Sacred Pace: 4 Steps to Discerning God’s Will in Your Decisions / Step 2 – Gather the Facts
By Terry Looper, author of Sacred Pace: Four Steps to Hearing God and Aligning Yourself with His Will (W Publishing, 2019).
Have you ever known two people who went through the same experience, perhaps a shopping trip or a dinner out, and yet their individual accounts of it were noticeably different? If you’re married or you have kids, I’m sure it’s happened to you! No one’s trying to mislead or misrepresent what happened. It’s just that our brains don’t absorb, remember, or accurately interpret all the data that comes our way.
If we struggle like this in everyday scenarios, is it any wonder that we find it difficult to effectively interpret the facts in situations that involve heightened emotions—such as buying a house, determining how to discipline a child, or deciding between two great job applicants?
Our blind-spots and biases are an enormous challenge in this second step toward a sacred pace. Not everybody wants to admit it, but the more important a decision is to us, the more invested we tend to be in our answer. However, we simply won’t be able to receive God’s answer if our eyes aren’t open to the facts that he wants us focused on. Accurate information is necessary for godly decisions. Our feelings and emotions (not to mention the enemy of our souls) often lie to us and sway us in false directions; facts ground us in the truth.
To properly gather the facts involves completing our spiritual due diligence as we pray. The Holy Spirit uses the unchanging truth of Scripture, the realities of heaven and earth, the core of who I am (such as my temperament and values, and my healthy passions and convictions), and the wise counsel of experts and mature believers to help me:
- identify my blind-spots and biases
- distinguish fact from opinion
- avoid overly favoring the facts I do like and discarding the ones I don’t—what scientists refer to as “confirmation bias.”
My daughter Tanya says that, for her, gathering the facts allows “the things that pop up from sinful places” to be taken out of the decision-making process. It works for me this way too. Weighing the facts with an open heart and mind makes God’s choice more apparent.
How can we make room for the Holy Spirit to reveal which facts are relevant, so that we give those the proper weight?
- Allow enough time for research. I once pressured my wife, Doris, into letting me make a large donation to an organization after discussing it with her for less than 30 minutes. I let myself be swayed by their spokesperson, who was very charismatic. Only later did I realize what a poor investment this was.If I had slowed down and gathered the facts first, I would’ve learned of the leadership’s fiscal irresponsibility. I also could have weighed Doris’s serious concerns against my desire to please. Instead, I threw our money in right away—and I had real regrets soon after.Like most of us, I need some form of accountability to force the question: “Is this my bias coming through, or truth?” Such accountability takes time. Though I’ve tried the shortcuts, there’s just no way around it: you have to move to the slow lane so that the Spirit may reveal “the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10 NKJV)—not just the guiding truths for your decision but the inconceivable plans and blessings that “God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9 NKJV).
- Pray for the ability to see things as they are and the humility to name them by name. Everybody likes their opinion or preferences; not everybody likes having to abide by divine standards. But God doesn’t play games or semantics. We have to be vigorously honest in the sacred pace process, calling a sin a sin, an opinion an opinion, and a preference a preference. There’s nothing wrong with approaching God with a preference—even Jesus asked (twice!) if there might be any other way for the Father’s will to be accomplished besides death on a cross. “Yet not as I will, but as you will,” he said (Matt. 26:39 NKJV). That’s the honesty, and the attitude, God desires. He offers to help us in this: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (Jas. 1:5 NKJV).
- Ask yourself: “Is this the culture, my emotions, or actual truth talking?” Anytime you can substitute truth for the false or misleading voices that are constantly calling to us, you’re not only moving forward, you’re easing the emotion that almost always accompanies our prejudices. The truth will set you free (John 8:32), not public opinion or your feelings. But you really, really have to want God’s answer.
- Use a different kind of pro/con list. I don’t just detail the practical facts, such as the financials and logistics of a decision. I include the spiritual, emotional, and relational pluses and minuses that come to mind. Next, I mark out the line items that are fear-based or ungodly. This helps me mentally rule them out as deciding factors. Finally, I pause and reflect for a few minutes in case anything relevant bubbles up that I may have missed—issues that I may need to flush out and resolve or pay closer attention to.
Author Chris Tiegreen further recommends listing your motivations because “they identify the center of our lives.” Any motive that’s centered on ourselves can be ruled out; we automatically know it’s not from God. Likewise, no legitimate answer from the Lord will contradict Scripture or its principles. Any motive that centers on his glory, his commands, his purposes as communicated in his Word, on the other hand, should be given weight as we prayerfully consider the results.
Only God knows what “data” is needed for discerning his will. That’s why I take all legitimate information to my Friend Jesus in prayer (Step 1) and then wait on him through the guidance of his Spirit. Given time, he shows me which is which—what facts I should keep and what ones I should set aside in my current decision. These relevant data points, in combination with the other three steps involved in reaching a sacred pace, are what he uses to point the way to his will and the peace that only he can give.
See other posts in this series:
- Sacred Pace: 4 Steps to Discerning God’s Will in Your Decisions
- Sacred Pace: Step 1 – Consult Your Friend Jesus
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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