This blog is for Christina Waugh, who asked this question. If you have an idea for me to write about something, and you can’t find help from wiser people than I, please let me know! I’ll either point you in the right direction or try to give some kind of insight from God’s Word. If you are a member of Central Oaks, I guarantee I’ll respond. If you’re not, I will try. Just email me and I’ll make time to write about it.
This topic has been over-complicated in Christian circles in the past. Discerning God’s call seems very difficult, nearly impossible, if we rely on how a select few people share how God revealed to them that He wanted them to go to Africa (or wanted them to be a barber on 4th avenue, or any other very specific things God tells people). We can start to wonder, “Am I called of God? Maybe I’m not living for Him like I should! How can I know what He’s calling me to?”
I battled this greatly as a Senior in high school as I was trying to decide where to go to college. I was debating between Columbia International University and Free Will Baptist Bible College. My major would be the same at either–missions. One was far away and one was close to home. One day a friend of mine named Steve Greenwood listened to my dilemma and created a picture for me of two doors. On each was one of the Olsen twins (you remember, from Full House?). Above one door was “FWBBC” and above the other “CIU.” Below each door was an arrow that joined together at the bottom above the words “God’s Will.” I laughed at Steve’s work, but understood his message. He was telling me that sometimes God just gives us the freedom to make a decision.
In fact, when it comes to particulars about what career to work in, who to marry, where to live, what car to buy, and countless other decisions we have to make, God rarely “parts the clouds” to give us that clear of a direction. That wouldn’t require much faith.
Since He doesn’t often work that way, what are some principles to keep in mind to help us know the right decisions that honor God? Here are a few my wife and I have found helpful.
What does God’s Word say about it?
God’s Word never contradicts God’s will. If what the “spirit” is leading you to do is against God’s Word, you may be listening to a spirit, but it’s not the Holy Spirit. It will never be God’s will for you to divorce your spouse because you’re just “not attracted to them anymore.” It will never be God’s will for a follower of Jesus to marry a muslim or an atheist or anyone else not following Jesus. How do I know? Because God has already said so (2 Corinthians 6:14).
If it’s clear in Scripture, you don’t need any other principles for “discernment.” But for those decisions not clearly defined in Scripture, there are other things to consider.
What do the godly people around you say about it?
Important decisions are meant to be made in community of godly people. Proverbs 11:14 says “in a multitude of counselors there is safety.” Sometimes we can be blinded to reality because of an emotional connection, exhaustion, or sinful desires. The more godly people you can get around you to speak into your life and the important decision you’re considering, the better.
I have five or more other pastors I go to for counsel when there is an important decision I have to make for our church. I also have 4 godly deacons who speak into direction as well. And I have a godly wife who wants what’s best for us too. Usually if all of those line up, it’s pretty clear the answer is “yes.”
What can you do?
My Mom thinks I’m pretty much good at everything. Unfortunately she’s wrong. Knowing this will keep you from being embarrassed as one of those terrible auditions at the next singing competition show!
But I can do some things, and I want to do them for God. I can preach, I can write, I can counsel, but I can’t fix a car to save my life. In fact, when I try to do things I’m bad at, I start hating life. (That’s why I don’t play golf!) Also, others start hating me when I try to do them too!
Eric Liddell, olympic runner who also followed Jesus, said, “I know that God made me fast, but He also made me for a purpose, and when I run I feel His pleasure.” That’s it. What is it that when you do it you feel the pleasure of God? What is it that when you do it you feel like, “Wow, I was made for this!”
What do you have opportunity to do?
Generally speaking, if you’re gifted at something, people will want you to do it. If you’re no good at it, people won’t want you to do it. The opportunities you have is a good sign for what you probably should be doing. You may be good at something and want to do something but have no opportunity. That may be humbling and it may be time to wait, but “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). Accept what God has for you at that time.
If people are asking you to do something and keep asking you to do it, and you can do it to honor Jesus, why not do it?
What do you want to do?
I am a pastor because there’s nothing else I’d rather do. Paul said, “If anyone desires the office of an overseer (that’s another word for pastor), he desires a good thing” (1 Timothy 3:1). Sometimes we can make it seem like desires are bad. They aren’t when they’re desiring God and His glory. Desires for joy outside of God are sin, but wanting to do something to enjoy God is a great thing! Do what you can to do that!
Augustine said, “Love God and do whatever you please.” That’s pretty good wisdom to me.
If you want to look into this more, I recommend Kevin DeYoung’s book, “Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will.”