As a godly woman I’m not to base decisions on impressions or feelings alone. I’m to seek God’s will on everything, and make decisions based on criteria that are far more biblical than mere feelings. My feelings are far too shallow to trust. I’m supposed to come to understand God’s will using a set of biblical principles.
George Mueller was a Christian man who started several orphanages in England in the mid-1800s. He based every decision on five steps, which he shared in a book called Answers to Prayer. These principles are straightforward and understandable, so I use them to help me decide what God’s will is for me. They go like this:
1) get your ‘self’ out of it, so that you have no will of your own;
2) don’t leave the result to feeling or simple impression;
3) let any leading from the Spirit line up with the Word, so you know it is biblical;
4) consider providential circumstances;
5) ask God in prayer to reveal His will;
6) do this two or three times, praying, studying the Word, reflecting, so that you can make a conscious decision.
He notes that it doesn’t matter how trivial the matter or how momentous it is, this method of approach always works.
We women are so easily deceived, not to mention self-deceived, that we can far too easily believe with all our hearts that a decision is from God and be dead wrong. I notice that Mr. Mueller puts consideration of feelings behind getting your own will out of it. It’s so easy to have a desire for something and feel like it’s all good, when it might not be. This can be true of something as simple as buying a purse or as big as marrying a man—the process is no different. So I decided to take a look at this more closely. It’s something I’ve been trying to practice lately.
It’s true that the Holy Spirit leads us quietly via impressions and feelings, but we women function on the feeling level so easily that the leading of the Spirit is drowned out as we allow ourselves to be influenced by the world. If we let our feelings lead we’ll just walk right over and buy that purse, justifying it as the right decision based on the sign that says HALF OFF or the ad telling us we deserve it, but the momentary feeling of satisfaction we get evaporates on the drive home as we face the fact we made a decision based on little more than ‘I want it.’ There wasn’t even a chance for the Holy Spirit to whisper. He’d have had to yell to be heard, and He’s too much of a gentleman to do that. He wants you to stop and ask and listen. So, honestly evaluate this: have you let the world drown out His voice?
The solution begins when you get yourself off the throne and put God there instead. You have to ask yourself if this decision results in good feelings only if you get to buy the purse. Can you end up feeling good about not buying it? You want the purse—it feels right to get it, not to walk away without it, right? But stop and think, if getting it will cause conflict, will you feel good? If the money isn’t in the budget how good will you feel? If the reason you want it is because you saw another woman with a purse like it and you want to be in style, even though you already have a couple of purses you can use, you’re dealing with envy. Trust me, there will always be something else to envy--the fashion world makes sure of that. So envy doesn’t result in good feelings either.
The goal here is to dispassionately, without any deep feelings, explore what will result from deciding not to get it, as well as from deciding to take it home with you. It’s no longer about feelings but results. Once you can get clear of the feelings you can begin to hear God’s leading. This is hard to do, but it’s not impossible. It helps to practice it in some of these smaller decisions like buying a purse. When you put God in charge and truly can say you don’t care whether you get this purse or not, you’re ready to go on to step two.
“What? All I’m doing is thinking about buying a purse and I have to go through all this? I’ll be here all day trying to decide and probably buy half the store while I’m at it,” you might think. I told you it takes practice. It gets easier in time. Yes, you now have to examine any impression that’s left to see if it’s the leading of the Spirit or just a sinful notion fed by the world. How can you tell? Go on to step three—compare it to what the Bible says. This is where knowing the Bible accurately and having verses memorized helps. What could God possibly have to say about buying a purse? How about, ‘Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others.’ (Philippians 2:3 NLT) Ask yourself if you want this purse in order to impress someone else. Put the purse back on the shelf and do a lap of the store as you pray. You’re into steps four and five already. Take into consideration that the purse is there and it’s on sale today. Ask God if He put it there for you because it’s something you need or want. (God doesn’t deny us our wants and only give us our needs, or else He wouldn’t have made the sky blue but a dingy gray. He loves giving us things to delight us, as any loving father does. Just don't use this as your sole justification to get what you want!) Ask if this price is something He provided for you, or if He has a better plan for that money. Remember to keep yourself from being influenced too much by your feelings alone.
If you come back to the purse and you can honestly say that this is a decision that’s godly and fair, you can pay for the purse and use it with a good conscience, or you can walk away from it and know that this wasn’t God’s best for you and never think about it again. Your mind is clear, your decision is solid, the outcome is satisfying. If you need to, take a couple of laps of the store, or go home and have lunch and wait to make the decision until you know the right answer. Isn’t it worth a little extra time and consideration to know that the decision is sound and godly? Buying the purse will give you practice in making godly decisions so that you sleep soundly at night, and prepares you to make a good, sound, godly decision about big things...like whether to marry that man!
…If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn't care? The proverb has it that "he's a fiercely jealous lover." And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you'll find. It's common knowledge that "God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble." So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time. (James 4: 1-7 MSG)