Knowing the will of God is one of the most difficult things for Christians to discern. Well, at least it is the one we like to pretend is the most difficult to discern. Why do I use the word pretend? Because I believe that we make how to know the will of God into some elaborate and confusing process (in our heads) so that we allow ourselves to be stuck in either indecision or sinful decision. Before I explain how and why knowing the will of God is “easy”, let me illuminate what I mean by the two “stuck” positions.
When we have a difficult decision to be made it is often the hiding spot of those too fearful of being “wrong”. Instead of exhibiting an adult and mature attitude towards the tough issues in life people choose to run from any risk. This can be seen in practice through the lives of people who let life “happen” to them. Either due to laziness or timidity, they never take ownership of their lives, and if it goes bad, well, it wasn’t their fault. 2 Timothy 2:17 tells us that we do not have a spirit of timidity, but one of boldness! When we allow life to just happen, we are saying too God that He is a liar. That when he tells you that you have a spirit of boldness through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in your life you are looking in his face and laughing. Let us not forget what happened to Sara when she laughed at the Angels statements of her future pregnancy!
I am not advocating a bull in a china shop attitude when it comes to life decisions. But you HAVE to make a decision. But I do like what I like to call “Hulk Hogan Life Philosophical Approaches: Namely, I would rather ask forgiveness then permission.
I want to believe what I want to believe. And so I justify whatever decision I want to make by claiming some strange convoluted theology that defends what I am doing. Example: I had a Christian friend in college who had sex with every girlfriend he had because he just KNEW that it was God’s will that he was going to marry this girl. After like 3-4 of them I began to think he might not know God’s will for his life as well as he was claiming…….
With all of that being said let me address what I would contend is the 2 step surefire way to knowing God’s will for your life.
One: The Bible. Ok, so no brainer right. But allow me to clarify this. First, the wrong way you can take that: Either looking for some exact word for word statement on how you should handle a specific situation, or, literally opening the bible and reading the first thing you come upon and considering that an answer(people seriously do that….sigh)
In the first example, it is obvious that the bible is “strangely” silent on whether or not you should sell crystal meth to children. But obviously you cannot just assume it is ok to do something just because there is not a specific injunction pertaining to that issue in the bible, or, more specifically, because Jesus himself did not speak against it. When you are deeply familiar with the Word of God you are able to clearly understand that there is an answer to this issue, whether or not it spells it out exactly.
Illustrative Example: My wife does not need to tell me that she would hate a Jean Claude Van Damme film for our date night. Though she has NEVER said she doesn’t like his movies, because of my intimate familiarity with who she is, I have no excuse to bring home “Time Cop” tonight instead of “Leap Year”(which is another movie she has never mentioned but I guarantee she would like it) And for the second example, opening up the bible and pointing at something, just stop, stop being stupid.
As we grow in our familiarity with the real and living God as He reveals Himself through His Word, it becomes more and more natural for us to naturally incline towards being shaped and defined by who He is, not who we want Him to be. If you claim you want to know God’s will better but resist developing an intimate and personal relationship through the regular immersion into His word, then you are a liar and actually are not that interested in knowing His will. You just want a lazy mans religion, that you can just hear some trumpet blow overhead and everything is answered for you and wrapped up in a nice bow that requires no effort or thought on your part.
The second step we need to take to discern God’s will in our lives is community. We are told two things that reinforce this view. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that above all things the heart is deceitful. Our own individualized thoughts are highly deceptive. That is due to our self-centered sin nature. Like my Christian friend with multiple sex partners, he WANTS it to be God’s will because he is a horny kid who is willing to believe anything that gives him what he wants. And then Matthew 18:20 tells us that where two or more are gathered in HIS name, HE IS THERE also.
With these two biblical truths we can see that it is people outside of our personal emotional position who themselves are rooted in God’s truth that will be able to speak clear truth to us about a given situation. How many times have you listened to a friend talk to you about something that was going on and you felt flabbergasted about how obtuse they were being? From your perspective the answer was so simple. As your friend tells you that his girlfriend hired a hit man to kill him, but he isn’t sure if he should break up with her or not because he loves her soooo much, you just sit there scratching your head because it is so obvious.
We constantly are doing that when we try to discern the will of God. When we leave ourselves to process the decision singularly and internally, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We NEED each other. If you do not have a community of believers who are deeply rooted in the word of God you will always struggle with discerning God’s will for your life.
I know that the topic, the will of God is a huge one with many possible facets. But I think once you remove all the theology and biblical exegesis, it comes down to this: I need to learn how to hear God speak clearly in my life!