God’s Will or Mine?

When it’s decision-making time, Christians want to please God.  We want our choices to reflect our submission to Christ and His will.  With some decisions, the choice is crystal clear.  If it’s sinful, we’ll prayerfully choose to avoid it.  If it’s loving, benevolent, evangelistic, we’ll hopefully choose to embrace it.  But what about those times when the choice isn’t so clear?  We can pray about it…and then what?  Wait for clarification?  Do you find yourself then looking around for clues or hints, and saying, “Oh, that must be a sign!”  How do we know if something that happens is really an open door, an answer to prayer, or if it’s simply perceived justification of what we ourselves want?  In other words, how do we know if it’s God’s will or our own personal will?  I believe that sometimes there will be more than one right choice if, when we decide one way or another, we serve God to the best of our ability wherever that choice leads us.  But sometimes a choice can be costly.  Looking back, we might see more clearly how our own decisions led to poor outcomes.  Only God is all-knowing, but thankfully He has given us some guidelines for making the best choices in life.


Solomon, who had everything, recognized the value of wisdom.  He said when you’re in a tough situation, wisdom is better than physical strength and weapons of war.  Wisdom is what delivers us from what comes against us (Ecclesiastes 9:13-18).  Michael Hite, Vice President and instructor at the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver, said that wisdom is “the ability to see earthly things through heavenly eyes.”  How do we gain that spiritual sight?  By studying God’s Word.  Instead of waiting until we’re unsure about something, we should be studying diligently and consistently all along.  Storing up God’s Word means we’re prepared and better equipped to choose wisely.  Notice what we can learn about this very idea in James 1:19-25.  This passage teaches that our attitude toward the Word determines whether or not we’ll produce the righteousness of God.  Do we accept what God has to say, or are we quick to argue?  Do we receive it?  Do we do it?  Do we continue in it?  If so, we will be blessed in what we do.

*Some other verses for personal study on wisdom and the Word include Job 12:12,13; Proverbs 1-4; 24:3-6; Col. 2:2,3; Heb. 4:12; James 1:2-8; 3:13-18.


How many poor decisions have been made because of our emotional state at the time?  I once read a quote that advised against making a big decision on a bad day.  Some emotions, like frustration, anger, and hurt, can skew our thinking.  “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered” (Proverbs 28:26).  What seems like a good idea in the heat of the moment may seem foolish when all is resolved, and then we’ve only added more trouble.  We must learn patience in discouragement.  We must cultivate the kind of maturity that can recognize the difference between feelings and facts.  And we must practice will-power and self-discipline when tempted to act rashly.  “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without wall” (Proverbs 25:28).  Making decisions without self-control equals vulnerability.  Feelings can be powerful, but that doesn’t make them right.  When experiencing the whirlwind of our emotions, we must stop, pray, study, and then decide how to act, if at all.

*Additional verses for study on the unreliability of feelings include Prov. 14:12-17; Jer. 17:9,10; Col. 3:15-17; 2 Pet. 1:5-9.


Discontentment can be a deterrent to godly choices.  If we are the type to become easily bored or soon dissatisfied, we will find ourselves wanting to make another change, move on, switch out.  This can be especially dangerous in areas of marriage, jobs, ministry, and acts of service.  Discontentment causes us to focus on the flaws instead of the potential.  One preacher’s philosophy was “I’ll stay with a work only as long as I’m useful.”  Unfortunately, he based his level of usefulness on the amount of effort it took in local work.  If problems came along, or things got tough, he moved on.  Consequently, this preacher chose to move every couple of years, and sometimes in less time than that.     No relationship, work, congregation, leadership, or location is perfect.  Contentment will allow us to make choices and then stick with them as long as we possibly can.  “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.  Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).  Contentment reflects a heart that focuses on God’s blessings and trusts Him with the rest.

*Some more verses about contentment and how to cultivate it are Psa. 37; 118:24; Ecc. 3:1-13; Isa. 26:3; 58:10,11; 2 Cor. 12:8-10; 1 Tim. 6:6-11; Heb. 13:5.

Based on these three suggestions, we can ask ourselves some questions when trying to determine whether a decision is God’s will or really our will.  Have I been studying in order to make a wise decision?  Am I emotional right now?  Do I need to wait until I calm down?  Am I anxious to choose something else because discontentment has caused me to want to move on?  If we prayerfully and honestly answer these questions, we’ll have better clarity in determining the right course.

Free Heart Check Quiz!

Answer a few questions, and you can learn all about yourself.  If you want to know what kind of personality you have, you can take a test and find out.  (I’m a Melancholy.)  There are quizzes that help you know what kind of colors you should wear.  (I’m a warm autumn.)  What kind of exercise best suits your body shape?  (Apparently I need every exercise in the book.)  There’s no end to the types of quizzes out there.  What breed of dog should you own?  What kind of spender are you?  Which career should you pursue?  With a few keystrokes, you can find out anything you want to know about yourself.

It takes a little more effort to really know yourself.  In Psalm 139, David begins by saying, “O Lord, You have searched me and known me” (v.1).  He ends the psalm by saying, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Test me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me” (v. 23,24).”  And in between those two verses, we see David acknowledging that God knows him better than anyone.  God knows everything he does and even thinks (v. 2).  God understands him, everything about him (v. 3).  God knows everything he says (v. 4).  God is with him at all times (v. 7-12).  God knows him from the inside out (v. 13-15).  God had plans for him in His book before he was even born (v. 16).  No wonder David asked God to test his heart, to help him know himself!  Am I up to taking that test?  It might look something like this:

Check the one that best describes you:

____A.  I use the Word as my mirror every day to see the areas I need to change in order to look more like Christ (James 1:22-25).

____B.  Many times I only use the Word when I’m preparing a lesson or trying to prove a point.

____A.  I listen to people older than me in hopes of learning from their knowledge and spiritual maturity (Prov. 12:15; Psa. 25:9).

____B.  I feel that older people are out of touch and can’t really relate, but I’m willing to tolerate them.

____A.  I can’t do enough to show my gratitude and love for my Heavenly Father so I eagerly serve Him with my whole heart (Psalm 119: 34,35).

____B.  If it’s not specifically mentioned in the Bible, I’m not doing it.  Why go out of my way to do something I really don’t have to?

____A.  I never want to cause anyone to stumble, so I’m careful about what I say and the choices I make.  Just because I CAN do something doesn’t mean I SHOULD (1 Cor. 10).

____B.  If I have the right to do something, I’m going to do it.  It’s not my fault there are ignorant Christians out there.

____A.  I build up the body of Christ by looking for ways to encourage others (Eph. 4:29).

____B.  I’m not afraid to criticize the works and efforts of others, or point out their flaws and weaknesses.  Somebody has to keep everyone else in line!

Your Results:  If you checked more A’s than B’s, congratulations!  Your heart is humbly trying to follow Christ’s example of compassion and commitment.  If you checked more B’s, it could be that pride is keeping you from seeing your own shortcomings (Gal. 6:1-5).

This is just one example of how we can learn about ourselves from the Bible.  If I want to know what kind of wife I am, how brightly I shine the Light, or my level of soul-winning efforts, I must be careful not to compare myself with others in order to feel satisfied or justified (Luke 18:9-14).  For a true gauge, I must humbly and honestly turn to the One who knows me better than anyone else.  I must be willing to put my heart to the test.  “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two -edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

Prayer for Today:  Search me, O God, and know my heart.  Test me, and see if there is any wicked way in me.

Photo credit goes to Angelo Storari
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