Making Godly Decisions, Part 1: Finding the Will of God

March 25, 2014

by Peter Amsterdam

One of the traits of humankind, as beings created in the image of God, is free will, which includes both the ability to make decisions and the responsibility for the outcomes of our decisions. Learning to make decisions that will glorify God and fulfill His will for our lives can be very challenging at times, and can test and grow our faith, as we seek His will and wait on Him for answers and guidance.

Accepting Jesus as our Savior and receiving His free gift of salvation is the most important decision we ever face in our lives, as it determines our eternal standing in relationship to God and His kingdom. That decision should redirect the decisions we make for the rest of our lives, regarding how we will live, our relationships to others, and our relationship to God. That all-important decision defines our present and our future, as well as redefines our past by canceling out the charges that “stood against us and condemned us, nailing [them] to the cross.”[1]

The decision to accept Christ as our Savior was one that only we could make; it was a freewill choice to invite Jesus into our hearts and lives. However, salvation is not the end of the road, and once we’ve given our life to the Lord we are faced with numerous other decisions on a daily basis relating to the nurturing of our faith through studying His Word and living our lives according to His commands and guidance. Having entered into a relationship with God, we will want to involve Him in our decision-making processes; in fact, learning to make godly decisions is one of the main lessons we learn during our time on earth.

Decision-making for Christians is meant to be a relational process, involving ourselves and God, as we bring all our anxieties to Him, knowing that He cares for us.[2] Jesus has promised that He and His Father will make their home with everyone who loves Him and keeps His Word.[3] He has told us to “come and let us reason together,”[4] demonstrating His desire to carry on a conversation with us. He wants to be present and to participate in the conversation as we make decisions, and has promised that His Spirit in us will guide us into all truth.[5]

Throughout our lives as Christians, we are faced with course-altering decisions that affect our future, whether they relate to what career to pursue, whom to marry, how to raise our children, what country to live in, or how to commit to our faith and participate in God’s work. One of the most important steps for finding God’s will and making good decisions is acknowledging Him and committing our ways to Him.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. [6]

Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.[7]

Learning to make decisions that will honor God and align with His will and commands is often accompanied by times of soul searching, desperate prayer, and testing. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish what God’s will is in a situation or what decision will produce the best outcomes. At such times, we can wish that a lightning bolt would light up the sky or that we’d be knocked to the ground like the apostle Paul to give us a precise, infallible sign. And yet, so often, the voice of God is so quiet that if we don’t calm our spirit and open our minds and listen, it can be missed.

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.[8]

How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. … Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”[9]

How do we play our part in the decision-making process, doing everything in our power to make right decisions, to hush our spirits to hear God’s voice, and to determine the best option in decisions that will alter the course of our lives in some way? Some years ago, we republished a list of seven ways to know God’s will, which I’ll include here, since it provides good practical counsel for where to look for guidance for godly decision-making:

1) The Word of God. The Word of God—the Bible—is the first place to look to find His will. The Lord will not tell us to do something that goes against the fundamental principles that He's given in His written Word.

2) The Voice of the Word. A passage of Scripture jumps out at you and speaks to you personally as if it had been written specifically for you.

3) Direct Revelation. The Lord speaks to you through direct revelation, whether through prophecy, a dream, or a vision to make His will clear.

4) Godly Counsel. Although nobody else can find God's will for you, it often helps to have the advice and counsel of others who have strong faith and experience in following the Lord. “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”[10]

5) Open and Closed Doors. Sometimes conditions and circumstances can be an indication of the Lord’s will. Which way does God seem to be leading? Which opportunities have opened up; which ones are no longer viable? In which direction does it seem that God is providing the way and the means?

6) Inner Conviction. Sometimes when you have a strong sense or inner conviction that something is the right decision or exactly what you are supposed to do, that’s an indication of the Lord’s will. You just know it’s the will of God, and you have the inner conviction that that’s what you are supposed to do.

7) Fleeces. From the story in the Bible about Gideon, this refers to when you ask the Lord to do something to manifest His will.[11] “If You do x, then I’ll know that y is Your will.” When Gideon wanted to know God’s will, he put the fleece from a shorn sheep outside on the ground, and said, “Lord, if the fleece is wet with dew and all of the ground is dry in the morning, then I will know that You are guiding me.”[12]

In most cases, when it comes to making important decisions that will affect your life or the lives of your loved ones, it’s wise to use a variety of these methods for finding God’s will to confirm that your leading in a situation is the right one. Once you’ve taken the first step of committing your ways to the Lord, acknowledging Him, and asking Him to guide you and to give you His wisdom, and then you use some of the methods above, you can have the confidence that you’re on the right path for determining His will and making wise decisions.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.[13]

We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.[14]

What is our role in the decision-making process? Scripture tells us on the one hand that “Apart from Me you can do nothing,”[15] and on the other hand, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”[16] The first verse indicates that we are incapable of achieving anything without God, and the second verse promises that we can do anything we set our minds to within God’s will, if we commit it to Christ. I think these two verses equally apply when it comes to decision-making. We are to commit ourselves and every aspect of our lives to God, knowing that without His help, we are incapable of producing anything of eternal worth,[17] and we are to operate with confidence, knowing that He can strengthen us to do all things. In each case, the first step is loving God with all our hearts, souls, and minds.

He created us in His image, as rational beings, capable of freewill decisions and of choosing to place Him at the center of our lives. This is one of the ways by which we love God with all our minds: by making conscious decisions to love God, to make Him the center of our lives and our desires, and by seeking to glorify Him in all our decisions and ways. As we love God in this way, rationally and decisively with our minds and with the commitment in our heart to follow wherever He leads, we are positioned to test and discern the will of God, as Paul explained in Romans:

Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.[18]

The Greek word for “by testing you may discern,”dokimazō, often has the sense of finding out the worth of something by putting it to use or testing it in actual practice.[19] This verse indicates that often we may need to put something to the test to find out through experience whether it is the will of God. The decision before us may not be clear-cut enough to know with absolute certainty that it is the right path. Perhaps we need to decide whether to invest in a business venture, or whether to start a new form of mission work, or place our children in a certain school, or move to a new neighborhood. We have sought the Lord for wisdom and guidance. We have weighed the pros and cons. We have done a thorough analysis of the situation. We have asked counsel of those who are in a position to give sound advice. Yet we may find that we are not 100 percent sure of the decision, despite a looming deadline. In some such cases, you may feel that God is nudging you to take a step forward to make a preliminary decision, while making allowance for the testing and discerning stage, and the ability to alter course if the proposed direction doesn’t prove to be the will of God in your situation.

Sometimes the decisions that we will make also depend on decisions that others involved make. In such instances, your initial decision is just the first step. As you take the step of making a preliminary decision, the Lord will often either confirm it or new factors will emerge that will shed new light on the situation. At each new junction on the road to the final decision, you may need to relook at things and pray further before taking the next step. You may need to make course adjustments, as you discover that the coordinates of your original decisions, while pointing you in the right general direction, need to be fine-tuned as you zero in on your final destination. Decision-making is often a process involving many decisions, not just a single decision, and each decision lays the foundation for our next decisions.

Most of us would prefer to receive unambiguous direction from God. Yet it seems that often God wants us to do the work of wholeheartedly seeking His will, investigating, analyzing, assessing, and using every means at our disposal to make wise and godly decisions. As so often proves to be the case, God rarely seems to do things for us that we are capable of doing. I’ve often found that I make the best decisions when I work in conjunction with the Lord through doing the background work of analyzing the possibilities and the options, weighing the pros and cons of each one, while seeking His guidance and thoughts on the matter through prayer and hearing from Him.

Making decisions that bring honor and glory to God is one of the ways that we show God that we love Him with all our hearts, bodies, souls, and minds. While most of us struggle with the grave responsibility of making godly decisions, it is also an opportunity to glorify God through our choices. As we place Him at the center of our lives, acknowledging Him in all our ways, committing our life and times into His hands, we can trust that He will guide us and help us to discern His will and to make wise decisions.

Part 2 of “Making Godly Decisions” will address taking responsibility for our decisions and decision-making when God doesn’t give a definitive answer.


Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1] Colossians 2:13–14 NIV.

[2] 1 Peter 5:7.

[3] John 14:23.

[4] Isaiah 1:18.

[5] John 16:13.

[6] Proverbs 3:5–6 NKJV.

[7] Psalm 37:5 NASB.

[8] 1 Kings 19:11–12 NIV.

[9] Isaiah 30:19,21 NIV.

[10] Proverbs 15:22.

[11] Judges 6:36–40.

[12] Adapted from “Seven Ways to Know God’s Will,” by David Brandt Berg.

[13] James 1:5.

[14] Colossians 1:9–10.

[15] John 15:5.

[16] Philippians 4:13 NKJV.

[17] The ESV study notes for John 15:5 state: This does not mean “nothing at all,” for unbelievers of course carry on their ordinary activities of life apart from Christ. Rather, it means “nothing of eternal value,” or an inability to produce spiritual fruit.

[18] Romans 12:2 ESV.

[19] ESV study notes.