Many of us have struggled, as we’ve sought to understand God’s will for our lives. Attempting to understand the purposes of God and His plan for the future can often leave us scratching our heads, uncertain about what to do. However, there is rest in knowing that it’s the sovereign God of all who works out everything to its proper end” (Prv. 16:10).
This past year has been a hectic season, as my family and I have been working through a new ministry venture. However, it has been exciting to see God’s hand leading and guiding along the way. In fact, this has been a foundational source of assurance, as God’s sovereignty is where we’ve had to rest. Since, as many know, the uncertain nature of the future can produce timidity and tremulous feelings.
Yet, despite my cognitive ability to understand that God is faithful and good, the ever-present idols of my heart make these truths blurry. At times, my need and desire for security, self-defined happiness, and validation blind me from seeing God’s providence and guidance in everyday life. Thus, knowing God’s will is seemingly difficult to ascertain through the lens of self-centeredness. Additionally, the question, “What is God’s will” can so easily leave one despondent and discouraged when the answers don’t become immediately clear.
This has been the case for me recently, as my wife and I have actively sought to hear the voice of God in regard to our future. However, on one particularly frustrating day, I was listening to a Tim Keller sermon. If you know my wife and I, you know the great affection we have for that man. God uses him regularly to encourage us and point us back to Christ.
In a sermon on discovering the plans of God in one’s life, Keller made a statement that has stuck with me. He said (this is a combination of a several statements), “God’s guidance, in the Bible, is more something God does then something God gives. Some say, ‘I need God’s guidance!’. however, you’re standing in it! It’s a current moving you along”.
Within context, Keller was discussing the idea that many who seek God’s guidance, look for peace in a decision, and sometimes even look for a sign before making a decision. Yet, is this the way that God leads His people? Does God lead us moment-by-moment, decision-by-decision, time after time based on a sense of guidance and peace?
It seems that requiring a strong sense of guidance and peace before making decisions is completely impractical as a normative practice. As Keller points out, what would have happened if Jesus, on the night before His crucifixion, was asked, “Do you have a real peace about being torture to death tomorrow?” I am going to venture a guess that He would have said, no. Why? Because He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Lk. 22:42). Jesus was definitely not feeling a sense peace while He was sweating blood and anguishing over His upcoming decision. Rather, there were tremulous feelings. Now, while I would certainly not consider the weight of our decisions as being remotely close to the weight of Christ’s experience, the principle is certainly applicable.
Ultimately, as Keller later notes, if you want to know God’s will, then make a decision. In the end, we must trust that “The Lord works out everything to its proper end” (Prv. 16:10). Even if I inadvertently make a bad choice, I trust the consequences of that choice to be part of God’s working things to their proper end. There will be times that I am not 100% sure about a decision and I do not have a strong sense of peace, but I must make the decision and trust His sovereign hand.
Yet, this does not mean I do not deeply consider the decisions that I make. I am responsible for my choices and therefore must consider the options carefully. First, this consideration includes knowing the wisdom that God has laid out in His Word. I cannot make decisions that go against God’s established purposes revealed in Scripture. Second, I must remember that He loves and cares for me. The Gospel helps me remember the depths of God’s grace, mercy, and love toward me, a sinner lost without Him. I do not have to fear the future because I know the One who holds it. Third, I must ensure my life and motivation is centered on the exaltation of Christ. My choices must be focused on a desire to live a life that honors God and the Gospel message I am called to declare. Lastly, I must seek wise council from those who also care for God’s word, understand the Gospel, and the exaltation of Christ. No one should journey life alone. Yet, after I consider these things, I need to just make a decision.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe that God leads His people and that He provides a sense of peace. However, am I sure this is always how He guides? I can’t say that I am. As the Keller quote suggests, God not only leads by guiding our steps, but God also causes our steps. While the debate can rage on in regards to what has the ultimate and effectual say in decisions, God’s sovereignty or man’s free will, let it suffice to say that God’s purposes will come to fruition, regardless of me.
From a personal perspective, our family has stood at one of these “make a decision moments”. Yet, knowing only what we know, but trusting God with what we don’t know, we’ve stepped into the unknown and that can be a scary place. Do I feel called and lead to this new venture? Eh. I think so. Do I have a peace about this new venture? Eh. Not really. It’s going to be tough.
However, do I think it’s a wise decision that is motivated by a desire to honor and exalt the name of Jesus? Yes. Do I feel confident that God’s hand is at work? Yes. Have I seen God’s faithful hand keep us up to this point? Yes. Do I believe that even if this new venture somehow fails that God will use it as a way to mold us for a purpose beyond this one? Yes.
Thus, we make a decision trusting that God’s guidance is more something God does then something God gives. To what depths do you also trust the God who holds the future?