I recently published a blog post called “8 Keys to Knowing God Will For Your Life.” That post was directed toward helping believers to figure out the big picture in regard to God’s will. For instance, those keys have much to do with God’s plan for you vocationally, in ministry, and in the important stages of life.
This post, on the other hand, lends help for the “smaller” decisions that we make from day to day. In order to continue in the middle of God’s perfect will, it is vital that we make right decisions each day and each week. But that is not always easy. As a tool to help you make right decisions from a biblical perspective, I have pulled together 13 questions you should ask when facing a choice. Here they are:
1) Does God already have a clear teaching about this?
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
If God has already spoken clearly about this, you do not have to wonder any longer. Just do what he has told you.
Well, the problem here seems to be that most people in our culture today seem to have a fairly low level of knowledge of the Scriptures. They are “low-information believers.”
So, I would encourage you to saturate your mind as much as possible with God’s Word. Read it. Study it. Memorize it. Learn it. Once you have done so, you will be amazed at how much better you are at making good, solid decisions in life.
2) What do my top spiritual advisors tell me about this?
Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.
It is vital that you surround yourself with godly friends who will be able to speak into your life about life’s decisions. Do you realize that you are basically a composite of the five people you spend the most time with? It is crucial to choose those people carefully. If you don’t have those types of friends, I would encourage you to increase your involvement in church and small groups and ministry in order to establish those godly relationships.
3) What do authority figures in my life have to say about this?
Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work.
God often works through authority relationships in our lives. For instance, it would be extremely rare for the best choice to be something that is illegal. Look at this choice from the vantage point of authority figures in your life, and at least use that as an important reference point for you.
4) How will this affect me spiritually?
1 Corinthians 10:23
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.
There is much more to this life than just earning a bigger paycheck or improving your status amongst peers. When you make choices, make sure you consider how this decision will affect your spiritual development. Will this draw you nearer to God or further from him? Will this decision interfere with your ability to attend church, maintain godly relationships, or spend time cultivating your spiritual disciplines? If it harms you spiritually, then I would suggest pulling the plug on that choice.
5) How will this affect my family? Will this draw us closer to God or further from God?
1 Corinthians 8:9
But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.
Not only must you consider how this decision will affect your own spiritual development, but you must also consider the affects it will have on the spiritual state of your family. Will this help your family to grow in Christ, or will it interfere with that spiritual growth? Will this pull them away from godly friends and away from a healthy, godly church environment? Will this divide your family in any way? Be careful not to make decisions that will cause your family to pay a big price.
6) Is this going to bring more peace or less peace to my life?
1 Thessalonians 4:11
That you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.
Did you know that God actually wants you to have a peaceful life? Of course, this is not the “American way,” but it is definitely an important consideration when it comes to making decisions. Be cautious that you are not stacking your life with more and more “stuff” that will send you over the edge with stress and anxiety. And make sure it is not going to steal the peace from your family as well.
7) Is this consistent with the way God has wired me?
1 Peter 4:10
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
God has created you for a purpose, and He has designed you specifically to fulfill that purpose. You are a gifted individual, and His plan will be for you to function within that area of giftedness. When we veer outside of the way He has wired us, we often feel excessive stress, anxiety, and burnout very quickly.
When it comes to making decisions, make sure you evaluate the choice in light of the way that God has designed you. Are you creative? Are you detail-oriented? Are you relational? Are you task-oriented? Are you a communicator? Pay attention to how God has wired you.
8) Am I paying attention to the risks that are associated with this?
A wise man foresees evil and hides himself; the simple pass on and are punished.
When making decisions, it is very important to honestly assess the risk that is involved. Sometimes we can become so mesmerized by a “golden carrot” that we overlook the risks that are associated. For this one, I would suggest that you have an outside voice speak into the situation.
In his book Entreleadership, Dave Ramsey says that anytime he has made a business decision that has gone against his wife’s advice, it has cost him at least $10,000. Sometimes others, like a spouse, can see the risks that we overlook.
It is a sign of wisdom to be cautious. Not fearful, but cautious.
9) Do I have total peace from God about this?
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Sometimes everything can look right on the outside when I’m making a decision, but there will still be angst within my spirit. I have learned that making a decision without that inner peace is nearly always a mistake. God gives us peace as a protection and a guide. Seek His peace, and be cautious of making decisions that move against that peace.
10) Are the doors of circumstances clearly open here?
(See Acts 16)
God often works through obvious circumstances. For example, He did that for Paul in Acts 16. In that chapter, Paul and his entourage kept facing closed doors as they were seeking where they were to minister next. And then, one door to Asia flew open while all other doors were closing.
God often directs me more by closing doors than by opening them. But there have been times in my life when I have attempted to force open a door that was not truly open. That never ends well.
It’s always good to look at how God is opening or closing doors in front of you. And while an open door does not always mean that you are to pass through, it is often an indicator that God is at work. Pay attention to open doors, and be cautious of forcing doors open when they are closed.
11) Is now the best time for this? Could waiting be better?
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Haste does not always produce the best decisions. Sometimes everything might seem right about a choice, but making the decision at a later time might make more sense. This isn’t always easy, because we often want to move forward quickly when we see an opportunity. But sometimes the wiser decision is to slow down, plan more, get more input, and give it more time to develop.
12) Am I willing to let God close this door?
(Again, refer to Paul’s journey in Acts 16.)
An important element to making good decisions is to make sure that you are completely submitted to God’s ultimate plan for your life. Sometimes we get it into our heads that we want to do a certain thing, and then we struggle immensely when we begin to realize that God may not want us to move forward with that particular choice.
The disaster comes when we place our desire above God’s plan. Let me be clear here. That never turns out well. The best decision you can ever make is to submit your choices to God’s plan and be willing to give up an opportunity when you sense God does not want you to move forward with that decision.
13) Am I willing to trust God if He asks me to step forward?
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Closely related to the above question is this: Are you willing to trust God if He asks you to step forward? This is basically the flipside of question 12. It’s important to stop when God says, “Stop,” and it is equally important to move forward when He says, “Move forward.”
Are you willing to do that thing He might want you to do? What if it makes you feel uncomfortable? What if it moves you out of your comfort zone? What if it requires faith?
I can testify to you that the most exciting moments of my life have been when I have submitted to God and stepped forward with Him in faith. I hope you can experience that same joy.
Wrapping It Up
OK, so when you have a tough choice to make, I would encourage you to go over these questions before confirming your decision. Perhaps print these questions out and keep them as a reference point for the future. Talk through each of these questions with your spouse or a friend in the context of a decision you are currently making in your own life. I know of some parents who have used these with their kids to help train their children to make good decisions as well. In essence, these questions can serve as guidelines for helping you and your family make decisions that you will not regret.
* All Scripture quotes are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible.
For more, visit Sensible Faith.
I’ve been in pastoral ministry for over twenty-five years, and the most difficult experience I’ve had to help people through is the death of a child. Most of us cannot even conceive of the anguish of a parent who has had to endure such a loss.
Recently, I officiated at a memorial service for a precious baby who passed away just ninety minutes after birth. While a memorial service like this would normally be filled with indescribable grief, this particular service was filled with a special sort of joy, which I have only witnessed a few times in my life. While this young couple from my church, Erik and Jessica, were grieving over the loss of their beautiful little girl, Ella, they were able to experience God’s grace in a profound way.
This was most clearly demonstrated by the words they each read as a part of the service. Following is a transcript of their words which brought tears to every eye in the auditorium:
I had never expected that nearly five months ago Jess and I would receive life changing news after what I had thought would be a simple, routine ultrasound. I remember the day that the doctor told us that Ella had a severe brain deformation and was likely to have an impaired and very short life. That was the hardest day. The shock of going through the experience was jarring and devastating. It crashed headlong into my dreams and ambitions for Ella, destroying them and leaving in its wake a landscape of fear and uncertainty.
The night of the diagnosis I remembered lying in my bed, hoping I would wake up the next morning to find out that everything had been a horrible nightmare. I hoped that I would awaken the next morning and the memory of what had transpired would fade from my recollection quickly and painlessly. But when the morning came and I asked my wife, “Was it just a dream?” I was again confronted with the harsh reality of our circumstance.
That morning I sat with Jessica on the floor of what would have been Ella’s room, and I held her hands, and together we prayed. I opened my heart up to the LORD, and I cried out to Him with tears in my eyes. Between sobs of desperation, I pleaded with God to give us direction for Ella’s life. I asked the LORD to give me strength to lead my wife through this time of hardship. I asked God to take away our fears and help us to give Ella the unconditional love any child deserves from his or her parents. I asked God to protect our hearts from the despair and depression that loomed around us and to give us His spirit of peace that surpasses all understanding.
I thanked God for the many blessings in our life, and I acknowledged Him for His sovereignty in all things, including Ella’s life. I thanked Him for giving her to us to be her parents. I prayed that he would lead us to be the parents he wanted for Ella. I asked that God would give us the strength to honor him during our hardships and not turn our backs on Him, our only shelter from the storm.
During this time in our lives, Jess brought a verse to my attention, and I think it is has great relevance. Psalm 34 is a beautiful psalm that encapsulates much of what I want to convey to you today. Here is what it says:
1 I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.
2 I will boast only in the LORD; let all who are helpless take heart.
3 Come, let us tell of the LORD’s greatness; let us exalt his name together.
4 I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
6 In my desperation I prayed, and the LORD listened; he saved me from all my troubles.
7 For the angel of the LORD is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.
What I would like everyone to know is that the LORD holds true to every promise he has made to me. The LORD freed me from the bondage of all my fears and my troubles. The LORD has given me joy in this dark hour of my life. The LORD has surrounded me with his angels which are those of his children whom I am blessed to know as friends and family. The LORD is truly great, loving, and deserving of exaltation. HIS grace has overwhelmed us, and the power of HIS spirit has overtaken our weakness.
Ella’s life on Earth was tragically short, but it was entirely sweet and filled with joy. I miss her and long to hold her. But I am comforted by the truth that her life hasn’t ended but only begun. HIS promise to us is that we will be reunited with HIM in heaven some day.
This is the reason Jess and I wanted this to be a celebration of life, because we are grateful for the one she was given! It was filled completely with love. And Ella’s life hasn’t ended! It has merely been transformed from the one here on Earth to the one the LORD has created for those who love and believe in Him in heaven. Thank you all for coming and being with us tonight as we remember her short life on Earth and celebrate God’s greatness and His eternal life for us. It is our honor and privilege to share our little girl’s life with you so that you can know her as we did.
Jessica’s words (a letter from her to Ella):
Today is the day we have chosen to celebrate your life and acknowledge the impact you have made in your very short time here on earth. You were a true gift of God to your Daddy and I, and we know that our lives will forever be changed because of you. Your Daddy and I are closer to each other now and stronger as a couple because of you. Most importantly we are closer to God and so thankful that, because of you, we know what it means to truly surrender our lives and trust to Him each day.
The day you were born seems like a blur to me now. I remember checking into the hospital and getting things in place for your arrival, and before I knew it, the doctor was in the room telling me that it was time! You were so beautiful. You had a full head of dark hair and the most wonderfully unique features. Your little lips reminded me of your big brother Ethan when he was a baby. You cried when you were born, which filled mommy’s heart. It would be the first and last time I heard you cry, but I treasure that sound you made. You even opened your eyes which I took as your way of saying hi to me. We knew, little girl, that you might not know how to breathe once you didn’t have mommy’s help anymore, and that turned out to be the case. Thank you for trying to figure it out, though, for so long. Thank you for letting us love you and hold you and share you with all of the people that came to meet you. I am happy to have filled your short life with love. I have learned so much about unconditional love from carrying you. I would have traded my own life so that you could have experienced the joys of this world, and I understand so much clearer now the love our Savior has for me. I know that you are made perfect now, though. And I also know that part of my love included being okay to let you go and be with the Lord instead of getting to raise you here. My perfect healed baby girl, you are experiencing a life that Mommy could have never given you here. I am so happy for you that you get a headstart into eternity!
In the book of James he says we should consider it a joy when we face trials of any kind, and now I know what he means. I consider it a joy to have walked this journey with you Ella and a true privilege to be the one that God chose to be your mommy. He has a strong purpose for your life with us, and we are only beginning to see the impact you are making in this world. I will treasure every minute that we shared together and have great expectations for our time in eternity together. Your Daddy and big brother Ethan and I will never forget you. Fly high sweet angel girl. Mommy loves you very much.
I have known Erik and Jessica for many years now — since they were teenagers. And I can tell you that the reason they were able to find God’s grace in this difficult trial was because they knew what it means to walk with God. I have watched them for many years as they have sought the Lord, served Him in ministry, and surrounded themselves with a support system of godly friends.
When you find yourself in a dark hour of trial, my encouragement to you is to lean into God. That is where you will find strength, hope, and courage.
When the storms of life approach,
run to God and not away from Him!
For more, visit Sensible Faith.
When I was a young man, I seemed to continually wrestle with knowing God’s will for my life. I wanted more than anything to follow His plan. Interestingly, now that I’m “old” (currently 47 years old), I still wrestle with doing His will in my life. I have come to learn that this is not just something that a young person does early in life; it is a lifelong pursuit in order to stay in the exact center of His plan.
So, then, how can we know God’s plan for our lives? Over the past twenty-five years that I have been in ministry, I have discovered eight vital keys to knowing God’s will. Here they are:
1) Walk with God.
For starters, if you are interested in knowing God’s plan for your life, then you must learn to walk with God. You need to develop a relationship with Him. Christianity is all about relationship rather than just religion.
And so you must cultivate your relationship with God. You must seek to know Him and not just seek to know about Him.
You will cultivate that relationship best by spending time in His Word, taking time for prayer, and taking every opportunity you can to be involved in church and small group Bible study opportunities. When you seek these disciplines in your life, God will begin the first steps to revealing His plan to you.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.
2) Surrender your will to God’s.
Many times when we say we are seeking God’s will, what we are really wanting to say to God is this: “OK, God, here’s what I’m planning to do. Now I need you to rubber stamp this, all right?” I must tell you that this is not really effective in finding His true will.
Before God will begin to reveal His will to you, you must be committed to doing whatever it is that He desires for you to do. God will likely be slow to show you His plan if He knows you will likely not do that plan anyway.
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Jesus was willing to die for us, so shouldn’t we be willing to live for Him? When we surrender to Him, that is when He really begins to direct our steps.
3) Obey what you already know to be God’s Will.
Many people seem to want to know what God’s plan is for their lives, but they overlook the fact that 98% of His will is already delineated carefully through His Word. God is very clear about many, many aspects of His will. For instance, it is clearly His plan that we abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
If we do not obey the things that God has shown us clearly to be His will, why would we think He would reveal any further information regarding His plan for our lives? Obedience is an important first step.
4) Seek godly input.
One key component to finding God’s will is to seek the input of godly advisors in your life. If you don’t currently have 3-4 godly mentors, then I would highly recommend that you seek them out right away.
Think of it this way: you should understand that you are basically a composite of the five people you spend the most time with. So, then, it is vital that you choose those five people well. If you choose to surround yourself with godly advisors, they will be instrumental in helping you discern God’s plan for your life. But if you surround yourself with people who are far from God, your hope of finding His best for your life will be greatly diminished.
Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.
The church is designed to help you greatly with this. I would encourage you to be in church every single time the doors are opened. The more you involve yourself with a community of believers, the greater your chances will be of finding godly men and women who can help you discern God’s will.
5) Pay attention to how God has wired you.
God has created you to fulfill a specific role in this world. There is no one else who can achieve completely what God has purposely created you to do.
The Apostle Peter gives us this admonition:
1 Peter 4:10
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
God has gifted every one of us to perform a special mission for which we alone were created. How amazing is that? Wow!
So, when you seek to discover God’s will for your life, pay attention to how He has gifted you. His plan for you will always be directly related to the gifts that He has bestowed upon you. The great news is that you will automatically be good at whatever it is that He has called you to do!
6) Listen to God’s Spirit.
I experienced a major turning point in my own prayer life when I learned simply to shut up while I was praying. That may sound odd to you, and it seemed odd to me at first.
You see, I used to do all the talking when I prayed to God. But then, several years ago, I read Bill Hybel’s book, Too Busy Not to Pray. That book completely changed the way I approached God through prayer. Since reading that book, I have added a significant component to my prayer life: listening. I take time to listen to what God might have to say to me.
Practically, the way I go about this is to bring a notepad with me when I sit down to pray. Then I write at the top of several pages things like the following:
During my prayer time, I meditate on questions such as the above. Often, God will start flooding my heart with ideas and information regarding one or more of those questions. I write as fast as I can as He speaks to my heart. What a glorious experience that is to sense His Spirit on me, guiding my thoughts and words.
Through experiences like this, He has shown me many times with great clarity what His will is for my life. I long for those experiences when He speaks to me like that. Those times are truly life changing.
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
7) Listen to your heart.
In addition to listening to the Spirit, I also recommend listening to your heart. To understand my point here, consider the following passage:
4 Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. (NKJV)
I love this passage, because it shows me that, when I am walking with the Lord, He will actually let me do many really cool things that I actually love to do! When you are close to Him, He actually begins to shape your desires so that you desire the things that He has already called you to do.
So then, His plan actually becomes a super-exciting adventure. I always have the most fun in life when I am doing God’s will. And that is because He shapes my “wanter” to want to do the things for which He has actually created me.
8) Take a look at your circumstances.
God often clearly demonstrates His plan for our lives by lining up circumstances in obvious ways. And He also shows us what His will is NOT for us to do in that same way. It is not His will for you to take the job that is not offered to you. If you are 5’ 6” tall and weigh 125 lbs., it is not likely that God has created you to play professional football.
Over the years, I have discovered that God is pretty good at opening and closing doors. He even did that for the Apostle Paul and his enterouge in Acts. Take a look at this passage:
6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.
7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.
8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.
9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.
So, even Paul had to face closed doors in his ministry. God often uses closed doors to show us clearly what He does NOT want us to do. And He also uses open doors at times to show us what He DOES want us to do. Of course, this does not mean that every open door is definitely God’s plan, but it does help to give you some basic direction.
A Closing Thought:
The next time you begin to ponder God’s plan for your life, I would encourage you to mull over the above eight keys. Use these principles to help you to hone in on His plan. And when you seek His will earnestly, you will find it!
For more, visit Sensible Faith.
Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.
Today’s passage is important because it established a very important principle as the Children of Israel prepared to enter into the Promised Land: Don’t add to or take away from the words of God. God (through Moses) wanted this to be a foundational concept for their nation as they developed in this new land that God had provided. The foundation of their new nation had to be that they let God speak for Himself, and they were not to try to add to that or take away from that.
John ended that last book of the canon of Scripture by adding a similar statement:
For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
The challenging thing for us today is that we live in a culture that continually seems to add to and take away from God’s Word. The opening chapters of Genesis are an excellent example of this. For instance, many writers attempt to perform amazing “linguistic gymnastics” in order to to fit the notion of billions of years into Genesis 1. God has clearly told us that He created the earth in six literal days, and yet people regularly attempt to add to that message.
On the other hand, God has also told us that we will one day have to give an account of our lives before Him, but many Bible teachers seem to want to leave that part of the message out for fear of offending followers. How much better it would be if they would communicate the life-changing truths that God has given us!
God has given us the exact, precise message that we need for life. It behooves us to know and heed every last word!
For more, visit SensibleFaith.com
Chris Russell has spent the past 25 years actively involved in ministry through pastoring, church planting, writing, Christian radio, and special speaking around the country and in seven different countries. He is passionate about communicating the truths of God's Word in a creative, highly-relevant way.
Chris has three kids and happens to be married to his best friend, Leigh. He currently pastors a church on the north side of Cincinnati. When he's not pastoring or blogging (www.SensibleFaith.com), he runs a real estate company in his "spare" time (www.PlumTreeRealty.com). He believes that A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder) is one of his 'spiritual gifts.'