[This blog series explains how to discern God’s will. Continue on to the full blog series HERE.]

As a Christian indwelt by the Holy Spirit, what your “gut” says matters. As you grow in maturity in Christ and as you grow in your prayer life, you will grow in your understanding of God’s character and His desires. Your desires will begin to align with His. This is not to say that your “gut” is a totally reliable guide, but it is certainly not to be simply disregarded. The Holy Spirit speaks within us—we should expect to hear from him. 1 Corinthians 2:12 says, “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.” Often, the Holy Spirit reminds us of something we have read in the Bible. As we read in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

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In Christian lingo, your own perspective is often referred to as your “peace.” Some Christians will say that they do or do not have “a peace” about a certain matter. This internal “peace” can be of consequence in our decision making because the Spirit of God indwells His people and aligns their consciences and feelings closer and closer with God’s will.

We see in Scripture that the apostle Paul considered his “gut” when making decisions. In 2 Corinthians 2:12-13 we read, “When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.”

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Pay close attention to Paul’s decision-making rationale in this text. Paul recognizes that “a door was opened” by God for the preaching of the gospel. This likely means that there was a chance to preach the gospel effectively or that people were receptive to his gospel message. But Paul does not walk through this God-given open door! He did not have “a peace” about staying in Troas because Titus wasn’t there, and Titus bore a news update about the condition of the Corinthian church.

At first glance, it would seem that Paul is disobeying God by not walking through the open door in Troas, but I don’t think so, for two reasons. First, there is no negative commentary in the Scripture about Paul’s decision. In fact, there only seems to be positive response. Paul follows up the Troas narrative with a doxological exclamation: “Thanks be to God who always leads us in Christ!” Paul tells the rest of the story in 2 Corinthians 7:5-7—he left Troas for Macedonia, met Titus, and God comforted him with the coming of Titus and the news about the repentance of the Corinthian church. The second reason I do not think Paul was disobedient is that Paul’s decision was influenced by his maturity in obedience to God’s Word. Paul was concerned about the church in Corinth (7:5-7) and also about Titus, his brother and co-laborer in the gospel. Paul’s maturity in Christ led him to make an on-the-spot decision based on what he knew about God (God loves His church) and what he knew about the church (the church is like a body, when one part suffers, all suffer). Thus, the account in 2 Corinthians 2:12-13 is an anecdote of Romans 12:1-3 working itself out in Paul. Years of renewing his mind in God’s Word and listening to the Holy Spirit influenced Paul’s decision making process. He was able to “discern what is the will of God” (Romans 12:2) in a very real, daily situation.

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Therefore, if you have sincere rest or unrest in your “gut feelings” about a certain decision, consider that these could in fact be indicators of the Holy Spirit speaking and telling you what you should or should not do.

Always remembering the Bible as your authoritative standard, ask yourself:

What does my “gut” tell me I should do?

Do I have any unrest about the options before me?

Do I have “a peace” about any of the options before me?

Photo Credit: Deutsche Fotothek‎ [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Next – Am I Called? Knowing God’s Will: Community