If you’re anything like me then you will probably often find yourself worrying over what the future holds. Having recently experienced the passing of my Dad the transition hasn’t been easy. I still have questions about what it truly means to be a man. I’ve got a lot to learn and have plenty of memories of my Dad’s life that has left a mark on me. With important decisions ahead of me to make, I long to hear from God a simple yes or no. Is this the right job? Have I met my future wife yet? It would be easier for God to just give me answers up front, it would ease my doubts and the apprehension that often tries to grip me. Then, I read Paul address to the Church of Colossae saying, “So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of His will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honour and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.” – Colossians 1:9–10 NLT
As much as I would prefer God to say, “that’s the right job for you” or “She’s your future spouse” , this isn’t how God usually works.
God gave us free will for a reason. He also gave us the ability to critically think, learning to weigh up before we make decisions. In so doing, He expects us to take advantage of what He has made available. Can He give us such answers? Yes! Will He? Not always. Paul says, “…you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.” This implies that our growth as Christians’ is attached to our willingness to grow in our knowledge of God. In other words, God in desiring us to grow He gives us room to make decisions. He wants to inform us in our decision-making process instead of simply making all the decisions for us. We would never grow if all we got was a yes or a no.
This is what discernment is all about rather than being told what to do in our daily walk, we learn to think like Him as we walk with Him.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8–9 NLT
In my opinion, this is one of the most misunderstood scriptures in the church. The usual interpretation is something like my plans didn’t work out because His ways are higher than mine. This leaves us with the impression that when things don’t happen the way we plan them to, it’s because God’s thoughts and plans are so much wiser than ours. Which is true however, the verse means so much more than that. The verses that come before verses 8 and 9 are, “Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for He will forgive generously.” – Isaiah 55:6–7 NLT
The issue isn’t just that God is so much wiser than us. The issue is that naturally as humans, our thinking is twisted. We tend to take what God gives us and abuse it.
As a child, I enjoyed playing football but my enjoyment for football became an obsession. Rather than sport being used as a tool to develop my character, patience and discipline as it later did, I wrapped my whole identity around it. The prophet Isaiah is bringing our focus back. In imploring us to forsake our natural tendency to rebel and twist what God gives us, he is encouraging us to learn to see as God sees. This takes us back to Paul’s letter to the Church in Colossae. We will not grow if we continue to walk in such a way that leads us further and further away from God’s ways. If my prayers for a spouse is all about me and my desires do not line up with His, it would mean that lust has gripped my heart.
“You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.” – James 4:2–3 NLT
These are strong words from James. Ultimately, he is saying that our desires aren’t always right or good meaning they don’t always align with God’s. This runs contrary to the world’s mantra of “follow your heart”. James is telling us not to follow our heart because our heart often leads us astray. Someone might say but I love Jesus! James would ask do you really?!
Do you remember the first question that Jesus asked Peter after He resurrected? Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Why do you think He did that? Jesus surely knew the answer to the question. Jesus’s reply to Peter is revealing, “Then feed my Lambs…” – John 21:15 – 17
I can proclaim to love God all day but I cannot love Him if I don’t know what He desires from me and if I refuse to obey Him when I know what He desires from me.
How do I come to know what He desires from me? Well, I must first realise that I don’t automatically know. I can only know by seeking out and discerning God’s will through proving (Romans 12:2) and by His grace obeying Him.
A pastor once said, “If I had three years to serve God, I would spend the first two studying and preparing.” What a waste! I can imagine a lot of people thinking. By nature, we want to make a huge impact for God’s kingdom before we take time to get equipped. However, willingness to prepare ourselves through study shows an intelligent regard for God and His ways. This is important in all aspects of the Christian life. A medical doctor would have to have spent years in medical school before they could perform an open-heart surgery on their patient. This is because of the potential damage that such a high-pressured job can have on people’s life. We would never say that all that time of study is a waste of time. As Christians, our impact on people in our communities, in our places of work and our families has eternal consequences. So, if I don’t take time to know God and His ways, I will not represent Him correctly to the people that I come in contact with. It’s not enough to be enthusiastic about the Lord that enthusiasm must come with knowledge,
“Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes. People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord.” – Proverbs 19:2 – 3 NLT
Knowing God’s will through Discernment
In referring to critical thinking, I’m not encouraging reliance on our own understanding. As stated above our thinking doesn’t always line up with God’s. So, what I mean by critical thinking is as Apostle Paul says, “…in your minds be mature [adults].” – 1 Corinthians 14:20 AMP
Practically, this means that we reflect over who and what is influencing the decisions that we make. If my primary reason for getting a job is because I want to appear wealthy amongst my friends then I’ll be more concerned about my salary than my service to my company. I should instead think through the skills and gifts God has given me and seek to use those skills for the benefit of the organisation that has employed me. Does that mean that I shouldn’t seek out a promotion? No! Think about the reasons why you want a promotion. Wanting to provide for my family and give more generously lines up more with God ways than having more money so that I can be flashy amongst my peers.
In desiring to be married is the primary reason because I desire companionship? Are those lonely nights influencing my search? For many married couples, they feel lonelier now than when they were single. Companionship is a good thing but it shouldn’t be the primary reason for me deciding to get married. If you avoid asking difficult questions because you are fearful that the other person will walk away, you may be compromising in a bid to try to fulfil your desire for companionship. Truth and transparency set a good foundation for marriage. Asking questions like ‘Do you have a history of viewing pornography?’ Have you found freedom in this area? What are your career ambitions and what are you currently doing to get there? Do you want children? Will both of us work once we are married or will one of us stay at home with the children? You may be surprised by the answers that come. Please don’t dismiss such questions as marriage is very challenging. Yes, there are plenty of benefits that come from being married but whatever pleasure there is there are responsibilities attached to it.
Children don’t tend to think about the consequences of their decisions. They don’t usually think about what awaits 10 – 20 years down the line.
Momentary satisfaction is the main motivator for a lot of their decisions. Every decision that we make have ripple effects years down the line so we need to grow in our thinking so that we can see clearly. That new job feeling will ware off no matter how much money you’re being paid. Infatuation hinders our ability to see the other person’s flaws, hindering us from making an informed decision.
In conclusion, this is the pattern of how people in the bible grew in their knowledge of God. God warned them to test what their prophets said rather than simply believe (Deuteronomy 18:17-22). They were encouraged to marry based on the known and proven character of the person within their communities (Judges 14:3 and Ruth 3:11). In the New Testament, Paul instructs that leaders should be closely examined before been given their position (1 Timothy 3:10). They were also encouraged to test prophecies (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). Why is this important? Because we only come to know God’s will if we seek.
As we test out and examine, we grow and learn to know God more and more. The process isn’t meant to be easy growth never is but it is always worthwhile.
“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.” – Proverbs 3:13–14 ESV
By guest writer Praise Anyanegbu
God Loves You, Always & Forever!