There are four ways you can reach an unknown destination.
You can go by trial and error, where you don’t make a change until it’s obvious you’ve gone the wrong way. You can also use a map and see the entire plan ahead of time before you get started. Or you can use a compass to find your destination.
But the best way to reach your destination is to get a personal guide. And followers of Jesus have the best guide—God! He leads you through decisions, knowing beforehand where you are and where you are going. He walks with you every step of the way.
The Bible says that God gives us the Holy Spirit to be our guide. Jesus tells us in John 16:13, “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (NIV).
So how does the Holy Spirit guide us as we make important decisions? The Bible gives us nine principles for guidance as we seek God’s direction in our lives.
Many people think God’s will is a tightrope. If you make one bad judgment, you’re done for. But that’s not how God responds to our seeking of his will. God wants us to know his will. He wants to guide us. The Bible says, “Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5-6 GW).
Ultimately, it’s not our job to learn God’s will; it’s God’s job to reveal it.
2. Be willing to obey in advance.
Ninety percent of the problem in knowing God’s will is not being willing to trust God in advance. We often like to play a game with God, saying, “God, you show your will to me, then I’ll decide if I want to do it.” But God’s will is not for curiosity seekers. He wants us to come to him like David did in Psalm 40:8, “My God, I want to do what you want. Your teachings are in my heart” (NCV). You need to make that choice, too, before you discover God’s will.
3. Make sure you’re in fellowship with God.
Once you do as Paul writes in Romans 12:1 and “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (NIV), then God will show you the specifics. When you’re in harmony with God, it’s much easier for the Holy Spirit to guide you in the Lord’s will.
4. Search the Scriptures.
God’s will is found in God’s Word. Any time you’re facing a decision, it’s a great time to do a Bible study. I wouldn’t get married, take a new ministry position, or make a major purchase without studying what the Bible says about it. A Bible and concordance are all you need to find the verses that apply to your situation.
5. Pray for God’s wisdom.
Over and over the Bible tells us to pray for God’s wisdom. Don’t know what to ask? Don’t worry. “When we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words” (Romans 8:26 CEV). God is ready to help with whatever decision you’re pondering.
6. Get the facts.
Some people think the most spiritual way to make decisions is to “go with the flow.” That’s not what the Bible teaches. Proverbs 23:23 says, “Get the facts at any price, and hold on tightly to all the good sense you can get” (TLB). Never make decisions with faulty information. God gave you wisdom when he gave you a brain. He expects you to use it.
7. Consider your desires.
God wants to bless you. He wants to give you not just what you need—but also your desires if you’re committed to doing his will. Psalm 37:4 says, “Be delighted with the Lord. Then he will give you all your heart’s desires” (TLB). In fact, God can even use your desires to direct you.
8. In faith, make a decision.
Sometimes we can get hung up on this step. We wait for God to make it super clear for us. But there comes a time—after you’ve done your research, prayed, and studied Scripture—when you need to take a step of faith. “We should make plans—counting on God to direct us” (Proverbs 16:9 TLB). Guidance comes to those who move in faith, not to those who sit in doubt.
9. Let circumstances confirm God’s will.
Circumstances don’t reveal God’s will, but they will confirm them once you’ve stepped out in faith. Proverbs 16:1 says: “We can make our plans, but the final outcome is in God’s hands” (TLB).
You should never let circumstances be the sole criteria for making any decision in life. If circumstances are the sole criteria on which you make your decision, you’re no longer an actor, you’re a re-actor. Instead, we should let God use circumstances as additional encouragement to let us know we made the right decision.
God is not trying to play games with you regarding his will. He wants you to know his will more than you want to know it. And he’s not trying to hide it, either. If you really want God’s will, and you’re sincerely committed to him, it’s hard to miss it.