There is no set formula for discovering God’s will. Instead, consider this discovery like viewing a constellation. When we look into the night sky, we need to see clusters of stars to view a constellation. Only by looking at the overall group of stars will we see Orion or the Big Dipper. Focusing on one star does not give us the big picture.
In the same way, discerning God’s will involves looking at the big picture. When all of the “stars” come into view, we begin to understand the big picture we call the personal will of God for us. Here are eight “stars” that contribute to this big picture:
1. BIBLICAL GUIDANCE
God will never ask us to do something contrary to his Word, but he demands obedience in the clearly revealed things, and obedience to the commission to make disciples may thrust us out.
2. THE OPINION AND COUNSEL OF OTHERS
Especially older, wiser leaders who know us well. If many people around us commend us on our cross-cultural sensitivity and encourage us to pursue international service, maybe God is speaking through them.
3. GIFTS AND ABILITIES
God has entrusted us with certain unique personal resources. How will we use them?
4. OPPORTUNITIES AND SITUATIONS
If our job asks us to take an overseas position or our church leaders invite us on a short-term mission trip, God might be speaking to us.
A veteran missionary once told me that my desire to travel might be God’s way of directing me toward service.
Taking steps of faith in one direction can help us affirm God’s will as he either redirects us or confirms the direction we take. The Student Volunteer Movement taught that we all should take steps toward cross-cultural service until God called us to stay home: “planning to go, but willing to stay.”
While it is not the only star in the picture, it certainly shines brightly. God may use our knowledge of people without Jesus to compel us out. This certainly motivated Paul (Romans 15:20; 1 Corinthians 9:16-17) and many of the great leaders of missions history. When Cam Townsend met people who did not have the Bible in their mother tongue, God called him to learn their language and translate the Bible. He later founded what is now the Wycliffe Bible Translators.
8. MIRACULOUS MEANS
In her book on God’s guidance, A Slow and Certain Light, Elisabeth Elliot includes angels, dreams, audible and visible signs, and prophecies as ways that God guided in the Scriptures and how he might guide us today.
Whatever the picture, we are all called to obey. But how do we get started? Go to urbana.org for three action steps that may help you find out where God might be calling you globally.
This article is adapted from How to be a World Class Christian by Paul Borthwick (Biblica, 2009), and first appeared on urbana.org.