One of the questions I hear most often from young people are questions related to knowing God’s will for their lives. College and career choices, dating and marriage questions, these are the kinds of decisions that will have life-long impact, so it’s imperative that we learn to discern and follow God’s direction.
Thankfully, God doesn’t want to leave us bumping around in the dark, He loves for us to ask Him questions that will lead to taking His course of direction for our lives!
Last year, I started out every morning with this prayer from Psalm 143. It’s a prayer filled with good requests. This week, I want us to pull that prayer apart and look at what it conveys and how we can use this prayer to ask the questions God delights in answering.
The prayer opens with a request to “hear” something from God: “Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust.” (v.8)
Yesterday, I shared with you ways we can “hear” of His steadfast love and gave a few examples of what that love can look like. Today, I want to explore the next phrase in that verse:
“Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”
I believe the key to knowing God’s will for our lives; knowing the direction He wants us to take, discerning His plan for the day, is found in the last words of the verse: “for to you I lift up my soul.”
Proverbs 3:5–6 describes it this way:
[box]Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.[/box]
How do we “acknowledge Him” in all our ways?
What does it look like to “lift up my soul” to God in order to “know the way I should go?”
I think there are basically five elements involved in seeking God’s will and getting direction when we need to make critical decisions.
1) What does the Word say?
The most fundamental starting place for determining God’s will is in Scripture. Some things are absolutely clear in Scripture, for example, I don’t have to wonder whether it is God’s will to get things right with a brother I’ve offended . . . Matthew 5 tells me that’s what I’m supposed to do!
It’s not so easy when trying to determine questions that Scripture doesn’t address specifically, like: what job I should take, or who I should marry. But there are basic biblical principles that we can apply to these questions.
There is also the very real element of God taking His Word and spiritually applying it to a specific question we have. (I’m not talking about twisting His Word to “make it say” what I want it to say in order to get a “green light” from God.) What I’m proposing is to carefully seek His Word and ask Him to train you through studying the Word to discern His ways.
2) What do godly friends say?
I am so thankful to have older and wiser friends who are able to look objectively at my life and come alongside me with their knowledge of the Word, with an understanding of God’s ways, combined with their mature life experience, and speak truth into my life when I ask for input. Wise friends are a valuable resource!
If you don’t have truth-speakers in your life, I encourage you to cultivate some. Ask God to provide them. Seek mature believers out in your church body and develop friendships. Receive their input, but realize that they are fallible. Weigh their input with the other elements involved in seeking God’s will.
3) What is the counsel of those in spiritual leadership at my church?
I am extremely grateful for this input. If you have elders who seek God, follow Scripture, and watch for your soul, then you have a valuable resource. Hebrews 13:17 describes the beautiful relationship between church leadership and their flock this way:
[box]Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.[/box]
Again, the counsel of church leadership is fallible, but those who “watch over your soul” with the knowledge that one day they will “have to give an account” to God, will be careful in the counsel they share.
4) How is God leading me in prayer?
Lay before God your desire to hear from Him and be led by Him. Pursue God’s will through serious prayer that is shaped by Scripture. Humbly approach God with confidence that He will lead you and trust that both the Son and the Spirit are interceding for you:
[box]Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:26, 34)[/box]
5) Are there circumstances that seem to indicate God has been preparing me to proceed in a certain direction?
Circumstances are usually the first thing people commonly look to when making an important decision. Factors like: finances, comfort, résumé enhancement, infatuation, fear of man, desire for approval, impatience, ambition, can all influence our choices, but they aren’t necessarily proof that this is God’s plan.
Try to take an objective view and process the decision through the grid of God’s sovereignty: can you recognize people, training, experiences that He’s put into place in your life to help you prepare for this course of action?
Will this decision be more conducive to your spiritual growth or will you be put in a vulnerable position?
If you believe God has placed circumstances in your life that confirm the direction you think He’s leading, can objective, spiritually mature friends recognize this as well?
I’ve found these five elements to be a protective covering and helpful guide as I seek to know God’s will.
What are you seeking God about right now?
Do you have an area in your life that you need to hear from Him in order to make a life-altering decision?
How are you seeking His answer?