Discerning God’s Will

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian. I am just a believer, working out my faith. Your rebuttals are always welcome in the comments section.

Back in high school, I got into a conversation with my friend Luke Draeger about whether or not we need to pray about everything we do. On one hand, we are told to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17) and on the other hand we are admonished to use scripture as our guide (Psalm 119:105).  As high school students are prone to do, we threw out our best semi-educated guesses and left it at that. It is a question that, for me, needs continuous attention.

J.I. Packer writes in Knowing God, Chapter 20, “Thou Our Guide”, that there is a hyper-spiritualism in believing that God speaks directly to us more than he uses his Word. Why would he continue to whisper in your ear when he’s written down what He has for us? Our lives are best when guided by the Word of God. Packer shares some pitfalls that await those who pursue signs, supernatural insights and “open doors” in order to guide our lives. For the sake of brevity, here are four of those pitfalls:

  1. Unwillingness to think. There is a pseudo-spiritual persona lived by those who refuse to be wise and discern facts. So much of scripture guides us to sharpen our minds and get wisdom. Why? Because with wisdom, we make wise choices.
  2. Unwillingness to suspect ourselves. I had a wise teacher years ago who helped me to understand the importance of not trusting myself. My problem is that nobody can lie to me as well as I can. That’s where I have to constantly align my actions with Scripture in order to defeat deception that may exist internally. My senses and instincts seek gratification, sometimes at the expense of other senses and instincts. Psalm 139:23-24
  3. Unwillingness to discount personal magnetism. The more I depend on my own charisma to sell the Gospel, the less Gospel I am selling. Humility is the only way to counterbalance the pull of power and fame in a Christian’s life… especially a pastor.
  4. Unwillingness to wait. Prophets and evangelists have a very difficult time not saying anything. What happens when the Lord doesn’t answer? What do you say when there is spiritual silence? The human temptation is to fill in the dead air with a person’s educated guess. If God isn’t in a hurry, then neither should we make haste.

On several occasions, I have had visions or direct revelations from God about his will. When these insights come, they have to run through my filter:

Does it contradict the Word? If so, it’s more likely indigestion than revelation.

The concept of living life wholly dependent upon God to direct your every step distances us from the reality that we are called to live wise, disciplined and discerning lives. Hyper-spiritualism would have us believe that we are paralyzed until we hear from the Lord. This paradigm is sometimes evidenced within Pentecostals. On the other hand, we are completely dependent upon God for our every breath… he is the sustainer of life and the ultimate authority.

Vocational and familial choices can be difficult to discern because the Scripture doesn’t tell each reader which job to choose or which spouse to marry. These are decisions we make based on our understanding of God’s written will; His principled desires for our lives. He created us with a certain personality, at a specific time in a geographic location in order to pick our life choices, with the Holy Spirit working through us, and the Scripture in front of us. Our personality is who we are; character is what we do with it. If there is anything good in our character, it is because the Bible is working that good within us.

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2 thoughts on “Discerning God’s Will

  1. Great words Shawn – you’ve succinctly articulated and brought insights to some questions I’ve been asking over the past weeks.

    Hearing from God… When David and Saul needed to hear God’s voice, they asked Samuel; and often times, God had very specific direction for them. Other times, God was silent. I’ve been asking myself how this level of communication can be achieved.

    (For what it’s worth), here’s the process I use to identify actions and decisions that best align with God’s will: Wisdom, Word, Council, Prayer, Fasting, and PATIENCE. “No” is still an answer… and we need to be patient and wait for marching orders before we make a move.

  2. How do you remember this conversation we had in high school, and Zack has no recollection of the “only enough energy to sit and drool” comment he made?
    Good thoughts here, my friend.

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