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Assurance of God’s Guidance

The main purpose of this lesson in these studies on assurance is to give Christians some basic biblical concepts about God’s guidance. It is not intended to be a full treatise nor even a full outline on the will of God.

The Problem People Face

Proverbs 14:12 tells us there is a way which seems right to a person, but its end is the way of death. Jeremiah also clearly states the problem of man’s inability to direct his life. In Jeremiah 10:23 he said, “Lord, we know that people do not control their own destiny. It is not in their power to determine what will happen to them.” Because of man’s finite wisdom and ability, his limited understanding of the facts coupled with his sinfulness, man simply cannot direct his steps. What seems right to him results in the way of destruction and death. As man’s thoughts are not God’s, so his ways must likewise fall short of God’s perfect and all-wise plan.

Isaiah 55:8-9 “Indeed, my plans are not like your plans,
and my deeds are not like your deeds,
9 for just as the sky is higher than the earth,
so my deeds are superior to your deeds
and my plans superior to your plans.

1 Corinthians 1:25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Illustrations:

(1) There was a time back in the 1940s when men thought the atomic bomb would end all wars and bring world peace. It obviously has not.

(2) When faced with the problem of a marriage gone wrong, people often see divorce as the answer rather than face the pain and struggle of working through their problems. Working through problems in a marriage is certainly God’s will according to the Scripture, which is always what is best for man and society as a whole. Recent research is beginning to show that Scripture has been right all along. Over the long haul, divorce brings more pain and difficulties than it relieves both to the society and to those involved in the divorce.

Only the eternal God who is the Alpha and Omega has the infinite wisdom and power, love and mercy needed to direct the affairs of man’s life. As our Creator and the one who formed us in the womb, who better knows us, our abilities, our weaknesses, and all the details of our lives than God?

Psalm 139:13-14 Certainly you made my mind and heart;
you wove me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give you thanks because your deeds are awesome and amazing.
You knew me thoroughly;

The Promise God Gives

The declaration of Scripture is that God cares about each of us and wants to direct our lives. How infinitely superior His plan must be in every detail with all the wisdom and data He possesses, past, present, and future, and with all the power at His disposal as the sovereign God of the universe. The greatest evidence of God’s desire to guide our lives is found in the fact of the Scriptures. He has given us the Bible that we might know His will and purpose in all areas of life. This means knowing God and the life He has for us to live. Our responsibility, by God’s own direction, is to entrust our way to Him for His direction and leading.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding.
6 Acknowledge him in all your ways,
and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 16:1-4 The intentions of the heart belong to a man,
but the answer of the tongue comes from the Lord.
2 All the ways of a person seem right in his own opinion,
but the Lord weighs the motives.
3 Commit your works to the Lord,
and your plans will be established.
4 The Lord works everything for its own ends—
even the wicked for the day of disaster.

Proverbs 16:9 A person plans his course,
but the Lord directs his steps.

James 1:5 But if anyone is deficient in wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand, and it will be given to him.

1 Peter 5:6-7 And God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand 7 by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you.

Passages on God’s Will

As you think about God’s will what comes to mind? It has been my experience that many people generally focus on certain things, but ignore the more basic and important areas. For example, guidance or finding God’s will is often restricted to such things as:

  • Whom do I marry? (someone who will make me happy and who is perfect, of course).
  • Where do I work? (where it will be wonderful, challenging, and financially rewarding).
  • What car should I buy? (one that never breaks down).
  • What house should I buy? (one next door to Christians so I won’t have to witness).
  • Should I go to college, and if so, where should I go? (where I can make all A’s, meet the right person, or get away from mom and dad).
  • What kind of pastor does God want our church to have? (someone who can walk on water, leap tall buildings, and fly faster than a speeding bullet) .

As is obvious, when such a list is the primary focus guidance becomes something people want for their own happiness and fulfillment so life will flow along smoothly like an interstate highway. Certainly we should seek God’s guidance and pray about such things as James warned us when he wrote, Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that’ (James 4:15). In a similar fashion, Paul wrote, “and I always ask in my prayers, if perhaps now at last I may succeed in visiting you according to the will of God.” (Rom. 1:10), and Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans will be established.”

A brief look at those passages where God’s will is specifically mentioned, however, show that our own happiness and the details with which we are so often occupied are secondary, never primary. Such an occupation or attitude typifies the shallow thinking of a society that is out of touch with the purposes of the living God and how He works. We are a consumer-oriented society bent on our own comfort and pleasure, whereas God has much greater goals in mind.

Just a brief glance at passages where the words “will of God” are found quickly show us God’s primary concern is in the realm of the spiritual and concerns the moral will of God or Christlike change.

1 Corinthians 1:1-2 From Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Sosthenes, our brother, 2 to the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.

2 Corinthians 1:1 From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God that is in Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia.

Ephesians 6:6 not like those who do their work only when someone is watching—as people-pleasers—but as slaves of Christ doing the will of God from the heart.

Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a slave of Christ, greets you. He is always struggling in prayer on your behalf, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.

1 Thessalonians 4:3 For this is God’s will: that you become holy, that you keep away from sexual immorality,

1 Peter 2:15 For God wants you to silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good.

1 Peter 4:2 in that he spends the rest of his time on earth concerned about the will of God and not human desires.

1 Peter 5:2 Give a shepherd’s care to God’s flock among you, exercising oversight not merely as a duty but willingly under God’s direction, not for shameful profit but eagerly.

Principles We Must Apply

Devotion and Desire

The essential foundation for discovering and doing God’s will is devotion to God and a desire to do His will—to please and glorify Him.

Psalm 25:12 The Lord shows his faithful followers
the way they should live.

2 Corinthians 5:9 So then whether we are alive or away, we make it our ambition to please him.

Psalm 37:4-5 Then you will take delight in the Lord,
and he will answer your prayers.
5 Commit your future to the Lord!
Trust in him, and he will act on your behalf.

1 Thessalonians 4:1 Finally then, brothers and sisters, we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received instruction from us about how you must live and please God (as you are in fact living) that you do so more and more.

James 4:3-4 you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions.
4 Adulterers, do you not know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God? So whoever decides to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy.

Ephesians 6:6 … not like those who do their work only when someone is watching—as people-pleasers—but as slaves of Christ doing the will of God from the heart.

2 Timothy 2:4 No one in military service gets entangled in matters of everyday life; otherwise he will not please the one who recruited him.

We Need Facts and Data

Data From the Word of God

Precepts or Commands: This refers to detailed commands of the Word given to guide our conduct. It is God’s will for us to pray, read our Bibles, assemble together regularly, for husbands to love their wives, etc. We are not to steal, commit adultery, lie, murder, spread gossip, grumble, or be critical. All such commands express the will of God.

Psalm 119:9 How can a young person maintain a pure lifestyle?
By following your instructions!

Romans 12:2 Now we know that God’s judgment is in accordance with truth against those who practice such things.

Illustration: If a road sign reads, “Speed Limit 30 MPH,” this is a precept or command. A biblical precept is “forgive one another.”

Principles or Guidelines: The general directions or guidelines have multiple applications. They form axioms to guide us where Scripture does not give us direct commands.

Illustration: If a road sign reads, “Drive Carefully,” it gives us a general principle to be applied in a variety of conditions. A biblical principle is “Everything is lawful, but not everything is beneficial.” (1 Cor. 10:23). In Christ we have liberty to do a number of things not specifically forbidden in Scripture, but are they profitable for our body or for our testimony to others?

Data From the World

Principles to apply for processing data from the world:

(1) Believers are not of this world but they are in it and must use it wisely not only to sustain life and care for their families, but also to carry on ministry. (Cf. Luke 22:31-36.)

John 17:14-18 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them, because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but that you keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world. 17 Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.

1 Corinthians 7:31 those who use the world as though they were not using it to the full. For the present shape of this world is passing away.

Ephesians 4:28 The one who steals must steal no longer; rather he must labor, doing good with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with the one who has need.

Ephesians 5:10-18 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For the things they do in secret are shameful even to mention. 13 But all things being exposed by the light are made evident. 14 For everything made evident is light, and for this reason it says:
“Awake, O sleeper!
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you!”
15 Therefore be very careful how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit,

(2) God is transcendent, sovereign, and immanent. He is at work in the world and at work in our lives. So there are legitimate sources of data or facts we can use to discover what God is doing and thus, do the will of God.

Romans 1:10 and I always ask in my prayers, if perhaps now at last I may succeed in visiting you according to the will of God.

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose,

Romans 11:36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen.

Romans 15:32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.

Ecclesiastes 7:13-14 Consider the work of God:
For who can make straight what he has bent?
14 In times of prosperity be joyful,
but in times of adversity consider this:
God has made one as well as the other,
so that no one can discover what the future holds.

(3) But Satan is also at work, so we must be careful to use the index or screen of God’s Word as a filter to sift out what is contrary to the will of God.

2 Timothy 2:26 and they will come to their senses and escape the devil’s trap where they are held captive to do his will.

Ephesians 5:15-16 Therefore be very careful how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

Psalm 119:9 How can a young person maintain a pure lifestyle?
By following your instructions!

Data From Personal Information

Principles to apply for processing data about ourselves:

(1) God is the one who has fashioned us, and raised us up on the scene of human history in our time and particular location according to His purposes. Other than our sinfulness, this includes everything about us—our sex, talents, personalities, IQs, physical features, parents, background, time in history, etc.

Psalm 139:13-16 Certainly you made my mind and heart;
you wove me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give you thanks because your deeds are awesome and amazing.
You knew me thoroughly;
15 my bones were not hidden from you,
when I was made in secret
and sewed together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw me when I was inside the womb.
All the days ordained for me
were recorded in your scroll
before one of them came into existence.

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in your mother’s womb I chose you.
Before you were born I set you apart.
I appointed you to be a prophet to the nations.”

Isaiah 43:7 everyone who belongs to me,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed—yes, whom I made!

Isaiah 54:16 Look, I create the craftsman,
who fans the coals into a fire
and forges a weapon.
I create the destroyer so he might devastate.

Exodus 9:16 But for this purpose I have caused you to stand: to show you my strength, and so that my name may be declared in all the earth.

(2) As Christians, God has also given us spiritual gifts to enable us for spiritual ministries in the body of Christ and in the world (cf. also 1 Cor. 12:3-12).

Romans 12:3-8 For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith. 4 For just as in one body we have many members, and not all the members serve the same function, 5 so we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members who belong to one another. 6 And we have different gifts according to the grace given to us. If the gift is prophecy, that individual must use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is service, he must serve; if it is teaching, he must teach; 8 if it is exhortation, he must exhort; if it is contributing, he must do so with sincerity; if it is leadership, he must do so with diligence; if it is showing mercy, he must do so with cheerfulness.

1 Peter 4:10 Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God.

(3) Each person is unique with a special design and purpose for his or her life according to the call and direction of God.

Psalm 119:73 Your hands made me and formed me.
Give me understanding so that I might learn your commands.

Psalm 139:14 I will give you thanks because your deeds are awesome and amazing.
You knew me thoroughly;

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.

Other Data to Consider

(1) Circumstances, open and closed doors.

1 Corinthians 7:20-21 Let each one remain in that situation in life in which he was called. 21 Were you called as a slave? Do not worry about it. But if indeed you are able to be free, make the most of the opportunity.

Philippians 1:12-18 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that my situation has actually turned out to advance the gospel: 13 The whole imperial guard and everyone else knows that I am in prison for the sake of Christ, 14 and most of the brothers and sisters, having confidence in the Lord because of my imprisonment, now more than ever dare to speak the word fearlessly.
15 Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. 16 The latter do so from love because they know that I am placed here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, because they think they can cause trouble for me in my imprisonment. 18 What is the result? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed, and in this I rejoice.

Romans 15:32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.

(2) Information, facts, and figures economically, politically, geographically, and socially.

(3) Personal disposition, personality, likes and dislikes.

(4) Gifts, talents, abilities, education, training, experience, and preparation.

(5) Physical condition or health, age.

(6) Sex (male or female).

Illustration: There may be an opening for a guard on a professional basketball team, but I know that is not God’s will for my life. That I’m too old, too slow, and too short would be three very good reasons. The point is, we must learn to see that God is at work through our circumstances. Things do not just happen to us by chance or accident.

Summary Principles

(1) We must learn to be sensitive to use the data of our world (health, gifts, training, finances, sicknesses, and other conditions).

(2) We should seek to learn from these facts, to draw from them and even rest in them, and trust that God is in control and uses and works all things together.

(3) In examining all the data, we need to remember the Word must always be our index for what is right and wrong.

Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, whose perceptions are trained by practice to discern both good and evil.

Isaiah 55:7-9 The wicked need to abandon their lifestyle
and sinful people their plans.
They should return to the Lord, and he will show mercy to them,
and to their God, for he will freely forgive them.
8 “Indeed, my plans are not like your plans,
and my deeds are not like your deeds,
9 for just as the sky is higher than the earth,
so my deeds are superior to your deeds
and my plans superior to your plans.

Proverbs 2:9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice
and equity—every good way.

God never gives or sends us data contrary to His Word. Satan does and so does the world, but not the Lord. For instance, a Christian woman may be inclined to marry a man named Charlie, but if Charlie is not a believer, she may rest assured, God is not at work in that inclination because of the clear statements (God’s will) in Scripture.

1 Corinthians 7:39 A wife is bound as long as her husband is living. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes (only someone in the Lord).

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not become partners with those who do not believe, for what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship does light have with darkness?

(4) Discerning God’s will is not simply a matter of what is right and wrong, but of what is best according to the priorities of the Word of God.

Philippians 1:10 so that you can decide what is best, and thus be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ,

Philippians 1:20-21 My confident hope is that I will in no way be ashamed but that with complete boldness, even now as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.

Matthew 6:19-20 “Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.

(5) As a rule, God doesn’t give us desires contrary to common sense. A person may be inclined to marry someone they have known for only a few days. That doesn’t make sense. You can’t get to know someone that quickly. Or, someone may want to quit his job and go into business—with a new baby, and no savings, and a pile of debts. But that doesn’t make sense either, at least not for now.

(6) Similarly, the Lord does not give us inner desires which are contrary to other sensible data from the world. A person may want to become an artist or an architect but does he have artistic talent or drafting capabilities? If not, it is probably not of the Lord.

(7) All inclinations to do things that are contrary to Scripture are never of the Lord. The Word of God is the key . Check all desires and inclinations by the Word, its precepts and principles. If they square with Scripture, they could be from God, however, we still need to give it time and check it with the other data. We are to pray and ask for wisdom.

James 1:5 But if anyone is deficient in wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand, and it will be given to him.

(8) The biggest key is personal fellowship. Luke 16:10 sets down a principle that may be applicable here. It says, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” Crucial to what we think of as the major decisions of life—school, marriage, vocation, purchasing a car, house, etc.—is our faithfulness in our walk with the Lord and our commitment to Him in the routine of our daily life. This not only gives us discernment, but the spiritual ability to make right choices that put God’s interests ahead of our own (cf. also Luke 14:25-27).

Psalm 119:133 Direct my steps by your word!
Do not let any sin dominate me!

Romans 12:1-2 Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God—which is your reasonable service. 2 Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.

Matthew 16:23-24 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but on man’s.” 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.

Ephesians 5:9-18 for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth— 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For the things they do in secret are shameful even to mention. 13 But all things being exposed by the light are made evident. 14 For everything made evident is light, and for this reason it says:
“Awake, O sleeper!
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you!”
15 Therefore be very careful how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit,

While divine guidance will remove some of the bumps, give rest, and make life more pleasant, its primary purpose is not to make life like an interstate highway, without any bumps, potholes, or dangerous driving conditions. Divine guidance is designed to enable us to glorify the Lord and fulfill His will regardless of what life may bring.

Related Topics: Theology Proper (God), Basics for Christians, Sanctification