Discerning God’s Will as a Pastor

Discerning God's Will

How many of us have prayed something similar to this, “God, how do I KNOW this is Your will?” I assume we all could check that box. Honestly, I know multiple times in my life and my ministry, I have felt a nudge, but that’s all it seemed to be was a nudge. I wanted certainty, but all I was feeling was a possibility. 

One of the most memorable moments that I felt this nudge was 9 years ago when my family and I made the move to join a church planting team 3 states away. I had been serving in a ministry role in my childhood church for 10 years, and then came that nudge. You know the one. The feeling of being drawn towards a “what if”.

The opportunity involved uprooting my family from our home, walking away from a full-time job and a part-time ministry role, and joining a church that didn’t technically exist yet. Simply put, this felt crazy. Since God hadn’t given us any writing on the wall yet, I did what felt like the next best thing, I reached out to someone who I loved and trusted and who had made similar transitions in ministry, my youth pastor. When I shared the story with him, he asked, “What’s the thing that scares you the most about this, Matt?” I said I wanted to know that my family was going to be taken care of. 

Simply put, I needed a job and a roof. He said, then why not make that your Gideon fleece? You said you’ve been asking God for a sign or proof, let that be it.” After that phone call, my prayers changed from, “God, I need you to show me something.” to, “God, if I can find a job and a place to live, I will know this is your will.” And that’s exactly what God did. 

Knowing God’s will can be difficult. Mainly because of that first word, knowing. We want certainty. We want a period at the end of the sentence instead of a question mark. And, at least in my own life, I have yet to see God give me that exactness. So with that in mind, I want us to look at the story my youth pastor pointed me towards. Let’s look at the story of Gideon and his request to God about a fleece. To set us up, Gideon has been called by God to lead his people into battle, however, Gideon is nervous, for good reason. He is not a general, he has no military experience, and he has a history of hiding away. Let’s pick up his story in Judges 6 where he is asking God for some certainty:

Judges 6:36-40

36 Then Gideon said to God, “If you will deliver Israel by me, as you said, 37 I will put a wool fleece here on the threshing floor. If dew is only on the fleece, and all the ground is dry, I will know that you will deliver Israel by me, as you said.” 38 And that is what happened. When he got up early in the morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung dew out of it, filling a bowl with water. 39 Gideon then said to God, “Don’t be angry with me; let me speak one more time. Please allow me to make one more test with the fleece. Let it remain dry, and the dew be all over the ground.” 40 That night God did as Gideon requested: only the fleece was dry, and dew was all over the ground.

When I read over this part of Gideon’s story, three things stand out to me about knowing God’s will.

It’s Okay to be Uncertain

I never noticed until prepping for this message that Gideon had already assembled the army at this time. He had buy-in from those around him. He had a team ready and willing to follow him, and yet he was still uncertain. He had even had a face-to-face encounter with a messenger from God, and yet Gideon was still uncertain. I think we need to permit ourselves to be uncertain. I think we need to live with a bit more uncertainty in our lives. Here’s the thing, when we have it all figured out, we stop asking for help. We should always feel a need to go to God and ask for His guidance. 

It’s Okay to ask Questions

As a father, I love it when my kids ask questions. When they were younger it was simple questions that likely didn’t carry a lot of long-term weight. Now that they are getting older, their questions have bigger ramifications. I love getting asked the question, “Dad, what do you think I should do about this?” That question means something more. That question has the potential to change their future. That question has invited me into their journey. God is the greatest Father of all. When we ask for His guidance, He listens because He wants to guide us. Do we see God reprimanding Gideon for asking for more proof? No, we see God being a loving Father and answering Gideon’s request because God wants to be a part of our journey. 

God Wants the Best for Us

God wanted Gideon to lead His people against the Midianites. He wasn’t trying to trick or manipulate Gideon into defeat. God had a plan for Gideon and was willing to walk with Gideon at Gideon’s pace. God will never try to trick us into a wrong choice.

When we know these three things, we can then take steps to put them into practice. Here is the practice I have started in my life when I want to know God’s will.

One: Pray Specific Prayers

Gideon asked God for specific proof. I prayed for God to provide me with income and a roof. Don’t be afraid to be specific when asking God for direction. 

Two: Seek Wise Counsel

I guarantee someone has gone through the same or a very similar situation as you are. Find someone you love and trust and ask for their guidance. They can be a voice of clarity when you feel overwhelmed with what to do. 

Three: Walk Until the Door Closes

I have done this practice more times than I can count. Simply say, “Okay God. I know that you want the best for me and I see this open door in front of me. I am going to walk towards it until You close it, knowing that if You close it, You have something else for me.” 

So, what’s the quick answer to the question, “How do I know it’s God’s voice and not my own?” for my own life it’s been, I don’t know right away. I have to take the steps. I have to pray specific prayers, talk to someone who has been there before, and keep walking until I know God stops me. 

God may be calling some of you away from what you’ve done for years. He may be calling some of you to try something wild and new. And for some, He may be calling you to keep doing exactly what you are doing. Don’t let life, circumstances, or what others are doing change your direction. Give that control to God.  

He is a loving Father that wants the very best for you and from you. Don’t get caught up in the fear of the unknown, walk boldly towards it and pray for God to guide you through it all. 

Watch the full message here:


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