Guidance is a hot topic in Christian circles. People ask about guidance in a variety of ways. "What is the will of God for my life?" is a common way in which this question is asked. I think Paul answers this question in 1 Thessalonians 4, but not in the way that we would expect.
Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. - 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
Paul seems to have said it quite plainly. It is the will of God that we pursue holiness because He has not called us to impurity but to holiness. I would like to suggest that thinking about God's will in this way shapes the way we make decisions and how we live. What God wants for us is our sanctification: that we grow to be more and more like Christ as His Spirit convicts us every day about the areas in our life that displeases Him. Which means that God is not only interested in what exactly we do with our lives (because it must not be something that brings dishonour to Him), but also how live our lives. This affects things like how we interact with family, friends, work colleagues etc and also how we go about making the little decisions that make up our day. Our lives must be characterized by the pursuit of a life that pleases God and when we fall His grace is sufficient to pick us back up. We cannot be living outside of God's will if that is our focus. And always in hindsight we always marvel at how God has used seemingly insignificant decisions we have made to further His purposes in our life.
A very wise pastor gave me these guidelines in making decisions which I think shows how we practically seek God's will when making decisions.
- Is the choice I'm about to make sinful or not? - That is the obvious first step. If the choice means doing something that the Bible explicitly condemns then it is a definite no go area. It is an obvious step but worth mentioning since there have been quite a few examples of people justifying sinful actions by claiming they were directed by the Spirit. The Spirit will never contradict what He has said in Scripture.
- Is the choice I'm about to make wise or unwise? - There are some things that are not sinful but definitely unwise. Generally speaking the counsel of mature Christian brothers and sisters can point us towards wise path. That is part of the reason why we belong to family of Christ so that we can learn from the experiences of those more mature in the Christian walk than we are. I personally think it is good to have a mature Christian brother or sister that we can seek advice from when making decisions. Someone that we trust can be truthful with us and help us think biblically about the decisions that we make. Also this is a far more difficult step since it is very easy to see things that are explicitly condemned Biblically but much harder to figure out whether something is wise or unwise.
- Flip a coin! - What I mean is that if the decision to make does not lead towards a sinful path or is not unwise then we have the freedom to make that decision.
The idea is that after taking in mind these three steps we are left with choices that are in line with God's will i.e. living a life of purity. I take it that we are praying through all the steps. I don't think prayer is an additional step that is added at the end but part and parcel of who we as Christians are; so we are constantly praying through everything that we do. If we live life in this manner we will be used by God to accomplish His purposes no matter what decisions we make.