In the last week I’ve received three messages from three different friends who are each weighing a decision regarding their service to the Lord:
“I don’t want this to be about me wanting to lead if that’s not what God wants me to do. But I think He may want me to lead. I’m a bit confused and I want to make the right decision and follow the right process. Please let me know what you think.”
“I am being asked to consider a new position and agreed to meet with the leader, but don’t think God is leading in that direction but I’m keeping an open mind and heart.”
“I was just asked to take on a new position, and I know this is what God has for me, would you be a reference?”
How do we know – can we know – what God wants us to do? Does it make a difference? Is there only one right choice? What happens if we make the wrong choice? If we want to do something, does that make us selfish, or conversely, if we don’t want to do something, is that the marker that it is very thing that God would have us do?
Is making a decision difficult? Or do we make it difficult? I’m not sure. Probably a little of both. Maybe we need to learn to let our “yes” be yes, and our “no” be no, but how do we get to “yes”, or “no”?
I know all three of these friends quite well. I know they all want to serve the Lord wherever he would have them serve. I know they are humble and eternally grateful to God that he would use them in his service. None of them wants to disobey God, misunderstand him, or take a position that he is not offering, and yet, they also don’t want to pass up whatever he might have for them.
These three have trusted me to walk this path with them, so I thought I’d share with you what I shared with each of them. I don’t have the answers, but I do know where to look.
The first friend and I discussed obedience, it’s all about obedience. If we believe that God is calling us to a task, or a place, we must obey. Look at Abraham – God called him to leave everything familiar, but the call came with a promise: I will make you into great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed by you.” (Genesis 12:2-3).
Who wouldn’t want that promise, but interestingly enough, Abraham died without seeing the promises come to fruition. And, yes, there were times when he questioned God, and tried to accomplish the fulfillment of the promises by his own plans, nevertheless, the first thing Abraham did was obey. He obeyed God’s call and he left.
We will never see the fulfillment of any of God’s promises if we don’t obey the first call to service. If we want to see what God might do next, we must do whatever it is he is calling us to do first. Rarely does God show us step two until we have taken the first step in faith.
We must heed the call of the Shepherd and each one of us knows the sound of the Shepherd’s voice, Jesus promises us that we will (John 10:4). However, we have the choice whether or not to recognize and heed it. Oswald Chambers says “As you journey with God, the only thing he intends to be clear is the way he deals with your soul. God providentially weaves the threads of his call through our lives, and only we can distinguish them. It is the threading of God’s voice directly to us over a certain concern. The majority of us cannot hear anything but ourselves.”*
The second friend and I talked about prayer. I promised her I would pray. All of us struggle with knowing where are hearts are leading us because all of us know our hearts are deceptive. Our hearts use our emotions rather than facts to pursuade us to do one thing over another. They elevate desires over realities, and confuse us with distractions. Our hearts lead us toward the path of least resistance that winds through the land of laziness, meanders through the forests of failure, and dead ends at our mountain of mistakes where the winds of worry blow us away.
Prayer, on the other hand grounds us in God. As we humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand, he will lift us up in due time. We must cast all our anxieties on him because he cares for us. We must be alert and sober minded for our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:6-7 ).
The evil one knows when we are most vulnerable, and he will use the voice of our deceptive hearts to confuse, deceive, and distract us from doing what God would have us do, or hearing what God would have us hear. When we pray against evil, and resist the devil, he will flee from us, and our ears will hear the voice of God more clearly.
And to the third, I was more than happy to be her reference. The circumstances, the training, the timing, and her love for the Lord all culminated in the leadership call she had received. Again, Chambers reminds us “There is no escape when the Lord speaks. He always comes using authority and taking hold of our understanding. God speaks in the language you know best – not through your ears, but through your circumstances”**
How do we know – can we know – what God wants us to do? Absolutely, God desires us to know what his will is. He promises us in Romans 12 that if we study his word and live holy lives that we can test his good and perfect will.
Does it make a difference? Yes, if we do not know the voice of the shepherd, perhaps it is because we have not yet joined his flock. If you struggle to hear the voice of Jesus (not an audible voice, probably, but the still small voice that speaks to your soul), perhaps you need to make your calling and election sure by going back to the cross and asking Jesus to be your Savior.
Is there only one right choice? Quite often, no. Sometimes there are multiple good choices. That’s when we must look at our training, our circumstances, the Word of God (God’s call will never contradict God’s written word), and simply make the best choice for us, our families, and those we will lead. Sometimes that choice will be to a leadership position, sometimes it will be away from one.
What happens if we make the wrong choice? Ha! You will know. Just as a five-year-old knows when he has disobeyed, you will know. The question then becomes are you humble enough to backtrack, apologize if necessary, and make the path correction.
Does our desperately wanting to do something make us selfish? If we don’t want to do something, is that the marker that it is very thing that God would have us do? I think the answer to both of these questions is found in Philippians 2:13, God often gives us the desire to do the very things he is calling us to do.
So, how can you know what God would have you do? You ask him. You pray. You listen. You move forward in obedient faith until God closes a door. God uses your circumstances, his Word, and the peace that comes from obedience to direct you. He is a Good God, and he promises that when you put our faith in him, he will direct your paths.