How can you discern God’s will when you’re in a dilemma? There are so many people who really want to do the right thing by God. Maybe you’re one of them. But life is confusing and it’s not always obvious what God wants us to do in different situations. Of course, there are plenty of situations in which it’s blindingly obvious. Should I love my enemies? Yes, yes I should. That has been made quite clear to us in the Bible, along with numerous other matters. But there are plenty of conundrums and individual decisions that are not so clearly covered. What do we do in those situations? How do we seek God’s mind on a matter?
Is it my will or God’s will?
One of the concerns we have is that it can be difficult to know the difference between what we want and what God wants. How do I know that this passion hasn’t just been generated by me? Is this peace I feel after making a decision due to the fact that this is what I wanted all along? How do I know the difference between my will and God’s will? What happens if what God wants and what I want clash?
There are two short verses in the Bible that give us an answer. Romans 12:1-2 offers great advice on how to know God’s will…
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
There’s so much wisdom in these two short verses, do take the time to meditate on them a little even if you know them very well. They offer the key to so many dilemmas we may have when seeking God’s will!
Offer yourself as a living sacrifice
If you have made up your mind well and truly that in the event of a clash you are committed to submit to God’s will, if you have laid your life on the altar and know in your heart of hearts that you’ll do whatever God wants, then you will be in a better place to discern the will of God. The process of dying to self and becoming a living sacrifice begins with relinquishing our love for the world.
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
John, the beloved disciple, gives us a great admonition here. The YOLO and FOMO pressures1 so prevalent in worldly thinking operate in exactly the opposite direction to presenting yourself as a living sacrifice. We need to know how to disengage from the world with all its demands. We need to reach that place of surrender where we call out to God with complete availability, “Hineni! Here I am, send me!” Then the adventures can begin. Instead of conforming to the world, we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds as we start to think differently, according to God’s priorities and values.
Thinking with a renewed mind:
1. Keep an eternal perspective. Focus on how you might feel about your decision looking back from heaven. The fear of missing out is driven by the mentality that this life is all there is. Not true! This life is short. Eternity is long. Live for eternity.
2. Meditate on the goodness of God. He is so right. All the time. Reflect how right He’s been in His decisions in the lives of your biblical heroes… and in your own life! God’s ways might seem hard in the moment, but with hindsight His will is always perfect. Just as Job, David, Jonah and all our friends we will meet in eternity can testify. You can trust His will for your life.
3. Keep an open heart and an open mind. Chances are high that God is thinking on an entirely different plane. A far, far greater one. His ways are higher than ours (Is 55:8-9), so while Abraham just wanted a son and heir, God had plans to create a people to bear His name and usher in the Messiah of the world. While Joseph wanted to get out of prison, God wanted to set him in high authority to save millions of people. He works with our desires but on a whole other level.
4. Get godly counsel from people who know you. Maybe make a pros and cons list of your options, and invite a few select people to think and pray it through with you. You don’t ultimately have to accept their opinions but it can be a great benefit to hear their input.
When you feel like you might have a sense of the way forward, consider stepping out in the direction that seems to be best, inviting God to stop you and redirect if necessary. It’s been said that it’s easier to steer a moving ship, and God is more than able to intervene if your heart is eager to do His will but you are inadvertently going the wrong way. In fact, it’s His job! God describes Himself as our guide many times. He is the Good Shepherd, and He will not let you wander off or go astray if the desire of your heart is to stay in His will. It is a promise that He will guide you. He will accompany us all the way to glory, and show us the best pathway for our lives.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. (Psalm 73:24)
- YOLO = You Only Live Once. (False! We live twice!)
FOMO = Fear Of Missing Out. (Again, this fear subsides when we see life from an eternal perspective)
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash