does He do it? Read on…
3. God only reveals His will in miraculous ways.
False. God most often reveals His will and gives you guidance in ordinary ways: studying Scripture, hearing a sermon, conversation with friends, thinking through an issue, reading a book, seeking counsel, making a pros/cons worksheet.
4. Understanding God’s will means finding out what God wants you to do in every circumstance you face.
False. God wants you to make your own choices. He wants you to learn how to make wise, biblically-informed, God-honoring choices which are motivated by your desire to glorify Him. (Tim Keller has a terrific sermon on this topic called, “Your Plans; God’s Plans”.)
5. When you are faced with a choice, there is never more than one option that is God’s will for you.
False. Multiple options may be within God’s will. There isn’t just one right person to marry. There isn’t just one right career, or college, or ministry. Your motive in the choice, your commitment to honor God in the choice, is far more significant than the choice itself. (See Romans 12:1-2.)
6. If your choice didn’t turn out well, you must be out of God’s will.
False. It’s your motive and obedience, and when necessary, repentance, that matter to God. He oversees the outcomes to accomplish His good purpose in your life, regardless of how well the outcomes suit you.
7. If you make a wrong, or even, sinful choice, you could forfeit God’s will permanently.
False. God’s will is inviolable; He does all He wills. That means His will for you succeeds in spite of your sins and failures. Repent when you must. Then don’t fear; just trust His sovereign, providential, merciful, fatherly care for you. (See Philippians 4:6-7, and this post on God’s will and your big, stupid mistakes.)
8. The Bible doesn’t tell you enough to know what God’s will is for you.
False. God’s will for all the biggest issues of your life are clearly revealed in Scripture. Scripture is the sufficient rule for your life and faith. It informs the daily decisions you make by forming the foundation of your outlook on life.
⟩ Who will you serve and worship?
⟩ How will you spend your life?
⟩ How will you treat your fellow man?
⟩ How can you receive God’s mercy?
❯ GOD’S WILL AND OUR MISTAKES
Are you worried about how your choices, mistakes or sins may affect God’s will for your life? I know how that feels, and I wrote this post for you. A lot of people visit our blog because they’re worried about how their big, stupid mistakes affect God’s will. They find Average Us by Googling phrases like:
⟩ “I lost my destiny because of silly mistakes”
⟩ “Does God help us when we make mistakes?”
⟩ “Can God correct our mistakes?”
I really hope these two posts give you hope and point your thinking in a new direction. I hope you can learn something from our blog about how God’s faithfulness, providence, sovereignty, and forgiveness relate to your mistakes.
And one more thing…
If right now you’re still thinking, “Yeah, but what does God want me to do?” Here’s what I try to do…
❯ HOW TO
FIND DO LIVE IN GOD’S WILL
1. Grow ever more aware of how dependent you are on God’s grace, help, strength, wisdom, guidance, and love.
2. Study Scripture for the rest of your life to get guidance on the big picture of life.
3. Commit yourself to obedience to God in all things.
4. Eliminate God-dishonoring (disobedient) options from consideration.
5. Pray for guidance when needed, expecting God to answer through any means He pleases, including ordinary means.
6. Weigh the pros/cons of the alternatives you see.
7. Seek the perspective of appropriate counselors.
8. Examine your motives.
9. Make a decision.
10. Submit your plans to God.
11. Follow through on your decision in a God-honoring way.
12. Trust God for the outcome (whether good or bad).
13. Learn a bit more wisdom in the process.
Alas, you’re average like me. And we will make mistakes, some of them big and stupid. But never fear. Hope in God. He is great, even when life, even when your mistake-prone life, isn’t.
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