You know the scenario:
You have an important choice to make. Maybe it’s about a major in college. Or a new job to take or turn down. Or a relationship to move to the next level. You, deep in your heart, really want to do what God wants you to do. So you go out to the woods and sit on a stump and say to God, “I’m not leaving this stump until you tell me the right choice to make.”
Then you get cold and go home.
Discerning the will of God often comes, rather than seeing writing in the sky, by asking a series of questions about the choices before you and then based on those answers choosing the way which seems most wise to you. Along the way, I’ve had great men and women help me see some of the right questions to ask. Questions like this:
– Is either choice sinful?
– Which choice provides the greatest opportunity for the gospel to be spread through your life?
– Which choice better lines up with how God has uniquely gifted you?
– Do the people you love and respect in your life have a sense which choice might fit better?
These are all great questions to ask. And I want to add one more to that list. For the sake of this question, let’s assume that there is an opportunity before you that you can either accept or reject. Here, then, is an important question to ask:
– Does doing this thing which God might be calling you to do violate what you already know He’s called you to do?
Let’s say that you have a chance to take a big promotion at work. The salary is good, and you would be advancing further up the corporate ladder. Nothing wrong with that. But when you ask this question, you see that it leads to a host of other questions:
– I know God has called me to be a sacrificial husband. Does taking this promotion give me a greater opportunity to do that?
– I know God has called me to lead my family and raise my children in His admonition. Does the job requirements make doing so an impossibility?
– I know God has called me to not just go to church but be the church. Does taking this job infringe on my ability to serve the local church well?
It helps me to think of it in terms of pictures. Imagine a circle. What that circle represents is God’s will for you. And me. And your mom. And your cousin. These are things we know are God’s will – for us to be sanctified. For us to be generous. For us to not kill. Things like that.
Now imagine that inside of that circle is another circle, this one representing God’s specific will. Now inside here you find which college you should go to, who you should marry, and what job you should take. The specific will fits inside the general will of God.
The bottom line with this question is this: What you perceive to be God’s call on your life won’t contradict what you know to be God’s call on your life.