I Felt Led To…

  (This is a slightly edited re-post from May, 2011)

Common phrases in evangelicalism today include “I felt led to…”, “God told me to….”, and “The Lord laid it on my heart to….”  I cringe every time someone uses these phrases because I’ve heard so many unbiblical endings to them.  In fact, I’ve seen people’s lives take a million tough twists and turns because they were “following the promptings of God.”  For one example, I hesitate to think that God would “prompt” somebody to avoid the ER when their daughter gets a deep cut that probably needs stitches. 

If I can speak candidly, I believe this has to do with lack of biblical knowledge.  Sinclair Ferguson says that perhaps one reason why our Christian forefathers rarely wrote about finding God’s will is because they knew the Bible better than most Christians today know it.  “They concentrated on teaching themselves and others the will of God which they discovered in Scripture, and the life of obedience to God in a daily submission to and application of his truth.” 

What is God’s will for us?  To know his word (cf. Ps 119, Ps 143:10), to grow in godliness, faith, and obedience (sanctification – cf. 1 Thes. 4.3), and to give thanks always (1 Thes. 5.18).  Instead of going by our gut feelings, promptings, or some kind of leading, we go by the word first and foremost.  God’s will is that we obey his law – our duty is to know it, study it, and meditate on it (Ps 119).  We do not and cannot know the big part of God’s will that is secret, but we can and should know the part that is revealed in the Bible (Deut. 29.29).

Ferguson says it well.  He writes that our own thinking that has to do with discerning God’s will.

“Do you speak about God’s guidance as ‘discerning the will of God?’  Or, do you usually speak of it in terms of ‘I felt led to do it?’  Guidance, knowing God’s will for our lives, is much more a matter of thinking than feeling.  We are not to be ‘foolish’ (literally ‘mindless’) says Paul, but to understand what the will of the Lord is (Eph. 5.17).”

That’s exactly right.  The Christian life doesn’t need to be a constant, subjective, and often frustrating attempt to step into God’s will (whatever that means).  We don’t need to treat scripture like a lottery system (in John Newton’s terms) and hope for some single random verse to spark a “prompting.”  We have God’s revealed will in the Old and New Testaments.  Our duty is not to pry into God’s secret will, but know his revealed will, both the law and the gospel, praying for the Spirit’s help in applying the word and giving us wisdom to make those tough choices in life.  We know the first Q/A of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, but we shouldn’t divorce it from the second Q/A!

In summary, instead of saying “God really spoke to my heart and told me…” we need to say this: “I prayed, read through God’s commandments and his promises, asked a few Christian friends, and these things helped me decide to take that job on the other side of town instead of move to another state.”

By the way, I highly recommend Ferguson’s book I quoted (pages 34-36): Discovering God’s Will.  In fact, since it is inexpensive, get two and give one to the next person who tells you that God has been prompting him to do something obviously unbiblical (and probably quite foolish).

shane lems

sunnyside wa

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8 comments on “I Felt Led To…

  1. msarbaz says:

    Reblogged this on I.M.P.A.C.T and commented:
    What is the will of God for my life? This is the question that most of Christians ask themselves. The will of God is His word and whatever He commands and promise. You don’t need to know more! Stop searching and fighting to know God’s will for your future. There would be no different between you and an atheist which seeks after fortune-teller…

  2. graceinmaine says:

    This is very foundational! This is great counsel for new believers as we disciple them into living lives of obedience. Thank you!
    Please read and follow my blog as well.http://graceinmaine.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/our-purpose-his-glory/

  3. gracememoir says:

    Reblogged this on Grace Memoirs and commented:
    Read this for your sanity’s sake, then refer to “Decision Making and the Will of God” for any more questions you may have (by Gary Friesen).

  4. […] I Felt Led To… (reformedreader.wordpress.com) […]

  5. […] Seminary California. He blogs, along with fellow classmate Andrew Compton, at Reformed Reader where this article first appeared: it is used with […]

  6. tomlassiter44 says:

    Thanks Shane. The book is definitely reasonable. As I was reading this post, I was reminded of a recent phone call I received from someone. He wanted me to give him a contact in Miami Florida. I had to ask him several times what he was doing way out there, but finally, very reluctantly, he said, “God told me to.” If he gets back safely, I may loan him Ferguson’s book.
    Also, as a side-note, one of your past posts caused me to reaquire a copy of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. You are absolutely correct. We should most definitely keep in mind the answer to question #2 of the Shorter Catechism: “The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.”

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