The question of the day – most every day – for those who desire to follow God is How can I know God’s will?
No matter how strong our desire is to follow God’s plan, when given a variety of options, it's may not be easy to make the right choice. The answer is not always crystal clear. The actions of the Apostle Paul, in two of the choices he made in Acts, provides clues for us as to how to discern God's will in our lives.
When Paul was preparing to set out on his second missionary trip, he planned to go east to Asia but sensed God saying "No". So he and his companions headed north, but encountered a closed door. Then, that night, Paul had a vision of a man in Macedonia in Greece (due west), and concluded “that God was calling us to preach the Good News there."
The choices that Paul and Silas made eventually landed them in jail. Imprisoned, they sang worship songs and prayed, survived an earthquake, and led the jailer and his family to faith in Jesus. On that trip, they also founded the church at Philippi and others.
Later, on a subsequent journey, Paul planned to go to Rome. He was arrested and appeared before the Roman rulers and would have been set free except for his appeal to continue on to Rome. After several years, Paul finally set sail, still a prisoner in chains. A storm arose so fierce that the sailors were terrified, but Paul the prisoner reassured them, "But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down…For I believe God. It will be just as he said…"
On his second journey, Paul twice did an about-face changing the directions of his travels. But on his third journey, despite a storm, shipwreck, snakebite, and being a prisoner, he was resolute to reach his destination of Rome.
So here’s the question – How did he know? How did Paul know to give up his plans for Asia, yet never give up on going to Rome despite serious setbacks?
What would I do?
Would I have been willing to quickly abandon my plans because a dream indicated to go another way or would I stubbornly set my jaw and press on against God’s will?
Would I be resolute to journey forth despite storm and hardship or would I give up under the strain thinking something so difficult couldn’t be of God?
Honestly, I can’t say. However, I do know that:
You can’t rely just on circumstance or emotions to determine your actions. << Click to Tweet
When I first got involved in justice ministry, people flocked to me like the animals flocked to Noah – no knocking on doors or trying to persuade people to get on board. It seemed clear that God was orchestrating it all. But when people dropped out, I wondered if this was still God’s call for me. He reminded me that Noah toiled for many years building the ark, and that was part of His plan too.
Paul didn’t make his decisions according to the emotions he felt on any given day.
He didn’t make a list of pros and cons reasoning out the best plan to follow.
Paul based his decisions on a lifelong sensitivity to God’s leading. << Click to Tweet
In prison, he worshipped and prayed. He didn’t decide to develop a prayer life when hardship hit, he already had one in place. This godly behavior in tough times came from a life of prayer and worship in the ordinary times.
Want to know God’s will in the difficult times? Get to know His will each day, whether there are big decisions to little decisions to make. Spending time with Him in prayer and praise will increase your sensitivity to the Spirit’s leading. There’s simply no shortcut or substitute to getting to know Him and His voice.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:12
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is His good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
Susan Panzica is a Jewish Jersey girl who loves Jesus, her family, the ocean, and mangos. Her passion is to bring an eternal perspective to earthly matters seeing God in the mundane as well as the crisis. Susan shares this perspective through writing, speaking, teaching, and coffee dates. A recent empty-nester who works with her chiropractor husband, she thoroughly enjoys when her children return home, with or without all their friends. Susan is a speaker, women and children’s Bible teacher, and writer.