How do we discern God’s will for our life? Any discussion of “Serving God where we live and work ” always includes the question, “How do we discern God’s will for our life?”
Finding the answer to that question is complicated by the unpredictable, multiple-option environment in which we live. How do we discern God’s will in a world that is continually changing?
In Acts 16, the Apostle Paul sought God’s guidance on where he should next preach the gospel. He started for Asia, “but the Holy Spirit blocked that route” (v.6).
He tried to going to Bithynia, “but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them go there either” (v.7). So he headed for Troas on the coast and while he was on the way, he had a dream, “a Macedonian stood on the far shore and called across the sea, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” (v.9).
Now Troas happened to be the perfect place from which to undertake a voyage to Macedonia; and so the gospel came to Europe – a place Paul had never thought of going.
This story demonstrates at least three things that helped Paul discern God’s direction, leading to three questions that can help us discern God’s will for us today.
First, Paul was actively involved in serving God and the direction from God came while he was spreading the Gospel. God’s direction didn’t come when Paul was just hang-ing out doing nothing. And he was not just asking God to bless what he wanted to do, Paul was seeking to do what God was blessing.
Question one: When seeking God’s will, is the overall direction of my life focused on serving Him? In other words, am I asking God to bless what I want to do, or am I seeking to do what he’s blessing?
Second, Paul’s plans were flexible. It must have been frustrating to change course several times when God blocked his way. Each time Paul headed in a new direction, he did so because he thought it reflected God’s will, only to have God redirect him yet again.
However, Paul was flexible. Paul was not so focused on his plans that he couldn’t change when God directed him elsewhere.
Question two: Are we willing to follow God’s plans when he does reveal them? Or, are we so committed to our plans we can’t let go of them?
Finally, Paul had a rock solid trust in God. When Paul followed God’s leading to Philippi, what did he get? He was beaten severely and thrown into prison (v.23). The normal human reaction would be to shake our heads and demand to know how God could let this happen. Instead, Paul and his companions prayed and sang hymns (v.25).
Question three: Can we trust God’s leading even when things seem to go wrong?
These three questions can help us discern God’s will through the confusion of life with all its options. As we actively serve him, stay flexible and trust him.
Even when things don’t seem to be going in the right direction, we will discover God’s direction unfolding before us.