The question of the day – most every day – for those who desire to follow God. How can I know God’s will? Choices are not always crystal clear no matter how strong our desire to follow God’s plan. The Apostle Paul provides a clue in two of the choices he made.
In Acts 16, Paul planned to go east to Asia but sensed God saying not to. So he and his companions headed north, but that was a closed door too. Then that night, Paul had a vision of a man in Macedonia in Greece (due west), and concluded “that God was calling us to preach the Good News there."
Making those choices eventually landed Paul and Silas in jail where they sang worship songs and prayed, survived an earthquake, led the jailer and his family to faith in Jesus, and founded the church at Philippi and others on their second missionary journey.
Later, on his third journey, Paul planned to go to Rome. He was arrested and appeared before the Roman rulers and would have been set free except for his appeal to go to Rome. After several years, he finally set sail, still a prisoner in chains. A storm arose so fierce that the sailors were terrified, but Paul the prisoner reassured them, "But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. ...For I believe God. It will be just as he said. .."
On his second journey, Paul twice did an about-face changing the directions of his travels. But on his third journey, he was resolute to reach his destination of Rome despite storm, shipwreck, snakebite, and being a prisoner.
So here’s the question – how did he know? How did Paul know to give up his plans for Asia, yet never giving up on Rome despite serious setbacks?
What would I do?
Would I have been willing to quickly abandon my plans because a dream indicated to go another way or would I stubbornly set my jaw and press on against God’s will for what I think I want?
Would I be resolute to journey forth despite storm and hardship or would I give up under the strain thinking something so difficult couldn’t be of God?
Honestly, I can’t say. What I can conclude is this - I can’t rely just on circumstance or emotions.
When I first got involved in justice ministry, people flocked to me like the animals flocked to Noah – no knocking on doors or trying to persuade people to get on board. It seemed clear that God was orchestrating it all. But when people dropped out, I wondered if this was still God’s call for me. And He reminded me that Noah toiled for many years building the ark, and that’s part of His plan too.
Paul didn’t make his decisions according to the emotions he felt on any given day.
He didn’t make a list of pros and cons reasoning out the best plan to follow.
He based his decisions on a lifelong sensitivity to God’s leading.
In prison, he worshipped and prayed. He didn’t decide to develop a prayer life when hardship hit. This godly behavior in tough times came from a life of prayer and worship in the ordinary times. <<click to tweet>>
Want to know God’s will in the difficult times? Get to know His will each day, whether there are big decisions to make or not. Spending time with Him in prayer and praise will increase sensitivity to the Spirit’s leading. There’s simply no shortcut or substitute.
Give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thess. 5:12
Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is
His good, pleasing and perfect will.