We live in a world where many seek help and worldly counsel from consultants and ‘experts’ (including geomancers) concerning business, employment and financial planning.
Ancient cultures had ‘spiritual consultants’ in bomohs, witch doctors, spiritists and mediums. Some cultures still have them and, ironically, we now have a new generation of professionals called ‘church consultants’.
But Christians have an omniscient heavenly Father who is ever ready to help and advise us when we call upon him.
In Psalm 25:4, the Psalmist expressed a universal sentiment of all sincere Christians: ‘Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths’.
We are in need of divine guidance and direction every day. Life presents us with so many problems, options and influences that Christians are often at a loss to know what to do.
A young sister once asked me if it was God’s will for her to go to a particular country for studies. Many seek counsel concerning education, career options, boy-girl relationships, switching jobs, migration, moving house or choosing a school for their children.
Others experience distress after doing something that is not God’s will. I knew someone who emigrated, only to return six months later acknowledging that it was not the will of God for his family.
Another dropped out of an educational course for the sake of his family. These can be disturbing events in the life of a confused believer.
Paul said: ‘See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is’ (Ephesians 5:15-17).
But how can we discover the will of God for our lives?
Before we go into details, we must understand that if we are his children, God is ever with us, directing and leading our every step (Psalm 32:8). The Holy Spirit is our Guide and Comforter. He will show us all things concerning Christ (John 16:14).
However, there is a vast difference between sincerely seeking heavenly advice and pushing for heaven’s endorsement when we have already made up our own mind. We must not deceive ourselves, for God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7-9).
A sincere and fervent seeker will find God’s wonderful guidance in his life and be blessed. But this does not apply to the casual insincere seeker.
So, first check your motives before the Lord! Are you really prepared to submit to the will of God when he shows it to you?
Certain things are needful if we are to know God’s will. The first is a close personal relationship with God. Are you in daily close communion with God, constantly reading the Word and praying?
If you are, there is a sense in which you will know God’s will, as a child knows the desires of his father. Should I go to a pub or disco; watch this movie or video; or join in this unedifying conversation?
The answers will be obvious if we are walking with our God.
When I was staying in Jalan Bahagia in the 1970s, I used to buy breakfast for my parents every morning. I could surmise correctly what they wanted even before asking them. Why? Because we were very close.
When you are close to God, you will be sensitive to his will for your life.
Secondly, there are certain things you do not need to ask because God has already revealed his will in his Word. You need to read the Scriptures carefully and follow what they say.
For example, two things are definitely God’s will for our lives. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says: ‘For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication’.
Again, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says: ‘In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you’. Any action or decision that is consistent with scriptural injunctions is God’s will.
For example, questions like: ‘Is it God’s will for me to go to the church prayer meeting?’ or ‘Should I attend worship on the Lord’s Day?’ are questions one does not ask at all!
Why? Because they are among God’s appointed means for our sanctification. To worship, give thanks and pray are enjoined in Scripture.
There was an Old Testament prophet who the Lord told not to eat with anyone during his mission. But when an old ‘prophet’ urged him to eat, he did so. He was later killed by a lion (1 Kings 13:11–24).
He had been shown the expressed will of God but rebelled against it. Obedience is the key here, not incessant questioning of God.
Similarly, there is no point in asking: ‘Is it God’s will for me to marry this non-believer?’ We already have the answer in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.
The matters that exercise us are often questions of obedience, not questions of guidance at all.
Thirdly, when seeking guidance we should make it a matter of fervent prayer. Have you been praying importunately to the Lord in seeking his will (John 14:14)? Do you cry out to him daily in persevering prayer?
If so, the Lord will surely answer and guide you. Read John 16:24: ‘Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full’. And again Jeremiah 33:3: ‘Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not’.
God rewards those who seek him diligently with a sincere and faithful heart (Hebrews 11:6).
When Abraham’s servant was seeking a spouse for his master’s son, he prayed. God answered his prayer and guided him to Rebekah (Genesis 24:14). Our Lord says: ‘ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart’ (Jeremiah 29:13).
No one will be turned away in the matter of guidance and counsel who seeks God’s face patiently in private intercession.
Remember, however, that the answer may be direct (God gives us what we request); different (he answers our need in some other way); delayed (he makes us wait for the answer); or even denied (he says ‘no’).
Fourthly, have you consulted or spoken to someone who is a servant of God, who fears him and who knows you fairly well? Have you discussed the matter with your pastor or elder or a God-fearing friend?
Did you get the opinion of your parents, especially if they are believers who love the Lord? God uses godly people to help others along the way.
Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 18:7-17) asked Micaiah, God’s servant; Samuel asked Eli when he was called by the Lord (1 Samuel 3:9). Do not be afraid to ask for spiritual counsel and words of advice.
Man’s words are not infallible. For example, Nathan’s initial advice to David on building a temple was wrong and had to be countermanded by God (1 Chronicles 17:2-4). But on balance, the advice of others is useful especially when it is confirmed by other factors mentioned here.
Fifthly, we need to consider the prevailing circumstances. God often uses events in our lives, providentially, to reveal his will. You plan to serve the Lord in a certain way but family or financial circumstances hinder you. What do you do?
Wait on the Lord for the right timing. If the circumstances persist, recognise the sovereignty of God in the providence he sends. If one door closes, another will open.
However, we must be careful not to give circumstances undue emphasis. Favourable circumstances do not always signify God’s will, nor unfavourable circumstances God’s prohibition.
When Jonah ran away from God he found a ship conveniently awaiting him at Joppa (Jonah 1:3). But that did not mean he was doing God’s will in defying his clear and definite command!
Other considerations are equally important and we should look for a concurrence of several such factors as indicative of God’s will.
Finally, what about the inner conviction and condition of your heart? Do you experience peace and serenity when you have made a particular decision? God frequently ministers grace and comfort to our hearts directly.
Some years ago, a brother called me concerning a job offer he had received, with attractive salary and prospects. He passed the interview and was about to make the career change involved, but he had no peace in his heart.
The circumstances were favourable, but there was one complication — he had no peace or conviction about the matter. That settled it finally for him.
‘Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life’ (Proverbs 4:23). A heart of peace, joy and contentment in the Lord, and time to serve God, are more valuable than a quantum jump in salary and perks.
Put God first, and he will surely bless you (Matthew 6:33; Colossians 3:2). Remember Matthew 6:21: ‘where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’. Whoever honours God, God will honour him (1 Samuel 2:30).