Never assume that with all God’s got on His plate in running the world that He’s got bigger fish to fry or more important things to do than leading you along the path of His will. If even the hairs on our heads are numbered, know this – God cares about us and the details of our lives. But how do we discern God’s will for our lives?
Paul E Little, the author of “Affirming God’s Will” mentions four “principles of guidance” which are worthy of mention.
I. The Word of God
Little tells of the girl who signed a contract to teach school in the Fall, but later in the summer received an offer closer to home which was more to her liking. She broke the original contract in favor of the more desirable offer claiming she had “a peace about it.” The department head left holding the bag said, “She’s got a peace, but I’ve got the pieces.” Psalm 15:4 and it’s immediate context says that a person who “keeps his oath (honors a contract), even when it hurts,” will be one who enjoys God’s presence. The implication is that this young lady in this instance missed God’s will for her life by going back on her word. God doesn’t throw us on the scrap heap when we mess up in this way, but He does graciously call us to repentance and new beginnings.
As we pray about a particular course of action, the Holy Spirit will produce an inner sense of conviction that will grow with the passage of time, while other options, which may seem equally compelling or valid at the outset, gradually take a back seat. I think of our Lord, in demonstration of His full humanity, who, before choosing His disciples, sought the Father in prayer through the night, to ascertain His will. We too are called to times of concerted prayer as we seek God’s guidance at important crossroads of our lives.
We must exericise a degree of caution here because most of us tend to ascribe too much importance to circumstances in attempting to discern God’s guidance. How often have we said to someone in reflecting on a past course of action, “It seemed like the thing to do at the time.” Open doors, in and of themselves, are usually insufficient validation of God’s leading. They have value as confirming evidence of God’s direction, but are not intended to stand alone. For example, just because the seminary I applied to following the completion of my undergraduate degree was only accepting one out of two applicants, wasn’t sufficient enough reason to assume that my acceptance by the seminary was God’s leading for my life. Conversely, the mere fact that obstacles arise once you’ve chosen a particular course of action doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve missed God’s leading, or that He has closed that door. The Apostle Paul was called to spread the gospel among the Gentiles, yet his life included hardships of all kinds. Fortunately for all of us, he was not deterred in the fulfillment of his ministry.
IV. The Counsel of Mature Christians
I’m always a little leary of the person who seems too quick or eager to say “God led me,” as if they have a personal pipeline to God. I remember working at a department store warehouse in Los Angeles during my Bible School days and encountering a young man who felt strongly “led of the Lord” to place gospel literature in the pockets of the garments being shipped out to the various stores. Not so surprisingly to me, this young man was unceremoniously fired a couple of weeks later. The rest of us knew why – the violation of company policy. Some of us had tried to reason with him but to no avail. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” The counsel of mature believers provides insights we may have overlooked or encouragement we may need in order to discern God’s path for our lives.
Usually, it is the alignment of all four dimensions discussed here that provide the sense of direction that as Christians we seek. -MAJ