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Instead of giving Him the whole deck, they offer up a small hand of cards with one or two sticking out prominently and tell Him, "Pick a card--any card.

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After throwing it several times, she was asked why. She quickly replied, "Every time I throw it, the stick points to the road to the left, and I want to take the road to the right--it looks smoother. When we hold back from giving God an unqualified yes to whatever He may choose for us in the future, we are really questioning whether His character is loving and good. We somehow get the idea that we must make a choice between the misery of God's will or the happiness of our own.

As Paul Little wrote, "So many of us see God as a kind of celestial Scrooge who peers over the balcony of heaven trying to find anybody who is enjoying life. And when he spots a happy person, he yells, 'Now cut that out! God is not some cosmic kill-joy who delights in taking advantage of people who are foolish enough to submit their wills to His. The one who loved us enough to sacrifice His Son to save us when we were His enemies Romans is certainly worthy of our trust now that we are His children.

We don't need to "surrender to God's will" as though we were resigning ourselves to a somber and joyless existence.

Instead, we can say with David, "I delight to do Your will, O my God" Psalm , knowing that He loves us enough to desire a destiny for us that is beyond our highest hopes. God is causing "all things to work together for good" Romans in the lives of His children, even though the things that happen sometimes do not seem best at the moment e.

Lewis used the illustration of a dog whose leash got hopelessly wrapped around a pole. As the dog pulled to get free, the owner found it necessary to move it in precisely the opposite direction to liberate it from the pole. We are often like that dog, but our heavenly Master loves us and knows what is best for us. The path of our ultimate liberation will sometimes be painful, but we can delight in His will, knowing the glorious destiny that lies ahead of us. The set of principles that follows can assist us in the process of making tough decisions, but remember that they are not step-by-step formulas.

If we want to know and experience God's direction, we must communicate with Him through prayer and Scripture.

Approaching God

Many Christians are concerned about knowing the will of God, but how many spend even five minutes a day asking God for His wisdom and direction? Prayer should envelop the whole process of guidance. Communication with God also involves a regular time of reading the Bible with an open heart and mind to hear God's Word for our lives. The Bible is the central revelation for all believers, and its precepts and principles clearly give us the answers to most questions about the will of God in decision-making situations.

Seven Principles of Prayer | The Briefing

The Scriptures were provided not only to teach us the way of salvation, but also to guide us in the way we should live after becoming God's children. God designed His Word to equip us to accomplish "every good work" 2 Timothy , that is, to fulfill His purposes for our lives. God clearly reveals His moral will in the positive and negative commands of the Bible, and these precepts by themselves can guide us through the majority of the decisions we will ever make.

In addition, the Bible offers a multitude of general principles that can be effectively applied to very specific circumstances. There is no need for us to seek guidance in areas that have been expressly commanded or forbidden in Scripture. A believer does not need to wrestle, for example, over whether to marry an unbeliever, since the answer is already in the Bible. We can be sure that God will never lead us to do anything that is contrary to His Word. Since the Bible is our primary source of guidance, we owe it to ourselves to become so familiar with its contents that its precepts and principles become ingrained in our patterns of thought.

This process of renewing our minds with the Word takes time and effort, but there is no other way to "prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect" Romans If we do not program our minds on a daily basis with Scripture, we will find our minds programmed by default with the temporal value system of the world, and our lives will soon reflect those values.

Inner renewal is the prerequisite to outer transformation. As we seek to renew our minds with the commandments and counsel of God's revealed Word, we must approach it with a resolve to do whatever it says, even if it goes against our wishes.

What Does God’s Presence Feel Like?

Content without conviction will do us little good, because it is always possible to distort the Scriptures to match the shape of selfish desires. We will avoid self-deception only to the extent that we are willing and open to respond to God's light. While the Bible is our primary guide to what God wants us to be and to do, our Lord has providentially seen fit to supplement the Scriptures in a number of personal ways.

There are several secondary factors that can be useful in discerning God's direction in specific situations, and the first of these is conscience. This is the ethical dimension of decision making; an option may appear to be sound on the intellectual level, but it may be unsound on the moral level. We cannot avoid the matrix of personal relationships in the decisions we make.

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Paul stressed the importance of living with a clear conscience: "I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men Acts ; also see Acts ; 1 Timothy ; 2 Timothy God has implanted within us an intuitive sense of right and wrong. As we grow in Him, our conscience becomes more sensitive, more attuned to His desires. When we reject the input of our conscience, the proper response is to confess it 1 John , not to cover it. A failure to respond in this way will place us under a burden of guilt and take the joy out of our lives.

Even worse, we can sear our conscience 1 Timothy and become callused by repeatedly rejecting its warnings.

The second is recognition of the One to whom we pray

A Christian may be committed to the Lord, willing to comply with wherever God leads him, communicating with Him in prayer and in the Word, and enjoying a clear conscience. Even so, he still may not know which option to choose in a specific situation. It is within this framework that common sense should play an important role in the choices we make outside this framework, common sense may simply feed the me-first mentality.

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God was not erratic or capricious in the way He designed the universe, and He is not haphazard in His design for the lives of His children. He gave us minds and He wants us to use them to evaluate the consequences of our actions. The Scriptures tell us to "think so as to have sound judgment" Romans We should be level-headed and not rash in the way we evaluate our gifts and opportunities. Paul, for example, stayed where there were open doors Ephesus and left when his life was threatened.

However, common sense has its limitations and it should never be our only criterion for discerning God's guidance. There are times when He leads people do things that are contrary to our concept of good judgment. We are often too nearsighted to see the goal He has in mind. Because we see such a small part of the puzzle, we should always be willing to submit our thoughts and plans to His.

God, who "works all things after the counsel of His will" Ephesians , is in sovereign control of the circumstances of our lives. He causes "all things to work together for good" to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose Romans Notice the word "together. Similarly, He does not allow our circumstances and temptations to overwhelm us without offering us the grace to endure 2 Corinthians Because of His providential care and involvement in the details of our lives, we should be sensitive to the situations in which we find ourselves. Factors like finances, aptitude, education, experience, family, spiritual gifts, and occupation all play a part in God's direction.

For instance, if a Christian who is considering a job possibility realizes that her ability, education, and experience do not at all match the qualifications, she should be very hesitant to take another step even if the job opens up. God often works by opening and closing doors as we come to them, but we should be careful not to make this our primary means of guidance. Just because a door is open does not mean that we should go through it.

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  5. The "throwing out the fleece" approach is rarely valid. It is easy to misread circumstances and interpret them in ways that flatter our preconceived plans. This is like the farmer who wanted to be an evangelist. When he saw a cloud formation that looked like "PC," he took it to mean "Preach Christ" and left his farm, never thinking that it could also have been interpreted as "Plant Corn.

    When David Livingstone was asked if he didn't fear that going into Africa was too difficult and too dangerous, he answered, "I am immortal until the will of God for me is accomplished. Livingstone also said, "I had rather be in the heart of Africa in the will of God than on the throne of England out of the will of God.

    A place of safety outside God's will is too risky a place for any child of God to contemplate. If it were in the will of God, I'd plant an oak tree today, even if Christ were coming tomorrow. The Bible is full of examples of people who profited by heeding wise counsel and of people who suffered by ignoring it.

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    We are called to exercise wisdom in "teaching and admonishing one another" Colossians , and wise counsel involves both. If a decision has significant implications, we should not limit ourselves to our own judgment, but we should also seek the perspective of mature and godly people who have wisdom and experience. Good counsel is both instructive and corrective, and requires frankness, not flattery. Remember, however, that the counsel available in the precepts and principles of Scripture must always be the first and foremost influence in the choices we make.

    Even the wisest of people are finite and biased, and we must avoid the pitfall of uncritically accepting the advice we receive as if it were a word from the Lord. Ultimately, we alone are responsible for the decisions we make. A compelling desire to move in a specific direction or a burden to minister to certain people may be coming directly from God as a means of guidance. But we should bear in mind that God never gives us desires that are contrary to the commandments and counsel of His Word. Burdens and desires can be a significant input in our decisions as long as they are evaluated in the larger context of communication prayer and Scripture , conscience, common sense, circumstances, and counsel.

    Otherwise, we may become victims of desires and inclinations that are not from God. Philippians tells us that we are to turn our anxieties into peace by offering our problems and needs up to the Lord. God wants us to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts Colossians If a decision gives us a sense of doubt, distress, or confusion, something is wrong because it is not accompanied by the peace of God. Paul, for example, had an open door for ministry in Troas, but because he had no rest in his spirit, he went instead to Macedonia 2 Corinthians By itself, peace is a supplemental, not a sufficient principle of guidance.

    But if a particular option passes the test of the other principles and fails to provide peace, the wisest course of action is to wait on the Lord if the decision can be deferred and allow Him to provide further input. The option may be right, but the timing may be wrong. Some decisions follow logically from others, and do not need to be prayed about. If you decide to go to college, you do not need to ask God whether you should attend classes and do the required work.

    Many other decisions, like what clothes to wear and how to behave in different social situations, are matters of common sense. While it is true that God's thoughts are much higher than our own, this does not mean that His will for our lives is erratic and peculiar. He gave us a rational capacity and wants us to use our minds in the decisions we make.