“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” –Psalm 32:8
Adrian Rogers once told a story about an old hobo who spent much of his life walking across the country from one end to the other. Somebody asked him, “How do you decide which way you are going to go?” He replied, “It really doesn’t make any difference to me; I just go.” And they said, “What do you do if you’re walking down the road and you come to a fork in the road? How do you determine which way you are going to go?” The vagabond said, “That’s simple. I just pick up a stick and throw it in the air and whichever way it lands, that’s the way I go.” Then he added, “And sometimes I have to throw it up six or seven times for it to land right.”
Does that sound like any Christians you know? Many of us would say, “I want God’s will for my life,” but we keep ‘throwing up sticks’ until it lands the way we want to go. I’m afraid we come to God like this, “Lord, here’s what I want for my life. Now God help me get there.” Unlike Jesus’ prayer of surrender in Gethsemane we say, “MY will, not THY will be done.”
When it comes to discerning God’s will, I have discovered that there are several myths that believers have bought into. These myths obscure our decision making and prevent us from discerning God’s will. Here are just a few:
· The Detailed Roadmap – this is the idea that God is going to give you a comprehensive plan for life in the form of a glorious vision or dream. We think our lives would be easier if God would just tell us, “Now go to this school, marry this person and take this job.” The reality is that if God operated that way then it would totally defeat the reason for “walking by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).
· Mud Hut Missionary in Mongolia – this is the idea that if we surrender to God’s will then we will end up being miserable; that God will call us to be a missionary living in a mud hut in outer Mongolia. While conforming our will to God’s may be difficult at first, this idea just doesn’t align with Scripture. Romans 12:2 says, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The only person in the Bible who was miserable because he followed God’s will was Jonah, and that’s because his heart wasn’t right. When he followed God’s will, the result was the greatest revival in the OT.
· The Bullseye – this is the idea that God’s will for our lives is very small target and if we miss it then our entire lives will be ruined. We think, “If I don’t go to the right school, or marry the right person, or get the right job then I will miss God’s best.” Its true that our sinful choices can lead to bad consequences. But it is equally true that God’s grace can give us a fresh start and He can even redeem the mistakes we’ve made. Joel 2:25 promises, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.”
So how can we know the will of God? We can know the will of God by the Word of God. Psalm 119:11 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Moreover, the word of God will never contradict the will of God and vice versa. How many of our bad decisions could be avoided or clarified if we just obeyed the word of God in the first place?
We can know the will of God by the Spirit of God. Romans 8:14 reads, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” The Holy Spirit never shoves; He gently guides. By listening to His voice and obeying we can know the way of the Lord.
We can know the will of God by the people of God. You’ll find out that the Lord also speaks into our lives by the believers He has put around us. That was certainly true in Paul’s life, as Ananias helped Him know what to do soon after his conversion (Acts 9:10-12). Thank God for the wise people God has placed in our lives (Pro. 24:6). -DM