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  • Writer's pictureW. Austin Gardner

Determining God's Will

For the believer there are three factors that, generally speaking, should come into line before deciding on an important change of course in life and in determining God’s will.

There is the inner voice of conviction, the normal reasoning process, and the general inner feeling and heart inclination. Those, of course, are aided by a careful weighing of all the issues in the light of available facts; by the counsel of friends, and, as here, the experts; by one’s own inner instinct in the matter; by the attraction or repulsion of the move; by the careful monitoring of conscience. All those factors add up to an inner sense that must not be ignored.

The voice of circumstance can be an important factor, for God can open and close doors. The difficulty in that, of course, lies in the fact that so can Satan. Just because a particular offer looks like a golden opportunity to achieve a desired goal does not mean it is a door opened by God. Perhaps the goal itself is not God’s will. Or perhaps the seeming golden opportunity is deceptive. The important factor is time. Satan always pushes—God never does; Satan always urges us to act on impulse—God never does. Satan always says, “It’s now or never!”—God never says that. The south wind blows softly, but we are not to suppose we have attained our purpose. The classic examples of supposing are found in 2 Kings 5:11 and Luke 2:44. Many a person has rushed through what looked like an open door only to wish soon afterwards that he had been a little more cautious.

The deciding factor is the Word of God. We must beware, however, of the foolish practice of flipping through the Bible in the hope of spotting a verse that will give us some startling, spectacular, and suitable word from God. We must not use the Bible the way we would flip a coin. That is not to say that God cannot give us spectacular endorsement of His will from His Word. That is exactly what He wants to do. Normally He does do it, over a period of time as we wait on Him in prayer day by day, as we systematically, meditatively, and slowly read His Word page by page, chapter by chapter, in a conscientious and consecutive way. There are many decisions we have to make to which God has already spoken clearly and plainly in some command or principle in His Word. Any move that runs contrary to such a principle (e.g., not to lie, steal, commit adultery, be unequally yoked with an unbeliever, neglect the fellowship of believers) cannot be God’s will. We need no further guidance on those things. God has spoken already. The quiet perusal of God’s Word will in the end either confirm or contradict the other two voices, conviction and circumstance. When all three come into line, we can be sure we are on the right track—so long as we sincerely want to know and do God’s will.

John Phillips, Exploring Acts: An Expository Commentary, The John Phillips Commentary Series (Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp., 2009), Ac 27:13.

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