The Big Issue: How Can I Know God’s Guidance? (John MacDiarmid)

First of all – we can be clear that the concept of God giving us direction and guidance is clearly in God’s word. Here are some of the clearest examples of it:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” Psalm 32 v8

Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.” Psalm 25 v.12

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3v 5-6

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is— his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12 v 2

The question then arises – what do we mean by God’s will?

When Christians talk about God’s will, they can mean one of three things:

  1. God’s Sovereign Will

This refers to everything that happens in the universe which has been specifically allowed by a sovereign God. The fall of man in the Garden of Eden was not something that God wanted to happen – but it was certainly something that God allowed, that he could have prevented and therefore we can say that it is a part of God’s sovereign will.

  1. God’s Moral Will

This refers to everything that God’s morally pure character, God’s holiness, wishes to see happen. It does not pre-suppose a perfect will in every situation for every person, but it indicates that here are things that god wishes to see happen. He wants us to eat, but we would probably agree that he does not have a perfect will for you in every decision that you make about what you eat. He wants you to wear clothes – but he probably does not have a perfect will for you in what pair of socks you put on today.

  1. God’s individual will

When people talk about finding God’s will – this is what they usually mean. This is what causes angst, pain, confusion amongst Christians – much of it totally unnecessary!

So how do I find God’s will for my life?

Firstly we need to understand that sometimes God does give very specific guidance for our decisions. He told Philip to go out to meet the Ethiopian, Moses how to build the ark of the covenant, Noah how to build the other type of ark, Abraham to leave Ur, Joseph to go to Egypt…we could go on and on. God speaks through prophets, dreams and in a myriad of other ways.

Secondly, we need to understand that very often (usually?) God does NOT give very specific directions. We often read of Paul deciding to do this or that, and the fact is that for most decisions in life, including some surprisingly big ones, God does not give us specific guidance. He intends us to use our judgement, our knowledge of his will as revealed by His Spirit in the word of God and our common sense to take decisions.

  • Wisdom vs. guidance?

So often we want guidance – but God wants us to use wisdom that he has freely given. Wisdom is the ability to decide correctly what to do – it is not the same as receiving divine guidance – which takes no wisdom at all.

  • Field vs. Dot?

Traditional views of guidance have seen God’s will as a dot in the centre of a page. We talk about “being in the centre of God’s will”. Is it not more appropriate to see God’s will as a field, in which we have choices to make? We can decide which part of the field to graze in, and what to eat in it. There are some choices that are wise and some that are less so, but the only way we can go “outside God’s will” is if we leave the field.

  • Child vs. adult?

Our children make zero decisions for themselves. 20 years later they make all their own decisions. What has happened in the meantime is that they have grown up! As we grow up God entrusts to us more and more of the decision-making, so that, as long as we don’t leave God’s moral will, we can’t go wrong!

  • Right vs. righteous?

So often we want to make right decisions – God is far more interested in us taking righteous decisions. Or, to put it another way, we don’t need to be obsessed about God’s individual will. If we are to be obsessed about anything, it is about God’s MORAL will. If we get this right, the individual will takes care of itself

Making Righteous and Right Decisions

Some Assumptions for Good Decision-making

  1. Jesus is Lord

Someone wanting guidance and help with decision-making will only get it to the extent that they are submitted to Jesus. A key question here is: am I prepared to do whatever God requires of me, no matter what it may be or how hard I may find it? If the answer to that question is “yes”, then there is rarely a problem.

2. Trust

When I come to a decision, do I trust that I am in God’s hands, that he will never let me down and that he cares for me. If we do, then decision-making becomes so much easier. He will never allow us, if we trust Him to make a choice that will damage us forever.

Some Barriers to good decision-making

  1. Time

Beware of being rushed. It has been said “Satan rushes men, God guides them”. Some decisions are time-critical, some are not. Some decisions simply don’t need to be made today. Some decisions are best left to another day. We need wisdom to know the difference. Very often we don’t have the information needed to decide today because we don’t need to decide today.

  1. Procrastination

On the other hand, there are some decisions that DO need to be made. A genuine faith in God and security in his love will enable us to be bold in these situations and launch out knowing that He will not let us fall.

  1. Peer pressure and expediency

One of the worst decisions in history was the decision of Pontius Pilate to hand Jesus over to the Jewish authorities to be crucified.. Amazingly, this was a decision that Pilate KNEW was the wrong one. Not only did he have his own misgivings, he even had his wife telling him that it was wrong, through a supernatural dream! So why did he make that decision – he was more concerned about what others would think, about the effect of his decision on his career, than he was about doing the right thing.

The child of God knows that when he takes the right decision, God will always look after him – even if he has to wait for eternity.

  1. Beware of “Spiritual Blackmail”.

This is the “God told me to..” syndrome. Once we say that God told us to do something, we place ourselves above question, criticism or reproach. It is often a sign of great immaturity when someone ascribes to God something that is basically their own decision. On the other hand – Go MAY have told them to do this. Wisdom needed!

So – how do we make good decisions?

  1. The Word of God

Have I ransacked the scriptures for what God has to say on a subject?

  1. Prayer

Have I ransacked the resources of heaven to help me in this decision?

  1. Counsel

Have I ransacked the resources of those who are around me, and taken on board their wisdom and counsel?

  1. Peace

Have I experienced the peace of God in this situation?

  1. Circumstances

Have I looked carefully at the circumstances surrounding this decision – i.e. open and closed doors? When doors close, it is usually because it not one I should go through! If I door is open – it MAY be the right one. NB Beware of Fleeces!

It is a characteristic of immaturity to rely on only one of these.

Good decision-making can take place when…

… after serious study of the word of God involving the issues concerned, continuous prayer, talking things through with mature Christians who know me well and have my best interests at heart, the Holy Spirit produces in me a deep inner conviction and peace that stands that test of time that a particular course of action is the right one to follow.

Above all believe Romans 8 v 28 with all your heart:

“ And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”

John MacDiarmid

May 2011

Posted Under: The Big Issue

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