I can look at making choices as a pyramid. As a believer, God has intended goals for me, and as I make decisions, certain prerequisites need to be in place. My attitude should be surrendered to Him and then criteria helps me to discern His will. Then we will consider what two methods we often use.
Read from the bottom to the top for an overview of this lesson before we dig deeper into each section.
God will always give the very best to those who leave the choice with Him
1) God's goals for my life serve as foundational guidelines.
a) God's desire for me is to love Him (demonstrated by my willingness to trust in His character and to surrender and obey Him), to grow in my understanding of how to please Him, and to allow the Holy Spirit to transform me into His likeness.
b) God loves every person in the world, and He wants to use me in His plan to reach unbelievers with the good news of salvation and to bring believers to maturity in Christ.
c) God wants me to be willing to let Him use me in His plan, resulting in my being blessed both here on earth as well as eternally in heaven.
2) Prerequisites for understanding God's will.
a) I need to believe that God has His tailor made plan for my life.
Psalm 139:16 Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.
Proverbs 16:9 A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD determines his steps.
Proverbs 20:24 A man’s steps are determined by the LORD, so how can anyone understand his own way?
Jeremiah 10:23 … a man’s way of life is not his own; no one who walks determines his own steps.
Acts 13:36 For David, after serving his own generation in God’s plan, fell asleep (died), was buried with his fathers, and decayed.
b) God wants me to know His will for me, He doesn't want to hide it from me.
He may not give me as much evidence as I want, but He gives me enough to intelligently follow Him by faith.
Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
Ephesians 5:17 So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
Colossians 1:9-10 … since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.
c) God is sovereign and perfectly able to carry out His will.
Ecclesiastes 3:14 I know that all God does will last forever; there is no adding to it or taking from it. God works so that people will be in awe of Him.
Proverbs 19:21 Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the LORD’s decree will prevail.
Isaiah 46:9-10 … I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and no one is like Me. I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: My plan will take place, and I will do all My will.
Daniel 4:35 All the inhabitants of the earth are counted as nothing, and He does what He wants with the army of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth. There is no one who can hold back His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”
Acts 17:25 Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things.
3) I must have a surrendered attitude to Him.
a) I must honestly desire to allow God to fulfill His will in my life and prayerfully seek His will for me.
Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
Proverbs 2:1-6 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, listening closely to wisdom and directing your heart to understanding; furthermore, if you call out to insight and lift your voice to understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
James 1:5-8 Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.
Luke 6:12-13 During those days He went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God. When daylight came, He summoned His disciples, and He chose 12 of them...
CONSIDER: If Jesus prayed all night before making this important decision, shouldn’t I also pray about my decisions?
b) I need to choose to humble myself before God with a submissive attitude, allowing Him to teach me and change my priorities, as He deems best.
Psalm 25:9 He leads the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.
Psalm 32:8-9 I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with My eye on you, I will give counsel. Do not be like a horse or mule, without understanding, that must be controlled with bit and bridle or else it will not come near you.
Acts 13:22 ...He raised up David as their king and testified about him: "I have found David the son of Jesse, a man loyal to Me, who will carry out all My will."
c) The choices that I make have eternal rewards (that is, motivated by the Holy Spirit) always require a measure of faith, and include a perception of risk.
Someone has said, “Don’t ask if something is possible, but rather ask, ‘Is it God’s will?’, because if it is God’s will, He will make it possible”.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 … we do not give up.… For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Galatians 3:11 … the righteous will live by faith.
Hebrews 11:6 … without faith it is impossible to please God…
1 Peter 1:6-7 … now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith—more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
d) Choices based on faith may result in sacrifice and/or suffering. There is a price for obedience to His will. Trials ought not to be viewed as an enemy.
Luke 21:1-4 He looked up and saw the rich dropping their offerings into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow dropping in two tiny coins. “I tell you the truth,” He said. “This poor widow has put in more than all of them. For all these people have put in gifts out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”
Hebrews 5:8 Though He was God’s Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered.
James 1:2-4 Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
4) Criteria - Four factors to consider in making right choices:
a. THE WORD OF GOD: Does the Bible say something specific about the matter, or present principles related to it?
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, so that each of you knows how to control his own body in sanctification and honor, not with lustful desires, like the Gentiles who don’t know God.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart.
b. THE PEACE OF GOD: Do I have God's peace?
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of the Messiah, … control your hearts (that is: “act as an umpire”). Be thankful.
Philippians 4:6-7 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
CAUTION: "Feelings" and "desires" may be deceptive. My natural tendency is not to follow His direction, but rather to be independent. Be honest with yourself!
It is often helpful to ask yourself (and God), “Would this be pleasing to God?”
Proverbs 16:2 All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the LORD evaluates the motives.
Proverbs 28:26 The one who trusts in himself is a fool, but one who walks in wisdom will be safe.
Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?
Galatians 5:17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want.
CAUTION: I need to confess any known sin.
Psalm 66:18 If I had been aware of malice in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
Proverbs 28:9 Anyone who turns his ear away from hearing the law—even his prayer is detestable.
Proverbs 28:13 The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy.
James 4:3 You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires.
1 John 1:5-10 Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”
c. CIRCUMSTANCES: There is really only "One Circumstance" and that is God.
Are circumstances suitable? Are doors opening? Or closing? Finances?
CAUTION: If not used carefully, credit cards (and/or credit) can be a hindrance to God’s freedom to use finances as an instrument to guide me.
CAUTION: Are the obstacles (problems) a "Trial" or "Direction?" The path of least resistance may not be God's will.
Difficulties or suffering do not necessarily prove that I am not in the center of God's will any more than material and comfort blessings prove that I am in the center of His will.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (Paul) … we were completely overwhelmed—beyond our strength—so that we even despaired of life. Indeed, we personally had a death sentence within ourselves, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 11:24-28 (Paul, in the center of God’s will) Five times I received 39 lashes from Jews. Three times I was beaten with rods by the Romans. Once I was stoned by my enemies. Three times I was shipwrecked. I have spent a night and a day in the open sea. On frequent journeys, I faced dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own people, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the open country, dangers on the sea, and dangers among false brothers; labor and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, cold, and lacking clothing. Not to mention other things, there is the daily pressure on me: my care for all the churches.
d. Spiritual counsel: I should seek godly and wise counsel. (My spouse may also "balance" me.)
Proverbs 1:5 A wise man will listen and increase his learning, and a discerning man will obtain guidance.
Proverbs 12:15 A fool’s way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise.
Proverbs 15:22 Plans fail when there is no counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.
Proverbs 19:20 Listen to counsel and receive instruction so that you may be wise later in life.
CAUTION: Counsel can be wrong.
Job 2:9 His (Job’s) wife said to him, “Do you still retain your integrity? Curse God and die!”
Job 42:7 … He (The LORD) said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken the truth about Me, as My servant Job has.” (See also: 1 Kings 13:1-26)
5) Two different methods for making choices:
a) “Active” - Unless otherwise directed I cautiously move ahead in what honestly appears to be the best direction, consciously trusting God to confirm or to restrain, by either opening or shutting doors.
(You can't steer a parked car, or a boat that's tied to the dock.)
Note: This is usually the way we seek a spouse or a job, buy a house or a car; that is, things we desire.
Psalms 37:23-24 A man’s steps are established by the LORD, and He takes pleasure in his way. Though he falls, he will not be overwhelmed, because the LORD holds his hand.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. (NKJV)
Isaiah 30:21 … and whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: “This is the way. Walk in it.”
Acts 16:6-10 They (Paul and team) went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia and were prevented by the Holy Spirit from speaking the message in Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, bypassing Mysia, they came down to Troas. During the night a vision appeared to Paul: A Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!” After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to evangelize them.
b) “Passive” - I wait for God to do something “special” to confirm His guidance.
I can often find myself using this method regarding things I may not desire to do. I am told to “wait” on the Lord, but I need to be careful that I don’t use that as an excuse not to move forward in obedience, especially if I already understand what I should do, but am reluctant to trust.
We need to be honest with ourselves. Someone has said, “God will give us enough evidence to act upon, but usually not enough to convince”.
Exodus 14:14 The LORD will fight for you; you must be quiet.
Psalm 27:14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and courageous. Wait for the LORD.
Psalm 37:7 Be silent before the LORD and wait expectantly for Him;…
6) A couple of basic questions to ask myself:
If I could choose one course for my life would it be one of my choosing or one of God's selection?
Do I prefer to know God's plan and purpose for my daily life while I'm still here on earth and am able to act upon it, or would I rather wait until I stand before Christ at the judgment of believers?
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the tribunal of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or worthless.
- It seems reasonable that each of us is going to become aware of His purpose and plan for our life, either here on earth -- or there.