Thanks to Nancy Movick for another thoughtful response
Q: God’s Will – Does God’s will extend to “smaller” life decisions, such as working/staying at home with children/buying a specific house/which ministry opportunity to serve, etc. or is His will primarily to love and serve Him and each other, to spread His message to others, to live a holy life, etc.? If it does extend to the more nuanced and detailed levels of our lives, how to we discern what His will is in those circumstances? How do we separate whether we are hearing our own will/opinion/desires from His, even as we seek his guidance and the leading of the Holy Spirit?
A: This is a question I have pondered often. Perhaps I can try to flesh it out in a few different ways. To begin with, I think it is important to remember that we are beings that grow and mature. I relate to my children differently as young adults than I did when they were toddlers. I believe God relates differently with us in our different stages of spiritual maturity as well.
With spiritual maturity we become more familiar to the will of God because we become more familiar with God himself. He places passions in our hearts and burdens us with the things that grieve him so that we are compelled to rise up and fight injustice and spread love.
In some cases God’s voice in audible, but more often we discern God’s will through times of contemplation and quiet communion with him. It is often in these moments that he brings clarity of thought or new vision to a situation. 1 Kings describes a time when Elijah experienced God’s voice in a quiet whisper. (See 1 Kings 19:11-3.)
Regularly reading the scriptures increases our familiarity with who God is and what God calls his followers to do and be. Even familiar verses or stories can sometimes surprise us with new insight into where God is leading us or how he is challenging us to change.
Another critical habit of discerning the voice of God is to process what we hear and believe within a trusted community of believers. This creates an environment of accountability. This accountability allows us to test and approve what we believe is God’s will.
Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
So to try to answer your question, whether we should seek God’s will in all things, the answer is yes. However, I would also say that as we mature spiritually we begin to intrinsically know the answers to many of our questions based on what we know about God. As we mature, we gain wisdom about what is good and pleasing to our Father and learn how to bring glory to his name with our actions, words, and thoughts.
I believe following Jesus is like pedaling a bike. The right pedal is the listening pedal (prayer, contemplations, scripture reading, and seeking godly advice). When we avail ourselves to these ways of listening to God we learn to discern God’s voice in our spirit. This pedal is incredibly important because without it we make decisions based on our will and our desires or the will and desires of the world around us. This is not only disobedient, but also destructive.
The left pedal is the remember pedal. Like the story of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, God asks us to use common sense, be brave, creative, and wise and measure things by what we know about his character.
John 14:26 “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
This pedal too is incredibly important. Without it, we end up sitting and waiting for exact instruction from God when he has already made it clear that we have been sent to do his good works.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
We must learn to trust in the things he has already taught us and move forward with caution and confidence. Martin Luther put it this way: “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.” 2 Timothy 1:7 challenges us even further, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”
We must pedal both pedals to move forward. Pedaling only one pedal will result in going around in circles and getting nowhere.
I hope this helps.