I have had those occasions when the Lord prompted me to do something out of the ordinary and sometimes out of my comfort zone. Although I’ve never had an angel show up, nor have I had the Lord speak audibly to me, I have this inward tugging, something in my heart and mind perhaps to speak to someone, to serve someone, to be generous with someone, or just to pray for someone. That compulsion is almost irresistible. I say “almost irresistible” because I know that urging can be resisted.
I’ve resisted that tugging more than once. My hesitance or outright resistance is usually because I have an internal battle going on in my brain. I ask myself is this God speaking, or is it just some internal impulse of my own making? I’ve discovered that if the internal wrestling match goes on long enough, the moment to act usually passes. I cannot count how many opportunities like that end up in my rear view mirror without any response on my part.
Many of you know that struggle. You wonder if it the Holy Spirit pulling you or is it just your own thinking? How can you know? Well… I wish the answer was super easy and absolutely cut and dry. My experience has shown me that it’s not, however through the years I have found some basic guidelines that can help discern whether it might be God leading you. I wish I could give proper attribution to every writer or preacher who helped me form this list, but at least let me be honest enough to say that I didn’t come up with these on my own.
Read God’s Word. Meditate on its truth. Memorize it. Tuck it away. As you try to discern God’s leading, you’ll be surprised how the Holy Spirit brings to mind exactly what you need at exactly the right time.
Get God’s Word into your heart and mind.
Psalm 119 encourages us to hide God’s Word in our hearts as security to keep us from sinning. Hiding His Word within us does even more than that; it gives us a reserve from which we can pull wisdom, encouragement, correction, and truth. It is a storeroom from which we can draw guidance in a time of need, but if we haven’t put anything in what can we draw out?
Consistently spent time with God in prayer.
It is far easier to know God’s voice if you are familiar with it. This means that prayer is more than bringing our laundry list of needs and dumping them before God’s throne just before we dash out the door to start our day. It means we pause to listen for God. We ask for Him to lead us, then we wait for Him to do so.
Psalm 25:4 makes a simple request, “Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.” Can we slow down enough to pray that prayer and to wait for God to answer?
Stay aware of the presence of God as you go through your day.
If you are a believer in Jesus, then He has promised to be with you always. There is never a time when you are truly alone, even when you feel that way. An awareness of God’s presence is not intended to be a threatening, guilt-inducing thing; rather it is a comforting sense of His presence and a promise of His guidance as we seek His will.
In John 16, Jesus tells His disciples something that startles them. He tells them that it is to their advantage that he go to the Father, because He would send the Holy Spirit to them. When Jesus was present with them, He might be near them one day but miles away the next. When the Father sent His Spirit to indwell them, it meant He would be with them at all times and everywhere. Jesus said, “He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:12). He is still guiding His people today.
Have mature believers in your life who will give you wise and godly counsel.
Do you have someone or a small group of people who will speak truth into your life? If not, you need it! “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15)
Give a handful of people full permission to correct your bad behavior and attitudes. Find people who love Jesus and love you and then be willing to seek their input on issues with which you’re struggling. This constant refinement will be like iron sharpening iron. There may be a few sparks, but you’ll all get sharper and wiser in the process.
Leave room for God to change your course.
God may lead you to a certain place or a particular ministry. That may be a fruitful and satisfying time, but He may not intend for you to remain there forever. In fact, God will often lead His children through many transitions. We may be exactly where God wants us at the moment, but we should always be open for God to call us to some other place or to some other ministry.
Sometimes these transitions are a welcomed change. At other times, these changes can be difficult to swallow, especially if we have having great success where we are or if His nudging is toward something that seems particularly challenging or out of our comfort zone. We must remember that Jesus’ call was to follow Him; the very phrase leads us to understand we must be ready to move when called.
Begin with what you know God has already revealed about what it means to follow Jesus.
We often struggle to know God’s specific will about some decision we face, but are we faithful to what we know He has already called us to?
There are some ways God is leading us that we already know –
We are to be faithful in prayer.
We are to be faithful to read God’s Word and meditate on it.
We are to be faithful to gather with other believers in worship.
We are to be faithful in serving others in Jesus’ name.
We are to be faithful in sharing the gospel with those who don’t know Jesus.
We don’t have to ask God if He’s leading us in these directions. He has already made it clear! We simply need to do it!
It has been said that our greatest ability is our availability. If we make ourselves available, stay close to Jesus and His people, and are committed to go where He leads, we may find ourselves in unexpected places doing unexpected things, but we will find great joy in being there and doing that.
In Sunday’s message, I challenged our church members to give God a blank check. By that I meant, we give God our unconditional “yes” to whatever He calls us to do. Is it scary? It can be. But there is no place more important or more fulfilling than to be in the center of God’s will for your life.