Seeking God’s Will: The ‘Three Lights’ of God’s Guidance and Hearing God’s Voice

crossroadsMany of us search for God’s will in our lives. In fact, one of the most pervasive questions I receive as a pastor is: how do I know God’s will in my life?

In his book, The Secret of Guidance, F. B. Meyer writes these words:

God’s impressions within and his words without are always corroborated by his providence around, and we should quietly wait until those three focus into one point. . . . The circumstances of our daily life are to us an infallible indication of God’s will, when they concur with the inward promptings of the Spirit with the Word of God.

According to Meyer, there are ‘three lights’ that serve as guiding points of reference when we discuss hearing God’s voice or gaining guidance in life. They are: impressions of the Spirit, words from Scripture, and our circumstances. Along with these three, some will often include the wise counsel of godly friends and mentors.

When we are seeking to know God’s will and make decisions in accordance with His will, it is very helpful to consider how God might be speaking to us through these three lights. It is worth paying attention to what we are reading in Scripture, what our circumstances may be highlighting for us, and also how the internal voice of the Holy Spirit is speaking to us.

Dallas Willard writes about this in his book Hearing God:

It is possible to understand this precious advice in such a way that it completely resolves any problem about divine guidance. . . . But for those who do not yet have a confident, working familiarity with the Voice, the three lights may speedily result in a swirl of confusion (183).

So, when we think of ‘getting guidance’ from God, we not only need to consider the three lights that F. B. Meyer holds before us. We also need to grow in familiarity with the voice of God. The more familiar we are with a friend, the more easily we can understand what he or she is saying and what the nuances of their voice means. The same is true with God. The more we listen to Him and familiarize with Him by daily walking in closeness to God, the more easy it will be to discern His will. The more we know who God is, the more easily we will be able to rightly grasp the guidance He is giving through our circumstances, the Spirit’s impressions, and the Scripture.

Let Your Will Be Done [30 Days of Prayer]

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“Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10)

Following the first petition that God’s name be hallowed and the second that God’s kingdom would come, the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer asks that God’s will would be done upon the earth. This summarizes the first half of the Lord’s Prayer, which focuses upon God and His ways before turning to human beings and our ways. The primary focus – the first place of attention – in prayer is upon God and not upon ourselves.

Jesus makes this clear through His request that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Heaven is the sphere in which God lives and in which His rule and reign is perfectly done, but earth is the place touched by sin, evil and death in which God’s will is imperfectly done. That is true in us and in the world around us.

Jesus provides us not only teaching on this aspect of prayer, but a model for it as well. Approaching His Father in agonized prayer while in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus asks that the cup of suffering before Him might pass by, if there is any other way. Yet the summary statement of His desire in prayer is found in these words: “Yet not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). We see this same attitude in prayer modeled by Mary, the mother of Jesus, when the angel Gabriel approached her with the message that she would bear the Messiah in her womb miraculously. Her response was: “I am the Lord’s servant. May your words to me be fulfilled” (1:38).

This is holy submission to the will of God. If we did not know God as perfectly holy and truly our Father, then such submission might seem risky. Yet as we grow to know the One whom we approach in prayer, we learn again and again just how good it is to yield in our lives to the will of God. Such humble surrender to God in our own lives quickly leads us to intercede before God on behalf of the world that “His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2) may be done here on earth as it is in heaven.

So, the major preoccupation of children who come into their Father’s presence in prayer is not that we may receive what we need but that He may receive what He deserves – which is honor to His name, the spread of His kingdom, the doing of His will.[1]

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed by Your Name.
May Your kingdom come
and Your will be done
here on earth
as it is in heaven.
Shape and mold my life according to
Your good, pleasing and perfect will.
Even so, bring Your will to fruition
upon every square inch of this world
that You might receive the greatest glory
in the greatest number of lives
around the globe.

[1] John R. W. Stott, “Growth in the Prayer Life,” sermon given on August 20, 1989.

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

At the Crossroads

This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.'” (Jeremiah 6:16)

A lot of us are standing at crossroads in our lives right now. We are trying to make decisions about jobs or other plans for the summer. We are looking for direction about what next year holds, whether with jobs or school or relationships. We are asking questions. We are looking. We are standing before the street signs of the crossroad and wondering aloud about which way we should go.

I find great comfort in the fact that God knows these things and has good plans for His people (see Jeremiah 29:11). It is reassuring to know that God wants what is truly good for us, not just what will work or might be okay.

Here are some thoughts from this passage in Jeremiah today:

  • “Ask for the ancient paths” – the tested and tried paths that lead somewhere worthwhile
    “Ask where the good way is” – not the way of ruin or the mediocre way, but the GOOD WAY
  • “and walk in it” – follow-through on what you hear; Jesus said that we are blessed not simply by knowing what is good, but by doing what is good (John 13:17)
  • “and you will find rest for your souls” – Are you achingly weary with the weight of your decisions and questions? Follow in the Jesus way and you will find true rest for your weary souls. Jesus beckons to us to come to Him (Matthew 11:28-29).
  • “but you said” – what do we say in response to Jesus’ invitation? We are the rest of the story here. As we stand at the crossroads, Jesus lays out an invitation for the tried and true, good way that leads to our rest.

What do we say?

Mark Batterson, “Don’t Take ‘Yes’ for an Answer” (#Exponential 2010)

Mark Batterson of National Community Church kicked off our main sessions together with some great words from the story of Balaam in Numbers 22:18-35.

Angel of the Lord to Balaam: “I have come to block your way…” (22:32)

“God is far more concerned with who you’re becoming than with where you’re going”

Sometimes God gets in the way and we, like Balaam with his donkey, get upset with the things in the way when it’s really God getting in the way

National Community back-story:

  • Failure in Chicago
  • Meeting in school – school closed
  • Went to theatre in Union Station

“If God hadn’t gotten in the way, we might never see where He wants us to go.”

[This is part of a series of note-posts from the Exponential 2010 conference.]