Sacred Pace: 4 Steps to Discerning God’s Will in Your Decisions
By Terry Looper, author of Sacred Pace: Four Steps to Hearing God and Aligning Yourself with His Will (W Publishing, 2019).
A few years ago, Sports Illustrated ran a holiday supplement that advertised various gifts for athletic types. The description for a golf watch highlighted its color touch screen, a GPS, and nearly 40,000 preloaded courses, adding, “It provides distances to and from any possible target or known hazard. So you know what to aim for and what to avoid.”
If only determining the Lord’s will were that easy whenever we have a decision to make! I’m convinced that those of us who follow Christ want his direction. It’s just that he rarely writes on walls or speaks from burning bushes anymore. Plus, we live in the perpetual reality that God’s thoughts and ways are infinitely beyond our own (Isa. 55:9).
So how do we as humans begin to fathom his answers and have the confidence that we’re actually hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit rather than our own? A massive mental and emotional burnout in my mid-30s, just after I’d earned my first multimillion-dollar check in a business merger, scared me so much that I was willing to learn.
To discover that the money didn’t give me any sort of peace brought me to my knees. Literally. My marriage, my children, my health, and my soul had all suffered in my frantic pursuit of this false god. Yet I hadn’t paid attention because I was too busy speeding hard toward my ambitions. And though I wasn’t willing to hit the brakes for myself, my body and soul did it for me, stopping me cold.
That was God’s mercy at work in my life.
For as long as I could remember, I’d been in the driver’s seat. Not only was Jesus not at the wheel, but he wasn’t even my co-pilot! I’d relegated him to the backseat, where he wouldn’t get in my way. I did prefer having him along for the ride—he was great to talk to when I needed a second opinion—but I was the one doing the driving, the deciding, the navigating.
Until I hit the wall.
I emerged from the wreckage with an intense resolve to never make the same mistakes again. Coming face-to-face with the truth that: a) I didn’t have a clue about what was best for me, and b) my personal “navigational skills” couldn’t be trusted, made me want to live differently, right down to my daily decisions. That meant letting Jesus have more than the wheel; I gave him my entire, broken-down self.
In return, you might say that he “reset my timing” and retooled me with a whole new “operating system” that he promised would let me travel lighter, causing much less wear and tear than my fast-track pursuits had. I found that guarantee in Matthew 11:28, where Jesus told His listeners, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (NIV).
In my newfound desire to know and follow God’s will, I began to take God’s words to heart, particularly two passages that have become my life verses: Psalm 37:4, which says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (ESV); and Proverbs 3:5–6, which tells us: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (NKJV).
I also started establishing some of the disciplines I was gleaning from my friendship with Jesus and from the spiritual-formation practices of classic Christian writers such as George Müller and Oswald Chambers. Over the years, those disciplines solidified into a four-step process I refer to as a sacred pace. It’s a slower, more mindful way of making decisions that helps me sift through my own motives and priorities until I want God’s will most of all.
- Step 1: Consult your friend Jesus.
- Step 2: Gather the facts.
- Step 3: Watch for circumstances.
- Step 4: Get neutral.
In this Bible Gateway Blog series (read the next installment March 6), I will explain all four steps, which are detailed in my book Sacred Pace: Four Steps to Hearing God and Aligning Yourself with His Will (W Publishing, 2019). The book not only offers a practical and biblical understanding of what it means to get on pace with God, but it includes many examples of what a sacred pace looks like in real life—on the job, at home with your spouse and kids, and in your giving and spending.
God’s answers don’t always come quickly, and the steps rarely fall in a linear progression. They’re often more like streams running together until they converge into the “river” of the final step. Once we’re “neutral”—where we’re willing for any answer he might give—then we’re truly in a position to receive his answer, assured that he sees the future perfectly; he always knows best; and he loves us and our loved ones even more than we do.
I’m now 35 years past that life-altering crisis, with almost as many years spent practicing a sacred pace, and the results have been better than I ever imagined, not only for myself spiritually, but for my family, my employees, and my company, which operates in a very volatile industry. Working through the four steps first, before I act on any meaningful decision on the job or at home, has become my pathway to receiving clarity and complete peace from the Lord every time. And by “every time,” I mean even in those times when a dilemma has been painful, or the situation complicated; and even when His answer has been different than what I expected.
As I reflect on my journey, what’s now more apparent to me than ever is that God has a sacred pace all his own for the decisions of our lives—and it’s almost never the high-speed plan we’re on. Yet if we seek him in the sacred pace of his sovereign timing, his Spirit will lead us to a sacred place: the heart of God’s will.
Our part is to pursue the steps in the following blogs with our eyes, ears, and hearts wide open, until he makes his will known.
Sacred Pace is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: Terry Looper (@TerryLLooper) is the Founder of Texon LP and has served as the organization’s President and Chief Executive Officer for almost 30 years. He’s the author of Sacred Pace: Four Steps to Hearing God and Aligning Yourself with His Will (W Publishing, 2019). Terry is married to Doris, his wife of 48 years, and has two married daughters and five grandchildren.
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May 21, 2019