How do we discern the will of God and what role, if any, do impressions play regarding God’s will for our lives? These questions have baffled many Christians over the years and unfortunately, continue to do so. Suppose you’re faced with a decision that will greatly impact the course of your life, your family, and others. Sometimes it is difficult to know God’s will and if you can trust your impressions. I’ve heard people say things like, “God told me to do this…” or “I feel the Lord is leading me to do that…,” or “I just felt it was what God wanted me to do.”
I think there are several tests we can take to assure ourselves that we are moving in the right direction. I’m going to break this down into two parts so look for part 2 in my next post.
First, we need to understand the part that impressions play in the process. John Wesley, the great 18th century revivalist, wrote: “Do not easily suppose impressions to be from God. They may be from Him, they may be nature, or they may be from the devil.” Most of us have had impressions that turned out to be invalid. For example, perhaps before a trip you’ve experienced a sense of dread or had feelings of foreboding. You begin to wonder if you should cancel the trip but, in the end, you realized those impressions were false. You cannot, and must not, rely totally on impressions.
Impressions, on the other hand, can be from the Lord. It was A.W. Tozer who said, “If God is Spirit, and he is, he can speak to man’s spirit and man can know it.” The Holy Spirit, who indwells the believer, can most certainly impress something on our hearts. However, his leading usually runs contrary to our natural inclinations and desires. He will direct you to witness to a person when you’d really prefer not to, or he may impress you to do something that takes you out of your comfort zone. But as we follow his leading, yielding to his control, we will experience a sense of peace that comes with obedience.
Impressions may also come to us in the form of temptations. We feel impressed toward something which we know is sinful but find we are drawn to it. In those cases, you can be sure that the impression, the pull toward that which is forbidden is not of the Lord. Impressions may also emanate from our fleshly desires which can easily deceive us (Ephesians 4:22). All of us are vulnerable to the lies of our arch enemy and our own carnal nature, and therefore, we must try the spirits, whether they be from God. (1 John 4:1)
As we follow his leading, yielding to his control, we will experience a sense of peace that comes with obedience
Discerning God’s Will
How do we test the spirits? How can we know whether an impression, some new teaching, or perhaps a spiritual experience is from the Lord? Furthermore, how can we discern God’s will in the decision-making process? The Bible says, “Test everything, hold fast to that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1) This is vitally important in these days when so much falsehood is being promoted in the name of Christ. Here are six questions by which you may test the spirits.
1. Does it glorify God?
All things exist for the glory of God. (Revelation 4:11) He will not share his glory with another. (Isaiah 42:8) So ask yourself, “Does this decision, this experience, this doctrine, bring glory to God? Does it make me love him more? Is it primarily Christ-centered or self-centered?” It is dangerous for Christians to mask selfish decisions by saying it was God’s will. If any decision fails to be a means of bringing glory to God, if any experience leads to being puffed up instead of humbled, it cannot be in accord with the Lord’s will.
2. Is it supported by Scripture?
God never leads contrary to his word. How many times have believers been duped by psychological mind tricks, charismatic personalities, or clever marketing techniques? The question we should ask of every spiritual decision we’re making, or whatever emotional high we experience, or any new religious notion is, does it have scriptural support?
God never leads contrary to his word
For example, one of the lies being peddled by the devil these days is that God is still speaking. In other words, he’s revealing new truth. Some call it “latter-day light.” This idea reduces the Bible to a fluid document that can be used to condone sinful behavior. It makes the reader and not the text the authority. You’ve most likely heard it before, but it bears repeating; it is not what you think the Bible means, it’s what it actually means.
Impressions may be from the Lord, but they will never be out of harmony with the Scriptures. If you are making a life-changing decision, or have some kind of spiritual experience, or hear of some new doctrine that cannot be supported by scripture, reject it outright.
In my next post, I’ll share a few more “tests” that will help you discern the will of God. But if you find yourself struggling with this, by all means, go to your pastor or another believer and discuss the issue with them.