Saturday, September 18, 2010

Discerning God's Will

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. (Isa 55:8)

I have been caught in many situations where I lamented “If only God would speak to me clearly now”, “if only I was like some others who seem to believe they understand exactly what God thinks and what he would do in every situation.” However, I do believe that God’s ways and thoughts are far beyond our ability to fully understand all the time. If we are unable to read one another’s minds, except through calculated guesses, we definitely cannot read God’s mind.

Nevertheless, there are ways that God gives us glimpses into his thoughts and desires. I believe these are the ways:

1. Through His written Word. The Bible has been given to us by inspiration from God. It teaches us what is true. It points out wrong things about our lives and guides us into doing things right (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Therefore, if we seek God’s will and way, it is best to begin by saturating our minds with God’s Word.

2. Through prayer. Prayer is not about presenting a shopping list to God, it is a dialogue with our loving Heavenly Father. Prayer focuses our thoughts and attunes us to all that God is. Thus, we are prepared to hear what he might say to us. Does God speak to us through prayer? I believe he does, but with a still small voice that is more sensed than heard.

Yet, there are times when, in trying to discern God's will, nothing seems to come to you through the Bible or prayer. I believe there are also indirect ways that God makes his will known:

1. Circumstances. God works through providential circumstances. He will create opportunities, e.g. through open and closed doors, and then place it all in our paths - in order to direct your steps or confirm a particular direction. We should pray and ask God to confirm the steps then. It is also important to discern if the opportunity presented is against God’s revealed will. In doing so, we can make sure that the situation before us in not coincidental.

2. Good Judgment. God has given a sound mind, able to weigh pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses, threats and opportunities. We should use it. In times like this, I mentally check-off pros against cons, strengths against weaknesses, etc. This way I can discern which side outweighs the other. However, there is a need for caution. Our perceptions are not always objective (Jer 17:9). Thus, in a real sense, judgment is limited in how far it can direct us along God’s path, even if our hearts are at peace with our conclusion. It is always best to check the decision with other means, such as God’s revealed Word, counsel of others, prayer, etc.

3. Advice of Others. The advice of mature Christians is highly regarded, “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice” (Prov. 12:15). Yet, it is seldom sought in these days of individualistic expressions of faith. The advice of other mature Christians in Christ’s body is more objective than ours. They have their own experiences and knowledge and the wisdom to be gleaned from them is valuable.

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