Previously we looked at how God leads through a series of smaller steps to bring us to where he wants us, in order to accomplish his purpose. He did this in my own life and I believe he demonstrated this in Abraham’s life as well. Many times when we read Scripture, though, it seems like we always see God giving explicitly clear directions to his people; yet in our own lives it seems many times that we have multiple good options, any of which could be in God’s plan. So how do you decide which path to take when faced with a choice? I want to suggest three avenues you should pursue when faced with these choices in order to determine God’s leading in a particular area.
It may go without saying, but it really cannot be stressed enough that prayer should be primary whenever seeking God’s will in a matter. If we forge ahead in any area without the necessary prayer to really seek and ask God to reveal his will to us, then it is as good as us throwing the dice and picking a number. If we really want to do what God wants, then it is him that we need to go to first. When it comes to praying for God to reveal his will to us, one of the greatest promises in Scripture is found in 1 John 5:13-15, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” God promises to hear and respond to prayers done according to his will! What could be more in alignment with his will, than a person’s heart that is honestly asking to see that will?
In this seeking of God’s will through prayer, I would encourage you to ask others to join you in seeking that answer. Now, let me be clear here. This is not just any other person, but specific people you can trust. As I was seeking to know God’s will regarding our call to Asia and then specifically when the door opened, Japan, I of course, spoke with Beth about it so that both of us as husband and wife could pray. I also told my senior pastor, who also is one of my most trusted friends as well, even though knowing what was going on in my calling also affected his church. Additionally, I told one other good friend about how we felt God was leading and asked him to pray. Within this small group, I knew that there would be prayers being offered because I knew and trusted the hearts of those I told. Matthew 18:19-20 supports this idea of enlisting a couple prayer partners when Jesus says, “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Now, I do believe that there are some other steps God would have us take to determine his will when two equally good paths converge, along with and after we have prayed. One of these steps is to determine what it is you really want to do, or to put it more Biblically, what it is your heart desires. I went to a summer camp my 9th grade year of high school. This was a Christian camp where we went on a weeklong backpacking trip through the mountains of North Carolina, and studied the Word of God and were challenged to grow in our faith. God had already been speaking to my heart regarding going into the ministry, but there was also a very strong desire to join the Marine Corps, even in 9th grade. I still remember a conversation I had with the guy who was my camp counselor for the trip, when he drew a diagram and said that if there was something that was good, and it seemed that God wanted you to do it, you go towards that and God will put up walls to redirect you if its not His will. That always stuck with me, because he did not discount the desire I had to both serve the Lord and serve my country. Later on, this desire became much clearer that for a good chunk of my life, they were one in the same calling as a Navy Chaplain. Of course demonstrating my whole thesis that God’s Will is seen in reverse. I believe Psalm 37:4 can be taken at face value when trying to determine God’s will when it says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Of course, the huge caveat there is, “delight yourself in the Lord.” The one who is truly seeking to know God’s Will and live in God’s plan, though, is living a life that pleases the Lord.
The final step I want to address is open and closed doors. We often talk about these when we discuss God’s Will, and I think it applies when deciding the right path to take. Many times as we pray and seek God, and then follow our God given desires that are within his will, it will many times take God opening or closing paths to us to make that clear. As I was closing in on my last semester of seminary, I knew I was called into the Navy Chaplaincy, but the war in Iraq had already been going on for over a year, and as a United States Marine, I really wanted to be mobilized to active duty and deploy to Iraq. Now, for most that would seem insane, but as a Marine, going to combat is everything you train for from boot camp on, and I felt like that was the best way for me to close out my time as a Marine. It’s a much longer story, but several times I was told yes, I was going, then told no, I was not. I finally got frustrated and went back to the Navy Chaplain recruiter and went ahead and completed the paperwork to transition to the Navy. The day after I signed the paperwork officially leaving the Marine Corps and swearing into the Navy, I got a call from a Staff Sergeant at Headquarters, Marine Corps, asking if I still wanted to go to Iraq. God could not have made that closed door and path change any more clear. He did not change my desires, but made it clear that was not his desire. If I had been called 24 hours earlier, I am certain that I would not have become a Chaplain at that time. God will use doors and roadblocks to clearly guide us, and while none of us enjoy hearing the word, no; there are many times God uses that to show us the path to take.
As you are confronting possible options in God’s plan for your life, take comfort in the fact that the designer of that plan is always ready to listen to your prayers regarding that plan. He has also created you with certain desires, abilities and predispositions that cause you to desire certain experiences more than others, and can easily close doors that lead down paths outside his will and purpose. Primarily, I am proposing that God’s will is most times only seen by looking back, so you may not immediately see that you made the right choice; but if you are seeking to stay in God’s will, you can trust that God is the Sovereign designer of whatever path you find yourself on.