Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at roger@preachitteachit.org.

Dear Roger,

How do we know God's will in our life?

Sincerely, Nibin Kalasini

Dear Nibin Kalasini,

I often think of God's will when I see and hear my wife preparing to conduct our church's symphony orchestra. She lays out her written compositions on a large, over-sized music stand and turns on the CD of the upcoming night's performance. Her hands and arms conduct in rhythm with the music. Occasionally, I notice an unpleased frown and a hitch in her movements. She just made a mistake -- and the music keeps right on playing. She never stops the CD to do it over. After all, symphonies don't have time for "do-overs." She just jumps right back in and keeps going.

God's will is much like that. We go along with the flow. Of course, we will miss some beats; who wouldn't? But, we don't stop, or start over, or change to another song. We just jump back in and keep right on going.

We played "Marco? Polo!" when I was a child. The game works best in a swimming pool or lake where you can't move quickly without splashing. One child is blindfolded and tries to find the others by asking, "Marco?" The other children say, "Polo." The blindfolded child tries to find and touch one of the other children who are all free to move about until the blindfolded one again says, "Marco."

Mention the phrase “God’s will,” and too many Christians think of "Marco Polo." Not only are they searching for God's will, God's will is a moving target.

Sadly, some Christians play a variation of "Marco? Polo!" called "You're Getting Warmer..." Again, a child is blindfolded. An object in the room is selected. As the blindfolded child tries to find the object, the children give guidance: "You're cold" (far away). The child adjusts direction.

"You're cool" (moving slightly in the right direction). The child adjusts the search according to the new information.

"You're getting warmer" (relatively close).

"You're hot ... hotter … hotter" (the child reaches out and finds the object).

God is not watching us from heaven saying "You're getting warmer..." as we get closer and closer to stumbling on His will.

God is playing neither "Marco? Polo!" nor "You're Getting Warmer..." Tragically, however, many Christians are. Unfortunately, after many unsuccessful years of game playing many conclude they will never stumble across His will and give up trying.

On the other hand, many Christians discover God's will and enjoy many years of adventure and delight in an interactive relationship in which God makes His will the most obvious thing in life.

So, how do we find God's will without playing games?

According to the Word of God some prerequisites are in order. When these these are met, the need to play "Marco? Polo!" or "You're Getting Warmer" dissipates.

Proverbs 3:5-6 is a good place to begin:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make your paths straight.

Each phrase is a prerequisite for discovering God's will.

Trust in the Lord

How willing are you to put your life in His hands whatever His will turns out to be?

The man in my office wanted to know God's will for His life. I asked him, “Will you commit to do God’s will whatever It might be?"

“First, I want to see what it looks like," he said.

"That's not how it works," I said.

"Well, give me a hint."

"Sorry, I said, "God doesn't bargain."

He went away.

A little boy walked down the beach, and as he did, he spied a matronly woman sitting under a beach umbrella on the sand. He walked up to her and said, “Are you a Christian?”

"Yes."

“Do you read your Bible every day?”

She nodded her head. “Yes.”

“Will you hold my quarter while I go swimming?”

Do you trust God enough to let Him hold your quarter?

With All Your Heart

Knowing and doing the will of God isn’t a “spiritual technique” that we use occasionally as needed; it’s a committed lifestyle that involves everything we do.

The well-known practice of asking for a person’s “John Hancock” comes from the most obvious signature on our Declaration of Independence. John Hancock’s name is the only signature that can be identified by the casual observer … and that’s exactly what he intended.

His expressed intent was to make certain King George III could read his name without the aid of glasses. It was a bold declaration of his personal commitment to the cause for which he was willing to die.

John Hancock’s overly legible signature hit the target at which he aimed. During the Revolutionary War, King George offered amnesty to all of the Americans who were willing to stop the war. Hancock was intentionally omitted from this proposition. His zealous signature informed the king there was no turning back.

"With all your heart" means that if we want to know and experience the "straight paths" we have already given our “John Hancock” to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Lean Not on Your Own Understanding

It is not good to seek God’s will alone, so said Solomon in Proverb 15:22: "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed."

Wise and loving family, friends and spiritual Christians can often see dangers and detours that are hidden from us. They can scout for open doors that we might easily miss while we look in other directions.

Three men were marooned on an island. Suddenly a genie appeared and said, “What would you like to have? Any wish is yours.”

One man said, “I miss my family in L.A.” Whoosh – and he was gone. Another said, “I miss my brokerage firm in Boston. I wish I were back at my desk." Whoosh – and he was gone.

Then, the third man said, “I’m lonely. I wish my friends were back here.”

Family, friends and not our only sources for information that keep us from living on our own understanding.

"The will of God is always open to reason," the Bible says. Therefore, I think that it's important to come up with a list of pros and cons which is examined by others. This procedure helps clarify our thinking and sort out the issues as we try to discern His will.

Solomon agreed in Proverb 19:2: "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way."

In All Your Ways Acknowledge Him

Rhonda understood clearly when I asked her what God's will was for her life. She replied, "God's will for my life is to bring Him honor and glory."

Jesus is looking for those Christians who acknowledge God's positive activity in their lives. Read Psalm 50 for more insight to this principle.

When Jesus answers our prayers for healing, we tell people about it. When we get a new job we tell others how God had a hand in making it happen. Psalm 50 declares that God intends for us to share in public the great things He does for us.

And He Will Make Your Paths Straight

Making straight paths is God's part of the process. In other words, He lays out His will for our lives and guides us safely along the way.

Let Me Share With You the Practical Steps I Follow as I Implement God's Will in My Life

1. Commit to doing God’s will whatever it may be (John 7:17).

2. Humble your heart in trust before the Lord

3. Search the Scriptures to find passages applicable to your situation and then interact with the Holy Spirit and with others in discerning how they apply

4. Gather pertinent facts and make a list of pros and cons

5. Seek wise counsel

6. Pray for God to make the plan so clear that we can’t miss it

Now we listen and wait quietly for God to open the envelope of His will for us

  • The Bible
  • Godly people
  • Providential circumstances
  • Wise reasonings
  • Worship and/or prayer
  • Trials and/or sufferings
  • Inner promptings of the human spirit

7. Do whatever your heart leads you to do

"But Roger, you didn't tell me whether I ought to go to this school or that one. You didn't tell me about new job or new car or who to marry, etc."

If you've experienced the guidelines of Proverbs 3:5-6 and utilized the preceding practical six things above, and you still are not certain just what comes next. Then just follow your heart and do whatever you most feel like doing.

I don't say this of my own accord, I just follow the guideline laid down by David in Psalm 37:4: "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart."

Notice He didn't say that he would fulfill our desires, He said He'd put the desires in there. It's not that He gives you what you want, He gives you the right things to want.

Once upon a time I attended the 40th anniversary reunion of my 9th grade football team. We talked about divorces, raising grandchildren, cancers, heart bypasses, etc. My group of friends went through all the joys, successes, hurts and pains like every group.

But, one thing about the group was an absolute shock to me. So many were now following Christ. Thinking back to junior high school I just assumed most would grow up to be pagans. Jay Dolphus even began the reunion with a prayer.

Several days later, Gary Courtney, my best-growing-up pal, and I were discussing the transformation. Gary put all in perspective: “Just give us enough time and we will finally get it right.”

God is gracious. We are going to get this right.

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier recently retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.

Publication date: June 21, 2012

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