Discerning the Will of God

Hi everyone,
I know the will of God is a huge topic. However, I’m curious whether there are others who find themselves grappling with questions similar to mine. Does God really care about every decision that I need to make? I was raised in a setting where there was a huge focus on finding the specific will that God has for your life. Almost to the extent that we were not encouraged to think much about personal interests/things we were passionate about. I’m not implying that the will of God is not important and that we should disregard our pursuit of living in His will. Rather, I’m referring to the problem of “paralysis by analysis,” as one of my friends puts it. This happens when we spend so much time trying to discern the will of God, that we end up missing opportunities and ministry needs. Several years ago, I read a book by Kevin DeYoung (Just Do Something, A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will). This book has greatly impacted my life, and helped me in this area. I’m curious whether others have read this book, or have some wisdom to share about finding liberty in God’s will. Do we, at times, idolize the idea of “God having a special will just for me?” To the extent that commands, already given in scripture, are not fulfilled?

Blessings,
Julia Whitt

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Hi Julia. Wow! …the will of God, and how to know it. I guess this has been a question since Adam and Eve messed everything up. Certainly I’ve dealt with it all my life and it sounds like you and I are pretty normal. The good part is that you care about His will…a lot!
Don’t know if I have the perfect answer…well, actually I do know. I don’t. Seems to me the first step is being willing to do God’s will, whatever it is. (Most of the time, I want to know His will first, before I make a decision to do it.) That’s the hard part. When I pray that, frankly, I kind of cringe, because I don’t know what it is. It could be very simple, or could be hard, even painful. (Jesus…cross)
But it sounds like you are struggling with decisions about specific matters. OK. Here’s my take. Pray about everything. Ask constantly for wisdom (James says God will give it, if you ask believing…not in a specific answer, but that you will receive wisdom.). Then if He hasn’t given a clear direction by some sign, event, occurrence, etc., assume he has given you the wisdom to make a wise decision.
Daily look for opportunities to do good and proceed in the wisdom God has given.

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@juliawhitt87 I can definitely resonate with your feelings of frustration with the way finding God’s will is sometimes taught in the Church. Over the years I have found it much more helpful to make decisions based on an accurate understanding of my own gifts / talents / passions and the opportunities in front of me. That involves prayer, council from others who know me or who have experiences I do not, knowing the Word, and making the wisest decision I am able.

J. I. Packer wrote a book similar to the one you mention from DeYoung. I also really like this book by Garry Friesen.

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Thank you for all that you have shared. I quite enjoy reading, and I’m always up for a book recommendation. :slight_smile: I will definitely look this one up. I really appreciate the thoughts on finding things that we do well in, things we are passionate about, etc. I believe that is an important part of the equation as well. It seems we sometimes think that if we pursue something we are passionate about, it is somehow not okay…or likely not God’s will, if it makes us happy. Almost giving the idea that God is not really concerned for our happiness. Thank you for the thoughts!

Julia

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Thank you! I’m not sure that I’ve ever thought of it in quite in this way. It is a reassuring thought that even if God doesn’t give me a clear, specific answer, I can trust that He will give me wisdom to make a wise choice. Thank you!

Julia

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Hi Julia and such a great question :slightly_smiling_face:. I know for myself that it is always a perpetual thought or prayer that I hope that I am always functioning in God’s will for my life. God has taken me more on a journey of clearing out obstacles/ selfish desires in myself that have not bent their knee to Christ. This work of sanctification is needed because God knows that what stops us being obedient to Him and doing that which pleases Him is our flesh nature still being over-dominant in our lives. God wants to make us holy but many times the work of purification takes time. Sometimes we can say to God that we really want to do His will but God knows that is not true- our willingness to obey often has certain clauses and conditions in it. We pray for God to do with us as He wills, but deep down what we are actually praying is that we will do His will as long as it meets our requirements. Something you might find helpful is when you are spending time in prayer, is to ask God to bring to light the things in your life that still take priority over God’s desires for you, the things that have not fully submitted to Christ. Whatever He reveals to you, repent of them and ask God to give you the power to overcome so that you can be fully His.

As we come to know God more through prayer, reading the word and listening and learning from people we have come to value on this Christian journey, we can often ‘develop’ if you will the mind of Christ. The best analogy I can give is for a family member that you are very close with, without the person being there with you, you know them so well that you know how they would think and feel and react in all different situations, and also what they would be thinking about you. Coming to a more intimate relationship with God also helps in being able to know how He thinks about you as well as being more confident in His will for you.

Lastly, I will just add a word I heard from a traveling pastor once- “don’t ask God to bless what you are doing, do what God has already blessed.” Sometimes we can get so frozen with trying to work out what God wants us to do that we end up doing nothing. I speak from years of experience. Maybe try looking at the promises and blessings in scripture and try stepping out into those promises and ask God for discernment in those steps of faith.

Just some thoughts but I am also on a journey of seeking truth to your question :blush: .

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Thank you Brian,
I totally understand the aspect that we sometimes pray to know the will of God, but we have a personal agenda. I know that I fail in this sometimes. I do believe it takes a purposeful and diligent approach to continue the sanctification process and remain close to the Lord so His will can be discerned. When I mentioned in an earlier post about following passions, etc. I am not condoning the “do you, and what makes you happy” movement. I think that idea can quickly lead us into a mindset of selfish, self-centeredness that does not draw us closer to the Father. Again, thank you for your encouragement and words of wisdom.
Blessings to you,
Julia Whitt

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This is something I have struggled with for a long time! It can be really hard on me with the personality I have to rest in the Will of God for my life. It is a constant struggle. A few things that have helped me: I find it interesting that Saul when he is going to be crowned king is told to do whatever his hand finds to do and God will bless it. It seems as though part of the process is for Saul to start doing something. This lines up with the idea that God leads our steps, he does not make our steps for us! Abraham is told to go out from his Father’s house and God will show him the land. He is not told where to go he is just told where to go.

Another thing I find interesting about the Abraham story is that we are told that he was walking in the promise land as though it were a strange country? Why? His expectations were wrong, he was looking for a city whose builder and maker was God. But, God wasn’t building him a city, the city was going to have to be built by his descendants. Further, he had arrived at the place God was calling him but didn’t realize it because his expectations were incorrect.

Another thought I found helpful came from @Shawn_Hart. He was talking about the scripture the Word is a lamp unto our feet. In those days lamps did not give off much light. You would only be able to see that which was just in front of your feet. Sometimes I feel that way. I want to know where I am going and God has to often bring my attention to where I am.

Also, Moses when he is trapped between Pharoah’s army and the Red Sea, God says to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Go forward!” Sometimes the obvious thing to do is the thing to do. If we ask, “God, should I get a job?” You might hear back, “Your bank account is empty, why are you even asking this question?”

These are just a few small thoughts to a HUGE question. I hope you find them encouraging and helpful.

@juliawhitt87. I find the greatest assurance for me is that GOD uses it all. That all things work together. That covers the correct and the incorrect. I am human so even when I prayerfully consider things, somethings I am going to get wrong. We have great expertise in being non-experts. But GOD will use it all to benefit me and others I encounter. My job is to seek His face. To turn my heart towards Him every day. I do my best and trust Him to provide the sufficiency. If I believe He says to do or don’t do I will proceed accordingly. When I over or undershoot the purpose and intent I know each occasion bears fruit, so I just put on the bib and eat up!

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Hi Joshua,
Thank you thank you. Not to say I’m glad to know others struggle, but I’m glad to know I’m not the only one that thinks of it in this way. :slight_smile: I don’t think I’ve ever really thought of the details in those biblical accounts, in relation to this topic. The fact that God gave commands for action, but didn’t always tell his people exactly how to get the job done. We have the command, “Go ye into all the world,” the verse doesn’t tell us exactly where to go…but maybe that is enough…and just okay. Maybe God doesn’t need to tell me those details, and He expects me to move through doors that open. Thank you. You’ve made me think.:slight_smile:

Julia

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cer7, thank you for the thoughts. Your logical approach is refreshing. I sometimes tend to overthink such things. And “we have great expertise in being non-experts.” I like that. A lot. :slight_smile:

Blessings,
Julia

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Did I miss where Romans 12:1-2 was mentioned? Perhaps this is not what Julia is asking or perhaps I just missed her main point, if so please forgive me.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 NLT

When we give Him ourselves, wholly and/or completely, we are in His will and worshiping Him and that has nothing to do with what we are doing specifically. I can be in His will by working retail in the mall or when I’m gardening on Saturday morning or when I’m filing my taxes.

Also, be “out of this world” and in completely with Christ. Step out of the “normal” (or your comfort zone) and come into the water with Jesus (like Peter in Matt 14:28-33) where you will be in His will. I have come out of my shell and am now teaching and making disciple-makers and heavily involved in many other ministries in my local church and I am not a practiced minister, I am a civil engineer by trade. Jesus calls us to Himself and in the process we have to shed the old us and become like Him and therefore stop conforming to them out there in the world and to be transformed into Him.

I found this article a while back (link below) and I think it addresses the will of God quite well, at least to the extent I was questioning His will.

I hope this helps Julia.

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Hi Mark,
Thank you for your thoughts. I like your examples of how we can do many different things, but still be living in the will of God. Thank you again.

Julia

HI Julia. Honestly, who in their right mind wouldn’t want to know God’s will for their life? It’s a subject that comes up often among Christians. We need to seek His will in all things - big and small. In my experience I’ve learned that seeking His will in every thought, word and deed every day brings peace and spiritual growth. The best blessing of all is that in my faithfulness to seek His will in all things my relationship with Him grows exponentially. It is interesting that you mention making an idol of seeking God’s will. Yes, I do think that is possible because focusing and obsessing about one thing or one area promotes idolatry. Our faith must be well-balanced based on the commands and statues of our Lord. I think the Book of James pretty much puts everything into proper perspective. I think of it as Jesus’ bullet point ministry. But of course, God’s will is found all through the Bible, from cover to cover. As long as our serch for God’s will isn’t self-focused, and centers around loving other, then I think that is well-pleasing to our Lord. Whatever anyone tells you, and whatever questions arise go to The WORD and His truth will set you free. Blessings and love, Alix

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