Like Jesus who came to do the will of His Father (Jn 6:38), a Christian who is whole-hearted will be most serious in life about accomplishing God’s will. God’s primary will for us is clear – to become like Christ (Rom 8:29). This means we strive to overcome sin because it grieves God, and we strive to put on the character of Christ – devotion to the Lord, love for others, humility, the fruits of the Spirit, etc. We do this because this is what pleases God and that is our main goal in life because we love Him.
This is God’s primary will and it is clear. But there are many other areas in life and decisions we have to make where God’s will for our lives may not be so clear. We desire to make the right choice and we pray about these things and try as best as we can to follow the voice of the Holy Spirit – which many times can prove very difficult. There are many really important situations in life where we run into this –things like deciding where to live, who to marry, which church family to commit to, which ministry to serve in, which career path to take, which job to take and even more so the many daily decisions we have to make such as how to deal with a particular situation, how to respond to people in difficult times, or what we should be doing with our free time.
Hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit has not been an easy thing for myself. And looking back I’ve seen how what I think is the voice of the Holy Spirit many times may not be. How can we walk with God when we’re not always sure what He’s saying to us?
I don’t have all the answers for how to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and I don’t want to try to list out methods in this article, but instead wanted to share one huge encouragement that God has shown me in these ‘unclear’ situations. The encouragement is to remember that God is a loving Father, who is merciful and easy on me. He’s more concerned about cleansing my inner character than by me discerning what the correct path is in a particular situation. As I walk with Him to cleanse my heart, the external path will become clearer.
In the Old Testament, David was generally a good king who wanted to please God. And he wanted to show his devotion by building a temple for God. God soon spoke to David and said it was not His will for David to do that, but what was most encouraging to me about this is to read what God said about David after this:
2 Chronicles 6:8 But the Lord said to my father David, ‘Because it was in your heart to build a house for My name, you did well that it was in your heart. 9 Nevertheless you shall not build the house, but your son who will be born to you, he shall build the house for My name.’
Even though God’s will was that David would not build the house, God was still pleased with David because he had it in his heart to do this act of love for the Lord. How is it that David intended to do something which wasn’t God’s will, but God was still pleased with him?! That seems contradictory, but it’s not. It’s because David’s primary goal was not to please himself, but to please God. And David was quick to follow God’s will once God made it clear to him. He wanted to please God when he intended to build the temple, and he equally wanted to please God when God told him not to build it.
What a wonderful joy to see how God looks at us! What a loving Father. We make many mistakes in life. We make many unwise decisions. The main thing is to maintain a heart of devotion to the Lord so that even in our mistakes of mishearing God He can say “Nevertheless, you did well that you wanted to please me.” I see it as a little boy who makes a mess of the garage trying to make his Dad a complicated birthday gift with scrap wood and a bunch of tools. Even though he shouldn’t have made a mess and used his tools without asking, his Dad will still look at him with a loving smile because he knows that his intention was to show his love. The boy still has perfect fellowship with his Dad and he can go clean up his mess with a happy heart.
One thing I’ve been guilty of in the past is ‘paralysis by analysis’. Sometimes being afraid to make a decision because of the fear that it’s not God’s will and so I can tend to be stuck in a position where I don’t do anything. This truth of God as a loving Father has helped me with that problem. It reminds me of a certain quote that has helped me for years – “A ship which is heading in the wrong direction can be turned around quicker than one which is sitting stationary.” This is the idea that we should pray and be patient, but we shouldn’t wait forever to take action because we are paralyzed with fear. Move forward with the best understanding of God’s will that we have, with the peace of knowing that as long as we are fully submitted to Him with an intention to please Him, He can turn us around if we are at any point headed in the wrong direction.
So in all these unclear situations in our life, we can take heart in the fact that God is a loving Father. Let’s focus most on cleansing our selfishness, our sinful motives and evil intentions of the heart, and putting on the character of Christ. Once this is done then these other matters will fall into place as long as we have a humble heart which is willing to try to do as best as we can what we believe God is telling us to do, and to submit to God as His will becomes clearer to us. For now, I may or may not be hearing clearly... only let me do my best to make sure I am trying to please God and not myself.