We’re very grateful to Tim Challies for providing 4 blogs on knowing God’s will. This is 4/4.
Today we come to the fourth and final part of this short series on knowing and doing the will of God. In the first part of the series I laid a foundation of God’s complete sovereignty over the universe and in the second part I sought to show that God is speaking to us today and how God is speaking to us today. In the third part I showed that God is speaking to you and revealing his will for your life. In this final instalment I want to ask the big question: When it comes right down to it, how do I make decisions that please God?
I want to give you 3 questions that will guide you as you think about any decision or any situation and that will help you have confidence that you are doing God’s will for your life. As you consider that big decision, you need to ask these three questions in order.
What does the Bible say about it? That’s a rather obvious question, but it’s one we sometimes miss. What does the Bible say about it? Is there a passage in the Bible that speaks directly to this issue or is there a principle that applies to it?
We need to look to the Bible because this is where we hear God’s voice. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 gives us direction when it says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Teaching, reproof, correction and training—that is exactly what we need when we are making decisions. There is nothing else God promises for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. Feelings, circumstances and impressions can’t do this. Only the Bible.
What this means is that when facing big decisions, you need to search the Scriptures and to ask others to help you as you do this. This is a great time to talk to a parent or pastor or mentor or some other person to have them help you. They may have a greater knowledge of the Bible and can help bring the Bible to bear on your situation.
What you are especially looking for here is one of two things: a clear command that you must do something, or a clear command that you must not do something. If the Bible speaks directly to the issue, you’ve got to obey right away. When God speaks, we must listen and obey.
When making a decision, there is your first big question and it’s the most important one of all: What does God say in his Word?
Of course not every question has an immediate and easy yes or no answer. Should I dedicate time every week to meeting as part of a local church? Yes, absolutely. The Bible speaks clearly. Should I go to university or get a job and begin a career? There we may not find as clear an answer. Not every question immediately yields that yes or no.
And for that reason we’ve got 2 more questions to ask, but before we get to them, we have to see that we are about to cross a line here. We are crossing a line of freedom. Where God speaks a clear yes or no we have no freedom before him to obey or disobey. We must obey God right away. But in issues where God does not speak that clear yes or no, we have freedom. Does God want me to begin a career or does he want me to go to university? I will not find a clear yes or no in the Bible. What this means is that I now have freedom to decide. God does not have clear commands for every area of life. Instead, he has structured our relationship to him in such a way that we have freedom to make choices. And we don’t just have freedom to make choices, but to make choices that God will support, that he won’t punish. Once we’ve gotten past what God commands and forbids in the Bible, we get to choose and then experience the Lord’s blessings. It is a choice between good and good or maybe a choice between better or best. But it’s no longer a choice between good and bad, between right and wrong.
The next 2 questions help us here as we grapple with our free choices.
What is the wisest choice? Or what is the choice that will be most spiritually profitable? Which one seems to offer the greatest opportunities? This is a time to use your God-given mind and your Spirit-filled mind, to think through the issues and decide on the wisest course. Can I afford to go to school or will that saddle me with debt that I’ll never be able to pay off? Has the Lord given me exceptional intellectual gifts? How will I best be able to serve my brothers and sisters in Christ? What will allow me to be a good husband and father?
Remember here that you’re not deciding between good and bad, but between better and best. How can you best use the gifts and opportunities God has given you? Think of Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” God is renewing your mind every day so you can have his wisdom and do what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Do you see the freedom in this question? Many people teach that if you make the wrong decision, you’ll be stepping outside God’s will for your life. That if you don’t heed circumstances and all these feelings and impressions and everything else that you’ll no longer be in the centre of God’s will or something like that. That is nonsense! You need to free yourself from that! If you are not disobeying God’s revealed will, if you are not directly disobeying the Bible, you are in God’s will. God has given you a brain for a reason and he’s given you desires for a reason. He’s given you freedom to choose what you should do. He is a loving father who will support you either way.
So be wise. Use your mind, use the Bible, use the cumulative wisdom of your brothers and sisters in Christ and make decisions that reflect a well-trained, Spirit-led mind.
Of course after thinking through the wisdom of a decision you may find that you still have questions. Maybe you look to the Bible and you pray and you talk to friends and you look for counsel from your pastors and at the end of it all it doesn’t seem like either decision would be unwise. That brings you to the final question.
What do you want to do? Isn’t it amazing that we get to ask this question? What do you want to do? What desires has God given you? What makes you happy? What brings you joy? What excites you? Find that thing and go do it. If that’s applying for university and pursuing a degree, go for it and do it for God’s glory. If that’s going out and getting a job, go for it and do it for God’s glory. God will be with you every step of the way. You’ll be doing God’s will. In fact, you will have found God’s will.
Do you see where this has taken us? God gives us his moral will, his revealed will, in the Bible. Here is where he tells us what we must do and what we must not do. But the rest of God’s will can only be found by doing it. Does God want you to go to university or get a job? Yes, he does. Either one. Be wise, do what you love, and you’re doing God’s will. Do it with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength and you’ll be doing God’s will for your life. And God will be right there with you, blessing you, loving you, pleased with you. That’s who he is. That’s how you do his will.
God has made his will clear but within that will there is a whole world of freedom. It’s freedom that allows you and me to live completely different lives, but both of us to live lives that honour God. It’s freedom to express our faith in different ways, to be very different people in very different fields with very different interests. And both of us can live with complete freedom, knowing that God is with us, that he is thrilled with us, that we are doing his will.
And Christian, this is far, far better. So let’s be careful with using language like “God told me.” God will tell you all kinds of things; but he won’t tell you what car to buy or what girl to marry. He wants you to make that decision, he wants you to make that decision with the wisdom he has given you, and he wants you to do it for his glory. Do that, and you are doing God’s will. Do that in the freedom he has given you. Do it for him, do it confidently and do it boldly and he will be right there with you through it all.