Decision-Making and the Will of God

by Tommy Nelson

“How do you know the will of God?”  At every Campus Crusade Christmas Conference that was the title of the workshop that always drew standing room numbers.  Because every Christian has wondered in the midst of crucial decisions if they were deciding in keeping with God’s will.

So how do you know the will of God?  Before we answer the question we must discuss the question of the will of God.  There are three distinctives to the will of God.

  1. There is God’s decretive will:  It is also called the moral will of God.  It is the Bible. Those things that God expressly forbids or allows.  There is no decision on these things.  One merely reads and obeys.
  2. Then there is the providential will of God.  These are those things that God has allowed or caused to happen.  We don’t make decisions on these things either.  We only decide how we will respond to what has taken place.  We trust then do what we can.
  3.  And then there is what we shall call the non-moral will of God, or perhaps the right or left will of God as opposed to the right or wrong will.  Some have called it the neutral will of God.

This is the decision that we fret over.  It’s not moral.  It’s not biblical.  It’s a personal decision. There is no ordained sense of guidance.  Can I be wrong?  Culpable?

Should I take the job offer?  Marry that Christian man or woman whom I truly love?  Homeschool or private?  Private or public?  Buy this house? Have this surgery?

If there is revelatory guidance, how do I know it?

Am I responsible to find it?  Are feelings my guide?

At what point am I free to make my “own” decisions?  The restaurant I choose?  My car?

Does God allow choices?  Free ones?  Does He still guide me in my direction?

So how do you make a right and left decision?

  1. Don’t worry about finding “the dot.”  I’ll use the word “dot” as meaning “the specific revealed will of God.”  God doesn’t ask us to find it and besides – how would you find it?  Would you hear a voice or receive a sign or an angel appear or a dream?  Or (and be honest – we’ve all done this),  you would read your Bible and interpret whatever you read as leading you one way or the other.  How about opening the Bible and sticking your finger down at random?  Your Bible now becomes your tea leaves or runic stones or crystal ball.  Your means of divination.  Perhaps the biggest problem with trying to find “the dot” is that you’ll find it!  You will interpretsomething as the will of God and that can be dangerous.  All kinds of ignorance has been laundered this way. God certainly can speak audibly but that is what He can freely do, not what we are commanded to hear.
  2.  Know that it’s ok to choose.  Part of being Adam was that he acted freely as God gave him the freedom.  Whatever he named the animal that it was.  He was to subdue, cultivate, and rule as he saw fit.  God gave him direction and boundaries but within them Adam was free.  It’s ok.  You’re not proud in choosing or disobedient or self-willed.  You are a redeemed human, a mature son or daughter of God.  You’ve had your Bar-Mitzvah through Christ.  You can choose.  Robots do not glorify God, sons do.  NO one in scripture is ever punished for making a neutral or non-moral decision.  Halted or redirected maybe, but never judged.
  3. Check your motive:  “All a man’s ways are right in his sight but God weighs to motives.” (Proverbs).  Why do you want what you want?
  4. Check your heart:  The burden of the heart is a very real and good thing.  The Book of Nehemiah says that Nehemiah told no one what “God had laid upon my heart.”  Paul spoke of his longing to come to Rome and his desire to go to Spain.  God gives us “the desires of our hearts” as we trust Him.  He “wills and works” in us for His good pleasure.  He can produce a longing.

A point needs to be clarified here.Paul said, “All those led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”

(Romans 8:14)  But the leading of God’s Spirit is toward morality and conduct not in an extra-biblical knowledge.  People often misapply this verse to support God’s special knowledge through the Spirit instead of His guiding in conduct.

  1. Ask around:  “Where there is an abundance of counselors there is victory. (Proverbs)  Others who have walked the paths of life have made many of the same decisions.  You may find your decision is a lot more black and white than you thought.
  2. Pray for the providence of God:  Though God lets us choose still He guides us.  We are given the privilege to choose but we are not at the mercy of our choices.  Paul longed to go to Rome but God prevented him because He had more immediate purposes. (Romans 15:20-22).  We perceive in the scripture God’s purposes and pleasure then we plan, long, act and choose as we prayerfully trust His headship.  He can say “yes, no or later.”
  3.  Make certain you are obeying God in the things He has revealed so you can be guided in what He has not:

“Being in the way the Lord led me.” (Psalms)

“Walk before Me and I will establish My covenant with you.” (Genesis 17)

Are you in church, walking in purity, honoring God financially, in subjection in the areas God calls you to submission?  God doesn’t steer parked cars.  Faithful folks will always be led.

The girl I dated for four years was a sweet girl but I had developed a new direction in the things of the Great Commission.  I felt, reasoned, and surmised from what I read and from the counsel of three older men that she was the right girl, but for another man.  I heard no voice from heaven but made a choice.  I met Teresa and made another decision.  (The fact that her father owned his own oil company meant nothing.)  I chose as wisely as I could and God directed me.

·        I chose to do evangelism living hand to mouth for one year.  God blessed the choice.

·        I chose to be a college director at a Methodist church.  God blessed the choice.

·       I felt the need for deeper knowledge so I chose to go to Dallas Theological Seminary.  They said no to the degree program I chose but I had reasons for doing the two year rather than the four.  I continued to press – they said yes.  God has blessed it.  No voices, just guidance.

·       The Methodist job shut down and I had three choices.  Methodist, Baptist or a young Bible Church meeting in the Optimist Gym.  I felt and surmised from my doctrinal position and the counsel of good men to go with Denton Bible.  I did.  God blessed it.

My wife and I have made decisions on birth control, home schooling, home buying, our son’s college direction, our son’s military desires, caring for parents and on and on.  I have never heard the voice of God nor have I sought for it.  God did not call me to be mystic or robotic but to be wise, well read, prayerful – and a man – assertive, of sanctified willfulness, initiating – and trusting His guidance without hesitation or apology.

So . . . relax.

Do right, be free, be strong, be wise . . . then trust. Used by permission. 



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