Should I pursue a new career? How do I know she’s the one? Is it time for me to retire? The answers to these questions could change your life. When Christians arrive at major forks in the road, they often ask, “How do I know God’s will?” Most believers know it’s wrong to call a psychic hotline or consult tarot cards and their horoscope. But we might be tempted to ask God for an observable sign, “putting out a fleece” like Gideon did in Judges 6:36–40.
Do Christians need observable signs to discern God’s will? Is this what we’re to learn from Gideon’s story? If not, what do believers need when facing tough decisions?
From Signs to Wisdom
Gideon asked for a sign as confirmation of God’s already-revealed promise. His request was not for an arbitrary sign like many ask for today. It was an explicitly supernatural act that only God could perform.
Often when believers call for signs, we’re looking for a sense of peace for difficult personal decisions. But searching for signs can be random and even superstitious. We must reject this impulse and instead ask God for wisdom (James 1:5). What does this look like practically?
1. Seek wisdom in God’s Word.
God gives wisdom by many means, but the primary way is through his Word. The Scriptures contain God’s revealed instructions for his people. They give us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3).
The Bible addresses many practical issues related to sexuality, relationships, and family. If you’re a Christian in a serious dating relationship with a nonbeliever, you need look no further than 2 Corinthians 6:14. If you are wondering whether sex before marriage is permissible in God’s sight, hear Paul’s instructions in 1 Thessalonians 4:3. No signs are needed.
When the Bible clearly reveals God’s will, it’s for his people to understand and obey, not for us to test. But what about decisions that aren’t specifically addressed in the Bible?
2. Seek wisdom from your church.
Your local church is the visible body of Christ, and its members are indwelled by the Holy Spirit. In the church, you’ll find wise men and women who have often been in your shoes before. Do you want to know what it’s like to major in engineering? What it’s like to be a parent to three kids, or six? How to care for aging parents? How to navigate whether to take that promotion and move or stay in your current role at work? You’ll find that your church is a treasure trove of counsel. Godly believers stand ready to share their experiences and lessons learned if you’ll only ask.
3. Think rationally and pray fervently.
God gives us rational minds, and it’s important to use them as we think through hard decisions. It’s good to make pros and cons lists and course-of-action flowcharts. If you have an exciting job offer but you won’t be able to see your children during crucial years of their development, it may be best to turn down that job. If you’re thinking about retirement but the numbers don’t add up, it’s likely not time.
But in the end, discerning God’s will mustn’t be isolated into an entirely rational process. It’s also essential to pray. If you’ve sought wisdom from God’s Word and the church and differing choices still seem good, you can choose freely.
Discerning God’s will mustn’t be isolated into an entirely rational process. It’s also essential to bathe your decisions in prayer.
In the summer of 2015, I came to a crossroads in my career. Several exciting job offers lay before me—opportunities to serve in pastoral ministry, work with my present company, or pursue a new career in government service. I talked to several people from my church and got on my knees in prayer. Then, as I gathered the facts, crunched the numbers, and created the pros and cons lists, the decision became clear. The Lord granted the wisdom needed to make a wise decision. I’m confident he’ll do the same for you.
We can trust that the One who has decreed the end from the beginning guards our journey through all the future uncertainties. Ultimately, seeking God’s will isn’t about making the perfect choice but rather about growing deeper in our trust in Jesus at every turn.
The Gospel Coalition