January 11, 2010

Discerning God’s will

Proverbs 3:1–2

My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.

We often hear folks talking about seeking God’s will. Articles, books, conferences, sermon series—many things have been offered to address the fact that we just don’t know enough of the future to make us comfortable. We seem to want a road map that extends way off into the future.

I know that I often worry about what’s coming. And it feels as though a solid knowledge of what’s going to happen in the upcoming years would ease all of the worries and fears. But that does not seem to be the way God works.

So then, what is the “will of God”?

I have been reminded of Proverbs 3 many times in my life. I suppose it is because I have to keep relearning the same lesson over and over again—that God’s will is clearly written in scripture and that I need only to do what’s right and allow God to lead one step at a time. God promises his providential care, so I don’t truly need that roadmap stretching way into the future. I need only to step out in faith and do what God has told me to do in scripture. And if I do this, my concerns should be relieved about many of the regular cares of life.

Vocational and spiritual success

Proverbs 3:3–5

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.

I worry incessantly about my job. I spend a lot of time analyzing the internal corporate politics and tend to get concerned with every new suspected wind of change.

But in Proverbs 3 I am clearly told that I will find favor and good success in the sight of both God and man if I maintain “steadfast love and faithfulness.” This doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. I would expect advice regarding work ethic, honesty, and commitment, and these things are all to be found elsewhere in scripture. But in this immediate passage I am told that if I do not forsake love and faithfulness I will find favor.

Day-to-day decision

Proverbs 3:5–6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

This directly addresses that roadmap I so desperately want—the one that will tell me exactly what I am supposed to do each step of the way for the next decade or more. There are so many twists and turns in life and those twists and turns can be tremendously scary.

But Proverbs 3 tells me that I should not try to figure everything out and then act on my superior knowledge of the ensuing events. I should not spend inordinate amounts of time learning the ins and outs of the business world, the social world, and local church in order to carefully navigate each new seemingly dangerous fork in the road. I am told to “trust in the Lord” and to “acknowledge him in all my ways.” If I do this, I am told that he will direct [my] paths.


Proverbs 3:7–8

Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

Another regular concern of mine regards my personal health and the health of my family. I’m not one of those exercise fanatics that works long and hard on keeping my heart and lungs healthy. I’m more of the coach potato that sits and worries about my health while eating a bag of chips. And there are portions of scripture that tell me that I should adjust that lifestyle for health reasons.

But Proverbs 3 gives me a nuance in the whole health concern field, and I believe it is speaking about the problems we cause to ourselves by being stressed about things all the time. Rather than worrying regularly about things, we are told to “fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” And we are told that this will provide “healing to our flesh and refreshment to our bones.”

Personal finances

Proverbs 3:9–10

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.

And what do I need to do to make sure that my family is financially secure? Of course the advice should be work hard, invest wisely, be frugal, etc. But that’s not what we are told in Proverbs 3. Here it says that we are to spend some money. We are to “honor the Lord with with our wealth.”

It seems that we are being told here to use our money in ways that promote God’s purposes in the world. I can imagine many applications to this concept, but won’t go into those at this time. The interesting thing I see is that Proverbs is not saying that we should hoard our money or leverage it through careful investment strategies. We are told to use our money to honor the Lord. And if we do so, “our barns will be filled with plenty and our vats bursting with wine.”

This is the lesson I need to be reminded of seemingly every few months. The will of God is clear in scripture. I just need to do it.



  1. Excellent reminder, Rich, and one I truly needed to hear. Thanks for your transparency!!

  2. one other thing -- I've commented on two blogspot posts today. I really love what it says at the bottom, "Choose an identity." You mean, I can choose my identity today? In reality, I can. I can choose to live according to my identity in Christ, or the one the world says I should have, or the one I want others to see. I think that today I'm going to choose my identity in Christ. There's security in that one :D

  3. LOL - That's great. I'd never thought of it that way. And I guess we choose our identities every day multiple times. Kind of like asking, "Am I going to wear a mask today or am I going to be me?" Or, as you pointed out, "Am I going to identify myself as a mask, or as my old unredeemed self, or as someone washed in the blood of Christ and seen as holy only because of Christ's substitutionary atonement for my sins."

    Good comment.


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