Some decisions are easy; we make lots of them each day. But sometimes we have to make spur-of-the-moment decisions when there’s no time to deliberate. Now what? All we can do is shoot up a quick dart of prayer and do what feels right before the moment passes.

The better we know the Lord and his ways, the more likely these decisions are to be right. The Holy Spirit guides us and even in certain situations puts words in our mouths (see Luke 12:11-12.)

Sometimes God makes decisions for us without our knowing. He steers us out of the path of the danger that we didn’t even know was there. Or he places us in exactly the right spot at the right moment to meet someone he has prepared for us to help, or work with (or marry). Superstitious people may call this coincidence, or fate, or luck, or serendipity, but we like to think of it as God’s engineering.

Some decisions are make-or-break ones; if we take a wrong turn here we may be a long time getting back on track. So how do we go about finding the will of God in important situations where there are several possible ways to go?

Our chief source of revelation is, of course, God’s Word. Not only is it a formidable weapon, it’s also the most important faith-building, error-avoiding tool God has given us.

But there are times when we can’t find scriptural revelation on the solution for a here-and-now problem. James 1:5 says that if we need wisdom, we can ask God for it and he will give it to us. And in Psalm 32:8 God promises:

“I will instruct you and guide you… along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch your progress” (The Living Bible).

We believe God lines up guideposts pointing the way for us. Here are the ones we look for, not necessarily in this order:

• Circumstances: open doors and divine appointments
• Sensing the leading of the Holy Spirit, or inner conviction
• Confirmation of that conviction through trusted counsel
• God’s will revealed through his Word
• Provision

For us, none of these indicators by itself is sufficient for long-term, life-impacting decisions:

An open door alone doesn’t give us the go-ahead; (it depends on who opened the door.) Neither does a closed door indicate that we’re not to keep on knocking.

A feeling that we’re to take an exciting new direction may be a word from God, a momentary enthusiasm, or something we ate. Feelings alone can be dangerous because “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9 NKJV). Our own desires can masquerade as the leading of the Holy Spirit.

A word from a prophet that we’re to pull up stakes and move to the desert isn’t necessarily the word of the Lord; if so, God will confirm it in other ways. But wise counsel from others whom we trust is important: “In the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14b NKJV. See also Proverbs 24:6).

Sometimes Bible passages come alive and whisper or shout the word of the Lord specifically to us. But opening up the Bible (or any book) at random and putting your finger on a verse is called “bibliomancy” and is akin to fortune telling.

Provision—now there’s a delicate one.  Sometimes provision for a project we feel called to comes ahead of time; sometimes it requires an act of faith to step out, and if God is in it, provision comes as we begin to obey. When the Israelites started to cross the Jordan, the river didn’t begin to part until the priests stepped into the water.

If at least adequate provision doesn’t come, stop and question your leading. The Lord may be directing you into another path. ”And if you leave God’s paths and go astray, you will hear a Voice behind you say, ‘No, this is the way; walk here”(Isaiah 30:21 TLB).  Time for course correction.

Sometimes lack of provision can be a clue to one of three things:
1. We’ve gotten off the track.
2. We’re on the track but God is signaling a change of direction.
3. We’re on the track but the time is not yet. Moving ahead before God has prepared the circumstances ahead can be fruitless if not disastrous.

Many years ago Carol worked at a Christian-owned recording studio. Most secular customers paid on time, but sometimes it was the Christian ministries that got into trouble. Someone would “sense” a calling from the Lord to make a radio broadcast or an album and would take a leap of faith and run up a big studio bill. When they couldn’t pick up their master tape because they didn’t have the money to pay for it they were shocked. But if God hadn’t really called them to do it, he was not responsible to provide for it.

One of these guideposts alone is not enough for us to act on, but when they start to come together and line up, we begin to feel we’re onto something. And often we are.

To mix a few sports metaphors: sometimes we get in trouble by jumping the gun, or jumping offside, as soon as we sense the first indication of something we really want to do. 

The Bible says, “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15a NKJV). That word for rule, in its noun form, means umpire—”Let the peace of God umpire in your hearts.”

When enough signals fit together to give you peace about it, you can say, “Yes! I’m convinced that’s what the Lord is saying.” Then go for it!

All this requires praying, listening, patience—and coming to know the Word of God. Although the Lord does lead us by his Spirit, no “leading” or “feeling” or “sensing” is from God if it violates any of the principles revealed in his Word. That’s why it’s so important to learn the Word well so the Holy Spirit can bring it to your remembrance when you need it.

The psalmist wrote, “Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11 NKJV).

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