At the recent B4T Expo several young people asked, “How do you discern God’s will?” This is a common and important question.

In “Pursuing God’s Will Together” Ruth Haley Barton gives 9 ways that she determines God’s will. I have used and agree with Barton’s 9 and have added 2 more of my own at the bottom. Again, points 1 through 9 are from Ruth Haley Barton 10 and 11 are my own.

All of these questions/ideas may be helpful in discerning God’s will. However, we don’t necessarily need all of them. At different times, God may use different ones, or several together to uniquely reveal His path for you.

  1. Direction and Call: How does this choice fit with the overall direction and calling of God in my life? Is there a word or phrase that captures my sense of call these days, and will this choice enable me to continue to live my calling?
  2. Consolation and Desolation: Which choice bring the deepest sense of life, inner peace and freedom (Jn.10:10; Phil.4:7; 2Cor.3:17)? As I consider moving in this particular direction, is there a growing sense of wholeness, authenticity and congruence with who I am in God?
  3. Desire: What is my deepest and most authentic desire relative to the choice I am facing? What is my response when Jesus ask, “What do you want me to do for you? What is it you seek?”
  4. Scripture: Is there a particular Scripture that God is bringing to mind relative to this choice? What is it saying to me?
  5. Life of Christ: Is this choice consistent with what I know about the mind and heart of Christ and his living, redemptive purposes in the world?
  6. Character Growth and Development: What is God doing in my character and spiritual growth, and will this choice continue to nurture this growth? How will this direction nurture the fruit of the Spirit in me, particularly the fruit of love, which is at the heart of our Christian calling and the litmus test for what it means to be truly Christian.
  7. Love: Given the primacy of love and unity in Christ’s teachings, what does love call for in this situation?
  8. Clarify Perspective: It’s hard to see the whole field when we are mired in the details. Take a step back to look at the larger patterns of what God is doing in your life. Which choice fits the larger patterns that are already in motion? Take a step forward, to your deathbed. If I imagine myself on my deathbed, which choice would I wish I had made? Does this choice value what is eternal and permanent, what holds the deepest value, rather than what is transient and impermanent?
  9. Community: How does this choice fit with other’s observations of who I am and what God is doing in my life? Am I willing to open up every facet of this decision to a trusted spiritual friend or director for their wisdom and insight? Is there anything in the overall tradition of the Christian faith that might inform my decision?
  10. Discern God’s Voice: It takes years of patience, prayer, and pursuing God, but as you think you hear Him, act upon it. And see if He is in it. Keep on knocking He will open the door. Trust Him for dreams and visions.
  11. Lay Out a Fleece: Gideon lays out a fleece in Judges 6. Many times in my life when I’ve been uncertain or wanted clarification of what I believe I heard God say, I laid out a fleece and then I acted as God answered.


PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.

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