Seeking God’s will is not as easy as it seems. Sometimes, it is a choice between two very qualified options. In other instances, the choice might be more straightforward, but perhaps the decision requires further conviction or the courage to carry it out. Lastly, the best direction may seem irrational to the human mind, but exactly what God wants.
There was a time in my ministry when I was a Senior Pastor of a small church in Texas. I had only been there for a few months when I could feel a ‘change’ in my Spirit. I was not sure what this feeling was. After working through some complicated church issues, I felt the Lord nudging me back to California. This strange notion did not make any sense! My fiancée, Valerie, was getting ready to come out to Texas after we got married in a few months. “I thought this was part of the plan, Lord?“
“You’ve passed the test, you’re going back to California” was what I heard in my prayer time. Thoughts raced through my mind… “I thought I was supposed to be here? What will I tell the congregation? What will people back in California think? And what is this test that I didn’t know I was taking?!?”
After seeking the Lord further, I received several confirmations of what to do next – I had to go back. It takes a measure of faith to go out, but it is a whole new playing field coming home. Even if it made no logical sense, God paved the way to do what He wanted to do. In this time leading up to the wedding, I was provided for, and, the next thing I know, I’m signing employment forms, during my honeymoon, to work at Venice Free Methodist Church in Los Angeles.
You might not have experienced a radical move like I did, but I know you’ve had to make tough decisions. You might be facing one right now! Would it not be comforting to know that your decision is God-approved? Would you not have a sense of fulfilled purpose because the direction you took was inspired, and led by, the Holy Spirit?
I believe God cares enough about you to give you the direction that you are longing to see take shape. He has a plan… a perfect one at that! (Jeremiah 29:11). In my previous posts, I have outlined the necessity to follow God’s general will first, in order to hear His specific will for our lives (Knowing God’s Will). Last week, I discussed a few particular steps in what you can do when it comes to proper decision making and following the Holy Spirit’s direction (Decisions and Direction). I will continue this week outlining distinct steps to position you to hear what the Lord has for you. Let’s get into it!
- COMMIT PRAYER TIME IN THE SECRET PLACE
“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” – Luke 5:16
I often wish I could be with the disciples in those three years of ministry to see Jesus in action, don’t you? Yet, a crucial part of His ministry was not seen – in particular, to pray where no one was looking. Jesus, “can only do what He sees His Father doing” (John 5:19), and He could primarily receive that when the crowds, the to-dos, and the busyness of the world were silenced.
In the next chapter of Luke, “Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” (Luke 6:12). We understand the reasoning for his intense devotion of nightly prayer in the next verse – “When morning came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also designated apostles.” (Luke 6:13). The Lord Jesus, the Son of God, wanted to properly discern who would be His representatives that would lead the Christian faith. Again, He prayed to hear His Father and to follow the Holy Spirit in appointing them the next morning.
Regarding the decisions that you are facing, and the direction you want to go, have you spent time in the secret place with Jesus? It is that special place where the disturbances are few and your focus is keen. It’s a spot in your schedule and a place you can go to give Him your best. Jesus is our intercessor, our great High Priest, who brings our requests to the Father (Hebrews 7:23-25). Just as Jesus took willful time in His day to pray to His Father, we should pray to Jesus for our requests.
2. FAST FOR BREAKTHROUGH
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where, for forty days, He was tempted by the devil.” – Luke 4:1-2
It’s odd to think that, after Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him (Luke 3:21-23), the Spirit would lead Him to the wilderness in a fast. This emptying was part of Jesus’ reliance on God and to overcome the evil one’s strategies. We find that He went into the wilderness, “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1), and returned to Galilee, “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). There’s a strength in the Lord that is found when a person fasts unto the Lord.
Fasting is mentioned all through the Old and New Testament, but why do we not see it practiced much in the American church today? Perhaps that is why we do not see much of the Holy Spirit’s power operating in our lives! Jesus said, regarding certain unclean spirits or demons, that, “[these] kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29). There’s a breakthrough that takes place when a person empties him or herself physically to take on the spiritual nourishment – fasting with prayer and the Scriptures.
Think about your current dilemma and the heaviness of the decisions you must make – will you fast unto the Lord? Ezra sought God, through a fast, for a safe journey for His people (Ezra 8:21), and the early church fasted, which led to the decision of having Barnabas and Saul (Paul) sent out as missionaries (Acts 13:3-4). Fasting strips you of your comforts and conveniences, to adhere to the Holy Spirit’s voice and leading. If Jesus did it… you should too!
3. DISCERN OPEN AND CLOSED DOORS
“During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” – Acts 16:9
During this time, Paul was going from place to place, spreading the Gospel and planting churches. While staying in Galatia, Paul would have been strategic to work through the rest of Asia. However, the Holy Spirit kept Paul and his companions from preaching there (Acts 16:6). They also tried to go north to Bithynia, but “the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.” (Acts 16:7). It was not until Paul had the vision of the Macedonian man, that he concluded to preach the Gospel in that region. (Acts 16:10).
The closed doors were crucial for Paul to know which direction to take. In this way, Paul could be open to hearing from the Lord each time God shut a door. Paul walked through the open door to enter new territory to establish churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Corinth. Today, we have these letters as encouragement in our walk because Paul was obedient in his.
We should pray not only for the Lord to open doors, but also to shut them! Having the Lord close the doors eliminates the option since it would be against His will to go through them. If God does shut a door, we do not have to be disappointed, for He has the right path for us, even if we do not know it yet! Paul did not know that his next steps would be from the Lord in a vision at night, but he was open and eager to learn where to go next.
Do not throw out the plethora of ways the Lord can speak to you while you wait for direction. God can use everyday circumstances to communicate an open or shut door through dreams, people, Scriptures, or the Holy Spirit’s unction. If that option you are waiting for seems closed, what does God want you to do now? Where, or what is He calling you to go or do?
I know so many Christ-followers looking for Godly counsel and want to walk in the way of the Lord. These steps are designed to help you hear from the Holy Spirit regarding decisions that have been on your heart. Please let me know how to help you in this process and any questions on your journey with the Lord. May the Holy Spirit speak to you regarding what is next, and may He give you what you need to fulfill it.
Have a blessed week!
“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” – Isaiah 30:21 ESV