How does God guide us? How can we discern God’s will for our lives?

Last updated on April 20, 2021

How can we discern God’s will for our lives? How do we know what God wants us to do? In the past, God guided His people in all sorts of different ways; but if you want God’s guidance for your life today, things are much simpler – just follow Jesus (Hebrews 1:1-2)! Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” (John 10:11, 14; cf. Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:4; Revelation 7:17), and He promises to guide all of His sheep – we simply need to listen to His voice (John 10:27).

Hearing God’s voice

So, how do we hear Jesus’ voice? 2,000 years ago, Jesus shepherded His sheep both by teaching them Himself, and also by sending out Apostles authorized to speak on His behalf (Matthew 9:36-39). Jesus then gave His Apostles the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15) so they could complete the inspired, “God-breathed” Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16; cf. 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Peter 2:19-21). Until the day Jesus returns at the end of history (Mark 13:31), the Bible remains fully sufficient to “thoroughly equip” us for every good work that God has prepared for us to do (2 Timothy 3:17).

The Bible is a lamp to our feet

This means that in every circumstance of our lives, the Bible is a “lamp to [our] feet and a light to [our] path” (Psalm 119:105). The Bible gives us clear moral instructions, but also areas of freedom where we can choose for ourselves. The earliest example of this was in the Garden of Eden, where God commanded Adam not to eat from the one tree which would harm him, and also gave Adam freedom to eat from any of the other trees as and when he liked (Genesis 2:16-17). Similarly for us today, God has given us moral commands and principles for our lives, but when there are two or more good options before us, He has given us the right as His children to choose freely between them.

Which way is the best?

Sometimes, when faced with several good choices, we may wonder whether one option might be better than the others (e.g. 1 Corinthians 7:27-28, 38). When we are struggling to discern which way forward is the “best” and most in line with God’s will for us (Philippians 1:10), we can seek guidance from others (Proverbs 15:22), and especially from God Himself, Who delights to give wisdom generously to all who ask in faith (James 1:5). And so, as we weigh the different options, we can trust the LORD to lead us in exactly the way He wants us to go (Proverbs 16:9).

Making big decisions

This means that when the moment comes to make big decisions, we don’t need to worry that by making the “wrong” choice we could somehow miss out on God’s best plan for our life. Where necessary, God will guide us both internally and subconsciously (Proverbs 21:1) by His promised Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:26-27) “to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13); and also externally and circumstantially, as He carefully arranges all of nature (Psalm 104:10-14), down to the very smallest detail (Matthew 10:29-30), to fulfill His sovereign plan to make us increasingly Christ-like (Romans 8:28). In fact, God is so committed to guiding His children, that in exceptional cases He may also even use special or supernatural means like visions or angels to make sure we take the right track (Acts 12:6-11; 16:9)!

Jesus is the Good Shepherd

In summary, we are God’s precious flock (Acts 20:28), and Jesus is the Good Shepherd Who calls each sheep by name (John 10:3). We don’t need to know beforehand all the details of the journey our Shepherd is taking us on (Deuteronomy 29:29; Proverbs 20:24); our job is simply to trust Him, listen carefully to His voice in the Bible, and follow wherever He leads (John 10:27). Although right now you may find it hard to believe, one day you will look back in amazement at how Jesus guided you through life, weaving a path even through your pain, mistakes and sins, to reach His perfect destination (Genesis 50:20; Romans 12:33-36). Until then, Jesus’ command is simple: hear Him and obey Him as He leads you on life’s journey.

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” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

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