Searching for “peace” about a decision. Listening for God’s direction. Following the leading of the Holy Spirit. Waiting for a word from the Lord. All of these and more often lead to Christian Decision Paralysis. We desperately want to make sure we’re within God’s will, so we don’t dare move or plan until one or more of them can confirm we’ve made a godly decision.
But what if we didn’t need to wait on all these signs? What if we could make decisions without Christian Decision Paralysis taking a hold of us? What if discovering God’s will wasn’t such a mystical, mysterious hunt?
How to Be Led by the Spirit
Any child of God wants to be led by his Spirit; it’s how the Bible describes us (Rom. 8:14). We want to know the intimacy that other believers claim from following the Spirit’s gentle nudges and leading hand. We want to know the empowerment that others claim comes with fiercely following the path the Spirit is cutting down for us.
But what if being “led by the Spirit” is much simpler? Pastor Nick Batzig argues that what’s meant by the apostle Paul in passages like these is sanctification, or the process by which the Holy Spirit makes us more and more like Jesus. He writes,
Every true believer is being led by the Spirit of God. We are led away from our sin and into paths of righteousness. This is what it means to be led by the Spirit of God . . . The leading of the Spirit then is not a special mystical experience reserved for the few, but a present reality for all true believers in Jesus Christ.
While some may teach that the leading of the Holy Spirit only comes to those who are in tune with him, spend time in “listening prayers,” or have experienced a fresh outpouring of the Spirit, the Bible teaches that every believer has the indwelling Holy Spirit, leading him or her to become more like Christ:
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Rom. 8:9–11 ESV)
To be a Christian is to be led by the Spirit. You can’t separate the two. Though we may sin, he will surely sanctify us (Phil. 1:6; 1 Thess. 5:23–24) because he came to carve the law into our hearts (Ezek. 36:26–27). The Holy Spirit will never abandon us or stop leading us in holiness.
How to Be in God’s Will
If the Holy Spirit’s leading is his beautiful work of chiseling our hearts into the likeness of Christ’s, how can we be certain we’re in God’s will? He doesn’t leave us guessing. After saving us from sin, God’s will for us is our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:4–8)—that we would always be moving from grace to gratitude.
God is sovereign, and he has recorded every moment of our lives in his book (Ps. 139:16). But the contents of that book are God’s secret will. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God,” and aren’t for us to figure out by listening, searching, or waiting for peace (Deut. 29:29). Who we’ll marry, what house we’ll buy, what school we’ll attend, how many children we’ll have—God knows it all before we do, but it’s part of his secret will and not for us to know ahead of time. “But the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29).
God gave us his word as his revealed will for our lives. Rather than spending time fretting and chasing the particulars of God’s will for us, he calls us to live out his revealed will for us in Scripture. And the only way to know that word is by reading it and listening to it rightly preached.
In the Loving Hands of Our Sovereign Father
As a mother, I want my child to be obedient and, ultimately, a follower of Christ. I don’t keep these desires a secret from him. I correct him when he’s wrong or making a bad decision and I guide him in the way that’s right.
Likewise, God—being the perfect Father—has given us all of Scripture to tell us his will. And if we make our decisions within those parameters, he’s pleased. He doesn’t hold his will tightly to his chest and wish we would pry it out of his hands by spiritual acrobatics. He doesn’t make us go on expeditions searching for peace. Instead, he has freely given it to us. He has given us his word to instruct us, his Spirit to sanctify us, and his church to advise us.
Do we still make foolish decisions and mistakes? Of course. We’re sinful people with incomplete knowledge. Does he still love us and strive to teach us through those mistakes? Does he still extend his grace? Incredibly, yes—he does! He loves us. He’s given us his Son, who lived the perfect life for us. Where we disobey, Christ followed his Father’s will perfectly.
The peace we long for doesn’t come from knowing we’re perfectly following God’s will but rather through the Holy Spirit indwelling and changing us. We find peace as he reassures us of our forever place in Christ’s family and leads us in Christlikeness (Rom. 8:12–17).