Updated: Feb 1, 2019
Adolescence is a very critical and precarious time period in an individual's life and walk with the Lord. Decisions and choices have to be made that will certainly impact the course of your entire life. Whether we are cognizant of it or not, our youth is where we make key decisions concerning our education choices, career choices, relationship choices, and many other decisions that are crucial to how our future unfolds. The pressure of correctly making these choices can be daunting, and some teenagers crack under the pressure. However, adolescence is not the only time period in the course of a human being's life that he/she struggles with key choices that could change or alter the course of their life. For the duration of our lives, we constantly struggle with key choices that could make or break us. Every single day we are faced with a plethora of choices that we must delicately and wisely discern.
The Christian is not void of this quest of discernment, concerning future life events. In fact, though the Christian has a head start in understanding - due to the fact that he/she knows that there is a King of all the universe that beckons us to please Him - they may have a more weighty job of discernment than the atheist. The job of discernment may be escalated in difficulty for the Christian because the Christian is attempting to discern something far more important than simply what will make them the most happy in this life. The Christian is attempting to discern and understand the Creator's specific will for their life!
Assumption vs. Discernment
The word "assume" is an enormously popular and destructive term in the english language. It is defined by dictionary.com as: "To take for granted or without proof.
Unfortunately, most of us use the tactic of assumption in almost every scenario of our lives. We form what is likely a false conclusion by drawing upon no tactual or positive evidence to support such a conclusion. This almost always gets us in trouble.
What's even worse is we do this sinful act of assuming with God's will for our lives! I like to call it selfish ambition. We formulate - in our minds - a plan or concoction that never found its roots in God; and we assume that God is all over it. We assume He ordains it. Worse, we tell everyone that we are "doing the will of God in our lives." In reality, God never even so much as breathed upon your concoction of self deception. We must break through the barriers of assumption and reach the God given gift of discernment.
The gift of discernment is altogether different than the sin of assumption. The word "discern" means the polar opposite of the word "assume." It is defined by dictionary.com as: "To perceive by the sight or some other sense or by the intellect; see, recognize, or apprehend."
To discern is to draw upon tactual and positive evidence to formulate a conclusion concerning a question or subject. When we discern, we formulate this conclusion based on what we perceive by sight, our other senses, or by intellect. When we discern correctly, it is by evaluating true evidence and trusting in facts.
It is important for us to understand that to assume is always incorrect and actually sinful, and to discern correctly is helpful and Godly. Therefore, we must rid ourselves of of the inherit appeal to assume, and pursue the ever elusive ability to correctly discern, especially concerning God's will.
Glory in the Chaos
However, even when we know that our pursuits should be aimed at the righteousness of discernment, rather than the unrighteousness of assumption, it can be chaotic trying to sift through the litany of possibilities and outcomes. All you wish to do is understand what it is that God wants you to do with your life - either long-term or just in the moment. How do you decipher what the King of the universe - the One who lit the flame of the sun and molded the spherical shape of our planet earth - wants you to do with your life? I am glad you asked. The answer is much more simple than you may think.
Before we get into the "10 Ways to Discern God's Will," we must first understand the reason for our creation. You were made to glorify your Creator. Understanding what school God wants you to go to, what occupation He wishes for you to choose, or what man or woman He has for you to marry is all super important. However, before we run down that road of discernment, we must understand that understanding all those questions is ultimately and solely for the glorification of the Almighty. God said through the prophet Isaiah,
"Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory." - Isaiah 43:6-7
The apostle Paul told the Corinthians,
"So, whether you ear or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:31
What this means is before you take the steps of choosing the University of Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State, Oregon, or any other university or school, you should take the steps to becoming a glorifier. What this means is before you realize whether you should be a lawyer, a teacher, a scientist, or whatever occupation you are struggling to choose between, you should realize you are to be a glorifier. What this means is before you discern whether or not your boyfriend or girlfriend is God's man or woman for you, you should discern that you are a glorifier.
To attempt to make these decisions and choices apart from the realization that their outcomes should be for the glory of God, is to put yourself in the extreme danger of almost certainly making the wrong decision, and more importantly, to fail in your number one duty as a living breathing organism in this life. Attempting to base decisions and choices on anything other than the glorification and magnification of our Lord Jesus Christ is to sabotage our root purpose of existing. If we fail to glorify God, we fail to find our fulfillment in Christ, and therefore, ruin our God given objective. As we go into detail in our article "Declaring War on Anxiety," to pursue fulfillment in anything other than Christ will leave us as nothing more than an anxious miserable wreck.
We must understand that, above all, we are to pursue and discern the will of God in our lives for the sole purpose of glorifying Him and nothing else.
The 10 Ways to Discern God's Will
It must be understood that these ten actions of discerning God's will for your life is not a systematic and guaranteed method to giving you the answers that you seek. These ten actions of discernment are designed to guide you into the creature that you were created to be - a holy piece of God's handiwork that is intimately woven into His Spirit - for His glory. If you lack a relationship with the Savior, or you possess a desperately weak acquaintance with Him, don't expect to receive much from these words of advice until you have partaken in a deep communion with Jesus Christ.
Also, understand that these ten ways of discernment intertwine with one another and should not be separated. For example, one should not seek one while negating the other nine.
Finally, these sweet words of wisdom that have done much to encourage me in my walk are heavily drawn from Desiring God's "Ask Pastor John" podcast segment entitled "How Do I Find God's Will For My Life?" I would emphatically suggest listening to John Pipers articulate words of wisdom.
1. Do not Confuse God's Commands with His Callings
There is no doubt that everyone is unique in their own way; and we all have a God given gift and calling. God uses each of us, in different ways, to build up His kingdom and glorify His name. The apostle Paul makes this clear when he describes each of us as essential parts to one body in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). We all have different callings that we must discern and make out in God's plan. However, sometimes we mistake His commands with His callings.
We must not ever confuse God's commands with His callings. Allow me to explain the difference. Though God's commands and His callings should be obeyed without question, commands are universal, while callings are personal. For example, Jesus told His disciples moments prior to His ascension,
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." - Acts 1:8
This great commission of our Lord Jesus Christ is a universal command to all His children, to evangelize to all the people groups of the world. As John Piper explains so well, the question is not whether we should evangelize internationally, but where at in the world we should evangelize. It's not, "Should we evangelize?" but, "Where should we evangelize?"
Please understand that I am not suggesting that we are all called to evangelize all over the world. I am suggesting that we are all commanded to evangelize all over the world. The calling of God - the more personal of the two - is what directs us to where we are to obey that command. For most, God will call you to obey and fulfill His command in America, or wherever you are at. For some, He will call to obey and fulfill the command in Lebanon or China or India or any number of places across the world.
There is another form of the difference between God's commands and His callings that may help you understand what I mean. This is best illustrated through our command to be fruitful and multiply. God's first command to mankind was when He said to Adam and Eve,
"Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it." - Genesis 1:28
Reproduction is a God given command and should not be confused with God's callings. However, just as with evangelism, the calling within God's command restructures how this looks in an individual's life. For example, to some patient and enduring souls, God gives the gift of singleness, and calls them to abstain from marriage. This does not negate the universal command of marriage and reproduction for the rest of God's children.
For some married couples, in His wisdom, love, and sovereignty, God does not give the gift and blessing of children. This is a calling of God upon the couple for a season or for the length of their lives. This seeming misfortune could be a blessed call to adoption or to foster children.
My goal is not to be abrasive toward a sensitive subject. I can only imagine the amount of pain a desiring mother and father endure when they are told that they will never be able to conceive a child. My point is that the callings of God - the will for our life that we so desperately seek to discern - is different from His commands. His commands are to be universally obeyed, while his callings are to be personally obeyed.
2. Pursue a Scriptural (Christ-like) Worldview
Today, we live and dwell in what scholars like to call a "postmodern" culture and society. We do not have the time nor space to get into the intricate details and characteristics of what that term means - in regards to those who identify with it. However, we can give a small, and rather vague, definition of what postmodernism consists of. Postmodernism is defined by Merriam-Webster as: "of, relating to, or being a theory that involves a radical reappraisal of modern assumptions about culture, identity, history, or language."
In other words, postmodernists view the truth as subjective, meaning that truth is whatever you wish to make of truth. According to their theory, there has never been an ultimate truth, and therefore, I cannot impose upon their opinion or declare someone wrong, due to the belief that truth can be whatever anyone wishes truth to be. To them, truth is fluid. So, their worldview is not shaped or formed by any "rules or guidelines" so to speak. For to have anything guide your worldview would be an infringement upon my due subjectivity.
Now, due to the blessings and graces of the Word of God, we know that the real truth couldn't be farther from this ludicrous assumption. For we are told in the Gospel of John,
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." - John 1:1
In the beginning, before birds covered the sky, before beasts trampled the ground, before plants burst from the soil, before man drew fresh air, before time itself existed, there was truth. There was truth because God Himself is truth. Truth is not subjective because God is not subjective. I cannot make God who I want Him to be. He is who He is and I can fall on my knees and worship Him for it, or I can be darkened to His majesty and curse Him. Either way, my perception of God - my perception of truth - changes nothing about God.
We must understand this stupendous reality if we are ever to have a hope of discerning God's will for our lives. As we have already stated, my worldview must be saturated with the agenda of making much of God while minimizing myself. It makes sense that if I wish to know the thoughts and desires of my God, I should strive to think and desire like my God.
It is essential to understand that this is not a natural or easy endeavor for human beings. We are inherently and naturally wicked specimens of evil. Paul tells the Romans,
"None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God." - Romans 3:10-11
At the root of every human beings heart resides a monstrous hate and displeasure and resentment toward God. At our core, we detest God with every fiber in our being.
However, by the undeserved graces of the Almighty, we are set free from our hate, displeasure, and resentment and are reborn to an unworldly joy, satisfaction, and love in the Father. An unnatural transformation thrives within us, by the facilitation of the Holy Spirit, and rocks our ungodly worldview. And this is why Paul also said to the Romans,
"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
By the supernatural intervention of a gracious and holy God, we are enabled to do and become what we could never do or become on our own - holy specimen of redemption that could discern and distinguish right from wrong. If you pursue a Scriptural and Christ-like worldview, you will find yourself, more and more, making correct and good decisions; and you will experience your discernment skills of divine things becoming sharper and sharper.
3. Evaluate the Needs of the World vs. your Comforts
There is no doubt that the world is a cesspool of poverty. There are incomprehensibly large numbers of people that are victims of unfair, unequal, and unjustified situations. Unfortunately, I have seen these uncivil conditions first hand. I have seen the little tarp hunts where mothers attempted to fix dinner for their families of eight, nine, and ten - after working at least twelve hours a day in the fields. I have seen men lay on a cold hard concrete floor, gasping for breath, and come to the threshold of death because they could not afford the doctor that could give them a cure. I have seen the legal slavery that large farm owners use to charge victims of war more for lodging that they pay them to work in their fields. Make no mistake, poverty and injustice thrive in this world we dwell in.
The torture and misery of poverty and injustice - and even poverty and injustice itself - were the catastrophic results of the curse of man (Genesis 3). The question is not if we should combat the evil, hatred, and injustices of our world, but how we should combat the evil, hatred, and injustices of our world. Jesus said to the scribe who inquired of the most important commandment,
"The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." - Mark 12:29-31
Jesus, in masterfully answering a question aimed to discredit Him, sums up the ten commandments in two commands: Love God and love man.
We are called to love the unlovable, find value in the useless, bless those who curse us, and care for those the world finds detestable. If you wish to find the heart of God, it will never be far away from those the world deems as outcasts. But that is the question, right? How do I distinguish where God wants to use me to minister to these people the world sees as useless?
First, we must make sure that we never get caught in the trap of only pursuing opportunities that we are comfortable doing. I am not suggesting that you dive off into an opportunity that you are wildly unqualified in - you could end up doing more harm than good and getting yourself hurt in the process. What I am suggesting is to spurn the idea of only being involved in those actions and opportunities that give us personal satisfaction and fulfillment.
Being the loving Christian that Christ redeemed you to be will certainly bring you personal satisfaction and fulfillment. However, personal satisfaction and fulfillment should never be our goal. Just as we have already stated, glorifying God should always be the primary purpose in every opportunity we participate in. This is what separates sons and daughters of the Almighty from a non-Christian philanthropist. We do what we do for our fellow man to make our God look great to our fellow man and the whole wide world. It is my personal experience that this usually occurs when I am out of my comfort zone (we will discuss this in greater detail at discernment action point number five).
Second, we must adjust ourselves and participate in facilitating the solution to the actual needs of the world. When we seek to pursue a desired "calling" from God, we must ask ourselves the question: "Does the world (where I am currently at) even need what I am willing to offer?" It is an honorable endeavor to wish to create a food bank for the homeless and hungry in my area, but there are already many different food banks in my area. "The market is saturated" if you will, with food banks.
We must carefully evaluate our passions and desires - that can sometimes cloud God's true will for our lives - and fervently look for what is practical. Maybe God's will isn't for you to create your own food bank, but to volunteer at one that is already in existence. It may seem more glamorous and fulfilling and satisfying to start your own food bank, but remember that our own emotional achievement should never be the goal.
4. Evaluate your Spiritual Gifts
Indwelt in all of us is an innate ability to do something well. We all have a spiritual gift given to us by our heavenly Father. For some, comprehending and understanding what that gift is exists as a difficult puzzle as complex to solve as discerning God's will for their life. Unfortunately, this article is not about piecing that puzzle together, but instead, about using that elusive spiritual gift to discern what God's will is for your life. The apostle Paul makes it clear that we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, possess a spiritual gift that contributes to the faculties of Christ's Church. He said to the Romans,
"For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." - Romans 12:4-5
However, we are not simply to possess a spiritual gift that was endowed to us from the Father, but to use that gift for His glory! Paul also said,
"Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness." - Romans 12:6-8
We all have different abilities and inclinations that facilitate us to be effective at some things more than others. And while we should be cautious in pursuing things that we enjoy doing - making sure our enjoyment is not the sole cause of our participation (see discernment action point number three) - we tend to enjoy the things that we do well. Our abilities should be evaluated and taken into consideration when discerning what God's will is for our lives.
God gave you your talents and abilities for a reason. Though He does seek your obedience more than your talents, and though there is a large list of Bible characters who excelled at things they were not inherently good at - by the power of God - He doesn't give us spiritual gifts for no purpose. The will of God is always found in your spiritual gift. However, sometime that gift from God doesn't become apparent until after the calling. Pursue the spiritual gifts; for the spiritual gifts of God and His will run parallel.
5. Embrace Discomfort
Typically, we find embracing discomfort about as appealing as jumping head first into the sharp spines of a cactus. However, the New Testament adamantly reiterates the need to embrace and even to rejoice in our sufferings. The apostle James said,
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds." - James 1:2
Therefore, it should seem obvious that the Christian should embrace and pursue what makes him/her uncomfortable. For it is typically in what makes us uncomfortable that God manifests His glory to us. Many times, we miss the joys and magnificence, and beauties of our God because they rest in the discomfort that we so fervently seek to avoid.
I am not a germaphobe. Actually, truth be told, I do not wash my hands as often as I should, I eat food off of the floor (only if it hasn't been there for more than ten seconds), and I tend to spurn the thought of going to the doctor. However, being exposed to sickness freaks me out a little. Those infectious pathogens that infiltrate the body and drain the body of life make me nervous and uncomfortable. I learned this well when I went to Lebanon.
In going to Lebanon, God blessed me with the gift of growing close to Missionaries Chris and Kim Todd, as well as their daughter Olivia. Chris asked me if I wanted to go out and meet the Syrian refugees or stay in, and I chose to meet the people I had flown thousands of miles to minister to. We walked into the doorway of a shabby tarp hut to find a man gasping for breath, while he lay on the floor. I was instantly out of my comfort zone. Secretly and shamefully, I held my breath periodically. My discomfort reached its peak when I learned that this fever stricken man on the floor was the father of the boy I accepted food from earlier that day.
The next day we learned that this man had been inflicted with typhoid fever; and we had all been exposed. My discomfort was so severe that I began to experience the symptoms of a sickness that I did not even have.
Since discomfort is almost always synonymous with danger, pain, suffering, or calamity, Satan likes to persuade us to avoid it at all cost. He enjoys watching our fight or flight response kick in and cause us to buck up and run away from the glory of God, as fast as we can. But discomfort has never been a reality in which we are to run from, but rather, a reality in which we are to embrace. For it is in embracing discomfort that we find the ability to discern the will of God in our lives.
Though I am obviously not the supreme example of embracing discomfort, I would not ever have witnessed the Gospel unfold before my eyes if did not walk into that typhoid tent. I would not have witnessed the glorifying love of Christ displayed in Chris as he held a fever stricken man in his arms. I would not have witnessed the perplexity on the faces of the sin sick Muslims as they watched Kim charitably risk exposure to bring soup to the sick.
I stated earlier that the glory of God usually takes place outside of my comfort zone. This statement is painfully true. But as we have also already stated, God's will for our lives will always possess the central goal of making much of His name. If we make it our central and sole goal to glorify the name of the Almighty, we will eventually discern God's will for our lives. And since His glory tends to take place in our discomfort, it should make sense that we ought to radically embrace the discomfort we so dreadfully detest.
6. Understand your Circumstances
As a teenage boy growing up in southeastern United States, football played a major role in my life. As young as I can remember, I dreamed of playing football. When I made it to middle school, I was on cloud nine when I joined the football team. Then, my dream changed. I was a decent football player. I was taller than most of the other boys and I had a good set of hands, so, I made for a pretty good wide receiver. I even started a couple of times. However, as much potential as I had at wide receiver, my my hopes and aspirations resided on the other side of the ball - defense. I dreamed of being a linebacker for the Alabama Crimson Tide, and then, to be drafted in the first round by the Green Bay Packers. As lofty as those dreams and aspirations were, a part of me actually believed they were possible. They were not possible.
Rashaan Evans was a steam roller for the University of Alabama. His success as a linebacker was recognized and he was invited to the 2018 NFL Combine, where teams get the opportunity to evaluate players before the NFL draft. According to NFL.com, he was graded a 6.10, meaning he should become an instant starter in the NFL. He was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the first round of the NFL draft as the 22nd overall pick.
Why do i bring up Rashaan Evans? I have told you about Rashaan Evans to show you how being an NFL linebacker simply was not in my cards, and how it was not God's will for my life. Rashaan Evans is 6'3" and weighs 232 lbs. I am about 5'10" at around 180lbs. His arms are 32 1/4" long; and he has hands that are 10" big. My arms are about 28" long and my hands might be 8" big.
I was not meant to be an NFL linebacker. I was meant to be a preacher of the Gospel, a pastor of His flock, and a writer to grow His kingdom. Thankfully, God gave me His grace early, to urge me to evaluate my circumstances and see that He had other plans for my life. Unfortunately, we often get so carried away with our hopes and aspirations that we waste precious time that could have been saved, if we would have just been honest with ourselves.
Jesus said to His disciples,
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened." - Matthew 7:7-8
God opens and closes the doors in our life. If we are to discern the will of God for our lives, we must be honest and evaluate our circumstances. May we not spend a lifetime missing all the opened doors because we spent it glued to those that are closed.
7. Entrust Yourself to Wise Counselors
We all need help or advice from a friend, family member, or a co-worker, from time to time. Anyone who suggests they have life by the horns and have no need of support or help is a foolish and prideful liar. As we have already mentioned, life is stacked full of extremely important questions and choices. And unfortunately, the answers we must grasp and the choices we must make to these complex situations arise at an age that we desperately lack wisdom. That is why it is important to seek the aid of wise counselors in your life. The writer of Proverbs made this importance clear when he said,
"Where there is no guidance, a people falls; but in an abundance of counselors there is safety." - Proverbs 11:14
Before choosing someone to seek counsel in, you must make absolutely sure that person is wise and capable of helping or advising you. Having an opinion about life no more makes you a wise counselor as knowing the solution of two plus two makes you a mathematician. For every good piece of advice there are millions of foolish suggestion hiding on top of it. Be wise in your quest for wisdom.
It is crucial that you entrust yourself to wise counselors if you wish to discern God's will for your life. Here, at Joy in the Father, we are available to help and advise you in any way that you can. Please contact us and let us know if there is any way that we can help you in your quest to enlightenment.
It may sound simple and obvious for me to charge you to pray, in order to discern the will of God in your life, but prayer may be the single most neglected action of the spiritual disciplines of the Christian faith. We are a people who celebrate an intimacy with our God like no other religion in the world, yet we also inadvertently refuse to be intimate with Him in prayer. We desperately seek answers to the throngs of spiritual and physical questions of our future, but we neglect conversing with the One that holds all wisdom and all the answers in the palm of His hand.
The Bible is riddled with verses containing the call, command, urge, and benefits of prayer. Check out a few of them here:
"When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles." - Psalm 34:17
"Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known" - Jeremiah 33:3
Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." - Matthew 6:9-13
"And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed." - Mark 1:35
"Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving." - Colossians 4:2
"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way." - 1 Timothy 2:1-4
"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." - James 5:16
I literally could go on and on and on citing scripture references that concerned prayer. Like we have already stated, the Bible is clear about the necessity of a healthy prayer life.
No man - regardless of how holy or spiritual he may be - can rightly and honestly declare that his prayer life is as vibrant and healthy as he wished it could be. We will not possess the beautiful riches of perfect communication with our Creator until the glorious day of His return. However, shouldn't it be obvious that we will struggle to know the will of God until we regularly commune with Him?
What husband could honestly say that he adequately understood and discerned the wants and needs of his wife while he rarely conversed with her? What mother could truly know her child's favorite color, favorite dish, favorite song, or favorite movie, if she never asked and had intimate times of dialogue with that child?
May we understand that we will never truly know God's will for our lives until we make a deliberate practice of conversing with our God. Let us take James seriously when he said to his listeners,
"You do not have, because you do not ask." - James 4:2
May we understand and live in the truth of Paul's words when he said to the Thessalonians,
"Pray without ceasing." - 1 Thessalonians 5:17
The Christian that truly wishes to know the width and depth of God's will for his/her life is the Christian with bruised knees and clasped hands. Intimacy with the Savior comes mightily through disciplined and purposeful prayer. If you want to intimately know God's will, pray.
9. Pay Attention to your Desires
As practical as we must be to discern the will of God for our lives, we must also not neglect the supernatural characteristics of our God. Astronomically low numbers of people - biblically and historically - have actually and truly heard God audibly tell them what to do with their lives. However, that does not mean that He leaves us in the dark to practically align all the pieces of His divine puzzle together. No, instead, the Holy Spirit that lives and dwells within us gives us wooings and desires that shape our understanding of God's calling in our lives.
This is the most dangerous of the discernment action points we are to take to discern God's will for our lives. It is dangerous because it is uncomfortably easy to misinterpret these desires, or even to fabricate desires never implanted by God. We must be careful with these desires and patiently and prayerfully distinguish the wooings of the Holy Spirit from the desires of our flesh. John Piper gives three wonderful characteristics of true desires from God in his Ask Pastor John Podcast. They are:
1. These desires must be reoccurring. Desires of God do not come only to vanish quickly. Desires of God for a calling are incessant and will remain until acted upon.
2. These desires must be strong. Desires of God are not flippant. Unlike the regular and small desires of common life such as when the stomach tugs on the brain to inform it that it is hungry, a calling of God is unspeakably intense and tugs on the heart. Desires of God are those passions that leave you awake at night and infiltrate your brain with cognitive activity.
3. These desires must occur in holiness. Desires that occur when we are in seasons away from God should not be trusted. Only when we are in intimate communion with God (regularly studying and meditating on His word and spending time in prayer with him) can we lean on and discern God's will for our lives by our desires. When our lives are in the flesh, our desires will be in the flesh.
10. Find Satisfaction in the Sovereignty of God
There is great comfort and satisfaction to be found in the almighty sovereignty of God. The beauty of God's sovereignty is found in the wonderful reality that you cannot change God's will. God's will certainly will be done. Attempting to change God's will is like attempting to push a mountain over in order to carry on with your journey without increasing in elevation. You may push and push with all your might, but the mountain will not budge, and you will have to climb the mountain in order to get to the other side.
God's sovereign plan is displayed in the wicked and in the righteous. To the wicked who lack God, His sovereignty is carried out in their destruction. The writer of Proverbs says,
"The LORD works out everything to its proper end - even the wicked for a day of disaster. - Proverbs 16:4
To the righteous - whom were inherently evil and wicked, but were redeemed and rescued by the graces of God - His sovereignty is carried out in their salvation. Paul says to the Romans,
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." - Romans 8:28-30
We can take comfort in the sovereignty of God by knowing and understanding that we cannot, and should not, wish to change it. What this means is that whatever you are struggling to discern - concerning whether it is truly the will of God for your life or not - it certainly will or will not be done, depending on God's will. What this means is that God's sovereignty takes the guess work out of the fulfillment of your Godly desires.
Allow me to give an example in order to clarify. If I feel the wooings of the Holy Spirit to become a medical missionary, I can take comfort and satisfaction in knowing that if it is God's will for me to be a medical missionary, nothing in heaven, hell, or earth may stop me from becoming a medical missionary. If i am not supposed to be a medical missionary, I should find comfort and satisfaction in the reality that it simply will not happen.
Please understand that I am not suggesting that we cannot miss opportunities that God gives us, or that we cannot "buck up" so to speak against God's will. We certainly and unfortunately can! However, missing an opportunity God gives us, or resisting God's will, does not alter God's will; it only destroys our involvement and blessing in it.
The apostle Paul understood the comfort and satisfaction of God's sovereignty possibly more than anyone. In Acts 20, Paul is compelled to go to Jerusalem by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:22). He knows that since travelling to Jerusalem is the will of God for his life, nothing will stop him from going there. The disciples in Tyre attempted to keep Paul from going to Jerusalem (Acts 21:4), and even a prophet named Agabus warned Paul of his coming persecution - attempting to persuade him not to go to Jerusalem (Acts 21:10-12). Nothing stopped Paul from going to Jerusalem; for it was the will of our Lord.
When we attempt to discern God's will, we are attempting to discern what certainly will or will not happen in our lives. But we must always ensure that we find satisfaction in knowing that the decree of the Lord will be done. For when we find satisfaction in His sovereignty, we will find comfort in our discernment.
Author: A.C. Minor
Scripture quotations are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version), copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version.