How to Discern God’s Will

Recently, a church member who was facing an important decision asked me how to discern God’s will. I’d like to share the email I sent to him. It may be helpful for people who have similar questions.

The best guide to finding God’s will is the Bible. If you are given the opportunity to buy a bustling bar at an attractive low price, you don’t even have to think about it, no matter how tempting the deal may be. Selling hard liquor and running a bar is obviously against God’s will as revealed in Scripture.

But many situations aren’t this clear cut. Often, people have to choose between two options, neither of which are clearly sin. For example, people might have to choose between two job offers. Or they might have to decide whether or not to marry the person they’ve been dating. They want to discern God’s will for their decision, but it’s difficult when no option is clearly sinful.

When you’re given choices like these, choose what’s enjoyable and makes you happy. Our purpose in life is to serve others. If we want to serve others well, we should enjoy what we’re doing and live happy lives for ourselves. So when choosing a job, ask yourself: will I enjoy doing this for the next 10 or 20 years? When thinking about a potential spouse, ask: will I be happy living with this person in 10 or 20 years after romantic feelings have faded?

When you have no clear preference, choose on the basis of ministry. There are three areas of ministry in your life – family, work, and church. Make the choice that aligns with your ministry goals. For example, if your family’s finances are tight, it’s reasonable to choose the job that pays you best. If your family needs more of your time, choose the job that gives you the most time to spend with them. If you’re involved with important church ministries, choose the job that gives you the most flexibility to serve in them.

Once you make a decision, it’s best not to look back. God values your motivations in decision making more than the decisions themselves. If you try to honor God in your decisions, God will honor them even if they’re not the best. He may redirect your way so that you eventually return to the right decision or help your poor decision produce good fruit. Take the time to discern God’s will, but once you’ve made a decision, go with it boldly and don’t look back, expecting that God will honor it.

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