In Self-help Part 1 I talked about the quote “God helps those who helps themselves”.
The main points were:
- This quote is not from the Bible,
- We shouldn’t and can’t really help ourselves outside of God’s plan, and
- We shouldn’t sit back and do nothing while waiting on God to make His move.
- Finally, the quote was updated to the more correct “God helps us to help ourselves“
So the question still remains:
How do we know what God wills us to help ourselves with?
The issue of doing God’s will is a challenging one for a lot of people, myself included. I’ve been asked by at least two friends recently how we can tell what God wants us to do. I personally have never heard God explicitly say “Beloved child, do X” That would make life super-easy, but would result in no maturation on our parts! For me personally, I have a few principles I try to apply in determining what God wants me to do in a situation:
If the Word explicitly says what to do, do it.
This one is pretty easy in terms of knowing if what you are doing is right or wrong. Knowing what is right is easy, doing it is tough! Often I know what is the right thing to do but don’t feel like doing it. We should try not to live by our feelings though, but by our principles. For example: you might not feel like being nice to a person who hurt you deeply, but God’s word says to love your enemies. No matter how much this person hurt you, shower them with love (note God isn’t asking you to go out of your way to be nice to the person or to even like the person, just to love them and be a good neighbour if and when the situation arises.)
Let peace decide.
If you don’t have peace about doing something, don’t do it. I like the amplified version of Colossians 3:16
And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually)
in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds,
in that peaceful state] to which as [members of Christ’s] one body you were also called [to live].
And be thankful (appreciative), [giving praise to God always].
Whenever I have a tough decision to make, and I really am torn about what to do, I look for that feeling of peace. You may not like the decision but it’s the right one when God sends peace after making it. The last part of the verse is important too. Continue to be thankful no matter what situation you are in. Thank God for all the things that are right in your life instead of focussing on the difficulty of your decision.
Pray for wisdom specific to the situation.
Here’s a prayer that is guaranteed by God to be answered once we ask in faith.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. – James 1:5-6
When I have no idea what to do in a situation, when I’m unsure about something, or when I feel totally lost, I always pray for specific wisdom. For example, I’m in the process of preparing a huge document but did not know where to start. I asked God specifically for wisdom concerning where to begin and how much time to spend on each part of the project. Thankfully, my prayer was answered almost immediately. However, this verse does not say when God will send his wisdom. Sometimes you may actually need to go through a process to gain that wisdom. The process is useful because you learn and mature along the way, which is usually preparation for future promotion. Other times you miraculously just wake up with an answer. In both cases, God will grant you wisdom in perfect time once you prayed faithfully.
Loving God, loving yourself and loving others.
This one is just a bonus. Sometimes we just don’t have the answer. We have no idea what to do. In some difficult situations, I have felt like the Bible does not say something specific to my situation, no decision seems peaceful, and I’ve prayed for wisdom but have not received it yet. The situation thus becomes a waiting game and an exercise in patience. What do I do while waiting? I go back to number 1…
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40
If you are going to do what is right, it hangs on loving God and loving your neighbour. While waiting for answers from God, take your mind off the situation by going out and doing something nice for someone. Be a blessing to a person in need, or a person close to you that you might be taking for granted. In my experience the answers usually come when you’re distracted in being kind, which is a double reward.
I hope this helps with the tough decisions coming your way!