All of us want to discern God’s will. Often the answer is found in the Bible, in knowing the character of God and applying it to the situation, or in listening well to the Spirit’s voice.
But there are times when the Bible doesn’t really speak to it; it’s not a sin or a decision that would cause another person to stumble. There is no easy answer based on God’s character.
First, we check our hearts and our ears. Are we are truly open to whatever God shows us? Are we willing to obey whatever he says? Have we spent time praying and listening for his answer in quiet stillness?
If we determine all of that to be the case, how do we proceed when we still have no answer, when it seems like God has left us in limbo?
Although the clear answer may not be in the Bible, the pattern is there. The apostles and church leaders dealt with such situations for there was not always a “God said” moment to guide them.
The early church had a conflict that divided the congregation (Acts 6:1-4 NET).
“Now in those days, when the disciples were growing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Greek- speaking Jews against the native Hebraic Jews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the twelve a called the whole group of the disciples together and said, ‘It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to wait on tables. But carefully select from among you, brothers, a seven men who are well- attested, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this necessary task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’”
The apostles decided that the answer was a group of men who would be fair to all the widows when they fed them.
We can assume that the apostles prayed together about it, but note that they based their decision on God’s calling rather than a specific word from God. To do something other than minister the Word and pray would require them to neglect what Jesus had specifically gifted and called them to do. So the basis of their decision was a biblical principle—we have responsibilities that God has given us, and when adding to that jeopardizes our ability to do them, we say no.
Sometimes our answer is simply to follow our calling and fulfill the responsibilities that God has given us for ministry, family, and work.
I taught our church’s Women’s Bible Study today. When I was invited, I didn’t have to ask God if teaching was something I should do. Years ago he made very clear that I am called to teach, and the Bible tells us that God places where he wants us to use our gifts (1 Cor. 12). So when I am asked in my own church to teach and both the timing and the topic work, it’s not a decision that I have to spend a lot of time praying about. This decision fits God’s path for me. When the situation and the timing for the other responsibilities that I carry works, I conclude that I should say yes without having to wrestle with it.
I think it’s the same principle seen in 1 Samuel 10:7 found in the story of Samuel anointing Saul to be the first king of Israel. After giving Saul some signs that his words were true, Samuel adds this: “When these signs meet you, do what your hand finds to do, for God is with you.”
That’s what I do when my calling connects with my opportunity. It’s what my hand finds to do, and I move forward, believing that God is in it. Those things can be in the church or outside of it. God uses us in both situations according to our gifts and calling.
How has God shown you your gifts and calling and how does that play into your decisions?