Where Am I Going?

Date: 10/13/2012 
How can I know God's will for my life? How do I know if I'm following His plan for me?
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Note: This is an unedited, verbatim transcript of the live broadcast.

PRELUDE BY PASTOR DOUG: Hello friends. I hope you’re being blessed by the Ultimate Purpose presentations. I need a little word of explanation right now. During the time we recorded our final presentation, we had some serious technical problems, but the good news is I preached the identical message a little earlier at another location. And so you’re going to see a different background and it’s going to be in a little different setting, but this presentation, we trust, will touch your hearts. It’s on how to know the will of God.


PASTOR DOUG: Somebody said one time the safest place in the world to be is in the middle of God’s will. It doesn’t matter if you’re surrounded by typhoons and tornadoes and volcanoes and earthquakes. If you’re in the middle of God’s will, you have nothing to worry about.

I’ve often thought about developing a list because one of the most common questions that I get in ministry is, ‘Pastor, how do I know what God wants me to do? How do I determine the will of God for me?’ And it’s a very good question. So what is the will of God for my life specifically, and am I doing that will?

1 John 2:17, ‘And the world is passing away in the lust of it, but he that does the will of God abides forever.’ How do we determine the will of God? How important is it? Those that do the will of God, how long do they last? Forever. How many of you want to live forever? Those that do the will of God will last forever.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Luke 11:2. When you pray say, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done.’ How do we determine what the will of God is for our lives?

I think it was David Livingston that said ‘I’d rather be in the heart of Africa in the will of God than on the thrown of England out of his will.’ I mean, if being in the will of God means that you’re struggling in some lonely, distant, uncomfortable mission field, you’ll have more comfort there.

You’ve probably heard of Adoniram Judson, the missionary to Burma. He was offered a very comfortable pulpit in Boston near his family, and everybody everyone said ‘Oh, this is such a wonderful opportunity.’

And he said ‘Well, except I know God has called me to go to the mission field.’

‘Oh, but wouldn’t this be much better? Isn’t this the wiser decision?’

He said, ‘No. I’m much better off being in God’s will in the mission field than being in a comfortable, successful, poplar pulpit with good pay in Boston.’

Are you where you’re supposed to be? We need to know the answer to that question.

So we base a lot of big decisions in our life, what school am I going to go to, for some of our younger set. What will I study once I get there, beyond the basics? And then once you study in your field and you have different job offers, how do I know where to take that job? What state? What specialty? What’s God’s will for me?

Who am I going to marry? Do I say yes to the first person that comes along and asks me? Am I to marry at all? There’s something to pray about. Maybe like me you’ll be a Batchelor your whole life. Mrs. Batchelor got married and became a Batchelor.

So how do you determine the answer to these big questions? First of all, there’s some basics we know. God wants you to be saved. That’s his will.

2 Peter 3:9, ‘The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.’ And it’s a mistake for you to think that everything you see happening in the world must be God’s will.

You know, some of our friends and neighbors of the Islamic persuasion, when something happens, they say ‘That’s the will of Allah. That’s the will of Allah. Whatever happens, that’s will of Allah.’ That’s not true. Not everything that happens is the will of God. God is not willing that any should perish. Are some going to perish? That’s not His will.

There’s a lot of things you and I decide to do and we’re out of God’s will. And there are things that happen. You can’t always say it’s an act of God, this typhoon there and what used to be known Burma, Myanmar, and all of these thousands of people that died. Oh, it must have been God’s will. Not necessarily. Did the devil bring a storm in the story of Job?

I think we’ll be surprised when we get to the other side and God pulls back the veil. There’s a battle between good and evil. And if God’s will was always being done, then why would He tell us to pray that His will be done? Why would you pray for something that you’re already going have? It’s because His will is not always done. It’s something that is to be prayed for. It is something that is to be pursued.

So how do we determine the will of God? Now, let me begin by -- before I get to my list of ways that I think you can apply biblical principles to determine the will of God. I’d first like to talk about some of the dubious methods that people use and let’s get that out of the way.

When some people are making major decisions, even Christians, they resort to things as basic as flipping a coin, and I’m not saying that God cannot speak through the flip of the coin. And that might work for those things, but if you’re making life decisions, I’d want more evidence than flipping a coin. And you know, some people do this, or maybe you’ve wondered about casting lots in the Bible.

Just so that you have an idea of what means, sometimes if they were trying to determine between one or two choices or maybe multiple choices, they’d take a clay jar that had a narrow opening, and they would put a number of black stones and one white stone or a number of white stones and one black stone. And they’d go around the circle and they’d drop out -- the stone mouth was just big enough to drop out one stone at a time, and if you got the -- the lot fell on you, it meant you were chosen, so they had a variety of ways of doing that. You remember they cast lots for Jesus’ clothing.

Now, casting lots, when you’re making decisions for your life, is probably not advisable. One reason I say that is because God wants do you use your brain. He says ‘Come now, let us reason together.’ You should not go through your day and through your life -- who should I marry? Well, I’ll cast lots. First of all, don’t tell your prospective parents-in-law that’s how you’re making your choice. That won’t impress them.

You want to be using a number of criteria in making these important decisions. God gave you a brain because He likes to see you use it. And as a matter of fact, when they were picking the goats on the day of atonement, they select two perfect goats, and then one would be the Lord’s goat and one would be the scapegoat. And the Bible did say they were to cast lots, and one of them would be chosen as the scapegoat. Well, you’re picking between two goats, and something like that, well, that’s okay, but making big decisions for life, be careful.

By the way, do you know where the word lottery comes from? Casting lots. Now, some of you can say ‘I got biblical proof for playing the lottery now. It’s in the Bible.’ That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m just saying it’s talking about pure chance, not to -- not to play the lottery. You’ve heard me say before you probably have a better chance of being bitten by a shark in Phoenix, Arizona, than winning the lottery, so don’t waste your money doing that.

The practice of casting lots is mentioned about 77 times in the Bible, and -- but I think it’s interesting. In Second Selected Messages 328, the author there writes ‘I have no faith in casting lots,’ and she was speaking about some churches were casting lots to pick their leaders because they said ‘Well, after all, didn’t the disciples pick the -- a new apostle by casting lots?’ Well, that was a whole different story.

First they went through a selection process of the best candidates, and they said ‘We’re going to pick between the two of the best.’ They were not casting lots arbitrarily to pick, you know, church leadership. God wants you to use criteria and wisdom, and we’ll get to those things in a minute.

And again, you’ll find in Letter 37 from 1900 it says, ‘To cast lots for the officers of the church is not God’s order. Let men of responsibility be called upon to select the officers of the church.’ They were to use their brains and use a number of criteria.

You probably heard the story before of this old Scottish woman who used to travel the country side, and she sold thread and yarn, and one day she came to a fork in the road and she picked up a stick. She threw the stick up in the air and it fell back down to the ground. She picked it up and she threw it up in the air and it fell back down to the ground. Someone came along while she was doing this, and they said ‘What are you doing?’

She said ‘Well, as I go on my sales route, I want the Lord to guide me in which way to go, so I take this stick and I throw the stick and I go which way the road -- the stick points.’

And he says ‘Well, why do you keep throwing the stick?’

And she says ‘Well, it keeps pointing to the right, but that road is pretty rough. I want to go to the left, so I just keep throwing the stick.’

Some people, I’ve seen them do that. Let’s flip coins. They flip. They don’t get the answer they want. They say ‘Two out of three,’ and they just keep on flipping the coin.

I actually know someone one time that was really praying about a big decision -- this is true -- and they weren’t sure whether or not they were to flip a coin, if that’s how they were supposed to pick. And they flipped the coin, and the coin rolled over against the wall and stood up on its end, as like God was saying ‘Don’t do that. You’re just giving me two options. I might have an option you know nothing about.’

So sometimes you corner the Lord when you use these methods, and you’re limiting how God is going to answer you, so I’d guard against that.

What about throwing out a fleece? You remember Gideon, when trying to get some reassurance that he was supposed to go in battle against the Amalekites and the Midianites and the people of the East? He put out this fleece. This is a big sheep skin. He put it out, and that’s normally what they slept on at night. It was their sleeping bag. And he said ‘Now, if I wake up in the morning and there’s a dew on the fleece and none on the ground that will be a sign.’

Well, that happened, and then he thought ‘Well, maybe that’s a natural occurrence. Tell you what, Lord, let’s try this one more time. Tomorrow let the fleece be dry and the dew on the ground,’ or whatever the opposite was. I think I maybe said the same thing twice, and the next day it was the opposite. And he said ‘Okay. That’s evidence.’

And so some people have these different fleeces that they put out for the Lord. And, you know, sometimes it’s not all bad to say ‘All right, Lord, I’m going to look for providential evidence,’ and we sort of manufacture these fleeces that we’re looking for God to guide us.

I know about a lady that -- you ever met these people that when they want to make a decision, they flip through their Bible, and they just -- wherever their eyes land, and they say ‘Okay, that’s going to be your message to me, Lord.’

Be careful about using your Bible like a deck of tarot cards. And I -- you’ve probably heard of people that -- now, I’m not saying that God can’t lead that way. I know stories that the Lord has led some people.

Dear friend of ours who’s passed away, her name was Lolita Simpson. You’ll read in testimonies about a famous evangelist called W.W. Simpson. And Lolita told me the story one time when her mother was trying to pray about whether or not to marry this young handsome evangelist, she said ‘Lord, I’ve got to know this is your will,’ and she prayed and agonized. She said ‘I just need reassurance that this is the right man.’

So she took her Bible and she flipped her Bible open. She’s praying there by her bed, and she put her finger down on a verse, and this is where she put her finger. Genesis 24:58. ‘When they called Rebekah, they said to her, will you go with this man? And she said I will go.’

Now, when you pray about who to marry and you flip the Bible open and that is the place where your finger lands, well, that’s a pretty strong indicator. Now, some of you are going to go home and try that now, right? I’m not recommending this. I’m just saying God can use it, but I don’t think it’s advisable because you never know. You might flip your Bible open and it will say ‘Judas went and hung himself,’ and, you know, that’s obviously that’s not His will for your life, so be careful about doing that.

What about dreams and visions? I’m trying to deal with some of the dubious things that people use to make big decisions. Can God guide us through a dream? And God can guide us through a vision, but you know, I’m hoping, the majority of your dreams are gibberish that come because your brain is defragmenting the things you’ve experienced through the day. And it sort of sorts itself out when you reach that point of rapid eye movement, and all kind of bizarre things may go through your mind

and some people have weird dreams, and they go and they visit psychoanalysts that help them to try and understand what’s going on deep within because of their dreams, and it may just mean too much pizza, and some people just put a little too much emphasis on it.

And visions. You’ve probably heard about the farmer that was out hoeing in the field one day, and it was hot. And he was a young farmer, and he wondered if he was supposed to spend his life out farming. He was pondering these things. And he looked up in the sky, and he saw that the wind were moving the clouds around, and all of a sudden he distinctly saw the letters in the sky ‘PC.’ And he thought about that, PC.

‘Lord, you don’t want me farming anymore. You want me to preach Christ. Preach Christ.’

He threw down his farm equipment, and he went and got his Sunday suit on, and he started going around the community preaching. And they said ‘Zeb, what’s going on?’

He said ‘God showed me in a vision I’m supposed to be a preacher. I saw clouds that said PC, and I know that means preach Christ.’

So he spent several months out there trying to preach, and didn’t have very big results, and his family started getting hungry, and about eight months later he’s back out there in the field hoeing the corn.

And someone said ‘Zeb, what’s up? I thought God gave you a vision. You’re supposed to preach Christ.’

‘So I made up my mind that PC meant plant corn. Didn’t mean preach Christ.’

So be careful about the dreams and the visions. If you’re going to have dreams and visions, make sure there’s other reinforcing evidence, and I wouldn’t make your decisions just upon that, but God can’t speak through those things, right? So let’s be careful.

Now, someone said that in the U.S. alone there are more than 23,000 ways to make a living. The odds are clearly not in favor for you to decide what you’re supposed to do as a career or who you’re supposed to marry -- think about all the options there -- based on pure luck. You want divine leading in your life, amen? And you want God to give you wisdom how to discern His providence and His will. All right.

I’m going to give you now a list of -- I have taken the best lists I can find from the people I respect the most, the Bible, George Muller, Tozer, the Spirit of Prophesy, friends, talked to our pastors this week, and we got a few more points on the list. I got about 15 points that I’m going to share with you on how do you determine the will of God biblically and using good reason.

Here’s -- here are what I think some of the most important things. You may add to my list later, but after years of praying about it, this is the first time I’ve really preached a message like this. Here’s the list. I’m going to go through these quickly because I want to get this in one message.

Number one, be surrendered and willing. The most important thing if you want to know God’s will is be willing to do His will. As a matter of fact, John 7:17, ‘If anyone wants to do his will, he shall know concerning the doctrine whether it’s from God or whether I speak of my own authority.’

If you’re wanting God’s will, Jesus said ‘If he’s willing, he will know the doctrine. You will understand,’ but the first thing is to be willing.

‘Pray that God will give you a pliable and a willing heart.’ Step number one is to be surrendered. Surrender yourself before Jesus before you expect Him to lead you. If your heart is in the state of rebellion and you’re not surrendered to God, then why is He going to show you His will? All He does is add to your compounded guilt. He shows you more that He wants you to do and you’re not doing what He’s shown you, so be willing.

I heard about a native in the Congo that prayed. He said ‘Dear Lord, you be the needle. I’ll be the thread. You go first. I’ll follow wherever you lead.’ That’s the kind of attitude we need.

Isaiah 45:9, ‘Does the clay say to the potter what are you doing? When God shows you His will, then do it. You may not like what He shows you. Be open.’

Psalms 25:9, ‘The humble He guides in justice. The humble He teaches his way.’ If you want to know the will of God and the way of God, humble yourself before God and He’ll teach you His way, so be willing.

Number two, consult the word of God. Find out what the Bible says on the particular options or the direction that you’re praying about. The word of God has a lot to say about a lot of things, and so acquaint yourself with His word.

You read, of course, Psalms 119:105, ‘Thy word is a lamp under my feet and a light to my path. When you’re walking through life, if you want guidance, ask for the word of God to guide you.’ There’s scripture on so many different things.

And more specifically, in the word of God, you have the law of God. So a lot of things you might see as options are clearly commanded to be done or not done based on what the law of God says. There are some things God gives an emphatic -- I meant He gives us an emphatic ‘no,’ and there’s some areas where He will give us an equally emphatic ‘yes,’ so find out what the law of God says.

If you’re wondering, you know, should I leave my spouse and go off with this other person, you don’t need to pray about God’s will regarding that, but you’d be surprised. I’ve met people -- happened this year -- two married people, members of the same church, left their spouses, got together.

And when I counseled with them, they said, ‘You know, it just feels so right. We just can see God blessing. We got so much peace. Those other relationships, they just weren’t good. We just sync. This is God will -- God’s will for us,’ and I’m going you don’t need to wonder if this is God’s will. He clearly commands you not to do this. It’s a sin, so don’t be praying about the will of God, you know, Lord, should I steal this car? I mean, you don’t need to pray about that. If God’s word gives you some clear direction on that, it’s clear.

Now, someone might say, well, you know, I’ve got this job, and it -- in order to get this incredible job opportunity, I just need to work for three or four Sabbaths for one month until I get the tenure and then I’ve got the job. You don’t need to pray about that. I mean, if God says ‘remember the Sabbath,’ it doesn’t mean when it’s convenient. You can break it in order to get a better job.

I mean, the word of God gives us really clear guidance in certain areas, and they’re just -- it’s a slam dunk. It’s a no-brainer. So find out what the word says, and it may involve searching through the word a little bit.

Psalms 40:8, ‘I delight to do your will. Oh my God, your law is written within my heart.’ So if you’re wondering what the will of God is, the law of God is the will of God. They’re one in the same. Amen?

Number 3, be faithful to His revealed will. So if you’re praying about, you know, ‘What school do I go to, Lord? I really need you to show me. What do you want me to take in college? Who is it that you want me to date? I’ve got three options. What country am I supposed to go to?’

If you’re praying about making big decisions, first ask yourself, ‘Am I doing what He has shown me?’ Make sure that you’re living out what He has revealed.

John 12:35, ‘Then Jesus said to them, a little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtakes you.’

Walk in the light that you have, in other words. And if you continue to walk in the light, He gives you more light, but don’t be praying about perplexity regarding God’s will, if you’re not doing what He’s shown you.

Matthew 13:12. ‘For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he’ll have an abundance." If you are embracing the will of God that He’s shown you, He’ll give you more because He can trust you to follow it. Some of you are saying ‘I don’t know why God won’t guide me.’ Well, are you doing what He said?

You ask what is the will of God? Well, here is the answer true, the nearest thing that should be done that He can do through you. Sometimes you need to say am I doing what lays closest to Him with all of my might?

You and I have met people before. They stand stationary with their arms folded waiting for God to show his will, and they got stuff right there they need to be doing.

Sometimes we’re frustrated looking for God’s will because we have not learned to be content where we are, and He may want you right where you’re at and He’s just trying to teach you contentment.

So are you doing what He’s given you nearest at hand? From the Third Book of Testimonies, page 428, ‘Those who are seeking to know the truth and to understand the will of God who are faithful to the light and zealous in the performance of their daily duties will be sure to know the doctrine, for they will be guided into all truth.’ If we’re being faithful to perform known duties, God will help us understand more.

Education 267, a simple list of three from the Spirit of Prophesy. ‘We need to follow more closely God’s plan for our life.’

Number one, ‘Do our best in the work that lies nearest.’

Number two, ‘Commit our ways to God.’

And number three, ‘To watch for the indications of His providence.’

These are rules that will ensure safe guidance. Make sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to do. I mean, that -- there’s a simple, short list, if you will, of how do you know the will of God. All right. But I’ve got more detail because sometimes our questions are more complex.

Number four, ‘Obtain Christian counsel.’ Find others who are believers with good judgment that will be honest with you and present your options to them and say ‘Please, guide me.’

Proverbs 11:14. You know this. ‘Where there’s no counsel of people fall, but in the multitude of counselors there’s safety.’ What kind of counselors? Any counselors? You can go down to the bar and ask for counsel? No. You want to get Christian counsel.

1 Corinthians 15:33, ‘Don’t be deceived. Evil company corrupts good habits.’ Avoid bad companions. Get good people -- as a matter of fact, it’s a good policy for life. Surrounded yourself with good counselors. He who would be wise makes friends with the wise, right?

Psalms 73:24, ‘You will guide me with your counsel and afterward receive me to your glory.’ So look for people you can trust. By the way, one way to pick good counselors, look for folks who look like they got their lives together.

If you’re taking counsel from people whose lives are a disaster, well, that might tell you something. They may not be in the best position to give you advice if their lives are a train wreck.

And so it’s amazing to me. I’ve met some people that there -- I better be careful what I say. Some people I know who have gone into counseling, their personal lives are a disaster, and I think how come they’re going into counseling? Maybe that’s sort of a subconscious way for them to try and find answers, so they’re counseling everybody else.

Make sure when you pick people to be your counselors, say ‘What is your personal life like?’ What is their spiritual life like? And if they -- you know, if they’re blessed like Joseph, and you can see the hand of God is with them, that’s a good person to pick as a counselor, and say, you know, I’d like to go to them. I’d like to be more like them. And those people often give you good advice.

It doesn’t mean you always have to listen to it. It doesn’t say a counselor, ‘counselors.’ Get a few different opinions.

You know, if someone has got a life-threatening disease and they go to the doctor and the doctor is recommending something, what does someone often say? Get another opinion, maybe even a third opinion because it’s life and death. Sometimes one doctor might be seeing things wrong, so get a multitude of counsel when you’re looking for making these decisions.

Godly friends will help you take inventory of yourself, help you to discovery your gifts and talents, and they may encourage you to try new things you’re not even thinking of.

I mean, several people might look at you and say -- you know, one reason I’m in ministry, nobody growing up thought Doug was going to be a pastor, but after I became a believer -- and it never occurred to me right away -- after I became a believer and I started sharing with my friends and had some success in giving Bible studies, more and more people that I respected said ‘Doug, have you considered the ministry?’

And I didn’t know how that would ever happen, but they said ‘You need to pray about it. We think you’ve got gifts in those areas.’ And so it was through collective counsel of Godly people that I moved in this direction, and He’ll do the same for you if you ask Him to.

Then number five, ‘Observe providence. Look for providential leading.’ God often shows what He wants you to do by events that happen.

One example I always think of, in Ruth 2:20, you know, Ruth and Naomi came back to the land of Bethlehem. They were destitute, and they had to glean in the fields just to get food for their daily bread. And there was only one person in all of Israel that had the right of a redeemer that had the inclination to redeem them.

And it just so happened that when they went out into the fields to glean that it happened that Ruth ended up in the field of Boaz, which was the one man who had the inclination and the ability to be her kinsman-redeemer. I mean, she didn’t know what field it was. And when she came home and told Naomi, she said ‘This is the providence of God. Don’t go to any other field. That’s the one. God led you there.’

And you can see many, many stories in the -- of course, she ended up marrying Boaz and redeemed the family of Elimelech, and it ended up being a great -- a great blessing, so look for the providence of God. Look for doors that open.

God often guides us in his will regarding doors opening, doors closing. And sometimes you say ‘Well, I guess this is not God’s will because that door slammed shut,’ and he often opens something else along the way, right? Some people are always trying to kick down doors that God has closed because it’s what they want, and they’ve got the door of opportunity right there. They’re neglecting it.

2 Corinthians 2:12, ‘Furthermore, I came to Troas to preach Christ and a door was opened to me by the Lord.’ All these opportunities came to Paul. And, you know, especially if you’re willing to work for God, He will show you open doors of opportunity.

I prayed many, many times. I said Lord -- you know, I’m on the road. I’m traveling. I’ll say ‘Help me to recognize opportunities to be a witness for you in some way.’ And just yesterday -- my neighbor might be watching this, but I’ll -- I’ll be careful.

We got a lovely -- we got the best neighbors in the world, and we’ve got one neighbor that lives right by us, and we got a cat that goes back and forth between our houses. The cat -- you know, you don’t really own a cat. They decide who they belong to. And it’s sort of the neighborhood cat, and we don’t take care of him, so he and I were talking about the cat.

Whenever I see this brother -- he’s a ornithologist, is that what it is, dear, a studier of bird?

KAREN: Ornithologist.

PASTOR DOUG: Yeah. I didn’t know whether to say that or orthodontist or something like that, but anyway, he’s the one who studies birds, and really nice family. And I’ve always thought, you know, I will look for opportunity to share with him. Very educated couple. They travel around the world. He’s a specialist in birds.

And I saw him out front. We were talking about the cat, and I’m thinking ‘Lord, I wish I had some opportunity to -- to say something and just, you know, turn the conversation towards spiritual things. And he comes over to me while I’m weeding my flowers.

He says ‘Doug, I need to ask you to do me a favor.’

I said ‘Sure. Anything.’

And he said ‘I’m going on another birding trip.’ He said ‘I’ve got some friends, and they’re Seventh-day Adventists, and they live in Montana.’ And he said ‘I told them that, oh, yeah, I’ve got a Seventh-day Adventist friend that lives across the street, a guy named Batchelor.’

And he said ‘Doug Batchelor? Oh, we watch his programs, ‘and he said, ‘if you just sign a little card for them,’ and so it just gave me an opportunity to give him a book and I just prayed. That’s providence.

When you pray that and oh, somebody says, ‘You know, by the way, I’m going to Montana and I’m staying with Seventh-day Adventists that know you.’ And so He’ll open doors for you if you ask, doors for ministry, doors for opportunity, doors for careers, doors for relationships, and sometimes He closes doors. And some of us, we don’t want to admit the doors are closed.

Like Balaam, we’re on our donkey, riding with all we’re got, and we’re beating the donkey. We don’t know there’s an angel in the way. You know what I’m talking about? We’re just trying to plow ahead.

It’s like the guy who told everybody at the office. He said ‘Look, I’m going on a diet. I know it’s time, and I’ve giving up donuts. No more donuts.’ He shows up the next day. He’s got a big box of two dozen donuts.

And they said ‘What happened, Fred? We thought you swore off the donuts.’

He said ‘Well, God -- it was God’s will that I get these donuts.’

‘Well, how did you figure that out?’

He said ‘It was providence.’

‘Oh, what do you mean?’

He said ‘Well, before I left for work, you know, I -- I often drive by the donut shop, and it’s just packed. You can’t ever find a parking place. And I said Lord, if there is a parking right in front of the door, then I’ll know it’s your will to get this box of donuts.’ He said, ‘You know, I only had to drive around the block ten times, and then a parking place opened up, and I knew it was God’s will.’

Now, I’m telling you that story because some of you do use those incantations. You say, ‘You know what, is this your will, Lord?’ And you just keep pushing the door down. You sure, Lord? Sure, you’ll kick it open eventually, sometimes.

And you wonder why everything went wrong. You said ‘Wasn’t this your will?’ Well, you were pushing awful hard.

And, you know, Balaam finally got where he wanted the donkey to go, didn’t he, and he lost his life in the process. And God will often permit you to do something that is not His will because you’re pushing for it.

I remember one time going down on the street after I just learned about the Bible and the Lord, and I sort of had accepted the Lord, but I also drank beer, and I kept panhandling until I got enough money to get beer. And I said ‘Well, it must have been God’s will for me to get beer because I got the money.’ And I’m sure that same logic is used by people who stand at the intersections around Sacramento all the time.

So, you know, sometimes when you say providence, be sensitive to let God lead, and don’t be pushing the doors down. There might be an angel in the way with a drawn sword. Amen? Then I’m not putting these necessarily in sequential order.

Number six, pray. Pray that God will guide you.

1 John 5:14-15, ‘Now, this is the confidence that we have in Him that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us, and we know that He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that are asked of Him.’ So when you pray, pray according to the revealed will of God.

Again, John 15:15, Jesus said ‘I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know what his master’s business is.’ Instead, I called you, what? Friends. ‘For everything I’ve learned from my father I’ve made known to you.’

If you want to know the will of God, be a friend of God. How do you become a friend of God? You talk to Him all the time. You remember when the angels were on their way to Sodom to destroy it? God stops by to see Abraham on the way.

He said ‘Abraham, shall I hide from you what I’m about to do because you’re my friend?’ Friends talk about their plans together, don’t they? If you want to know the will of God for life, then be a friend of God. Spend time praying and talking to the Lord. God reveals His will to his friends. And that, by the way, was Genesis, Chapter 18:17. ‘The secret things of God are with those who fear Him.’

Now, praying may also include fasting and praying. There’s different intensity of knowing God’s will. I mean, you might say, you know, ‘Where shall we go for lunch today? Shall we do Mexican? Shall we do Italian? Shall we do Chinese?’ Well, you might pray about God’s guidance in that, and I think God even cares about those things. I do. I -- I prayed ‘Lord, where shall I go today?’

And I look for God sometimes to guide me in little decisions, but some things are big decisions; for instance, you know, who shall I marry? What move shall I make? What job shall I take? These are big decisions. You might want to invest some time in fasting and praying.

If you’re praying about God’s will for someone else’s life, too, you might fast and pray. When it’s life and death decisions you’re making, I recommend you fast and pray.

2 Chronicles 20:3-4, ‘When Israel was surrounded by millions of enemies Jehoshaphat, he commanded that the people fasted and they prayed throughout Judah.’

Acts 13:2-3, when the disciples were wondering what was the next missionary endeavor, the Bible says ‘As they ministered to the Lord and they fasted, the Holy Spirit said now separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the work that I’ve called them to. And having fasted and prayed, they laid hands on them and they sent them away.’

They knew the direction. They knew the will of God, as they listened and they fasted and prayed, and I’m sure they applied the other criteria.

In determining the will of God have faith, if you’re going pray for His will, then believe that He’ll show you his will.

Proverbs 3:5-6, ‘Trust in the Lord.’ What is trust? It’s have faith. ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.’

The Bible says ‘The just shall live by faith.’ So believe God has plan for you and that He’s going show it to you in his time.

In the Third Bible Commentary, page 1155. ‘When you sought to know His will, your part in the operation with God is to believe that you will be led and guided and blessed in the doing of His will.’

Think about it for a second. If you’re willing to do His will, then God’s responsible to reveal His will to you. You must believe He’s going to do that, right? I mean, if you’re willing -- that’s our biggest battle is step number one. Just be willing to do God’s will, and He’ll reveal it to you.

Now, it takes faith sometimes to do the God -- the will of God once it’s revealed. Some people are praying about the will of God. You don’t need to pray ‘Well, shall I return a full tithe?’ You need faith to do the will of God. He -- you know what the will is, or ‘Do I need to pray about the will of God to follow His word?’ No. If it’s revealed in His word, then you know that it’s His will.

Now, I put number 9 right where I did, after number eight, because while you should have faith, you should not be foolhardy. When you’re seeking the will of God, be faith -- faithful, be courageous, but don’t be foolish. Sometimes the answer is do the safe thing. That’s number nine.

When you’re looking at all the options, and one of them may be risky -- when it comes to living the Christian life, don’t say ‘I’m going to see how close to the edge I can get and still’ -- you know, it’s like some people wanted to walk like this, the Christian life, and say ‘Lord, is this your will?’

‘No. Get as far away from that edge as you can get.’ And if -- you know, sometimes if I’m getting ready to speak, and I’ve got an illustration I want to share, and I think boy, ‘That illustration is a little on the edge, Lord. Should I share that or not?’

A little voice says ‘Doug, do the safe thing. Don’t share it. I’ll give you something else.’

KAREN: Or else I tell you.

PASTOR DOUG: Or Karen, yeah. Well, yeah. That’s under the category of spirit led, or the multitude of counselors. That’s that category. You’ve got the multitude of counselors and you’ve got a spouse that gives you a multitude of counsel. I’m sorry, Dear. But yeah, well, that’s what it’s all about.

So you want to be cautious and, you know, ‘Lord is this dress too short? Should I wear that to church?’ Do the safe thing. Lengthen your hem or get a different one; you know what I mean? And so when you’re praying about the will of God, just consider that. Don’t take unnecessary risks is what I’m saying there.

Number ten. Again, these aren’t in order because this is very important. Make sure that God is glorified in your decision. Make sure your decision will bring glory to God. If it’s going dishonor God and His kingdom, then it’s the wrong decision.

1 Corinthians 10:31, ‘Therefore, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.’ Keep the kingdom priorities.

Matthew 6:33, ‘But seek ye first in making the decisions of God. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.’

You might be saying ‘Lord, in this decision I’m making regarding a career in my life or a choice in my life or someone I’m going to marry or, you know, whatever the decision might be you’re grappling with, what is going to reach the most people? What will make the biggest impact for your kingdom? How will I be the best advertising agent for your glory?’ And make that’s a major factor in your decision process.

Now, in keeping with that, not just the glory of God, what’s the Great Commandment? ‘Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and strength,’ and what’s the second part? ‘Love your neighbors.’

So number 11, in making a decision about the will of God, how will my decision affect others? I’m amazed sometimes when people are making decisions that all they’re thinking about what’s this going to mean for me? How much will I get paid? How much do I like that climate? How do I like the environment? Or what do you think of this school?

And their decision -- they’ve got a family, and their decision is going to affect everybody in the family and -- and I’m concerned. Sometimes I’ll hear it’s -- it’s often a man. He’s got some career opportunity, and it will mean uprooting the family and taking them away from all of their family and the kids out of school just before they’re ready to graduate and all these tremendous, volcanic upheaval.

And the husband is thinking ‘Well, you know, how much will I get paid? What are my promotion opportunities? And yeah, they’ve got jet skiing in the lake nearby,’ and they’re just not thinking about what it’s going to do about the family, and so that’s something very important.

Christians should be governed by love, not just love for God, but love for others. And God wants us to be considerate of how your decision -- and it may not even be your family members. It might be other people.

Romans 14:7, ‘For none of us lives unto himself and no one dies to himself.’

And again, Galatians 5:14, ‘For all the laws fulfilled in one word, even this, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

Number 12. Be guided by the Holy Spirit. Pray that God’s spirit will guide you in making your decisions. Now, that’s sometimes one of the harder factors to -- to enunciate. It’s a very important one, but for mature Christians, you heard that voice. You know the voice of the spirit. I mean, how else did Abraham know when he was supposed to take his son? I’d want to know that was God speaking to me. And the Holy Spirit will guide you.

Isaiah 30:21, ‘Your ears will hear a voice behind you saying this is the way walk ye in it, whether you turn to the right hand or to the left.’ And so when you’re praying about Lord, what is your will regarding something, then say, you know, ‘How am I feeling led by God’s spirit?’

I understand that years ago when some of the Arabs were crossing these vast deserts that frequently someone in the caravan would keep a dove with them, and they had a long piece of string, and if they got all turned somewhere because of a sand storm and didn’t know where they were, they would release this dove. And you know, doves have these -- pigeons have these homing instincts, and as soon as it would take off, it would circle a little bit and then start pulling in the direction of home. And, you know, the Holy Spirit is sometimes compared to a dove, and you just want to have that tug of the Holy Spirit that is guiding you.

And, you know, John tells us, it says ‘You don’t need that any man should teach you anything. The Holy Spirit, the same, will teach you.’

And so as we have lived Christian lives of walking in the Spirit, we’ll have the confidence when God’s Spirit is telling us what to do. Many times you’ll see where Paul was saying ‘The Spirit said go here. The Spirit said come this way. The Spirit said don’t go.’ They were really in touch with the Spirit of God. And the Spirit of God, by the way, will never guide you differently from the word of God. Amen? So listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Now, what number was that? That was number 12.

Going on to number 13. This is going to be a tough one. Be patient. In deciding the will of God, you want to be patient.

James 5:11, ‘Indeed, we count them blessed who endure. You’ve heard of the patience of Job and seen in the end the Lord that He is very good and compassionate and merciful.’

And sometimes when you’re praying about the will of God, we become restless and we want to do something, and God is going to show you His will, but you’ve got to wait. Sometimes He just wants you to wait.

I mean, Moses wanted to deliver his people, tried to do it his way. It backfired. He waited 40 years before the next opportunity came along.

When you’re praying about a big decision, be patient. You know, periodically people are thinking about making some dramatic move in their life, and they’ve got ailing parents, and, you know, they need to consider them, and perhaps they need to wait for them. Well, they’ve got children that are young, and they can’t handle this kind of move or this career change right now. Give them a couple more years. Wait on the Lord, and He’ll guide you.

Sometimes you haven’t gotten an answer yet because God wants you to stay right where you’re at, and just be patient. Yes, He’s got a big plan for your life. He’s got a big change. He’s got that person you’re supposed to spend the rest of your life with you haven’t met yet, and you’re wondering if you’re ever going to. Wait.

‘Yeah, but, Pastor Doug, I’ve been waiting so long.’

Be glad because you are better off waiting for God’s will, having the right job, the right spouse, the right school, than rushing ahead of the Lord and having the wrong job. You’d be miserable. The wrong spouse, the wrong school. You know what I’m talking about? So you want to pray. Wait on the Lord and be patient.

Luke 21:19, ‘By your patience, possess ye your souls.’ And part of following the Lord and looking for His will is standing still.

Remember those stories in the Bible? Exodus 14, Moses said to the people, Verse 13. ‘Do not be afraid, stand still.’ They didn’t know which way to go. Where are they supposed to go? Nowhere. They’re supposed to stand still. Sometimes God’s leading is your standing.

2 Chronicles 20:17, ‘You will not need to need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.’ In other words, sometimes the word of God is not you going to it. Sometimes the will of God is it coming to you. You just stay where you are and watch what happens. Sometimes you think that ‘I’ve got to get out of this circumstance, and I don’t know I’m going to do. And Lord, what -- which way am I supposed to go, and what phone call do I make, and which direction, what door?’

And God is saying ‘Stay right there. I’m going change everything without you moving anywhere.’ So part of God’s leading is your being patient and trusting and just stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.

You know, the Generals years ago, you’ve often heard it said, during the revolutionary war their muskets were very inaccurate, and it took forever to load them. And what would the General say to his troops as they were itching fingers to fire at the approaching enemy? They’d say ‘Hold man. Hold.’

And Washington said ‘Do not fire until you see the whites of their eyes.’

And the patience -- you got wait for timing. And so sometimes God says ‘You’re wanting to jump. It’s not time. Wait.’ He’ll tell you when the time is. I’ve seen many times I’ve ran ahead of the Lord. If I just waited.

Now, after you do all these things -- I’m adding one more here -- well, I’m adding a couple more. Tally the evidence. I’ve just given you a number of criteria from the Bible and good judgment of how you determine the will of God.

Sometimes it’s not any one of those things, but it’s the -- the addition, the accumulation of many of those things that helps you make a decision. You kind of add things up. It’s like with those little handheld GPS satellites you use, and you can use them in your airplane. You can use them when you’re walking on the trails now. You first turn one on. It will tell you your exact location. It will tell you which way to go, but you’ve got wait a minute while it acquires satellites. You’ll turn it on. It will say it’s got one satellite. It can’t even triangulate until you get three satellites. You get real good altitude and all kinds of information if you get five or seven satellites. So you just wait until you -- all the satellites -- and when it’s picking them all up and it says ‘We’ve got seven satellites now,’ you can know pretty sure where you are within a couple of feet.

And so when you’re praying about this big decision, say ‘What does the word of God say?’ It’s not always precise on everything. So ‘Well, I got some background there. What do my Christian counselors say? How will this glorify God?’ And you just start going through the different evidence. Make a list.

Karen and I, when we were dating each other, we made a list of what the pros and cons were. I hope she still remembers the pros.

So you know, you add these things up and you say ‘Well, you know, here’s the things to consider,’ and you want to -- hopefully there will be a preponderance of evidence on the right side when you add up the list. And by the way, something everybody can do. You might say ‘Doug, this is an interesting sermon. It doesn’t apply to me. I’m where I’m supposed to be. I’m in the will of God right now,’ but you always need to be adjusting yourself into the will of God, always.

You know, they’ve got these oil drilling ships. They used to just use these platforms that they were root and anchored down in the seabed floor, but now they’ve got ships that have these computer-controlled propellers all the way around the ship, and the ship is not anchored. The ship is not tethered to the ground. The ship is able to control its location through constant adjustments, micro millisecond adjustments of a computer that are keeping it so that it stays over the same spot while it’s drilling.

And you know, it’s sort of how Christian is. We -- we are constantly measuring that we’re in the will of God based on all these things all the time because it’s real easy for us to do something called sliding. You stop calibrating that you’re in the will of God, and you can start sliding off-center. And if -- those ships I just described, if they don’t make continual adjustments, the drill line and the pipe cracks, and so you want to constantly be centered in God’s will.

Some of you are sort of in the right vicinity, but you’re not centered in God’s will, and so take a look at the list.

Now, I’ve got good news for you in the last one here. Oh, by the way, another verse for number 14. ‘By the mouth of two or three witnesses shall everything be established,’ so you add up all the evidence.

One more verse for you. Number 15, when you’re deciding the will of God, what is your heart’s desire? Yeah. Don’t be ashamed of that. What do you want? Sometimes God places things on your heart because He’s wanting you to do something, and He’s putting it in your heart where it actually -- you want the same thing God wants. Everyone automatically assumes ‘All right, Lord, where do you want me to go? Oh, I’ve got to marry them? All right. What school? This is the job? Oh, man, I hate teeth, but you want me to be a dentist? I’ll be a dentist, you know.’

And we’re always thinking that God’s will is for us to do what we don’t want to do. That’s a myth. God, if you’re converted, He will often then implant within your heart this burning desire to do the very thing that He wants to do. If you’re converted, your desires are going to be lining up with His desires.

Let me give you some scripture for that because you already feel guilty about believing that, but that’s good news.

1 Chronicles 17:2, David wanted to build a temple for the Lord. That was his desire to see a temple to God’s glory, and Nathan said ‘David, do all that’s in your heart.’ Well, it turns out that it was done through David’s son, but his desire was still fulfilled. Build a temple for the Lord. God put it in his heart.

Psalms 21:2, ‘You have given Him His heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of His lips.’

Psalms 20:4, ‘May He grant you according to your heart’s desire and fulfill all your purpose.’ Many times you’ll pray about something and you want it, and God says, ‘You know I love you. I want to give you what you want.’

Psalms 37:4, ‘Delight yourself in the Lord.’ Now, here’s the key. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. If your delight is God and His will and His glory, you’ll be finding out He’s giving you the desires of your heart. That’s exciting when you think about that. He’ll surprise you. God doesn’t want what’s worst for you. He wants what’s best for you, and you got trust Him that at the end you’ll always be happier being in the middle of God’s will and doing what He asks.

I’ve got an appeal for you here, Romans 12:2. This is a good verse I saved and highlighted for the end of this message.

Romans 12:2, ‘And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,’ and that’s a continual renewing of your mind. Why? ‘That you might prove’ -- that means test/evaluate -- ‘what is that good and acceptable and perfect.’

Some people are doing the imperfect will of God. You should strive for that good and that acceptable and that perfect will of God, and that’s where you’re going to be the happiest is when you’re where God wants you to be, when you’re right directly smack-dab in the middle of where God wants you to be, you’ll be happy. Amen.

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