An idea comes to mind. A longing appears in your heart. A hope finds its way into your conversations. How do you really know if it’s from God?
First of all, that’s a beautiful question to ask. Most people move ahead in their lives without pausing to ask what God wants. And here you are desiring to know—truly know—if this is what he has for you before you take another step. That alone is pleasing to him.
And I don’t believe he wants to keep us guessing. But he also doesn’t usually tell us outright what we are to do. After all, his highest goal for our journey with him is an intimate relationship, and ordering us around would make us more like robots than his beloved people. Usually, we discover what he wants us to do as we go.
The Apostle Paul tells us we are to “test and approve” God’s will (Rom. 12:2). In other words, we’ve gotta try stuff. We don’t usually like that approach. It’s scary. We might mess up. We could get it wrong. And yet that is the only way for us to really know God’s will—by experiencing it.
The precursor to that process is to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. In other words, to be committed to seeing our lives from God’s perspective. We do that first by being in his Word on a regular basis. Even if it doesn’t have specific instructions for our situations, God can use his Spirit to illuminate what we need to see. The Bible is not a static text but rather is “alive and active” so God can use it to show us what we need for our daily lives (Heb. 4:12).
We can also ask ourselves a series of questions that help us determine whether or not this dream or opportunity is likely to be from God. These are ten questions I’ve found to be helpful when evaluating a decision or dream:
1. Does this fit with my strengths?.
2. Does this fit with my skills?
3. Have my life experiences prepared me for it?
4. What do the people I trust most say about it?
5. Do I feel an inner tug or “leading” from God to do it?
6. Does the opportunity line up with Scripture and what I understand to be God’s purpose for me?
7. Are there any possible “phantom reasons” that could be tempting me to say yes when God wants me to say no (ex: fear, guilt, a desire to please people)?
8. If I say yes, what will it mean saying no to?
9. If I say no, what will it mean saying yes to?
10. When I look back in ten years, will this be a story I want to share?
This list isn’t complete, of course. But hopefully it provides a starting point for you. What other questions would you add to the list?
After evaluating and praying, it’s time to “test and approve.” In other words, you move forward with what God has asked you to do to the best of your knowledge. You stay closely connected to him in the process and as you go, you adjust. If you make a mistake, you learn from it. If you clearly see his hand in something, you do more of it.
God’s will isn’t something we see in full on one day. It’s more often something we discover along the way. (<====Click to Tweet) And in doing so, we find more of what our hearts really need—the God who wants to share every bit of the journey with us.