finding God’s will

Posted on March 5, 2009


As a pastor, you often get asked the question: “What is God’s will for me in X situation (relationship, marriage, finances, career options, college choice, etc)?”  I have found that very few people have any type of grid for making these kinds of decisions, all of which have the potential to accelerate or derail one’s effectiveness as a follower of Jesus.  In my experience, a lot of people make decisions fairly impulsively and reactively, rather than proactively and aggressively pursuing God’s will through a series of wise decisions on a daily basis.

How can we help the people in our churches make better choices that are aligned with the character and heart of Jesus?  Here are some thoughts I shared with our students last night in our new series, “GPS.”   I would also highly recommend the book Manly Dominion by Mark Chanski on this topic.

1. Bad Approaches to Finding God’s Will:

  • Magic 8 Ball Approach – we treat God as some kind of genie or good luck charm whose responses are largely unknowable and capricious
  • Billboard Reading Approach – this approach consistently “tests” God through a series of negotiations that go something like this: “God, if you want me to do this, then . . . ” Then, we look around for evidences to confirm what we want to do and disconfirm what we don’t want to do.  This comes very close to taking the Lord’s name in vain.
  • Sailboat Approach – we wait for some kind of strong “wind” from the Lord (emotional experience, peace, “God is calling me to do this,” etc) to blow us from one decision to the next.  I see this most often in teenagers and young adults when they say things like, “God is leading me to break up with you . . .” or “God is just leading me to another church . . .” Once again, this can be a fourth commandment issue.
  • Plug-N-Chug Approach – in a very perfunctory, mechanical, and anti-supernatural way, we evaluate decisions by simply adding up the pros and cons, bottom lines, or a number of other factors.   This is, in practice, no different than the process an atheist would utilize in their decision-making.  Not that these factors aren’t extremely important or part of the means God uses to help us think through an opportunity, but this approach neglects the bigger picture of God’s mission for our lives as believers and reduces God’s will to a formula.  Nothing in the Christian life is that simple.

2. The Bible says we can and must understand God’s will if we are going to be effective Christians (Eph. 5:15-17; Col. 1:9; Jn. 6:38)

3. Most of the time, “finding God’s will” is simply obeying what we already know to be true (God’s revealed will) rather than some exercise in mysticism.

4. Inasmuch as you find and do God’s will, you are a success in God’s eyes.  Inasmuch as you fail to find and do God’s will, you are a failure in God’s eyes (no matter how successful the world might regard you).

5. There are six markers we will be discussing over the course of this series that, if taken together, can provide you with a reliable guide for making wise decisions:

  • The Scriptures
  • Prayer
  • The Holy Spirit
  • Desires
  • Open Doors
  • Godly counsel
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