What Do I Need to Know to Know God's Will? Spiritual Awareness

This post is about the second pillar of knowing God's Will. You can find the first pillar, "The Most Important Thing" here. This series is composed of seven parts, which lay the essential foundation for knowing God's will and recognizing his presence. 

What do I need to know in order to know God's Will? Have you ever wondered that? Some people never even ask the question. Others might ask, but the only answer they can offer is some version of "do your homework and just do something." It's better than nothing, but it's not really helpful. There is also some point in every person's life when they feel the need for more specific guidance from God. Usually, these are situations where the decision is not 'right vs. wrong' but 'better v. best.'

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I remember one specific time we were faced with a better v. best decision. Whitney and I had been married less than a year. I had been working at Starbucks and Whitney at a crisis pregnancy center, while we both lived with her parents. We knew that we could not stay in that setup forever, we had to make some move to help us move forward in life. Having eliminated a number of different options, we had decided that I would go back to graduate school at one of two schools. These were different schools with distinct strengths and unique weaknesses. 

How did we make this decision? We prayed. We listened. We talked to mentors, pastors, and family members. We also took a lot of time to pay attention to how we felt about either option. While we cannot follow our desires uncritically, what is often left under the banner of "desires" or "feelings" is the presence and work of the Spirit. 

If you want to learn how to recognize God's leading in your life and his will for you, then you have to learn to pay attention to what's going on inside you. 

Even someone who is relatively new to the Christian faith would recognize Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22:37 — “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” The main purpose in Jesus’ statement is to communicate the holistic nature of discipleship. But it also tells us something important about the nature of any one human being. '

We are more than what James K.A. Smith calls “brains on a stick.” We are more than our emotions or our bodies. An accurate and complete view of any one person according to the Bible is that there are several components. Believe it or not, some theologians spend parts of their careers debating whether the Bible presents men and women as two-parts (dichotomous = body and mind/spirit) or three-parts (trichotomous = body, mind, and spirit). Going any deeper into that subject will get us far afield of our focus. The main idea is to recognize that God made men and women with multiple parts and that we can discern where something is happening within ourselves. In other words, referring back to Jesus’ statement, we can ask ourselves, “Am I loving God with my mind? What about my body? My soul?"

Here's a simple way to let God teach you "spiritual intelligence": pray Psalm 139:23-24.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
— Psalm 139:23-24

These two simple verses can become a powerful invitation for God to show you more about yourself and his presence with you. The first few times you pray these verses, you may recognize that you are praying them with some insincerity. You're afraid for God to really search you because you know the dark stuff hiding in there! Remember: fear is not from God (2 Timothy 1:7).

Anything unsavory that God uncovers is to free you from it, not to shame you. It may help you to read and meditate on Zechariah 3:1-5 before praying Psalm 139:23-24. Satan accuses and shames. God reveals and sets free. 

As you begin to pray this verse and practice this spiritual discipline of spiritual intelligence, what do you feel God is beginning to show you about yourself?

Please feel free to share in the comments.