Principles for Discerning God’s Will
What pleases God?
As we have discussed in this series, we must have a relationship with God to answer this question. So how do we cultivate this relationship in a way that we can discern God’s will?
Communication is the main way in which we discern the will of God. It involves immersing ourselves in Scripture and coming before God in prayer.
God will not guide us to do something contrary to Scripture. As we seek to discern His will, we must constantly be in prayer and examining our decisions in light of Scripture. If we think we hear God’s voice telling us to do something that is clearly contrary to Scripture (e.g., commit adultery), then it is not from God.
Although Scripture and prayer are the main means of discerning God’s will, there are a number of secondary means that can aid us as well. The first of these is our conscience. Although it is not infallible, our conscience provides a sense of moral direction. A choice may make sense intellectually but be morally despicable—taking advantage of a client’s situation to better our own, for example.
One slight modification to our values and our conscience, and we can rationalize anything. That is why good and evil both increase at compound interest. The smallest choices we make matter. One compromise to our integrity can lead us down a slippery slope, deadening our conscience. On the other hand, the more we seek to listen to God, the more clearly we will hear Him.
3. Common Sense
God has also given us the capacity for common sense. We have minds, and God wants us to use them. We ought to evaluate the consequences of our choices and live wisely before God. But because we are nearsighted when it comes to the big picture, this should not be our only means of discerning God’s will.
God is sovereign, and He has our best interests at heart. He puts us in our unique circumstances for a reason. One way He reveals His path for us is by opening and closing doors, so we ought to pay attention when He does so. This means that if He decisively closes a door we were hoping to go through, we should resist the urge to be despondent and instead be thankful, trusting that God has a good reason for doing so.
When faced with a decision, we are called to seek godly counsel. As Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”
Godly counsel can caution us against foolish plans and help us avoid our blind spots. When we invite people into our lives who have wisdom, we can avoid errors we would make on our own. This counsel should never trump Scripture, but it can help reveal the way we ought to go in accordance with God’s will.
We should desire to be pleasing to God. Sometimes He places a specific burden on our hearts, a call to serve someone or get involved with a particular ministry. When we submit that burden or desire to God in prayer, we can learn His will for us.
7. Contentment and Confirmation
If you do not have peace about a decision, try to put it off until you do have peace, especially if the decision is not urgent. This is a supplemental method of discerning God’s will, but necessary in some cases.