I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone say, “I just want to know God’s will for my life.” Besides wanting to know our “destiny” or “calling” I’d say it’s one of the biggest things Christians worry about. I loosely define doing God’s will as carrying out His instructions, purposes and plans both in general and specifically in our own lives.
Before we get into this… I have a bone to pick about this. Many people do absolutely nothing except what they feel God has commanded.
I believe this is both passive and lazy. God gives us many directives in His Word about what He wants us to do. Care for the poor, widowed, orphaned, pray for the sick, and glorify Him, to name just a few.
Sure you shouldn’t jet off to Africa without being sure God has called you to missions, but neither should you abdicate responsibility for your own life and call it “waiting on the Lord.” There are times we must absolutely wait on the Lord because we have no other choice, but most times a balance is in order.
Should there then be a balance between doing the things we already know are God’s will and being open to His instructions at every step? I believe so.
It will be a great thing if we are able to model following God’s will in our lives in a way that our children have far more confidence doing it than we do. It’s not just about the short term, it’s about big picture thinking.
They won’t get it right all the time just like we don’t get it right all the time, but you know what, that is what comes with learning.
Trial and error. Figuring out how to obey. They learn to obey our instructions so how much more important is it that they learn to obey God’s?
A couple who occasionally mentored my husband and I gave us a great illustration to help discern God’s will for our lives in a specific situation. It was so helpful I wanted to share it.
Are all your ducks in a row?
They had 5 rubber duckies with small expressions written on the bottom of each, the 5 CS’s. If all the ducks lined up in the same direction then all our “ducks were in a row” and it was pretty safe to say we were doing God’s will.
- Confirming Scripture
- Circumstantial Signs
- Compelling Spirit
- Counsel of the Saints
- Common Sense
What does the Bible say? Often we are praying about something head over heels like crazy people saying “show me a sign…speak to me, Lord… oh God, what should I do?” when He has already given clear instructions in His Word. If your desires or dreams line up with God’s Word on a particular matter, then feel free to do so (particularly if the rest of your ducks are in a row).
“Should I pray for that sick man, Lord?” More than likely. The bible says to do so. Of course, everything is no black and white, but if we are filled with compassion to do something God speaks of in His Word, then we should just get on with it.
Do you feel called to be an evangelist, but no one listens to you? Maybe that isn’t your calling. Do you think God could be calling you to a new city and, miraculously, you get a job offer in that city? Could be a sign. Do you feel called to be a missionary in a certain country but they will not issue you a visa or allow you entry?
Perhaps the location is wrong for your ministry. Again, circumstantial signs are not the first port of call, but they can be very helpful in getting the big picture.
I believe it’s okay to ask God for a sign in conjunction with the other ways you hear from Him. Gideon asked God for a sign (Judges 6). Burning bushes, blindness, donkeys talking… these are all signs God used to get our attention. I’d never use a circumstantial sign as the only confirmation, but it surely helps.
What do you feel God is saying to you personally about this decision? Do you feel extreme peace or extreme lack of peace for one direction or the other? Has God highlighted a song lyric, poem, or person’s words to you that helped confirm what you felt God saying?
God will let us know whether what we are doing is right (John 10:27). After all, He’s the one who wants us to follow Him anyway.
Counsel of the saints
We should seek godly counsel when making important decisions. The Bible says that plans with many advisers succeed (Prov. 15:22). If you have wise and stable Christian brothers and sisters say your path does not seem right, this should be a major red flag.
Wise advisors will help you sort out your feelings, thoughts, and emotions, and point out fatal flaws in your plan. When we are too close to a situation it is difficult to see the truth.
That said, there will be times God asks us to go against the grain. This is why looking at a variety of things (all 5 CS’s, for example) will help you make your decision. God may call you to do something “crazy” but you’ll have a lot of confirmation.
I saved this for last, but I have to say, this is probably one of the most important to me. It is a sore spot for me when Christians act without common sense or wisdom and call it being spiritual. It makes the church look silly.
A friend once told me he thought God’s will was 90% common sense and 10% against the grain. While there is no biblical basis for this, I tend to agree.
However, God is God and sometimes His plan will seem unwise or crazy to our own understanding. He knows the future and we do not. That’s why it’s highly important our other “ducks are in a row” if we are going to do something risky.
Note: if we find ourselves regularly needing God to bail us out financially, in our ministry, and in our personal lives then we are likely acting outside of wisdom.
These are simplistic examples, still I wanted to give you examples. Life is no formula, but I’ve found that when one or more ducks are “not in a row” it’s usually call for more prayer and consideration.
New job | You’re offered a new job that pays better and is in a field you love. Common sense says yes, wise counsel says yes, the Bible just says to tithe and use your gifts, and you have peace. All ducks in a row.
Buy a new house | You want to buy a house in another better neighborhood, money will be a lot tighter, but it’s closer to your friends. Your common sense says you’ll be happier, Scripture doesn’t talk about where to live though it does say to be wise with your money, other advisors say it is too big a financial burden, and so far no one has bought your current house. All ducks not in a row.
Go on a medium term mission trip | You have an opportunity to go on a 3-month mission trip to a developing country, something you’ve long dreamed of. The Bible is clear about spreading the Good News, your work has given you the time off, your friends and mentors think it’s great timing and opportunity, and God has provided the money anonymously. All ducks in a row.
Choosing a mate | A man has asked you out on a date who is kind and caring, though He is not a Christian. You’ve had a few talks about God so you feel excited He might start coming to church, your friends warn you it’s dangerous to enter a relationship with a non-Christian, and Scripture says not to yoke yourself to an unbeliever. Ducks are not in a row.
How to involve our kids in discovering God’s will
God can speak to us anyway, anytime, anyplace so I’m not attempting to limit Him here. When faced with big decisions, this strategy helped us immensely. God speaks in myriads of ways and the best way we can model this for our children is simply to do it ourselves and let them in on it.
If it’s a decision that affects the entire family then we can sit down and talk about it with them. We can read through the Bible together, ask their opinions, have them pray with us, and ask them to hear from God on behalf of the family too.
Children who are comfortable seeking God’s counsel will have a far easier time of the Christian life than those who are not. We all have to learn it ourselves, but the more we can teach them under our roofs, the more trouble we’ll save them later.
Kathryn H. says
Rachel, thank you for sharing this excellent advice. Sometimes as Christians we want to get that “lightning” inspiration from God, when He is already speaking through our circumstances. Other times we can “over-spiritualize” our discernment, when He is speaking reliably through common sense and wise advisers. Checking off your 5 CS’s is a helpful a means of finding peace and moving on. Sometimes, it’s that one “duck” that doesn’t line up that is God’s way of saying, “I’m nudging you elsewhere.”
Rachel Norman says
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kathryn. We were going through a huge decisions so this really helped us give ample space to it all.
Hi! Thank you so much for this post! This is such wise and practical advise. We have been trying to make a decision as to whether or not to home school our almost 5 year old son next year or to send him to school. I have a problem with making a decision but then changing my mind too! I’m going to show this to my husband tonight and see what he thinks.
Peta – mum of four little ones and one on the way from Australia.
Rachel Norman says
Peta, it’s no formula of course, but I’ve found it IMMENSELY helpful in just clarifying what we already know. When we list each one separately it almost makes it seem like a “duh” decision sometimes. Even when it felt so out of control!
Hello, Rachel! I am also in the panhandle and have really enjoyed your posts. I like this illustration. It has been so hard for me to navigate through big decisions (college, major, town, and my partner). I feel like 90% of the time, I always get a no and can’t help but wonder what must I be missing? I don’t want to waste time with wrong decisions, but there comes a time where it’s time to act, and not keep waiting for the lightning.
Rachel Norman says
Grace, you are right. It’s often hard for waiters to act and for acters to wait. When my mentors gave me this illustation I really felt encouraged by it! Sometimes you do have to pray, feel the peace, and just act.
Kristin Cook says
This was an excellent post and I think it’s a great way of handling things. I would like to add though (and I know this isn’t what you were trying to say), that sometimes, it’s ok if a duck doesn’t line up (UNLESS that duck is scripture). I think sometimes, God won’t necessarily give a feeling of peace. He often will, but (especially for BIG worriers), people may sometimes have anxiety about a decision, but all their other ducks line up. Sometimes we have to accept that our feelings are not always a guide :)
Rachel Norman says
Kristin, so glad you made that point and you are too right. Sometimes there may be a deep underlying peace that is covered up by fear, worry, anxiety, etc. and we should still move forward. Glad you added that :)
Tonye Ukaa says
I like your article. Very ‘common sensical’, it had me laughing all the way though.
And thanks for the 5CS, I am going to print this article, and look for how I can get 5 real duckies and start applying the visual(I am a very visually inclined individual).
Thanks again, and do please send me your devotional.
Anita Jocelyn Chacko says
Thank you so very much Rachael….your pointers were very helpful , especially in explaining it to children
Rachel Norman says
I thought so too. I was in my 20’s when I had it explained and STILL loved the duckies. Ha :)