Can life be so simple as to have three questions to clarify God’s will for your life?
I believe so…
I’ve trusted these Three Questions to determine what I do whenever I am looking at any direction I seek from God. I’ve relied on these Three Questions for years.
These Three Questions can’t be ignored without consequences in your efforts for finding God’s will.
I don’t believe a person can know 100% of what God has for them apart from relying on the Holy Spirit. But I would like to offer this thought for you to consider, I have found to be regularly walking in God’s will, with less frustration in your spiritual journey, these Three Questions are the answer to clarifying your path in your relationship with God.
And what about the Holy Spirit? Jesus said this… “…the Helper, the Holy Spirit…he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (See John 14) Where is what Jesus said recorded? In the Scripture.
If you have missed the first two parts of this series, you can read Part 1 and Part 2. If you want, take a moment to get your bearings if you need to. This post will be waiting when you get back.
I’ve said previously that God’s will is broken down this way…
90% is the General Will of God.
10% is the Personal Will of God.
This little breakdown of God’s will helps us see we share many things in our walk with Jesus that are the same. (Want to read more on this topic, check out the 90/10 Rule.)
As we dive in, one word of clarification, these Three Questions are for those who follow Jesus. Those who do not hold to these standards are not bound by them. As much as I would wish for them to find the peace of God’s design, I cannot ask any of them to live by them for the sake of finding God’s will.
God’s will for those who have not placed faith in Jesus is for them to place faith in Jesus first. To trust his sacrifice for their sins. To ask him to be their Savior. Living by a “behavioral code” may make for a better society, and I would argue and plead that we all would do so, but it will not make any person “righteous”. Eternal life is in Jesus.
John, Jesus’ best friend while he was here on earth said, “He who has the Son, has life. He who does not have the Son does not have life.” (See I John 5)
Let’s jump in and finish this series by asking the Three Questions to help us determine what God wants for our life.
The first question you need to ask when you are looking to find God’s will is…
What is God’s moral will for this choice?
When you are trying to determine if God wants you to do something, always start by asking if God has any law in his word that covers this activity.
One good example, despite years of beliefs that would try to set this moral code aside, is that God intends for sexual desire to be fulfilled within the bonds of marriage.
When you are contemplating sex, one easy question, is it my spouse?
If so, yes, it’s his will and his design. It is morally correct.
If you’re contemplating sex with someone who isn’t your spouse?
Not his will. It is not morally within his will.
Another example is murder. You can’t just arbitrarily kill someone and call it “God’s Will.” Not even in the name of a “moral code.”
Stealing, hating others, unloving actions, harsh speech, and a host of other actions are forbidden by God. Anything God asks of you or has asked you not to do is part of his moral will.
If you are a follower of Jesus, to ignore God’s moral will is to be out of his will, plain and simple.
I know we are secure in Jesus, that having him as our Savior is eternal. I would not want to have someone think that a choice outside of God’s moral will is a “throw the baby out with the bathwater” issue. God’s grace is more reliable than that.
But choices outside of God’s moral will can have consequences. Sometimes God allows us to face little or no consequences. Other times he seems to hit us with both barrels. His purpose is for your spiritual growth, and he knows best how to handle our choices.
No matter what you’re trying to decide on, if there’s a question of God’s moral law, there is enough moral law in the scripture that you can cover any moral choice you may make in your life.
Your next question is…
2. Is there a principle from Scripture that addresses my decision?
The difference between “law” and “principle” is that a law is a “right or wrong” choice that is covered clearly. A principle is a code of conduct that has a desired beneficial outcome but isn’t always a “right or wrong” choice.
An example is the words of Solomon in his Proverbs. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (see Proverbs 15)
This passage doesn’t say that every time someone is angry and you talk to them in a soft tone or kind response, they will always cool off and not stay angry.
Principles are a “best outcome” type of application of God’s word.
We are asked to be obedient to the principle, understanding that it’s our trust that God has a better way.
This passage also doesn’t say is that you are to ALWAYS answer with a soft answer. I don’t know that every angry person will respond to kindness, so when needed you may have to find a way to be a little tougher and yet keep your attitude in line with God’s call to act in a loving way.
Remember this, God’s discipline is loving. It’s not always soft.
There are a number of these types of principles in God’s word. Proverbs is a good place to find an array of options for many of the situations you face.
One New Testament principle that is very close to a mixture between law and principle, is found in the book of Galatians. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (See Galatians 6).
Let’s ask a quick question, has everyone who has sown in sin, reaped a failed life? No. Many business people get to the top on the backs of others. Hurting them and even ruining lives in order to get wealth. And although they will pay in eternity if they don’t ask Jesus to be their Savior, they often “get away” with things when this principle says they should pay dearly for their choices.
David, the shepherd boy turned king from the Old Testament, struggled with this idea from time to time. “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (See Psalm 73). Other believers in the Old Testament struggle in similar ways. Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Elijah.
So, here’s the path of determination for God’s will so far… First, ask if there are any morals God has in his Word/Law that you would either be breaking or keeping. Respecting and choosing to live by God’s moral will is the first step in determining God’s will for any circumstance. Second, Ask are there any principles from Scripture that address this choice.
The toughest question awaits…
3. Is this choice or action, wise?
The “wisdom” question is more about your own path and is more personal. When you have found a choice that passes the first two “tests”, then you must ask the wisdom question.
Here’s a list of questions, not even close to exhaustive, you may employ to determine if a choice is wise…
1.) In light of where I believe God wants me to be, is this wise?
2.) With my desires as a father, husband, employee, church leader, etc… would this choice be the wisest choice I can make
3.) Considering where I want to be in 5 years, is this direction for my life wise?
And so on…
Andy Stanley calls it the “The Best Question Ever” and has taught on this topic a number of times.
My original exposure to this concept of finding God’s will dates back to the mid 90’s. I heard a sermon that was about God’s will, the questions developed from this teaching and this system of determining the direction by asking three questions came over time. I can’t take credit for all these ideas, but then, Solomon tells us “there are no new things under the sun.” (See Ecclesiastes 1).
Personal use, teaching and sharing these Three Questions have been such a wonderful way to direct my life and the lives of others in so many settings. Over the years there have been times I’ve not used these and still found myself in God’s will, but many of those times it was a bumpier ride to get to my destination.
These Three Questions help to clarify 90% of what God wants to communicate to you and me as we walk here in this life. Their scriptural foundation(s) allows us to get more and more familiar with how powerful God’s Word is.
If we’re going to truly answer these Three Questions, it presses us to do what many feel is the best practice for a follower of Jesus, read and if possible, memorize Scripture.
Then, and in most cases, only then, do I commit the item to prayer. I recognize that what I “feel” during my prayers must align with what has already been recorded for our instruction. Especially the New Testament where so many conflicts among the early believers are recorded for our insight and obedience.
So, with all that said, I return to an earlier assertion I shared…
90% of God’s will is shared by all believers. 10% is personal to the individual and they are given the specific gifts to accomplish this personal will. When we live for God (Jesus), He desires to share His will and direct our paths.
One of my favorite stories that illustrate this is found in the Book of Acts…
“And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” (Acts 16:6-9)
From this passage we see Paul doing the 90% will of God, by traveling from city to city sharing his own story and encouraging people to place their faith in Jesus. There is no indication here that Paul had any “moving of the Holy Spirit” that directed his paths to go to any particular city. What we do find is that Paul was on his normal way, knowing the Gospel was the answer to man’s dilemma and preaching Jesus Christ, his life, death, burial, and resurrection.
While he was just doing what he already knew to do, something very interesting happens. The Holy Spirit STOPS him from going to the next city on his regular itinerary.
So I ask you at this point, did the people in these cities Paul was going to need to hear the Gospel? Yes. Then why did the Spirit forbid them to go to these cities? Now, don’t pass over this lightly. There were people that God sent his Son to die for, that needed to hear the Good News, that the Spirit stopped Paul from preaching to them.
Re-read that statement, and if you need to, the passage from Acts 16. Re-read them as often as you need to so you can allow that idea, that truth, to settle inside of you enough to move on.
I don’t have any great insights here, but I can’t help but wonder… In our “results” oriented church growth world, are there times God would rather use someone else, some other church or another style of outreach and we’re not sensitive to his leading, so we “share and share away” and even brag to others we had done so.
I’ve heard people talk about “giving it to” some atheist, prostitute, abortionist, or… and the list of people could go on. Did your “I got the answer and you’re really not a good person” Gospel approach represent your Savior correctly? I can’t answer that for you, I don’t know your heart. For that matter, as much as you might claim to, YOU don’t know your heart. Take it up with Jeremiah (Jeremiah 17) and Jesus (Matthew 15, Mark 7).
Look with me at the outcome of Paul and his companions’ sensitivity to the Holy Spirit… “Paul…seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” Again, I might be taking an uncomfortable look at this passage, but it says after the dream, his team “concluded” they were to go to Macedonia. Not Paul saying, “God told me clearly to go to Macedonia.” Am I splitting hairs, I think not.
The great news from this story is that if you’re doing the 90% of God’s will, being his light and salt in the world, and fellowshipping/worshipping with other believers then you’re already in a ripe place for you to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. THEN… If God needs to get your attention during a 10% circumstance (A Macedonian call), you’re already set to follow and be obedient.
Notice, Paul wasn’t focused on the 10%, he was focused on the 90% (See the end of Matthew 28 to see what Paul’s marching orders were, the 90%). While obeying what he knew, God told him what he needed to know…
So… If you’ll take care of the 90%, I believe you can trust God to get your attention to show you the 10%. (Learn about the 90/10 Rule here.) Before you decide you’re supposed to be a teacher, deacon, whatever in your church, why not slow down the process and ask yourself if you’re living in the 90%.
If so, then pray, pray away and tell God you need wisdom (See James 1), God promises he has an abundance of it and wants to share it in abundance.
Last, certainly not least, I would make this crazy statement. If you’re living in the 90% realm (Learn about the 90/10 Rule here.) regularly and confessing when you’re failing, then I believe that God lets you choose the desire of your heart (see Psalms 37). What that means is that if you want to teach, volunteer. If God doesn’t want you to, He’s big enough to get your attention, to redirect you.
Doesn’t that feel like “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” What slavery? The rule-keeping to impress God so he’ll tell me or give me what I want from him.
And then there is this one… “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (see John 8). Now that is freedom.
The “rulers” couldn’t get their heads around the reality that Jesus had come to set them free. And sometimes, like the religious leaders who questioned Jesus’ message, our efforts at “being holy” can blind us to this freedom as well.
So, there they are… Three Questions.
I’ve tried my best to give them to you in a clear way. If I’ve failed, forgive me. If I’ve struck a chord in your walk with Christ, sing away, the song of the redeemed is a blessing, to us and to the Lord.
Till next time…