What do you think of these statements made to me by a Christian teenager? “I’m a Christian, and God won’t let me go wrong or make a wrong choice. Anyway, I’ve prayed about this, so God will keep me from ruining my life. Besides, all things work together for good.”

That sounds good, doesn’t it? Full of faith in God. Yet the remarks were made to justify a course of action which was extremely unwise, obviously against common sense. Some folks even talk that way to ra­tionalize actions which definitely contradict clear teaching from God’s word. .

Contrary to those seemingly Christian statements, scripture shows us numerous examples (and church history provides many more) of times when God’s people did go wrong and brought dishonor on the name of the Lord and disaster upon themselves. When Ananias and Sapphira lied to God and their fellow-disciples, and were struck dead for it, God used the incident to teach important lessons to those early believers. He brought some good results out of those startling events. Yet their sin still dishonored Christ, and their punishment was a disas­ter to the two of them.

Here are three simple but important guidelines for knowing God’s will and shaping our conduct.




We should urge our-young people to use their minds (and the minds and experiences of older people too) regarding decisions like their education (how much, what major field), career, friendships, courtship and marriage, service to God, general lifestyle, etc. And many older folks also need to examine or re-examine some of these basic questions.

Today many people act merely on impulse, not reason. Years ago when I was in the army, another fellow in my platoon was a constant complainer. Gripe, gripe, gripe all day long. Knowing he had signed up rather than being a draftee, I asked, “Don, if you hate the army so intensely, why in the world did you join up?” His answer still tickles me: “I joined the army because I got so tired of being bossed around at home and school. I had no freedom–they were always telling me what to do.” Wisdom tells us to look before we leap.

Sadly, today many Christians act mainly on impulse, not reason. (A key word there is “mainly”.) They are suspicious of thinking things through, instead basing their decisions on feelings or constantly looking for unusual experiences. Of course, Proverbs 3:5 does say, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own under­standing.” But the meaning of this is explained in verse 7: “Do not think how wise you are, but fear the Lord” (NEB). That is, verse 5 is not warning us against thinking in itself, but against conceited, self-­confident thinking, prayerless thinking, the absence of trusting God and seeking His direction. The book of Proverbs itself is full of wise advice on many subjects–family life, the use of money, business mat­ters, eating and overeating, sexual matters, reacting to enemies, etc. God intends us to form wise principles from His Word and apply them with clear thinking. Paul tells us, ”In thinking be mature.” Again he urges, “Be very careful how you live, not as unwise men but as sensi­ble ones. Do not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is” (1 Cor. 14:20; Eph. 5: 15,17).

James Packer has some straightforward advice for us about HIN­DRANCES to getting guidance from God:


1st, unwillingness to think. God made us thinking beings, and He guides our minds as in His presence we think things out–not otherwise. “0h that they were wise…that they would consider…” (Deut. 32:29).


2nd, unwillingness to think ahead, and weigh the long-term conse­quences of alternative courses of action. Often we can only see what is wise and right (and what is foolish and wrong) as we dwell on its long-term results. “0h that they were wise…that they would consider their latter end.”


3rd, unwillingness to take advice. Proverbs 12: 15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” We need to consider carefully the counsel of mature people, even if we cannot finally accept it.


4th, unwillingness to suspect oneself. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.” We dislike being realistic with ourselves. We recog­nize shallow reasoning or excuse-making when others do it, but over­look it in ourselves. This is especially true in matters related to courtship, sex and marriage. The joy and sense of well being that re­sult from being ‘in love’ can easily silence our conscience and prevent careful thinking. We need to ask ourselves why we “feel” a certain course of action is right, and make ourselves give reasons–praying, “Search me, 0h God, and know my heart, and lead me.” (Guidance and Wisdom)



Part of thinking wisely is to ask, “Is this course of action I am con­sidering right? Is it honest and fair? Honorable, loving and helpful? Or would even non-Christians realize that it flunks the test of ethical integ­rity? A sad chapter in the life of Abraham is recorded in Gen. 12, when he and his wife went to Egypt. Fearing he would be killed be­cause of her beauty, he instructed Sarai, “Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” What a wimp! What a failure of his faith in God and his love for Sarai. He acted cowardly, selfishly and deceitfully and he shamed himself and his God.



Of course it is possible sometimes to disobey God even if our ac­tions are right in themselves, not evil. Remember the prophet whom God zapped because he stopped to eat with another prophet? This is found in 1 Kings 13, and it’s worth reading.

The brave younger prophet carried out his difficult, God-given mission to denounce the idolatry of none other than Israel’s king. God honored his faith by a miracle, thus preserving him from probable exe­cution. It was a glorious accomplishment. But then “a certain old prophet” entered the drama and deceived the younger man of God. He said that an angel told him by the word of the Lord to cause the younger man to eat at his house. That seems like an innocent act, ex­cept for two things. The old man lied; and God had distinctly, specifi­cally instructed His younger servant not to eat or drink with anyone at all while on this trip. That latter fact is emphasized by a threefold repetition–verses 9, 17 and 21-22. Nevertheless, being misled by the old prophet’s lie, the man of God disobeyed his clear instructions. ..and ended up being killed by a lion.

Don’t rush to wrong conclusions here. God is not a mean tyrant, eager to strike us down whenever we step out of line the least bit, even unknowingly. No, no, He is gracious and merciful, but He also deserves ad expects total obedience to His clearly revealed will from those who are privileged to ‘be His servants’. We also must not conclude that the Lord is picky, fussy over unimportant details, and vindictive. We should realize that He sometimes in emergencies allows exceptions to His general rules. David, when fleeing Saul, ate the bread which only priests were supposed to eat, and God approved (Matt. 12: 1-8). Again, during the revival under King Hezekiah, God answered his prayer and bent His rules regarding the observance of that feast (2 Chron. 30: 13-20).

Nonetheless, the young prophet was judged by the Lord because of his disobedience. His promising ministry was cut short, his very life was forfeited. And in this is a solemn reminder to us: Sincerity is not enough; seek God’s will, then obey it. Don’t be casual about the will of God. Don’t be lazy and lax about obeying the Most High. As James wrote much later, “Don’t be deceived,” and–more soberly–“Don’t de­ceive yourselves” (James 1:16,22).

The teenager mentioned in our opening paragraph did make the wrong decision, despite repeated warnings. In His grace God later de­livered from the fouled-up results of that wrong choice, but at the cost of many tears and heartbreak. She had said, “God won’t let me go wrong”; but we are not robots. He gives us the dread gift of free will, and the responsibilities that go with it. She said, “Anyway, I prayed about this”; yes, but she had not clearly thought about it nor carefully considered what God’s Word says. Prayer is not enough, nor is sincer­ity. She said, “Besides, all things work together for good,” but she didn’t finish that verse: “. ..to those who love God.” That means love Him enough to obey His commandments.