Sunday, June 2, 2013

How Do I Know I'm in God's Will?

Reading: Proverbs 3  
I have spoken to many people over the years who, in the midst of making a major decision, were concerned with how to know if it was the will of God. This is commendable, and something I myself have had to deal with at various points in my life. There are times when there are clear indicators as to whether something is a right or wrong decision. There are other times when there appear to be several equally good choices, each resulting in very different outcomes for our lives. How do we know what to do? How do we know what will please God? How do we know which one God wants us to choose?
There have been times in my life when I have had an unexplainable clear sense that the Lord was forbidding me to go in a direction that would otherwise seem as good a decision as my other options. At other times, there are some good choices, but my experience in life and knowledge of scripture causes me to be uncomfortable with a particular choice and so I have much more “peace” about making another choice. However, sometimes one does not have anything like that and there seem to be multiple good choices that would effect our lives in very different ways. In times like these people are often anxious they will make “the wrong decision.”
I have also met some who, whether they have a clear sense of what they are to do, or even if there is a distinctly better choice, still fret over whether or not “it” might be “the wrong decision.” Whether your experience is more like this, or more like what is described in the previous paragraph, Proverbs 3 contains some truth that will set you free from anxious thoughts about making “the wrong decision.” I think this is the most common experience of the Christian life.
5Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. 7Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. (Proverbs 3:5-7)
All too often we think that we have to know what the perfect decision is in order to make it. Like the child who is told to do something and always asks, “Why?” (That was me as a child.) That is a great question in math, or science, or other academic studies. However, when it comes to doing the will of God we don't always get to know the perfect decision in order to make it. Just like the child who can't always comprehend why they are told to do something needs to know that they must do it, so when it comes to God's commands we are often simply to obey without knowing why.
Sometimes the same principle applies to knowing the right decision for our future. As believers we don't look to the stars for guidance, or go to psychics. Yet some Christians want God to act for them just as a psychic or astrologer... predicting their future, or at least telling them which decisions they are to make in order to have the best future. The point of Proverbs 3:5, 7 are clear: we must learn to trust God when we don't have understanding. We must not think that wisdom for every decision rests with us!
This is practiced in every day life when we “fear the Lord and shun evil.” Sometimes, however, our choices are neither evil nor good. It is in those times that the promise of Proverbs 3:6 is so important. When we obey the Lord in the clear things that He has asked us to do in His Word (in all your ways acknowledge Him), He promises to make sure all our decisions in the not so clear choices are pleasing to Him (He will make your paths straight)!
This promise may be easily missed because the language “He will make your paths straight” is not so clear to us. The King James translation was actually easier to understand here: “He shall direct thy paths.” The Holman Christian Standard Bible may make it the clearest: “He will guide you on the right paths.”
The word translated “make straight” has another meaning, “make right,” or, “pleasing”. This word is used in Jeremiah 18:4 in this sense.
But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. (Jeremiah 18:4 NASB)
Our lives are in the hands of the potter. When we set out to please God with our lives in what is clear and known (repenting when we fail and seeking to live out repentance), the Lord promises to direct our paths into what pleases Him. This is true even when our understanding doesn't know if it was the right choice! Fear not!
6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
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