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Discerning and obeying God’s will

November 2018 | by Jack Sin

Many today seek guidance over such things as work, education, employment and financial planning. But Christians have an omniscient and omnipresent Consultant, ever ready to help us when we call on him.

Paul warns us in Ephesians 5:15–17: ‘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’.

Many issues

Many have had distressing experiences after learning it is not God’s will for them to do something. There was someone who migrated to another country only to return in about a year’s time, acknowledging that it was not the will of God. Another took up an MBA course and dropped it without completing it. One resigned from an unsuitable job after a few months; another divorced his spouse shortly after marriage.

The psalmist speaks for us all if we are sincere Christians: ‘Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths’ (Psalm 25:4). We are in dire need of divine direction every day. Life presents itself with so many issues, options, and challenges and we are often at a loss in decision-making. What should we do?

A young person asks if it is God’s will to go to a particular country for further studies. Others seek counsel concerning academic and career options, boy-girl relationships, changing jobs or residence, buying a new car. Where do we get the answer and how do we know the right way to go?

We must understand that God is ever with his people, willing to lead our every step (Psalm 32:8). The Holy Spirit is our guide and comforter (John 15:26). He will show us all things concerning Christ (John 16:14). Seek his holy leading and check your motives before the Lord.

Six Cs

There are six useful Cs in determining God’s will for us in any matter. First there is, Communion (intimacy) in our personal relationship with God. The servant of Abraham in Genesis 24 was in the will of the Lord while running his holy errand for his master.

Are you in daily close fellowship with God, reading the Word and praying? If you are, there is a sense in which it will be easier for you to know God’s will, as a child knows the desires of its father.

When living with my parents in my younger days, I used to buy breakfast for them every morning. Sometimes, before asking them what they wanted to eat, I could guess ahead what they wanted me to buy. Why? Because I am very close to them. To the extent that you are near to God, you will be sensitive to God’s will for your life and will follow it.

Second is Consistency with the revealed Word of God. Abraham knew it was the Lord’s will that he should not choose a Canaanite girl for his son Isaac and told his servant so. You need to read and study the infallible Scriptures carefully and strive to follow them as the spiritual map and compass of your life.

For example, here are two things that are definitely God’s will for our lives: ‘For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication’, and ‘In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you’ (1 Thessalonians 4:3; 5:18).

Obedience

Some may ask, ‘Should I work as a croupier in a casino or a bartender in a shady nightspot?’ These are questions you should not ask at all! Why? Because there are clear guidelines in Scripture over God’s will for our sanctified living.

There was a prophet in the Old Testament who was told by the Lord not to eat with anyone while on his mission. Later, an old prophet came and pretended he had another word from the Lord inviting the first prophet to eat. The first did eat, and was himself then eaten by a lion. He knew the clear expressed will of God, but chose to rebel against it (1 Kings 13:11–24).

Or consider the question, ‘Is it God’s will for me to marry this non-believer?’ Read 2 Corinthians 6:14–18. Really, you should never have asked in the first place, because the biblical injunction is unequivocally clear. It is a question of obedience or rebellion, not divine guidance.

Third is Communication with God in fervent prayer. Abraham’s servant prayed to the God of his master, asking for divine guidance and assistance. Have you been praying importunately to the Lord, seeking his will (John 14:14)? Do you cry out to him daily in persevering prayer? This is a sure mark that the Lord will guide you.

John 16:24 says, ‘Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full’. Jeremiah 33:3 says, ‘Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not’. God rewards those who diligently seek him with a sincere and faithful heart (Hebrews 11:6).

Abraham’s servant prayed and God guided him to Rebekah (Genesis 24:14). Our Lord says, ‘And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart’ (Jeremiah 29:13). You will not be cast away in the matter of guidance if you zealously seek the Lord in prayer.

Advice

Fourth, there is Consultation with a servant of God, someone who fears the Lord and who knows you fairly well. Have you discussed it with your pastor? Have you sought the opinion of your parents, especially if they are believers who love the Lord?

God uses people, especially godly men, to help others along the way. Jehoshaphat asked Micaiah, God’s servant (2 Chronicles 18:7–17). Samuel asked Eli when he was called by the Lord (1 Samuel 3:9). While man’s words are not infallible (see, for example, Nathan’s advice to David on building a temple for God, 1 Chronicles 17), they are often useful.

Fifthly, the prevailing Circumstances in life are important too. In Genesis 24 the servant used feeding the camels with water to help him determine God’s will. God often uses events in our lives to awaken us to his will.

For example, you may want to go to a particular country to engage in business, but an earthquake or typhoon has just taken place resulting in great devastation. Must you go now or at all? Wait upon the Lord for the right timing; pray to know his will; talk to others who have been there.

However, favourable circumstances do not always mean it is God’s will, and unfavourable circumstances do not always mean it is not God’s will! Jonah the prophet ran away from God and very conveniently found a ship waiting for him at Joppa (Jonah 1:3). You must be careful not to give circumstances unwarranted emphasis. Other factors (for example, mentioned in this article) must also be taken into account.

Consecration

Finally, there is the Condition of your heart. The servant of Abraham had a heart to seek God’s will. Psalm 37:3-5 says: ‘Trust in the Lord and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass’.

Do you experience peace and serenity when you have made a particular decision? God speaks to patient, willing hearts. Follow the way of the Lord and ‘keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life’ (Proverbs 4:23). Be determined to put God first (Colossians 3:2), and he will surely prosper and bless you in your endeavours for him. ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’ (Matthew 6:21).

The Lord wants the best for us and obeying him wholeheartedly means far more than just doing it our way for our personal pleasure. We must have the courage to obey the Lord when he lays a spiritual burden upon us to extend his kingdom. There is joy and blessing when we know we are walking according to his sovereign will.

Jack Sin is pastor of Sovereign Hope Bible-Presbyterian Church, Singapore.