Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)
How do I know what God’s will is for me in a particular decision? Last week, I said that discerning God’s will is like a three-legged stool. You’ve got to have three legs for that stool to stand and we will begin our journey of each leg today. However, the stool also must have a solid floor. That floor is the revealed Word of God, and that was the big idea of the most recent post. My mind, heart, and will need to be baptized in the clear and revealed will of Scripture for my beliefs and character. To be biblically minded is like a sailboat that has put its sail up. Once that sail is up, then the wind can carry the boat along. Likewise, once my mind and heart are submitted to God’s Word, the Spirit can inspire me to follow the pathway of God. The Spirit has three things he utilizes in a central fashion to guide me, even when I am not aware of each component.
The first instrument, or leg of the stool, is desire. Wait! Hold on! I thought the Bible warns us about desire?! No, Scripture warns us about evil or sinful desire.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.Colossians 3:5 (ESV)
But desire itself is a raw reality of being human.
Think about it… everything you do is guided by what you want to do. Even dutiful behavior is the act of a desire based on a certain conviction winning a tug of war with a competing desire not to act on that conviction. Desire can be easy. Desire can be hard won. Desires can come in groups. Desire can be complicated. But every move we make has got a desire attached to it. Desires can be based in truth. Desires can be self-deceptive. This is why the strainer of God’s Word is so important.
So, how do we know when we have a godly desire? Go back to a passage like Proverbs 3:5-6. When we trust in the Lord with all our hearts, rebuke our own man-centered understandings, and acknowledge the Lord in all we do, I believe the Lord is in our desires. This goes back to Scripture-centeredness. We start with God’s Word, we marinate in it, and our desires take on the essence of the marinade, the Word of God.
Let’s get practical. Say you are applying to colleges. You get into three of your top choices. Each is a good school which you could thrive in, with the programs of your future desires (more desires). Your first move is to see if there is any ungodly motivation for attending one or the other? There probably is one. You pray for pure motives. Then your next move is to ask yourself: “Self, which school do you want to go to?” Often you will find that, all things being equal, you have a stronger desire to go to one over the other. That is something you have to pay attention to. In fact, that is how God leads you.
Another application. Say you would like to get married, and you will therefore have to engage in the courtship ritual called dating. There are four Biblical categories you must answer. First, in order to start with the ground of God’s revealed will, “Is this person a Christian? Is this person of the opposite sex? Is this person single? Is this person appropriately distanced from me genetically (insert witty statement that may annoy someone here about certain locations in America 😀)?” Those are objective categories. But now you must use wisdom and wisdom will start with desire, “Do I want to date this person?” You will not proceed until you do. Now, once you enter a special friendship, and in God’s eyes it is only a friendship [just read my book 😀], you may find out you don’t desire to continue dating them. But you will not ask said person out or accept an offer of a date unless you actually want that. Desire is essential. I did not say strong desire, or totally confident desire, or desire based on future knowledge. I just said some sort of base desire that is hopefully grounded in God’s revealed desires for you.
So, to sum up, knowing God’s will starts with His revealed will in Scripture, and then it moves to examining your desires.
Next week we will look at ability.