You are on page 1of 26

the

decisions
of life
AND HOW TO FIND
THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
HAROLD J. SALA
© 2013 by Harold J. Sala
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of
the publisher.
Cover design and page layout by Amor Aurelio B. Alvarez
Published by Guidelines International Ministries, 26076 Getty Drive,
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677, www.guidelines.org.
CONTENTS
NATURE TEACHES ORDER AND PRECISION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
HOW MAY WE EXPECT TO FIND GOD’S WILL? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10
1. THE WILL OF GOD AND THE BIBLE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12
GOD’S WILL AND OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM . . . . . . . . . . .13
GOD’S WILL AND SEXUAL PURITY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13
GOD’S WILL AND OUR OBEDIENCE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14
2. THE WILL OF GOD AND THE SPIRIT OF GOD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15
THE WILL OF GOD AND CIRCUMSTANCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO WHEN YOU ARE STILL UNCERTAIN? . . . . . . . . .23
4
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
W
hen the Apollo 8 space capsule was streaking back to earth from the moon some
220,000 miles away, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in
Houston asked, “Who’s driving up there?” meaning, “Who is responsible for
piloting the craft?” Major Bill Anders responded, “I think Isaac Newton is doing most
of the driving right now.” What he meant was that they were simply demonstrating the
laws of physics defned by Sir Isaac Newton some 300 years ago.
In his day Newton wrote, “Just give me the mass, the position of the system of the
heavenly bodies at any given moment, and I will calculate their future position and
motions by a set of unerring mathematical calculations.” Newton was positive that the
position of the heavenly bodies was a matter of mathematical precision and could be
accurately predicted in the future. Many scientists believe that the moon shots, and
now the unmanned probes to Mars and Jupiter, are only proving the accuracy of the
laws that control our universe which were put in operation by God at creation.
NATURE TEACHES ORDER AND PRECISION
Have you ever paid much attention to the order of nature itself? Every 24 hours
the earth rotates on its axis, giving us day and night. Te seasons are the direct result of
the 231h-degree tilt of the earth on its axis. Te atmosphere surrounding earth is in the
exact proportion necessary to sustain human life—80 nitrogen and 20 oxygen. If the
atmosphere had more oxygen we would burn up; if it had less we would be dead on our
feet. A ratio of four parts nitrogen to one part oxygen is just right, but had there been a
ratio of two parts nitrogen to one part oxygen, then the atmosphere would be laughing
gas, something not so terribly funny. Two parts nitrogen and two parts oxygen would
produce nitric oxide, and humanity would quickly die from its deadly fumes.
Te probing mind of the scientist demonstrates that nothing happens by chance.
Te universe is governed by laws of cause and efect which accurately control the events
of nature. Te universe demonstrates that there must be a divine blueprint, a plan
ordered and controlled by God Himself.
Now if this is true, if God has a plan for the universe around us, why should it
be thought strange or unusual that God should have a will for us who are the highest
order of God’s created universe? It takes a cruel sense of humor to suggest that God
created the earth, put man on it, then turned his back and left man to his own fate.
Jesus pointed out the lilies of the feld and the fowers that grow wild and asked the
question, “Are you not worth much more than they?”
5
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
Life is full of decisions, as I am sure you have discovered. Our world today demands
that you make decisions. Attempting to avoid making decisions is like hiding your
head in the sand. Refusing to make decisions is the decision to let life make decisions
for you, and decision making by default is often a disaster.
How interested is God in the everyday world of ours anyway? Does He really care
about the decisions that confront you day by day, or is God disinterested and out of
touch with the details of your life, leaving you pretty much on your own? Notice how
this afects the process of daily living.
A middle-aged couple has been setting aside a small amount of money each month
for retirement, but the interest on their money market account has been steadily
falling. Teir stockbroker is convinced that they are losing money and suggests that
they put their money into bonds which are tax-free. True, the bonds would produce
more money, but it seems that they are somewhat speculative. Does God give direction
in such a situation?
Here is a homemaker, and she is concerned because her daughter doesn’t play very
well with the neighbor’s girl. Tere is no one else with whom the girl can play. Should
the mother talk the situation over with the neighbor or just hope it improves? To what
extent does God have a will involving the everyday afairs of life?
A college student has the opportunity of taking a class taught by a very popular
teacher, but he also could take a class that would count towards his major, one that is
taught by a not-so-popular professor. Does God’s will extend to mundane situations as
this? Does it matter to God?
PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE
Te fuzziness in our thinking regarding the will of God has given rise to a host of
misconceptions which create confusion in our lives, and where there is confusion or
misunderstanding, we are bound to make mistakes. To illustrate this fact, look at the
following statements which are commonly believed by people, and see if you agree or
disagree.
1. “If the majority of people do something, then it must be the will of God.” How
would you rate that? True or false? For untold centuries people have fallen into the
trap of thinking that might makes right. If enough people do something, then it must
6
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
be okay Jesus did not believe that. He said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide
is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through
it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few fnd it”
(Matthew 7:13, 14). Te person who determines to do the will of God—whether he is
a teenager who refuses to cheat on his exams or an honest employee who is governed
by principles—will often walk alone. He may stand apart from the crowd, but he will
stand in the shadow of Jesus.
2. “If you are uncertain of the will of God, you should always move ahead, choosing
what appears to be best for you.” True or false? I say false. When you are uncertain,
waiting for clarifcation is usually the best step. Pray for direction and perhaps seek
advice from an older, more mature friend. Haste is the parent of nine-tenths of our
mistakes. Remind yourself of the promises of Scripture such as Proverbs 3:5-6 which
reads, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path” (NKJV).
My father-in-law, Guy Dufeld, reminds the Lord in prayer that Jesus said, “He
who follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life…” Ten he
says, “Lord, I believe you will give me the light I need to make the right decision,” and
he says that he has never been disappointed.
When George Müller, a man of prayer who proved the promises of God, faced
decisions and he was uncertain of the future, he would often take a sheet of paper and
draw a line down the center. On one side he wrote, “Reasons for doing this” and on
the other side, “Reasons for not doing this.” Ten he would begin to list the reasons for
doing something or not doing it, as the case might be. Mueller then placed the paper in
his Bible and prayed about it day by day, evaluating the pros and cons of a decision. He
waited until he was reasonably certain that one course of action was defnitely better
and then proceeded without delay. When you are uncertain, wait until God has given
you direction.
If you are facing a deadline and you must make a decision, then waiting may not
be an option. An example of this is a student who faces a deadline for registration and
must make a decision on which classes to take. Having prayed and sought counsel, in
that case, you have to make a decision trusting God for guidance. However, in most
cases when we get ahead of God and make wrong decisions, it was not because we did
not have time, but we disregarded thoughts as to what would be His will.
7
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
3. “When things are not going well for you, it is probably an indication that you are
not in the will of God.” How would you rate that statement? True or false? Again, I am
prone to say, “false,” but give yourself credit for that one if you said true.
If the Apostle Paul was out of the will of God when things were not going well for
him, we would have to conclude that he was out of the will of God most of the time
because Paul constantly found himself in constant confict with public authorities.
At Lystra, the crowd turned on him and stoned him. At Philippi, he was beaten and
thrown in jail. In Jerusalem, there was a plot on his life, and it almost succeeded.
When Paul went to a town, he didn’t need to make hotel reservations, but he could
have checked on the accommodations at the local jail because sooner or later that is
where he usually ended up. Tings didn’t always go well for Paul. He didn’t always
“have a nice day,” as people tritely say, yet he was in the will of God. You can expect
that on occasion, life may even be more difcult because you are on track with the will
of God. Remember that the Christian—whether he is a youth or a mature mother or
father—holds beliefs that run contrary to what is often done.
A young man attended a Christian college and took a class in accounting. When
it came time for the exam, the professor passed out the test questions and left the
classroom. As soon as he was gone, several students took out their “cheat sheets”—
little pieces of paper with the answers. Because the teacher graded on a curved scale,
the students who refused to be dishonest and cheat were penalized and received lower
marks on the exam.
A godly government ofcial in India wrote to me recently as the result of having
heard my radio program and said, “I’ve lived an honest life and haven’t taken bribes,
but now I have no money for my daughter’s dowry. What shall I do?”
In both cases, integrity appears to have penalized those who wanted to do the right
thing. Te student received a lower mark for his honesty, and the government ofcial
who wouldn’t take bribes took home less money in his paycheck.
God never promised that doing His will would always result in being at the head of
the class or having more money, but He did promise His presence, and the assurance
that eventually, some day, He would right the wrong.
4. “God has a will for big decisions, but not for smaller ones.” Defnitely untrue. Many
people believe that God has a will for the big things in life such as the person you marry,
or your occupation (in spite of the fact that the average person changes occupations
8
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
fve times in his or her lifetime), but they are totally unconvinced that God cares when
it comes to the little decisions in life-the ones that I call the “rice and fsh” or the
“peanut butter” decisions of life.
Some people will ask God for direction when it comes to a major decision, but
never contemplate how God would have them respond when it comes to the ordinary
events of daily living. But the fact is that life is an ongoing series of daily decisions
which taken collectively have long-term consequences in how we live.
Tey remind me of a couple who agreed that when they married he would make
the big decisions, but in 40 years of married life there had been no “big decisions.” If
God is not concerned with the little things, He must have no concern for us at all
because it is the little decisions that lay the groundwork for the big ones.
Some folks, and I think rightly so, get very upset when a marriage goes bad. Tey
rant and rave about how terrible it is that “so and so’s” marriage didn’t make it. “Isn’t that
awful?” they say, and I’m not for a moment making light of the hideous consequences
of a marriage failure. Perhaps, for a very long time, that marriage had been going bad
and nobody cared or noticed.
Surely God is equally concerned about all of the little things that have been wrong
which eventually led to the collapse of a home. Te real problem was the series of
relational failures to which nobody paid any attention. It’s like a horse that is dying
and nobody notices until the vet pronounces the horse dead; then everybody becomes
upset.
Let us go back to the analogy of the rocket that goes to the moon. If a designer like
Werner von Braun had been concerned only with the outer form or structure of the
missile, it would never get there. All the hundreds and hundreds of little parts within a
rocket have to function perfectly for the rocket to reach its destination.
One scientist said that if a missile were 99.999% accurate, there would still be
518 working parts subject to failure. One fight was aborted in space because of the
malfunction of a little part that cost less than one U.S. dollar. Jim Irwin, one of the 12
men who walked on the moon, once told me about returning from the historic moon
walk to the lunar module only to fnd fragments of glass foating in the air. Jim’s heart
sank.
If it was only the glass on the covering of the instrument that had shattered, they
were okay, but if the instrument itself had failed to function, there was no way they
9
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
could ever get back to planet Earth. Te little instruments, as well as the little things of
life, are equally important with the larger ones. Do you believe that?
Te Bible contends that God is not only interested, but that He has a will for our
lives and what we do. Te Bible says this in no uncertain terms. To the Romans, Paul
wrote that we are to demonstrate or to prove “what is that good and acceptable and
perfect will of God.” To the Ephesians he wrote, “Do not be foolish, but understand
what the Lord’s will is” (Ephesians 5:17). In that same book or letter he wrote that God
“works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:11).
God has a will for His children just as a natural father has for his ofspring.
John wrote, “To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave
the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Adoption into the family of God
is not a birthright. It comes as a person receives Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.
While God, indeed, wills that all men come to a knowledge of His Son, Jesus Christ,
His will goes far beyond that when it comes to those who by faith have been brought
into the family of God.
Tink with me for a moment, of the practical application of this great truth. As
our children were growing up, we got to be quite good friends with a number of other
children who were in the neighborhood. My children’s friends would often come to
our house, or to our yard to play. Now, while we were very good friends with some
of those young people, I never gave them direction and guidance the same way that I
would with my own. I have often told people, “If you really want to know the bottom
line of my advice, it is what I tell my own children.” You know why, don’t you? I care
for them. Tey are my fesh and blood. I would literally give my life for them, and
because of the love that I have for them, I don’t want them to make mistakes that
would cause destruction and pain in their lives.
Of course, I have a will for them—how they live, how they talk, where they go to
school, the kind of people that they marry, and what they do with their lives. Maybe
you are thinking, “I’d hate to be your son or daughter. I can tell you were a real dictator!”
No! Not at all. And I think my children would tell you that fairly. Each one has a will of
their own. As they were growing up, I taught them right from wrong so that when the
day would come that they were responsible for themselves, they would choose right.
Tis was still my will, even though they were old enough to go against my will and
exert their own will. So is it with the will of our wonderful Heavenly Father. He has a
will, and becoming His son or daughter through faith in Jesus Christ brings you into
a relationship whereby He has a special, direct will for your life.
10
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
You may acknowledge the fact that God has a will for you, but deep down in your
heart, you wonder if you can really trust Him. You may secretly fear that if you do the
will of God, you may sit around wearing black, drinking vinegar, and become a social
recluse or a business failure. Forget it! Nothing could be further from the truth.
Going back to the illustration of my relationship with my children. Suppose that
my son came to me as a little boy and said, “Daddy, I want to do what you want me to
do.” Nice words! Actually, I never recall having heard those words, but would a father
who loves his son say, “Okay, son, go get all of your toys including your baseball bat
and your bicycle. Let’s lock them up to prove that you want to do my will?”
Of course not. No loving father would say that! Paul says that God’s will is good,
acceptable, and fully complete (Romans 12:2). His will has to be better than my will
because He knows the end from the beginning. He loves me and can be trusted.
In the event that you have never thought much about it, settle it in your mind once
and for all-God is not indiferent to the small decisions of life.
Alright, we can acknowledge that God has a will for our lives as His children. We
can even go one step further and admit that His will is good, but the issue still remains
to be solved, “How can I, as a mortal human being with all of my faults and failures,
fnd the will of God in my personal life?” Tat is the real question.
HOW MAY WE EXPECT TO FIND GOD’S WILL?
In days of old, God revealed His will to men in diferent ways, using diferent
methods. Moses was in the Negev Desert tending his father-in-law’s sheep when he
came upon a bush that was mysteriously burning and was not consumed. From the
burning bush, Moses heard the voice of God giving him direction for his life. Should
we expect to hear the audible voice of God today saying, “Tis is the way, walk in it”?
“Tis is the job ofer you ought to take.”
“No, don’t marry that woman; marry this one over here!”
“Put your money in this investment and avoid that one because I happen to know
it will be in big trouble next year!”
Should we expect God to give us specifc direction as this?
11
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
When God gave direction to a man by the name of Gideon, He sent an angel
who gave him instruction. Should we, who are alive in the afternoon of the twentieth
century, expect an angel to appear to tell us what to do when we face decisions or
difcult circumstances? Is it too much to expect God to send an angel who would
visibly appear and tell us how to get back on the right road when we have missed the
turn?
Following the resurrection of Christ, the disciples decided to replace Judas as one
of the twelve apostles, and cast lots to determine who was to be God’s choice. Should
a young man follow their example and fip a coin when he is quite fond of two young
women and wants to know which one is God’s choice for his life?
Apostle Paul was on his second missionary journey when he and Silas decided
that they would turn to the northeast and go into Bithynia to preach the Word. Had
they done so, they would have eventually made their way into what we know today as
Russia, and there they would have proclaimed the Gospel, but God closed the door.
During the night, Paul had a vision of a man from Greece saying, “Come over…
and help us,” so Paul and his companion turned to the West instead of to the East (See
Acts 16:9). Can we trust our dreams for direction? (On the personal side, I’m never
quite sure whether it is indigestion or worry that causes some of my dreams to turn to
nightmares, and I’d hate to blame God for some of the thoughts I dream).
Since God revealed His will to Paul through a vision, should we expect God to
reveal His will to us in visions? Vance Havner used to quip that the problem today is
that people watch so much television that they can’t really tell a vision when they see
one.
I have just mentioned four diferent ways God in bygone days revealed His
direction—through an audible voice, by means of angelic messenger, by casting lots,
and by a vision. Please notice carefully what I am writing lest I be misunderstood. Who
am I to limit God and say that He no longer could speak to you using one of these
ways? Nonetheless, on the basis of what the Bible says, I conclude that God has chosen
other ways which He generally uses today to reveal His plan for our lives. As the writer
of Hebrews puts it, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at
many times and in various ways, but in the last days he has spoken to us by his Son,
whom he appointed heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:1, 2).
Many years ago, F. B. Meyer was crossing the Irish Channel on a dark night. He
stood on the deck of the ship as it came through Hollyhead Channel almost at full
12
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
speed ahead. Meyer turned to the captain of the ship and asked him how he knew
Hollyhead Channel so well. “Do you see those lights ahead?” asked the captain as he
pointed them out with his hand. As Meyer nodded the captain said, “When those
three lights all line up in a row, I know that I am in the center of the channel.”
Telling of the experience, Dr. Meyer used to say, “When we want to know God’s
will, there are three things which must always concur: the Word of God, the trend of
circumstances, and the inward impulse of the Holy Spirit.”
While God could choose diferent ways to reveal His direction to us today, generally
God uses three means of showing us His will: the statement of Scripture from the Bible,
the trend of circumstances as a door may shut and another open, and then the inward
witness of the Holy Spirit, the still quiet voice of God saying, “Tis is the way, walk
ye in it.” Te Bible is, of course, the objective revelation of God’s will to us while the
other two are more subjective.
1. THE WILL OF GOD AND THE BIBLE
At this point in our discussion, I would like to make a statement so sweeping in its
implications that you will probably have to stop and think about it for a while before
you can nod your head and say, “Yes, I can accept that.”
Here it is: Te Bible gives direction to us either in principle or in precept (either a direct
statement of God’s will or a moral and spiritual framework which provides a principle) for
every decision that you will ever make in life.
Does the Bible have anything to say about marrying that wonderful person who is
not a Christian?
Is it His will for you to live with someone whom you love very much although you
are not married to that person? Is it His will for your son to come to Christ? Should
you keep your aged parent on a life support system when there is no hope of a recovery?
When you cannot have a child of your own, should you consider artifcial
insemination, adoption, or just assume God wants you to be childless?
In the Bible you will fnd many specifc statements about subjects such as the kind
of person you marry, how to treat your husband or wife, how to relate to each other,
what to do about solving conficts with other people, how to fnd peace of mind, how
to treat your employees, and what to expect in the future.
13
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
But, obviously, you can’t check your concordance in the back of your Bible and fnd
clear answers to some of the questions I just posed. You won’t fnd a pointed reference
to “abortion” listed under the letter “A”. But in searching the pages of Scripture, you
will discover many statements afrming the reality of life in the womb which then
gives direction regarding the will of God and the issue of abortion. It is here that you
go beyond the statement of Scripture to the principle or the application of statements
which are clear. Te Bible won’t tell you whether you ought to eat hamburgers or
hot dogs, but it will tell you that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and that
you ought to eat the kind of food that is good for your health. Taking a deeper look
at the whole counsel of God makes it quite clear that this grand and glorious book
anticipated the moral and practical issues that God knew we would face even today.
GOD’S WILL AND OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM
May I suggest several areas of life for which God has indicated His will quite
clearly? First, as I discussed briefy, God’s will is that you become His child through
faith in Jesus Christ. Tis is not the same as joining a church, or going to mass, or
being a good person. It speaks of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ whereby
your sins are forgiven and, in the words of Scripture, you are born again. John 3:16
says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever
believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (KJV). Ten 2 Peter 3:9
says so clearly, God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to
repentance” (KJV). Paul wrote to Timothy that God “will have all men to be saved and
to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4, KJV). And it is right here that
God’s direct will begins to unfold for your life.
Could I ask you, friend—have you made that wonderful decision that I have just
talked about which very clearly is God’s will for you? Have you confessed Christ as
your personal Savior and invited Him to come into your life as a living person? Tat’s
the point at which you enter into a new relationship with God and He begins to work
His will in your life.
GOD’S WILL AND SEXUAL PURITY
God has also revealed His will regarding our faithfulness to each other in a
marriage relationship. Words could not be plainer than these which Paul wrote to the
Tessalonians, “It is God’s will that you should be holy; that you should avoid sexual
immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy
and honorable…” (1 Tessalonians 4:3,4).
14
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
Te words used here (“sexual immorality”) can be applied to premarital and
extramarital sex. God says He wants each of us to keep ourselves pure, free from sexual
sins which cause us to live a lie and defle our bodies. Is God a cosmic killjoy who sits
in heaven thinking up ways to keep us miserable? Te answer clearly is negative. He
made us. He knows what is in the heart of every person, and He also knows how we
can best fnd real happiness in life.
Is it possible that you once believed what I have just shared with you, but you
have thrown it aside? You have followed the philosophy of “if you aren’t with the one
you love; love the one you’re with.” You know in your heart that if you stood in the
presence of God, your heart would be flled with shame and guilt. You know that if
your husband or wife knew everything you had done in the last 30 days, you would
only hang your head in shame. If this is your life, if I have described the feelings of
your heart, come to your senses and seek God’s forgiveness and begin to follow His will.
GOD’S WILL AND OUR OBEDIENCE
It is the will of God for you to walk in simple obedience to the Word of God. Doing
this eliminates the vast majority of the problems that crease our brows with worries and
put tears on our pillows at night because of broken hearts and lives. Take, for example,
the book of Ephesians, and trace the phrase, “the will of God” in relationship to how
we are to walk and order our lives. You discover that the bottom line is relationships
with people that involve not only our morality but our ethics and our attitudes. I can’t
help but think of Peter’s words summing it all up as he says, “His divine power has
given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who
called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3).
You may think, “It’s too late for me. I’d like to believe what you said, but I’m too
far gone.” Don’t believe it for a minute. You have done no sin so great that you cannot
fnd His forgiveness if you will turn your back on wrongdoing and come to Him. Jesus
still says, “Whoever comes to me I will in no wise cast out.”
Tere is one more thought, and a very important one, that I want to share with
you at this point which may help you see this in perspective. Have you ever had the
experience of taking a trip by car? You were driving, and your spouse had the map.
In the back seat, your children were getting pretty restless. Tey wanted out of the
car to romp and play. Possibly they were ready for a stop at the golden arches of
McDonald’s. You were listening to the radio to keep your mind focused and to block
out the distractions. All of a sudden you see a road sign telling you that you are almost
to a certain city, which is not where you thought you were headed.
15
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
It hits you. You missed the turn in the road a long way back and you are really in
the wrong place. You don’t like it and immediately want to blame your spouse for not
telling you where to turn. So, what do you do? You can’t just wind the clock back a
couple hours and start over. You take a look at the map and say, “How do we get to
where we want to go from here?” Tat’s the issue with your life as well.
You don’t go back to where you were ten years ago. You don’t eliminate a bad choice
of a marriage partner by saying, “It’s your fault we are on the wrong road.” You have to
wake up and say, “How do we get to where we want to go from here.” Te very good
news that I want to share with you is that God’s will begins afresh every day. Okay, you
missed the turn in the road and went the wrong way. Acknowledge it, ask for God’s
forgiveness, but don’t just sit there and blame circumstances or other people. Find the
direction in which you need to go, and change the course of your life. Tat is exactly
what the word “conversion” means. You change your direction and get back on the
right road—God’s road. It’s the only way to go.
2. THE WILL OF GOD AND THE SPIRIT OF GOD
“Earnest Christians seeking guidance often go about it wrong,” writes J. I. Packer,
a man of God and a person of no small intellect. He says, “Teir basic mistake is to
think of guidance as essentially an inward prompting of the Holy Spirit, apart from
the written Word” J. I. Packer, “Seeking the Guidance of God,” Te 1987 Great
Commission Handbook, p. 72). Yet the fact remains, one of the ways in which God does
give direction to us is through the inward prompting of the Holy Spirit. How do we know
when what we want to do is of the Holy Spirit which indwells our hearts, or merely
our human spirit?
In striving to discern between the human spirit and the Holy Spirit, we need to
see the diference. Obviously, I have a will-that’s my spirit. But just who IS the Holy
Spirit anyway? Many people have a hidden or secret fear of the Holy Spirit—possibly
because of the translation we fnd in some Bibles referring to Him as the Holy Ghost,
and the word “ghost” conjures a “Halloween spook” image. Nobody wants a spook
residing inside their body, but there is nothing spooky about the Holy Spirit.
Te Holy Spirit is simply God. He is the third person of the Trinity, and when
you receive Christ as your Savior, He comes to activate your soul spiritually and to
make your body His dwelling place. He is like the radio receiver that will give you the
direction you need to keep you on the right path—provided you hear His voice.
16
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
Ephesians 2:1 says, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” Te
most illuminating passage is found in Galatians 4:6 where Paul says, “Because you are
sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba,
Father.’” Te Spirit of His Son is the Holy Spirit who will guide you into all truth, just
as Jesus said He would do.
Many Christians though, are almost deaf to the voice of God’s Spirit. Tey do not
hear His voice, nor follow His teaching. Some of you reading this listen to my radio
program, Guidelines. Your radio has a volume control which you can either turn up,
turn down, or turn of completely. Question: Are the programs still broadcasting when
your radio is turned of?
Yes, just the same. Te program is still broadcasting, but you, by choice, cannot
hear it or proft from it.
In a real sense, that is the way it is with the direction that comes from God through
His Holy Spirit. Te voice of the Lord is a sensitive one, and we have to tune our ears
to listen for it.
Te disciples clearly knew the voice of God’s Spirit and subsequently were led by it.
Let me give you a few examples of what I mean.
Philip, a common ordinary layman and father of fve daughters, was in the desert
between Beersheba and Gaza. Here are the words of Scripture; “Te Spirit told Phillip,
‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’ Ten Philip ran up to the chariot.” (Acts 8:29, 30a).
Peter was at Joppa when he had a vision. While Peter was still thinking about the
vision,” says Acts 10:19, “the Spirit said to him, ‘Simon, three men are looking for you.
So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them…’”
Paul and Barnabas were considering taking a missionary journey. In the words of
Acts 13:2, “Te Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to
which I have called them.’”
Suppose that you are a father, and you realize the uncertainties of life and the
multitude of voices that can lead your children astray. God is just as interested in
showing you what to do as He was in guiding a father of fve, whose name was Philip,
years ago. Why do I believe this? Te Bible says that God never changes. He is the same
yesterday, today and forever.
17
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
I have also experienced this great comfort and truth in my personal life as my
children were growing up. Tere were many times when I sensed the prompting voice
of God within which helped me know how to cope with situations involving my
children. Te guidance of the Holy Spirit is simply the guidance of God, who is the
one to direct our lives in response to all the promises of Scripture. Te key to fnding
the guidance of the Holy Spirit—whether you are a high school student or a gray-
haired grandmother—is the setting aside of your human will so that you can honestly
say, “Ty will be done.”
Te Old Testament prophet, Amos, asked the question, “Do two walk together
unless they have agreed to do so?” (Amos 3:3). Te obvious answer is “no,” and neither
does God force His will upon us. He invites us to follow His will because this is the
path of greatest happiness, but it is up to you to decide which it will be, your will or
the will of God.
Now, let’s go back to that fundamental question. How do you know the diference
between the human spirit—your inward self—and the Holy Spirit? Or in simple terms,
what’s the diference between a hunch and the voice of God within your heart?
Suppose you are a wife who has been disappointed and hurt by your husband. Layers
of misunderstanding have built up until you feel insensitive towards him. Something
that was once very warm inside is now cold and indiferent. Finally you fnd lipstick
on his handkerchief and you are certain that it isn’t the same color or brand that you
use. Tat’s the last straw. A voice inside you says, “Walk out on him or throw his stuf
out in the street.” You want to—that’s for sure. Would you say that this is your will, or
if you ever stopped to consider it, would God have a will in what you do?
To be very honest, do you ever have times when you are uncertain whether the tug
you feel in your heart is the result of God’s speaking to your heart or is it only the result
of your human will? Do you ever have a hard time discerning between the will of God
and your own will, or His voice and the voice of selfsh ambition?
If you are honest, I think you will agree that there are times when you really wonder
which it is that prompts you to do something. Is there a way that you can tell the
diference between the human will and God’s will? Tere are fve questions you can ask
yourself that will tell you every time whether the feelings you have in
your heart are prompted by the Spirit of God, by your own spirit, or even by an
unclean, evil spirit.
18
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
1. Do I really want God to show me what to do in this matter? Tis question is really
basic. Understand that God doesn’t force His will upon you. On the authority of
Scripture, I think I can safely say, “If you really want to know the will of God for your
life, you can know it.” Jesus said, “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will fnd out
whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (John 7:17).
Early in this booklet, I mentioned George Müller as being a man of prayer, yet
in his youth, Müller was an intellectual who did not believe the Bible. Following his
conversion, Müller decided that he would put the promises of Scripture to the test
through prayer. Did it work? Te simple fact that God answered prayer in ways that
were absolutely beyond human explanation, not only proved the truth of God’s word
to Müller, but also gave him a new direction for his life. He became the founder of
orphanages in Britain, and in the course of his lifetime, he never asked for help apart
from asking God to honor the promises of His Word and send in the needed resources.
Writing on the subject of how he found the will of God for the everyday decisions
of life, Müller said, “I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has
no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Nine-tenths of the trouble with people is
here. Nine-tenths of the difculties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the
Lord’s will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little
way to the knowledge of what His will is…”
2. Have I honestly put aside my own will? Can you truthfully say, “Lord, thy will
be done”? In answering that question, it is best to remember that God knows us for
what we really are. Our friends and families know us for the image we project, but
God knows even the thoughts of our hearts. So often we play games with God. When
you can honestly say, “Yes, I know in my heart I am willing to set aside my will in this
matter and follow God’s direction,” you are on your way to the solution.
3. Have I determined that I will accept His direction in my life, even though it may be
diferent from what I would chose to do?
May I be very blunt? It is easier at times to walk out of a marriage than to try to
make it work. (Besides, you are tempted to justify it since the other woman prays
with you and talks about the things of God.) It is easier to cheat your way through
college than to study hard and pass your exams. It is often easier to be dishonest and
make a little more money than to tell it like it really is. It is easier to look the other
way when somebody needs help than to get involved. When we are serious about our
19
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
commitment to a loving Heavenly Father we can fall back on the promise, “I will
instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch
over you” (Psalm 32:8).
God’s will is usually diferent from ours. His will may not always be the easy
way out, but with His will comes the power to do what He wants us to do. Do you
remember Paul’s pointed words, “Terefore do not be foolish, but understand what the
Lord’s will is?” (Ephesians 5:17). Making the decision to accept the will of God is a big
hurdle and you can be reasonably sure that God will guide you into His will when you
decide you want to know His will for your life.
4. Is the guidance I feel in my heart in accord with the direction of the Bible? Be sure of
this one thing-there will be times when what you feel in your heart will be contrary to
circumstances (which are dictated by logic) but never contrary to what God has already
revealed in the Bible. Look at Abraham when God called him to leave the land of Ur
and go to a place that He would show him. Can you imagine the consternation that
his father, Terah, must have felt when his son told him this? Yet God was leading him.
An interesting thing about the Bible is that God has given directions to us which
are applicable to every culture and race, but quite often that direction is counter-
cultural, or contrary to what we want to do, or “what everybody does.”
I am thinking of a tribe I visited in Northern Luzon, Philippines. When young
people begin to court each other, if they are serious with each other, they begin having
sexual relations together. When the girl conceives, the couple then go to the witch
doctor who says that he thinks their marriage will be fruitful and they should marry.
Tat’s little diferent than their European or American counterparts: couples live
together, and after the onset of a pregnancy, eventually marry. God’s will may be
contrary to your culture, and certainly the trends of our day, but it will never be
contrary to what He has revealed in His Word, the Bible.
5. Is the guidance which I feel is prompted by the voice of God’s Spirit confrmed by godly
people who are neutral in the whole matter? When another believer, especially a mature,
godly individual, concurs that God is leading you, it helps to confrm the direction
you sense in your heart. Not every decision that you make has to be confrmed by a
“spiritual overseer,” but the wisdom of saints, with the experience you may lack, often
eliminates uncertainty and gives you confdence to trust God through difcult times.
It also helps to prevent some of the stupid things that people have done as they blamed
the Holy Spirit for what the fesh dictated.
20
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
Tis conviction of the Holy Spirit, suggests Paul Little, “is quite diferent from
the ‘gung ho’ emotion which prods us today to get on a plane to Hong Kong, and
tomorrow to move to Chicago. When the Holy Spirit begins to move in our hearts,
one conviction deepens and, while we recognize other situations, we sense that this is
the will of God for us” (Paul Little, “Afrming the Will of God,” THE 1992 GREAT
COMMISSION HANDBOOK, p. 2:5).
Seeking godly counsel will help you recognize the voice of God’s Spirit and avoid
self-deception which leads to decisions you later regret.
THE WILL OF GOD AND CIRCUMSTANCES
One clear way that God reveals His will for you is by closing doors of opportunity that
you had your heart set on, and opening others. Take for instance, David Livingstone, the
great missionary pioneer in Africa, whose remains rest among the world’s greats in
Westminster Abbey in London. Livingstone left his native England, intent on going to
China as a missionary, but things didn’t work out. Instead, he turned to Africa, where
he traversed 30,000 miles through jungles and uncharted regions, bearing the good
news of the Gospel. God had a better plan.
Adoniram Judson, who became the father of Christianity in Burma, had his heart
set on going to India, but God had other plans for him. When India closed its doors
to Judson, he took his young wife and set sail for Burma. Tere he faced opposition,
but was eventually able to translate the Bible into Burmese and plant the Church of
Jesus Christ.
When I think of the way God uses circumstances to both protect us and guide us
into the path of His will, I think of Jim Vaus. Jim, a wire-tapper for gangster Mickey
Cohen, was converted to Jesus Christ and began giving his testimony as to how God
changed his life.
Jim had accepted a speaking engagement at a little church when an invitation was
received from Billy Graham to share his testimony at the New York Crusade on the
same night. What an opportunity! Tousands would hear him at the Graham Crusade;
only dozens at the small church. But Jim had made a commitment, and passed on the
larger opportunity.
Only days later, as Jim approached his home, FBI agents stepped out of the shadows
to question him regarding his whereabouts the night a crime had been committed very
near the location of the Billy Graham Crusade. Tis was the very night Jim had been
21
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
invited to share his testimony. Had Jim accepted the Graham invitation, he would
have been a suspect. But having spoken at the small church, he was far from the scene
of the crime.
When a door of opportunity closes in your life, you must look at it as an indication
that God has something else—something much better for your life—which will open
up in the future. And until then you must learn patience, learning that God can give
you grace equal to your need.
You can learn to accept a closed door as an indication of the will of God just as
you do when you get exactly what you want. Why? Because a sovereign God knows
best! Paul afrms this saying, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined
according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose
of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). Tis means we can “give thanks in all circumstances, for
this is God’s will… in Christ Jesus” (1 Tessalonians 5:18). Give thanks even when
doors close—whether it is a job you wanted to have or a college or university you
wanted to attend. Yes, most defnitely—“In everything give thanks!”
Earlier in our discussion, I mentioned that even the Apostle Paul had doors closed
when he had his mind set on doing something. In Acts 16, we fnd the Apostle Paul
and his companion, Silas, on their second missionary journey. Tey were intent on
turning northeast into Bithynia, but the Spirit stopped them. Luke puts it, “…they
tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to” (Acts 16:7).
Tat means God said, “No, don’t go!”
How did that happen? Was it a “feeling in their hearts?” Was it that they just
couldn’t get their visas? Was it that travel plans didn’t come together? We aren’t certain,
and it is just as well, because we would probably expect God to close doors the same
way with us today, when God may stop us from our own blunder in a variety of ways.
But of one thing we are sure: God had another plan for them.
In the night Paul had a vision. He saw a picture of a man from Greece, saying,
“Come over… and help us,” (Acts 16:9). Te questions were erased. Tey knew what
to do and did it!
Centuries ago the writer of Proverbs wrote, “Te lot is cast into the lap, but its
every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33). Another version puts it, “We toss
the coin, but it is the Lord who controls the decision.”
22
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
You will never have to convince Professor Carl Stahl of that fact. He was to have
been one of the 84 people aboard Eastern Airlines, Flight #663. But through a strange
twist of events, an airline clerk fouled up his return ticket. When he went to the airport
he was unable to join the passengers who boarded that plane, and Stahl took a later
fight.
It was a shaky, but thankful, man who picked up the paper the next morning and
read how the plane had crashed and every person aboard lost his or her life. Professor
Stahl is a Christian and is convinced that “in all things God works for the good of
those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Tough closed doors bring frustration and heartache until you realize God’s way
is best, they are motivated by a loving Father who is protecting us from our worst
enemies—ourselves.
God not only reveals his will by closing doors, he also reveals his will to us by rolling us
aside for periods of inactivity. We have a modern hang-up which considers waiting as
wasted time, forgetting that giant oaks take years to grow, and that orchids gain their
lovely beauty in warm, uncomfortable climates. Today we think the only thing that
really counts is doing something, thereby equating activity with spirituality. Te result
is that our busy lives are often empty, futile and hollow.
Have you forgotten that Moses funked his frst test by thrusting a dagger into the
back of an Egyptian, and it took 40 years for him to get things straightened out, while
learning to wait upon the Lord? It has been said that for 40 years Moses thought he
was somebody. Ten for 40 years Moses found out he was a nobody; and then for the
last 40 years of his life, he discovered what God can do with somebody who realizes
he is a nobody.
Paul had to learn to wait patiently for God to open doors for him to enter. Many
people know that after Paul’s conversion he spent three years in the desert of Arabia.
But very few know that after the conference in Jerusalem, described in the book of
Galatians, Paul went back to his native home in Tarsus and stayed there for about 10
years.
At times God allows illness to come to us so that we learn to wait upon Him. “Laid
up by illness” is the way that the world looks at it, but to those who know the Lord it
is only “called aside for stillness.” Te Psalmist wrote, “Before I was aficted, I went
astray but now have I kept thy word. It is good for me that I have been aficted that I
might learn thy statutes” (Psalms 119:67 KJV).
23
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
On more than one occasion, people have told me, “You know it wasn’t until I was
sick, fat on my back, that I began to think about my life and the future.” Tat’s great!
Not that we are sick, but that in periods of quietness we can hear the voice of God.
God reveals his will to us by teaching us to trust him when our understanding is
incomplete. Finally, when the clouds of circumstances seem to push down on you
oppressingly, learn to trust God through the times of difculty, knowing that God will
never leave you nor forsake you for a moment. “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I
will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalms 50:15).
When Michelangelo was working on St. Peter’s in Rome, he was constantly harassed
by workmen and by minor church ofcials who were giving the great artist and sculptor
the beneft of their advice and counsel, which he didn’t want or need. “Michelangelo,
why are you doing this?” and “Why are you doing that?” and “What will this look like
when you fnish?” they would ask him. Finally, Michelangelo replied, “Even if I were
able to make my plans and ideas clear to you, which I am not, I am not obliged to do
so. I must ask you to do your best to help me, and when the work is complete, the
conception will be better understood.”
You can trust God, who knows the stars of the skies by name and has numbered
even the very hairs of your head. When you cannot see the guiding hand of God
because it is obscured by the difculty of the circumstances that you fnd yourself in,
trust Him and realize He is there all the time, working His will in your life.
You have been disappointed by doors that closed when you thought they should
have remained open. You have been disappointed by some relationships with other
people. Instead of developing into warm friendships, they have disintegrated into
conficts and misunderstandings. You have begun to question the fact that God is
really interested in your life. If I have described the feelings of your heart, trust Him
and realize that from the upward side, God is making a beautiful tapestry of your life
which you can’t fully appreciate this side of heaven.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO WHEN YOU ARE STILL
UNCERTAIN?
Tere are times like that-when you pray, and it seems that the heavens are brass;
when you talk to friends, and nothing seems to click; when you know you should do
24
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
something, but you are afraid to do anything lest you do the wrong thing. What do
you do?
First—do what you know God wants you to do today. When I was a young man in
my early 20’s, and I was striving to fnd the will of God for my life: Paul Finkenbinder
told me, “God’s will is like a fashlight in a dungeon; it doesn’t shine around corners. It
doesn’t illuminate the next cave; it only gives you enough light for the next step.”
Te important question is not necessarily, “What does God want me to do fve
years from now?” but rather, “What does He want me to do fve minutes from now?”
Don’t avoid your responsibilities today, pondering the great questions about tomorrow.
If you know what the next step is, even if it is a very short one, take that step.
Rest assured that God is seldom early, but He is never late. Corrie Ten Boom used
to recall that when she was a little girl and had to get on the train, her father never gave
her the ticket until it was time to board. So is it with our Heavenly Father.
Second—I would encourage you to re-examine your motives. Could it be that there
is a reason why the Lord seemingly has left you in darkness? Sin that is unconfessed
and unforsaken hinders the fow and moving of the Spirit of God. I’m not suggesting
morbid refection, ferreting out the dark recesses of your heart, but I am suggesting
that you ask yourself the tough, obvious questions which, at times, we choose to avoid.
Te good side of this issue is that the forgiveness of God brings new direction. Past
mistakes won’t keep you from fnding God’s will for your life today.
Tird—review the steps which I’ve outlined in this booklet. Have you talked about
the will of God with others, but, frankly, had little time, one-on-one, in the presence
of God, to lay your heart open before Him in prayer? Have you prayed honestly and
openly, “Lord—whatever it may be, I don’t care—but I desperately want YOUR will.”
Finally—I suggest that you take a yellow pad and start writing, putting in black and
white how you feel about things and where you feel God is saying, “Tis is the path; walk
in it!” You can be certain that God is far more desirous of showing you His will than
you are of seeking, fnding and doing it. He is a loving Father who has a will for His
children. Of that, you can be sure!
25
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Harold J. Sala, well known
speaker, author and Bible teacher, has
served as founder and President of
Guidelines International Ministries,
since 1963. He is the featured speaker
on the daily Guidelines-A Five Minute
Commentary on Living which is
broadcast on over 1,000 radio stations
around the world and translated in over
15 languages.
Author of over 40 books published
in various languages and hundreds of
publications, Harold is also a popular
guest lecturer and teacher at universities
such as Donetsk Christian University
in Ukraine, national and international
conferences, seminars, and churches.
Dr. Sala earned his Ph.D. from Bob Jones University. His further graduate studies
have been at the University of Southern California, California Baptist Seminary, Fuller
Teological Seminary and the Conservative Baptist Seminary in Denver, Colorado.
Residing in Mission Viejo, California, Harold and his wife, Darlene, have three adult
children and eight well-loved grandchildren.
26
THE DECISIONS OF LIFE
AND HOW TO FIND THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEM
I would be glad to hear from you. You can write to me
or send an e-mail, letting us know how this ebook has
helped you. Write to one of the following:
IN THE UNITED STATES
Box G
Laguna Hills, CA 92654
E-mail: guidelines@guidelines.org
IN ASIA
Box 4000
1280 Makati City, Metro Manila
Philippines
E-mail: box4000@guidelines.org
VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT
www.guidelines.org
LIKE US ON FACEBOOK! SEARCH FOR
Guidelines International Ministries
Harold J. Sala
Darlene Sala