Like a lot of preachers, I have an extensive collection of file folders where I keep illustrations. For example, in my “A” files I have folders for: “Abortion,” “Alcoholism,” “America,” “Angels,” “Animal Rights,” “Astrology,” and “Atheism.” Next, the “B” files consist of “Baptism,” “Bible,” and “Buddhism.” On and on the folders go, all the way up through the alphabet, and inside each one are illustrations that I’ve collected over the years pertaining to that folder’s subject.
One of the largest folders that I have carries the heading “God’s Will.” I guess it comes as no surprise then that I wrote a whole book on that subject! So if the subject is God’s will, I assure you that I’ve got illustrations galore for it. One that stands out in my mind more than many of the others comes from Arthur W. Pink. It’s a quote from his commentary remarks on the subject of Jacob leaving Haran and returning to Canaan (Genesis 31:1-55).
Pink sets up the quote by pointing out three things from the story. First, Jacob had developed a desire to leave Haran. Second, Jacob’s circumstances were conducive to him leaving Haran. Third, God spoke to Jacob and told him to return to Canaan (verse 3). With these three things in mind, Pink writes:
It is not always that God gives us a manifestation of these three principles, but whenever they do combine and are evident we may be sure of his will in any given circumstance. First, a definite conviction in our hearts that God desires us to take a certain course or do a certain thing. Second, the path he would have us take being indicated by outward circumstances, which make it (humanly) possible or expedient we should do it. Then, third, after definitely waiting on God for it, some special word from the Scriptures which is suited to our case and which by the Spirit bringing it manifestly to our notice (while waiting for guidance) is plainly a message from God to our individual heart.
Perhaps you are currently in the valley of decision, sincerely trying to discern God’s will for you. If you are, I think you’d be well advised to look around for Arthur Pink’s three indicators: a desire to do a thing, circumstances conducive to doing it, and the Holy Spirit taking some word from the Scriptures and bringing it to your notice in relation to the thing.
Are these three indicators an all-inclusive list for how to determine God’s will? Hardly. And does God always show His will by way of these three? No way. But, as Pink pointed out, whenever these three things do come together in a clear way in your life, you’ll know that the thing is surely God’s will for you.