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How do I Know God's Will?

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Dr. Bill Gaultiere
Clinical Psychologist & Executive Director of New Hope

Question:

I'm 20 years old, just starting college. I have dream to be an artist. I think about it all the time. How do know if this is God's will for me? Following God is the most important thing in my life and I'm afraid to go in the wrong direction. What do I do?

Answer:

I admire your dedication to doing God's will. It isn't easy to know God's will in specific life decisions such as this. I've found it to be a process that usually takes longer than I want!

I can see that you're already heading in the right direction though! You have a dream and your seeking God's will. That is a winning combination. One of my favorite Bible verses is Psalm 16:7, "I will praise the Lord who counsels me, even at night my heart instructs me." In other words, one of the ways the Lord counsels us through our dreams and passions! The dreams of our hearts often connect us to God and His purposes. Indeed, if you can marry God's blessing and your passion you will be sure to accomplish great things and have much to praise the Lord for.

I think that the process of knowing God's will for a life decision such as this is something like climbing a mountain. You begin with a vision of the mountain and a dream of climbing to the top. You might be a little afraid to get lost or to have a problem on the way, but mostly you're excited to get to the top.

For a long hike you may have a map and a compass and all sorts of camping gear and supplies. And yet, as you go along the trail you come across many forks in the path and have to decide which way to go. It can be quite difficult to know which is the better path. And often they'll both get you to the same place, but by a different route.

As you get higher the hiking gets harder and your initial enthusiasm may wane. You see a peak and think you're close to your goal, but once you reach that peak you see that another peak is ahead. You're increasingly subject to the elements heat or cold, rain or wind. And you continue to encounter unexpected forks in the road and still higher peaks until you realize - in wonderful ways and in challenging ways - this mountain you're climbing is so much more than you initially anticipated!

And when you've reached the top and hiked back down the first thing you're likely to say is, "I wonder which mountain I'd like to climb next!"

That's the way it is with finding God's will. You begin with a dream or a sense of calling from God of where you're going to go. You have a number of tools at your disposal to help you choose your path and guide you along the way and yet the way may still seem uncertain and you will surely encounter many unexpected blessings and difficulties along the way. And as soon as you accomplish your goal you need to find another goal to guide you.

Perhaps more than anything else, this process of discovering and accomplishing God's will for your life is what gives life meaning and joy. Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no vision the people perish." They die through wasted opportunities. They die in depression and despair.

You've already taken the two most important steps in your journey. You have a dream and you're seeking to do God's will for your life. Where to go from here? How do you know if indeed God is calling to attempt to accomplish your goal of becoming an artist?

Here are seven questions I ask myself in order to know God's will for my life. I use seven as opposed to just one or two because the Bible counsels us to "test the spirits" when seeking to hear from God (1 John 4:1). When most of these seven line up in one direction then I know that I'm making a good choice. Having the confidence of knowing that I started down a particular path for good reasons helps when, along the way, I am tested by forks the in path, bad weather, and still higher peaks that challenge my resolve.

  1. What do I want to do? This is often hard to answer! Many people do not know or have conflicting desires. Others feel that what they want to do isn't important and that they should only ask what God wants them to do. I believe that God has created each of us with certain personalities and passions and that He is ready to give us the desires of our hearts when we seek Him (Psalm 37:4, Matthew 6:33). He wants us to follow a path that is good for us and will make us happy. I also find that the better you understand your self the easier it is to understand God and His purposes for you.
  2. What am I equipped to do? Each of us has certain gifts and skills. When we go with our strengths it's like having the wind at our backs instead of in our face as we hike. Using our gifts in our work and our relationships brings success and enjoyment.
  3. What direction do I get from the Bible? What would bring honor and glory to God? When we follow God's Word and seek to glorify Him we are so much happier. The commands and teachings of Scripture are good for us! The Bible offers us so much wisdom for living well. God's will for our character, lifestyle, and relationships is revealed throughout Scripture and following these principles helps us to make good decisions. Of course, we need to be sure to consider the whole counsel of God on a matter and not to take one verse out of context and use it as a directive.
  4. What counsel do I get from godly people I respect? "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." (Proverbs 15:22). Share your dreams and plans with people you trust and seek their input and encouragement.
  5. What opportunities have come my way? Sometimes God directs us through open or closed doors that seem to come from nowhere. When you're seeking God what may seem like chance is actually providence.
  6. What is good for others? Considering the welfare of other people - family, friends, and others in need should be an important part of our decisions.
  7. What is God saying to me? "Your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying `This is the way; walk in it.'" (Isaiah 30:21). God is speaking to us; we just need to listen! It helps me to hear God if I go to Him in prayer, with pen and paper ready, and take some time to listen. Then I write down what I sense God might be saying to me. I don't always get clear direction, but I'm always better off for having waited on God.

If you've earnestly sought answers to these questions and still you're not sure that God is behind your dream of becoming an artist then I think you're best to proceed anyway. If you're wrong and your dream takes you outside of God's will then He'll show you. Just remain open to Him and continue to seek His will in prayer. You can even pray that He'd stop you if it is not right. If indeed it's good and right for you to do then He'll confirm it at certain points along the way.

May God bless your dream for you, others, and His glory!


2002 NewHopeNow.org. Used by permission.