How to Discern How God is Leading You
We are invited daily into opportunities to trust God’s leading. Sometimes those opportunities are big, like choosing a college or leaving behind a job and other times they seem small, like helping someone to the car with their groceries and offering to pray for them before they drive away (which isn’t small by the way).
Whatever the size, the invitation from God is the same: “Will you step away from what you know and trust me with what you don’t know?”
Which direction to go
In the back of my parents’ Jeep Cherokee I wrestled with what to do. I had a new relationship with Jesus and with that I had a new lens to view my decision-making. It was no longer about just what I wanted in the moment. There was a bigger invitation unfolding, a grander story of which to be a part.
The tangible questions at the time were:
- Do I go to Murray State and play college soccer like I had always planned or stay close to the people who would help me foster this new relationship with Jesus?
- Do I chase my dream or do I follow this new Jesus thing? Can I do them both?
- What happens if I choose wrong? How do I know what God is leading me to do?
There were so many scenarios rolling through my mind. With each passing mile marker, I asked God over and over again, “What do you want me to do?” I wished the clouds would part and a booming voice would break the silence. Sometimes it’s easier to just be told what to do rather than be trusted to decide yourself.
Deep down I knew I needed to walk this new direction, put some distance between myself and my old life, full of poor choices. I needed to let go of what I had always known and discover what I was coming to know. Inside, I felt pulled toward this unexpected new option.
But still I wrestled with how do you change future plans with the snap of a finger? It seemed foolish. No way anyone was going to understand. How could I explain walking away from this opportunity?
I wanted God to tell me all the details of what would happen and then I would take the first step. However, he wanted a step first: “Kristan, take the step and I will show you what will happen.”
One involved trusting in what I know, the other trusting in who I know. Trust is in stepping. It’s an action, a movement, a “yes.” Trust is based on what you do and what you do stems from who you know. So ultimately our ability to trust is directly linked to our relationship with the one we are trusting.
Here are 4 ways to help you discern how God is leading you in the decisions of your life.
1. Consider the Spirit’s prompting
In Acts 20:22, Paul announces his new plan of travel with this opening statement, “and now compelled by the Spirit…” He says to the elders of the church of Ephesus, “Someone is pulling me elsewhere.” Even though Paul loved where he was he couldn’t help but feel pulled somewhere new.
The Greek words translated as “compelled by the Spirit” are the words deo ho pneuma.
Deo (deh‘-o) means to bind, tie, fasten. to wrap. It’s like a cord wrapping it’s way around you, held by the hands of another.
Pneuma (pnyoo‘-mah) is wind, breath, or spirit.
Put them together and you can see the picture: the Spirit wrapping around you like a chord, gently pulling you toward something.
This was the feeling I had on the inside as I considered my decision to stay close to home and focus on my relationship with Jesus. I asked myself questions like:
- Why was I suddenly feeling pulled toward an option I didn’t even have on the table?
- Does this invitation make sense?
- Would this be something God would invite me into?
- What has shifted to make this invitation so much louder in this season of my life?
Every time the Spirit prompts you, it’s important. He’s not trying to get your attention just for the sake of getting your attention. His promptings are divine invitations.
2. Consider Scripture
Jesus would never invite you to do something that goes against the Word. He is the Word. He doesn’t contradict Himself. is one of the main ways we hear his voice. If the choice you are considering is directly contradicted by Scripture, then you need to reconsider the source.
The bad news I was hearing about college was that I am only what I’ve always been. Therefore, I had to make the choice that everyone expected me to make. I have to do what I’ve always done. This has always been my plan and my dream. I can’t change my mind now.
The good news though was that God was inviting me into something new. He had begun a new work in my life. I wasn’t who I had always been and I didn’t have to pretend I was. It was exciting to change directions and go off script. What a way to rediscover myself!
This verse came to mind: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the way” (Isaiah 43:18-19).
3. Consider wise people in your life
Think of the people in your life who are actively and fruitfully following hard after Jesus. What do they have to say about your decision?
We cannot afford to make life-altering decisions alone on an island. We need to be talking with multiple people before taking big steps of trust. Not because God is not trustworthy, but because we are all growing in our ability to discern His invitations and it is wise to invite others into that journey.
Don’t rush big decisions either. Sit with people, talk through details, pray all over decisions. I’ve learned God is usually not in as big of a hurry as we are.
4. Consider the goodness of God
Finally, because our trust is in a person and not in a choice we make, we can take steps forward without fear.
Twenty years later I look back at my choice and see more clearly the process of trust. My heart’s desire was to follow what helped me grow in faith. God is the director of our path and if we come to him with pure hearts postured in the way of love, he will lead us.
Trusting in God’s goodness sets us free from expectation. We often care about how the details roll out. Sometimes so much it keeps us paralyzed and unable to move forward. The good news is that it’s not actually even about the details, it’s about Jesus. And if we choose Him we can’t choose wrong.
Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.”
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