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How to Know God's Will

(Principles of Divine Guidance)

Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
Preventive Medicine

Increasing Need for Guidance

Often the greatest obstacles, and the most menacing dangers in life, lie on the very threshold of success. Life has been compared to an ocean voyage with heaven as its goal. With the return of Jesus so near, our greatest dangers lie just ahead. Consider how many a ship has been wrecked within sight of the harbor, because of failure to heed the warnings or to follow the channel. Just so, many a professed Christian today is making shipwreck of his soul. This need not be; for every facility that Heaven can offer has been provided to make his passage sure. Ponder this list:

Sources of Help and Guidance

  • The Holy Spirit—just for the asking (Luke 11:13, [last part]; John 16:13)
  • The sinless angels—sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:14)
  • The Holy Bible—an authoritative textbook that is able to make one wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15)
  • Godly men and women—to go to for counsel (Prov. 11:14)
  • The voice of duty—which is the voice of God, an inborn, heaven-sent guide (CH 562:2)
  • The book of nature—that testifies of the wisdom, the love, and the power of God (Rom. 1:20; PP 48)
  • The book of God's providences—a chronicle of Divine interventions and favors in life (Rom. 8:28)
  • The book of God's dealings in the lives of men and of nations—evidence of Divine control over the forces of evil (19MR 281)
  • The Spirit of Prophecy—a modern inspired commentary on the Bible, which meets the conditions of this generation (Rev. 12:17; 1 Cor. 1:6-8)
  • The church—God's voice of authority on earth (Matt. 18:18; 3T 492 cf; 9T 260; 4T 17:2; 5T 243)
  • Jesus—our Advocate and surety before the bar of God (Heb. 4:14-16; 7:25)

God's great love for you! What an array of special help and guidance! If a toy sailboat were to break loose from its owner and be driven beyond his reach, it is not likely that a whole navy would be dispatched to retrieve it. But if it were the royal yacht in the hands of mutineers, making their getaway with the crown prince as hostage, such an action might be expected! Every spiritual resource of heaven and earth has been dedicated for your eternal welfare. In a special sense you are a child of the King, ransomed by the precious blood of Jesus. The very magnitude of the rescue operation testifies how much God loves you! In the sight of heaven you are priceless. Before the foundations of the world were laid, God formulated certain plans, the unfolding of which are uniquely you. Every member of your body is written in His book. In His infinite heart exists a vacancy, which only you can fill. He desires to have eternal fellowship with you. By beholding Him and being taught of Him you may develop a life that will measure with His. This high destiny you may attain through communion with Him—your Maker and your King.

God's Special Place for You

Because you are unique and infinitely precious to God, He loves you so much that He would have sent His only begotten Son to this world to die for you, even if you were the only one who had fallen by sin. He has a place for you already prepared in the mansions above. And just as surely as He has a place for you up there, He has a special place where He wants you to serve Him in this present world. (COL 326.4) That you might recognize that place and know how to do that work, it is essential that you become informed and trained on how to be a worker together with God in the guidance of your soul.

A Divine Science

To obtain this skill is to learn the first great lesson of all education—“To know and understand the will of God.” (CT 447)

It is a divine science, governed by lofty principles, which are as much “higher than any human science as the heavens are higher than the earth.” (MH 453, 454) Those who master this science will be granted “power for the attainment of measureless results.” (RH, January 5, 1911) “There is no limit to the usefulness of those who put self to one side, make room for the working of the Holy Spirit upon their hearts, and live lives wholly consecrated to God, enduring the necessary discipline imposed by the Lord without complaining or fainting by the way. If they will not faint at the rebuke of the Lord, and become hardhearted and stubborn, the Lord will teach both old and young, hour by hour, day by day.” (CT 409)The following choice quotations are offered as steps in the science of how to know God's will.

  1. Commit yourself wholly to God:
    “He who will give himself fully to God, will be guided by the divine hand.” (AA 283:3)
    “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” (Ps. 66:18)
    “Until you have the resolution to obey God's will you cannot have His guidance.” (5T 511)
    “Says the Scripture, ‘The meek will He guide in judgment; and the meek will He teach His way.’ (Psalms 25:9)
    The meek are guided by the Lord, because they are teachable, willing to be instructed. They have a sincere desire to know and to do the will of God. The Saviour's promise is, ‘If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine.’ (John 7:17)
    And He declares by the apostle James, ‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.’ (James 1:5)
    But His promise is only to those who are willing to follow the Lord wholly.” (PP 384)
  2. Ask the Lord in faith:
    “Without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6)
    “If today we would take time to go to Jesus and tell Him our needs, we should not be disappointed; He would be at our right hand to help us. We need more simplicity, more trust and confidence in our Saviour.... We are invited to ask wisdom of Him.” (DA 363)
    “Had Elisha asked Elijah what was expected of him,—what would be his work,—he would have been answered: God knows; He will make it known to you. If you wait upon the Lord, He will answer your every question.” (PK 220, 221)
    “We may... take hold of the Strong for strength. But we are not to place the responsibility of our duty upon others, and wait for them to tell us what to do. We cannot depend for counsel upon humanity. The Lord will teach us our duty just as willingly as He will teach somebody else. If we come to Him in faith, He will speak His mysteries to us personally. Our hearts will often burn within us as One draws nigh to commune with us as He did with Enoch. Those who decide to do nothing in any line that will displease God, will know, after presenting their case before Him, just what cause to pursue. And they will receive not only wisdom, but strength. Power for obedience, for service, will be imparted to them, as Christ has promised.” (DA 668)
    “I hope that the Lord will give Elder __ clear light in regard to his post of duty. It is a man's privilege to know for himself whether he is in the right place, without depending on any other man's preferences or decisions as to where he shall devote his energies. Everything is to be carefully considered. Brother __ should take the matter to the Lord, and then decide for himself what the Lord says to His servant.” (Spaulding-Magan Unpublished Manuscript Testimonies, 196)
    “In the secret place of prayer, where no eye but God's can see, no ear but His can hear, we may pour out our most hidden desires and longings to the Father of infinite pity, and in the hush and silence of the soul that voice which never fails to answer the cry of human need will speak to our hearts.” (MB 84:3)
  3. Study God's word:
    “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) “The Bible is the great standard of right and wrong, clearly defining sin and holiness.... Its teachings have a vital bearing upon our prosperity in all the relations of life. Even in our temporal affairs, it will be a wiser guide than any other counselor. Its divine instruction points the only way to true success.” (CT 422)
    “The more room one shall give for the entrance of the Word of God, the more he is enriched intellectually as well as spiritually. He will have a clearer and less biased judgment and his views will be more comprehensive.” (Heavenly Places, 139)
    “Every day you should learn something new from the Scriptures. Search them as for hid treasures, for they contain the words of eternal life.” (5T 266)
    “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (II Cor. 2:9, 10)
  4. Respect wise counsel:
    “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors, there is safety.” (Prov. 11:14) “True, refined independence never disdains to seek counsel of the experienced and of the wise, and it treats the counsel of others with respect.” (4T 240:1)
    “God has invested His church with special authority and power, which no one can be justified in disregarding and despising; for he who does this despises the voice of God.... To neglect or despise those whom God has appointed to bear the responsibilities of leadership in connection with the advancement of the truth, is to reject the means that He has ordained for the help, encouragement, and strength of His people. For any worker in the Lord's cause to pass these by, and to think that his light must come through no other channel than directly from God, is to place himself in a position where he is liable to be deceived by the enemy, and overthrown. The Lord in His wisdom has arranged that by means of the close relationship that should be maintained by all believers, Christian shall be united to Christian, and church to church. Thus the human instrumentality will be enabled to co-operate with the divine.” (AA 163)
    “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:19)
  5. Examine motive:
    “Those who are truly consecrated to God will not enter the work prompted by the same motive which leads men to engage in worldly business, merely for the sake of a livelihood, but they will enter the work allowing no worldly consideration to control them, realizing that the cause of God is sacred.” (MYP 186)
    “There is no help for man, woman, or child, who will not hear and obey the voice of duty; for the voice of duty is the voice of God. The eyes, the ears, and the heart, will become unimpressible if men and women refuse to give heed to the divine counsel, and choose the way that is best pleasing to themselves.” (SD 175:3)
    “But many experience grief, pain, and disappointment, because they are unwilling to fill the humble place which God's providence assigns them, where they will remain unnoticed and unknown.... He invites those who are ambitious of preferment to come unto Him, and at the foot of the cross of Calvary learn His meekness and lowliness of heart. If any desire high positions of trust, the Lord will lay the burden, not on them, but on those who have tested and proved them, and can understandingly urge them forward.” (RH July 1, 1884, par. 14)
    “Every Christian will be assailed by the allurements of the world, the clamors of the carnal nature, and the direct temptations of Satan. No one is safe. No matter what our experience has been, no matter how high our station, we need to watch and pray continually. We must be daily controlled by the Spirit of God, or we are controlled by Satan.” (5T 102)
  6. Trust in the Lord:
    “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” (Prov. 3:5, 6 - RSV)
    “Man's only security against rash, ambitious movements is to keep the heart in harmony with Christ Jesus. Man's wisdom is untrustworthy. Man is fickle, filled with self-esteem, pride, and selfishness. Let the workers doing God's service trust wholly in the Lord.” (8T 106)
    “It was not His good pleasure that they (Israel) should wander so long in the wilderness; He would have brought them immediately to the Promised Land had they submitted and loved to be led by Him; but because they so often grieved Him in the desert, He sware in His wrath that they should not enter into His rest, save two who wholly followed Him. God required His people to trust in Him alone.” (1T 281)
    “When men think the Lord has made a mistake in their individual cases, and they appoint their own work, they will meet with disappointment.” (FW 27.1)
    “Go forth, young disciples of Christ, controlled by principle, clad in the robes of purity and righteousness. Your Saviour will guide you into the position best suited to your talents and where you can be most useful.” (5T 87.3)
  7. Know God's place for you. Here's how:
    “He gives ‘to every man his work.’ Each has his place in the eternal plan of heaven. Each is to work in co-operation with Christ for the salvation of souls. Not more surely is the place prepared for us in the heavenly mansions than is the special place designated on earth where we are to work for God.” (COL 326.4)
    “If we surrender our lives to His service, we can never be placed in a position for which God has not made provision. Whatever may be our situation, we have a Guide to direct our way; whatever our perplexities, we have a sure Counselor… If in our ignorance we make missteps, Christ does not leave us. His voice, clear and distinct, is heard saying, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.’” (COL 173)
    “Each one has his sphere, and if the human agent makes God his counselor then there will be no working at cross purposes with God. He allots to every one a place and a work, and if we individually submit ourselves to be worked by the Lord, however confused and tangled life may seem to our eyes, God has a purpose in it all, and the human machinery, obedient under the hand of divine wisdom, will accomplish the purposes of God.” (Heavenly Places 228)
    “The natural aptitudes indicate the direction of the lifework, and, when legitimate, should be carefully cultivated.” (Ed. 232.4) “Different qualifications are needed for different departments of the work. The carpenter is not fitted to work at the anvil, nor the blacksmith to use the plane. The merchant would be out of place beside the sickbed, and the doctor in the counting room…. ‘To every man his work.’” (5T 184)
    “To every nation and to every individual of today God has assigned a place in His great plan.” (Ed 178)
    “The voice of duty is the voice of God—an inborn, heaven-sent guide. Whether it be pleasing or unpleasing, we are to do the duty that lies directly in our pathway. If the Lord would have us bear a message to Nineveh, it will not be pleasing to Him for us to go to Joppa or Capernaum. God has reasons for sending us to the place to which our feet are directed. . . .” (Heavenly Places 226)
    “We need to follow more closely God's plan of life. To do our best in the work that lies nearest, to commit our ways to God, and to watch for the indications of His providence—these are rules that ensure safe guidance in the choice of an occupation.” (Ed 267)
    “As servants of Christ we should be faithful in the position where God sees that we can render most efficient service. If opportunities of greater usefulness are presented to us, we should accept them at the Master's bidding, and His approving smile will be upon us. But we should fear to leave our appointed work unless the Lord clearly indicates our duty to serve Him in another field.” (5T 184)
    “Many are still tested as was Abraham. They do not hear the voice of God speaking directly from the heavens, but He calls them by the teachings of His word and the events of His providence. They may be required to abandon a career that promises wealth and honor, to leave congenial and profitable associations and separate from kindred, to enter upon what appears to be only a path of self-denial, hardship, and sacrifice. God has a work for them to do; but a life of ease and the influence of friends and kindred would hinder the development of the very traits essential for its accomplishment. He calls them away from human influences and aid, and leads them to feel the need of His help, and to depend upon Him alone, that He may reveal Himself to them.” (PP 126.4)
    “Who is ready at the call of Providence to renounce cherished plans and familiar associations? Who will accept new duties and enter untried fields, doing God's work with firm and willing heart, for Christ's sake counting his losses gain? He who will do this has the faith of Abraham, and will share with him that ‘far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,’ with which ‘the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared.’” (PP 127)
    “Every true, self-sacrificing worker for God is willing to spend and be spent for the sake of others. Christ says: ‘He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.’ John 12:25. By earnest, thoughtful efforts to help where help is needed, the true Christian shows his love for God and for his fellow beings. He may lose his life in service; but when Christ comes to gather His jewels to Himself, he will find it again.” (9T 56)
  8. Make no plans of your own:
    “Many are unable to make definite plans for the future. Their life is unsettled. They cannot discern the outcome of affairs, and this often fills them with anxiety and unrest. Let us remember that the life of God's children in this world is a pilgrim life. We have not wisdom to plan our own lives. It is not for us to shape our future. ‘By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.’ Hebrews 11:8.” (MH 478, 479)
    “Christ in His life on earth made no plans for Himself. He accepted God's plans for Him, and day by day the Father unfolded His plans. So should we depend upon God, that our lives may be the simple outworking of His will. As we commit our ways to Him, He will direct our steps.” (MH 479)
    “It was no light test that was thus brought upon Abraham, no small sacrifice that was required of him. There were strong ties to bind him to his country, his kindred, and his home. But he did not hesitate to obey the call. He had no question to ask concerning the land of promise—whether the soil was fertile and the climate healthful; whether the country afforded agreeable surroundings and would afford opportunities for amassing wealth. God has spoken, and His servant must obey; the happiest place on earth for him was the place where God would have him to be.” (PP 126)
    “The Lord gave you your work, not to be done in a rush, but in a calm, considerate manner. The Lord never compels hurried, complicated movements. But you have gathered to yourself responsibilities that the Lord, the merciful Father, does not place upon you. Duties He never ordained that you should perform chase one another wildly. Never are His servants to leave one duty marred or incomplete in order to seize hold of another. He who labors in the calmness of the fear of God will not work in a haphazard manner, for fear that something will hinder an anticipated plan.” (8T 189)
  9. Impulse, impressions, chance methods, and signs are unreliable:
    “Beware how you follow impulse, calling it the Holy Spirit.” (8T 296)
    “Be careful how you move. Make straight paths for your feet. Close the door to unbelief and make God your strength. If perplexed, hold still; make no move in the dark…. Wait, and God will help you. Be patient, and the clear light will appear. If you yield to impressions you will lose your soul, and the soul is of great value with God.” (5T 572)
    “He (Satan) led many on... to be governed by impressions. The Lord requires His people to use their reason, and not lay it aside for impressions.... God's power is not manifested upon every occasion.” (1T 230)
    “You endeavor to reach correct decisions regarding religious duties, and to make decisions regarding business enterprises, by the tossing up of a coin, and letting the position in which it falls decide what course you shall pursue. I am instructed to say that we are not to give encouragement to any such methods…. Such a course is well pleasing to the enemy of souls; for he works to control the coin, and through its agency works out his plans. Let none be so easily deceived as to place confidence in any such tests.” (2SM 325, 326)
    “With some the evil [a certain instance of fanaticism] has revealed itself in the form of man-made tests for ascertaining a knowledge of the will of God.... If we follow such methods, we shall be found aiding the enemy's plans…. In times past certain among the believers…had such confidence in these signs that men went so far as to exchange wives, thus bringing adultery into the church.” (2SM 28)
    “The Lord requires us to obey the voice of duty, when there are other voices all around us urging us to pursue an opposite course…. We must resist and conquer inclination, and obey the voice of conscience without parleying or compromise, lest its promptings cease and will and impulse control.” (5T 69)
  10. Expect trials:
    “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 4:12, 13)
    “The very trials that test our faith most severely, and make it seem that God has forsaken us, are designed to lead us more closely to Christ, that we may lay all our burdens at His feet and experience the peace He will give us in exchange.” (4T 220)
    “When the purging comes, we frequently feel that the Lord is against us. Instead of this we should look to ourselves and see if there is not something we have left undone or something we need to take away from our lives before we can stand in right relation to God....” (OHC 144)
    “No one need say that his case is hopeless, that he cannot live the life of a Christian. Ample provision is made by the death of Christ for every soul. Jesus is our ever-present help in time of need. Only call upon Him in faith, and He has promised to hear and answer your petitions.
    “Oh, for a living, active faith! We need it; we must have it, or we shall faint and fail in the day of trial. The darkness that will then rest upon our path must not discourage us or drive us to despair. It is the veil with which God covers His glory when He comes to impart rich blessings. We should know this by our past experience. In that day when God has a controversy with His people this experience will be a source of comfort and hope.” (5T 215)
    “God's children are always being tested in the furnace of affliction. If they endure the first trial, it is not necessary for them to pass through a similar ordeal the second time; but if they fail, the trial is brought to them again and again, each time being still more trying and severe. Thus opportunity after opportunity is placed before them of gaining the victory and proving themselves true to God. But if they continue to manifest rebellion, God is compelled at last to remove His Spirit and light from them.” (4BC 1146)
    “We have nothing to fear for the future except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us.” (TM 31)
    “He [God] has a song to teach us, and when we have learned it amid the shadows of affliction we can sing it ever afterward.” (MH 472)
  11. Look for His leading:
    “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with Mine eye.” (Ps. 32: 8)
    “When Peter said he would follow his Lord to prison and to death, he meant it, every word of it; but he did not know himself.” (DA 673)
    “God has given to every man his work. Let us each wait on God, and He will teach us how to work and what work we are best adapted to perform. Yet none are to start out in an independent spirit to promulgate new theories. The workers should be in harmony with the truth and with their brethren. There should be counsel and co-operation. But they are not to feel that at every step they must wait to ask some higher officer if they may do this or that. Look not to man for guidance, but to the God of Israel.” (5T 463)
    “But the Lord has promised to give light to those who seek Him with the whole heart. If we will but wait patiently and prayerfully upon God, and not follow our own impetuous plans, He will guide our decisions and open many doors of hope and labor.” (TM 211)
    “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and to the left.” (Isa. 30:21)
  12. Then, go forward in faith:
    “When he [Christ] points out a work to be done, in his name and with full faith take up that work. You may not see the end from the beginning. Perplexities may surround you….go forward, saying, The Lord wants this work done, and I will act my part faithfully. I will not fail nor be discouraged…. It is not our efforts that bring victory; it is seeing God behind the promise, and believing and trusting him…. Questions will arise that can not be settled by any amount of thinking. Do not spend time trying to settle them. Take up the work waiting to be done, trusting in God. His righteousness will go before you, and the questions that have troubled you will answer themselves.” (RH December 29, 1910)
    “The cause of God demands men who can see quickly and act instantaneously at the right time and with power. If you wait to measure every difficulty and balance every perplexity you meet you will do but little…. Sometimes various ways and purposes… are about evenly balanced in the mind; but it is at this very point that the nicest discrimination is necessary. And if anything is accomplished to the purpose it must be done at the golden moment. The slightest inclination of the weight in the balance should be seen and should determine the matter at once. Long delays tire the angels. It is even more excusable to make a wrong decision sometimes than to be continually in a wavering position, to be hesitating, sometimes inclined in one direction, then in another. More perplexity and wretchedness result from thus hesitating and doubting than from sometimes moving too hastily.” (3T 497)
    “Things will go wrong because of unconsecrated workers. You may shed tears over the result of this; but don't worry. The blessed Master has all His work from end to end under His masterly supervision. All He asks is that the workers shall come to Him for their orders, and obey His directions. Everything—our churches, our missions, our Sabbath schools, our institutions—is carried upon His divine heart. Why worry? The intense longing to see the church a living and shining light as God designs it shall be, must be tempered with entire trust in God.” (ChS 243)
    “God is at the head of the work, and He will set everything in order. If matters need adjusting at the head of the work, God will attend to that, and work to right every wrong. Let us have faith that God is going to carry the noble ship which bears the people of God safely into port.” (2SM 390)
    “If you wait for light to come in a way that will please everyone, you will wait in vain. If you wait for louder calls or better opportunities, the light will be withdrawn, and you will be left in darkness. Accept every ray of light that God sends. Men who neglect to heed the calls of the Spirit and word of God, because obedience involves a cross, will lose their souls.” (5T 720)
  13. Satisfaction guaranteed:
    “God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning.” (MH 479)
    “There is a company who will stand upon Mount Zion, and we want you to be determined that you will be among that company. You will have trials here, but be determined that you will have a home in the city of God.” (RH May 10, 1887)
    The beacon lights of prophecy tell us that we are near our desired haven. The port we are about to enter requires a special Harbor Pilot to whom we must give full control. He knows the channel perfectly, and every hidden rock and shoal. The very winds that threaten to sink your frail vessel He will use to guide you safely to your goal. He hath said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Heb. 13:5)
    “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” (Rev. 22:12)

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