5 Simple Checks for Discerning the Will of God Dr. Craig Kraft
/ Monday, May 15, 2023
Acts 13:1-4 describes the church in Antioch. They were worshipping, fasting, and praying, and the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
When I was still pastoring in a local congregation, I was often asked how we can know when God is calling or leading us in a new direction. The pages of scripture share stories of God writing on walls; sending angels; a voice; sending a personal messenger (prophets and Jesus Christ); or the voice of the Holy Spirit (as in Acts 13 above).
Discerning God’s voice in our world today can be challenging. With so many voices and distractions, how do we discern the will of God in our lives?
I have experienced some pretty profound, life-changing calls from God in my life. One of the first was when God called me into pastoral ministry. Fifteen years later, He called our family to leave our comfort and security to work cross-culturally as missionaries. All through our ministry, we have had times when the Lord has re-directed us in significant ways, including last October when He called us to take a new step of faith with our OC Global Alliance.
I have learned five simple checks that help me discern the path God is calling me to follow in life.
Five Simple Checks
1. Practice the Presence of God in My Life
As a follower of Jesus Christ, I need to make sure that I am following Christ. This isn’t a given. It is easy to say I am following Christ, but in reality, I am doing what I want to do. I struggle with this one every day of my life.
- Christians are called to walk in newness of life, setting aside our former sinful ways (Romans 6).
- Paul instructs us to surrender ourselves completely to God (Romans 12).
- Jesus called us to a life of obedience (Matthew 28:18-20).
Discerning the will of God begins with a posture of submission and recognition of the presence of God in my life. I often approach God with the expectation that he will bless or confirm my great ideas and plans, but to practice his presence means I must also anticipate his words of correction and redirection.
2. The Counsel of Scripture
God lays out a pretty good roadmap for us in scripture:
- He gave us the ten commandments and a basis for legal, moral, and ethical living.
- He has given us countless examples and testimonies of characters in scripture, some who followed well and others who failed.
- He has called us to be set apart and holy (1 Peter), he provides us with simple instructions like “Love one another” (1 John 4:7-8), and he gives us explicit instructions on how we should live our lives (Eph. 2:1-10; 1 Cor. 10:23-32; Rom. 6:1-14; and many more!).
God provides a lot of specific counsel about his desires for my life in the pages of his word. If I want to discern His path for my life, it must begin with studying and living in his word. We cannot know the will of God for our lives if we are not students of the Bible.
3. The Counsel of the Holy Spirit
Jesus said, “my sheep hear my voice” (Jn. 10:27).
Hearing his voice takes some discipline. I hear the voice of the Holy Spirit when I take the time to listen. It is usually accompanied in scripture with a lot of prayer (Acts 13). When I am listening for the Holy Spirit, I don’t usually hear an audible voice, but I know when he has spoken to me, it usually comes with a great feeling of peace. God gives me peace, even if it is in the pursuit of a new and unknown path.
I have also learned to ask God for multiple confirmations of His will in my life. His confirmations have been as powerful as a very specific prophetic message from a pastor or as subtle as a coincidental street sign. I have never experienced the silent treatment from God when I have sought him sincerely in prayer and taken the time to listen and watch for his confirmation or correction.
4. The Counsel of my Peers
Proverbs 11:14 states, “Where ether is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”
There are times in life when God calls leaders to do something that no one else can understand like Noah in the Old Testament and Peter or Paul in the New Testament (Acts 10 + Acts 20:17-21:16).
However, in my life God has always confirmed his leading in my life through the people who are close to me. My father and brother were not happy when God led me to take my family away to Africa, but they were affirming and saw that it was God’s plan for us. When God reveals his will for our lives, he usually confirms that in the people who are close to us, as he did for the Apostles in Acts 6, Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13:1-4.
5. Is it a Good Fit?
There are times when God calls for something unexpected or miraculous, like when He called Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery, but the New Testament tells us that God has blessed us with unique gifts and talents (Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Cor. 12). God creates us and blesses us with the tools, gifts, and interests that will enable us to be whom He wants us to be, and do what He wants us to do.
The writer of Psalm 37 indicates that when we delight in the Lord, He gives us the desires of our heart. God created us for happiness, and the fruits of the Spirit demonstrate a live lived with joy and peace. God’s will for my life aligns with the passions, gifts, and talents he has blessed me with. He has created me to be a healthy, thriving, happy, fulfilled member of the body of Christ.
There are many great guides for discerning the will of God for our lives, but these five simple checks have been my faithful friends through an exciting life and career of serving God. There have been times when I have been resistant and think I see a better or easier path, but they don’t lead to joy and fulfillment. My uncle once told me, “Craig, If your greatest desire is to be at the center of God’s will, then you are probably there.”
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.” - Proverbs 3:5-6
Dr. Craig Kraft is the Executive Director of Outreach Canada. After 15 years of pastoral ministry in western Canada, Craig, with his wife, Heather, served with OC in southern Africa before returning to lead the ministry in Canada. Craig is a graduate of Northwest Baptist Seminary at ACTS and a graduate of Asia Graduate School of Theology with a Doctor of Intercultural Studies. His study has focused on diaspora missiology in Canada. His dissertation explores the potential for revitalizing Canadian churches through the practice of biblical hospitality with refugees and immigrants. Craig loves to watch sports, work in the yard & spend time in the woods.