It created an unexpected, but unforgettable, moment in my life. My administrative assistant walked in and handed me a letter. I don’t know how she got her information but she said to me, “Jeff, I want you to know this church in Florida is looking for a pastor. But you’d never want to move to Florida. They have giant cockroaches down there.”
We laughed because I had no intention of moving anywhere. The ministry I was serving was thriving, and I wasn’t seeking to relocate. But that pesky church in Florida wouldn’t take no for an answer! The Florida church leaders made a request I found difficult to refuse. They challenged me to pray and ask God what he wanted me to do. So, I did. And ultimately that church in Florida offered me the leadership position.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, I found my life at a crossroads. I had two equally good choices in front of me. I could continue to lead a dynamic church that I loved. Great choice! Or I could accept the challenge to lead a church in one of America’s fastest-growing communities. Also a great choice!
What to do? Or more importantly, what did God want me to do? All I’ve ever wanted to do is what God wants me to do, but how do you know? What do you do to find his leading? My wife, Teresa, and I turned to God’s Word for guidance. Ultimately I found seven biblical principles to discover God’s leading.
Here are the biblical principles and verses we still use at the crossroads moments of life to make God-directed CHOICES.
Principle 1: Consult the Scriptures. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). If God has clearly addressed your choices in the Bible, decisions are easy. Just do what God says. I searched the Scriptures. I looked up Florida in my concordance. It wasn’t there!
Principle 2: Humble yourself and ask for God’s wisdom. “If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking” (James 1:5, New Living Translation). James 4:2 adds, “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” Teresa and I kept on praying for wisdom.
Principle 3: Omit food. There is power in fasting. “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” (Acts 13:2). It was in the context of fasting that God gave direction to leaders who were seeking him in ancient Antioch.
When we fast we show God we are serious about seeking his direction. We create time to speak to and hear from God. But even after fasting, we still didn’t know what to do, so we went to the next step.
Principle 4: Involve the right people. Proverbs 15:22; 11:14; and 24:6 all declare there is wisdom in many counselors. Seek wise counsel in your choices. I asked counsel of 15 people from around the country who could provide insight. They all said to move to Florida, but still there was no peace.
Principle 5: Consult your inward feelings. What does your heart say? The Bible clearly paints the human heart as having huge potential for deceit. But Romans 8:16 makes it clear that God’s Spirit communicates with our spirit. What is the Spirit saying in your heart? After searching Scripture, praying and fasting, and seeking wise counsel, my heart was still unsettled about the right choice.
Principle 6: Examine the open doors. In Revelation 3:8, Jesus says to the messenger of the church in Philadelphia, “I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.” In Acts 16 the Holy Spirit kept closing doors on Paul until he opened a door in Macedonia.
Look at the options. What do your circumstances say? In our situation, the door was open to go and the door was open to stay.
Principle 7: Seek supernatural direction from God. Allow God to direct your steps. I think in most situations you will have a sense of God’s leading long before you reach this point, but Teresa and I did everything mentioned above and still had no clear sense of direction from God. Going or staying were both equally valid choices. That’s when a proverb guided our final choice.
“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33). In Acts 1, when the disciples were choosing a replacement for Judas, the decision came down to two equally good choices and there was still no clarity.
What happened? They prayed, “Lord, . . . show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry” (Acts 1:24, 25). The disciples finished praying and then cast lots. What is casting lots? It’s the ancient equivalent of flipping a coin! The apostles made their final decision by asking God to direct the outcome of rolling the dice or flipping a coin or drawing names.
So that’s what Teresa and I did. I would never do this at the beginning of a choice process, but after we had done everything else we knew to do, we cast lots! We prayed and fasted, yet again asking God to direct our choice by controlling the flip of a coin. The coin came up nine times in a row to move to Florida, and I quit flipping!
Most choices in life won’t ever come to a prayer-covered coin flip. And God is not so small he can bless only one choice. But when we seriously followed biblical principles, God clearly lighted our path.
Jeffrey A. Metzger is senior pastor with River Hills Christian Church in Loveland, Ohio.