In Part One of the Trust Series, we discussed practical steps to take in order to follow God’s direction with confidence. By having the right perspective and obeying His Word, we can trust His lead when we follow His calling.
However, how do we identify God’s direction in the first place?
Seasons constantly change. New situations arise. New doors open. New dreams emerge. Oftentimes, when circumstances shift, it can be hard to tell whether open doors are just good or really God.
Nevertheless, God wants to provide the best for you, and He doesn’t want to hide His will from you. As you grow in your relationship with the Lord, you become better acquainted with His character. In Malachi 3:6, God declares, “For I am the Lord, I do not change” (NKJV). God moves in recognizable ways. He doesn’t alter who He is or His Word. So, His gifts will have His fingerprints on them.
In order to discern true gifts, we must know the One who gave them.
Today, In Part Two of the series, we’ll be discussing helpful ways to identify God’s gifts in our lives. It’s time to demystify the notion of God’s will. His will is practical, every day and secured by His grace. It doesn’t require perfection, but it requires willingness and humility. No matter the circumstance, God’s direction is not meant to be a mysterious set of rules but a clear purpose we live out daily that leads to freedom.
God’s gifts reflect His truths, not contradict them
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17 ESV).
James states this perfect truth: God does not vary in who He is. Thus, any gift from Him will reflect His character and His commands.
If you are to love God above all else, then God will not require that you forsake Him to have or keep His own gifts.
God will not contradict Himself in what He provides for us. He will not go against His standards or promises. As humans, we contradict ourselves easily. We often forget simple promises to ourselves and each other. But God doesn’t forget; He remains faithful to His Word: “if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13 ESV).
Numbers 23:19 states, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (ESV).
If you’re wondering whether a situation is from God, remind yourself of who He is. Study the Word. Look up verses on God’s character. If you find yourself in a position that causes you to disobey His simple commands on your life as a believer, then this is not of Him.
Nevertheless, if the situation you’re considering lines up with His Word, remains consistent with it, and does not change or falter as you strive to live like Christ, this could be a blessing He’s manifesting in your life. Continue to seek Him and remain faithful to Him. Time will reveal the source of your circumstance.
God’s gifts draw you nearer to Him, not away from Him
You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11 NKJV).
In this Psalm, David remembers God’s faithfulness. He has confidence that God will show him the path of life, a fact that is consistent with His character. Additionally, David declares that true blessings are found when we’re near the Lord.
In God’s presence, there is fullness of joy. At His right hand, there are everlasting pleasures.
God’s direction is found as you remain near to Him.
Consider Hannah in 1 Samuel 1 who has a great longing to bear a son, even as she is physically unable to do so. Despite her circumstances, she remains dedicated to the Lord. In verse 11, she declares that if God were to give her the gift of a son, she would dedicate him to the Lord: “And she vowed a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head’” (ESV).
Hannah continues to seek God’s face about the matter when she’s distressed (v. 10). She receives direction as she draws near to Him; Eli the priest overhears her prayers and confirms a word from the Lord that He will provide for her: “‘Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him’” (v. 17). And in verse 20, Hannah gives birth to her son, Samuel, and remembers, “‘I have asked for him from the Lord.’”
Hannah didn’t know the outcome of her prayers, but she drew near to the Lord. God gave her direction as she sought after Him. However, before the gift even came, she chose to surrender it to the Lord, as opposed to making an idol out of her desires.
Godly gifts aren’t meant to be placed above God. The gift in and of itself will never bring fulfillment. Blessings aren’t meant to take your focus off the One who provides them. If you find yourself drawing nearer to your desires than the Lord, take a step back. 1 Corinthians 3:11 says, “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (ESV). If you want a strong and sure foundation, build everything that comes your way upon God. Line it up with Him. See what He says about it. If it’s a God-thing, He’ll be the rock that holds everything in place.
God’s gifts bring Him glory, not yourself
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV).
God always intends to reveal who He is. To provide the hope of eternity to everyone who comes to Him. To reveal His goodness and mercy. To offer an inheritance that’s worth more than all the riches on earth.
As a believer, you have an awesome opportunity to take part in sharing the good news of the God you know. Think about it like this: When you love someone or something, you can’t help but talk about the object of your affection. It brings you joy to tell others how amazing it is. Similarly, when God has touched your life, you can’t help but exclaim how good He is. What He’s brought you through. What He’s done for you. What eternity you have to look forward to because of Him.
Any other blessings we receive from the Lord are chances, tangible or not, to show the truth of who He is. We aren’t gods and aren’t made to be worshiped by others. In all our imperfections and self-interests, we’d make pretty terrible gods. When we idolize getting the glory for ourselves, we miss the mark completely.
The best you can do for others is showcase the love you’ve been shown. Philippians 2:4 says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (ESV). 1 John 3:17 states, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (ESV).
God’s gifts are testimonies. They show how a good God provides breakthroughs, rewards the faithful, hears the cries of the heartbroken, and restores the hope of the lost. If you’ve been seeking the Lord and notice a supernatural opening–an unexpected shift–in your life even in the hardest situations, chances are God is working. Allow Him to work. Allow Him to do the impossible. Share your testimony with others. What you couldn’t do on your own is often God. If it reflects His handiwork (not yours), it is His work.
God’s gifts provide peace, not fear
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you (Isaiah 26:3 ESV).
When you’re called to make difficult decisions, God often provides His peace in the midst of the chaos. This doesn’t mean fear will be absent completely. Sometimes you face scary or unknown situations. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices you don’t understand. Sometimes you choose doing the right thing, and you’re afraid of missing out. You choose to come clean and face the consequences, instead of continuing down a certain path. Nevertheless, when it’s God, there’s good even in the tough choices.
The Bible encourages us to seek peace in all circumstances: “They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11 NIV). This verse points out a key fact. Turning from the wrong in us and pursuing righteousness as God calls us means we’re choosing to seek and pursue peace. Doing good results in peace. And not just any peace.
Philippians 4:7 describes peace from God as one that transcends all understanding and guards our hearts. God’s peace protects us and makes sense of the unknown. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we know the unknown but that we know God is with us in the uncertainty.
Before being put on the cross, Jesus knows the extent of the suffering He is about to endure for humanity. In fact, in Gethsemane, He takes time away from the disciples to be alone with God and seek His will on the matter three times. Jesus feels an emotional weight during this time, as He reveals to the disciples: “Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me’” (Matthew 26:38 NIV).
Then, Jesus seeks God in prayer, asking for deliverance from this death: “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will’” (v. 39). Again, while He brings His desires to the table–to have this cup, or the suffering on the cross, to be taken away from Him–He ultimately surrenders to God’s plan, stating, Yet not as I will, but as you will.
Later on, Jesus knows the time has come, and God has directed: “‘Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!’” (v. 45b-46). He would die on the cross, but this is God’s plan of redemption for mankind. Plus, God would raise His Son Jesus from the dead!
Although this is a painful plan, Jesus knows what God is about to do. His surrender to the Father showcases His great love for us. And because of Him, we don’t have to worry about paying the price for our own sins as we accept His gift of salvation. Nevertheless, Jesus’ surrender gives us an example.
Peace is not making decisions based on fear. Peace is making decisions based on faith. It sometimes comes as knowledge from the Lord: I know this is what God is calling me to, because it lines up with His Word, and He will be with me through it. I am at peace with Him. So, when God provides peace–especially when you don’t expect to have peace–it’s often because He’s leading you to trust Him in this decision.
God’s gifts lead you into purpose, not into confusion
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand (Proverbs 19:21 ESV).
Oftentimes we make plans, and really good ones, but that doesn’t mean they’re truly purposeful. There’s nothing wrong with having goals, making schedules, or considering our future. It only becomes a problem when we leave God out of the picture.
Jonah is a great example of what happens when we try to run from God’s calling. God instructs Jonah to go to Nineveh to warn the people to repent from their sins. Nevertheless, Jonah cares more for his perspective than God’s and resists this command. He goes out of his way to flee God’s presence: “But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord” (Jonah 1:3 ESV).
God does not force us to obey. He gives us the opportunity to choose. However, when Jonah chooses to go against his purpose, he ends up in trouble and jeopardizes the lives of others. The ship he boards to get away faces a great storm, leaving the crew no choice but to throw him overboard (v. 15). As Jonah reveals, the men on board identify that his disobedience is the cause of the storm: “Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them” (v. 10).
Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about being in Jonah’s place. However, his case illustrates that disobeying God’s true call comes with consequences. Whether they come now or later, the results of disobedience come in many forms. A lack of peace, misdirected steps, mistakes that never had to be made. No matter what, disobedience eventually yields confusion.
We do serve a God of second chances, whose grace we also see in Jonah’s story. God protects Jonah from drowning at sea by sending the whale to swallow him, where he stays alive for three days (v. 17). During this time, not only is Jonah protected, but he encounters God in a new way, facing the error of his resistance. Jonah repents, acknowledging God’s grace and love for him:
“The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me…yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God…But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (Jonah 2:5, 6b, 9). After this moment, the whale vomits Jonah out on dry land in safety.
Now released, Jonah goes to Nineveh to preach to the city, resulting in many who repent and come to know the Lord. Jonah 3:5 states, “And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.”
While disobedience leads to confusion, obedience leads to purpose. God’s gifts will not lead you away from Him. Instead, they will propel you to use your individual gifts and make a difference for the kingdom–even in ways you don’t expect. When you follow God’s plan, you will make an impact in the lives of others. God wants to give you good things, and He has a purpose for you. Leaning on His way will show as evidence through the way you love others and your God.
God’s gifts yield obedience, not require compromise
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2 ESV).
As we walk with the Lord, we’re renewed and perfected in our faith. Galatians 5:1 encourages us to continue on in the freedom that God has given us and not return to our former sin: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (NKJV).
So, if we’re to live in this freedom, God will provide that which will help us become stronger in freedom. His gifts will not require that we turn back to bad habits, temptations, or behaviors that lead us into sin.
We must be aware that there will be a battle on this earth as we live for Christ. The devil doesn’t want us to work out our salvation. Oftentimes, the enemy will place seemingly good gifts in our path to get us off course. Nevertheless, identifying God’s gifts against the enemies schemes will help us conquer and flee deception when it comes.
If you find yourself having to lower your standards (according to God’s Word), compromise vital values, or make choices that result in shame, you are likely facing a distraction from the enemy. Romans 12:2 says you must renew your mind, so that when your faith is tested, you can line it up with God’s Word to discern what is good, acceptable, and perfect.
In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego refuse to worship the King of Babylon although it is a command. While this could have been an easy decision for them, they do not compromise their beliefs, refusing to bow down to any other name than God’s own. When they are thrown into the fiery furnace to die as punishment, God is with them, and they withstand the flames (v. 24-27). As a result, the King acknowledges God as the one true God who deserves worship (v. 28).
Following God sometimes means standing alone, even when the world tells you to do otherwise. God’s gifts will never call for you to contradict His Word. Seek the Lord when you feel pressure to compromise. Ask for His guidance to know whether you’re in the position He’s called you to. God’s leading isn’t always easy, but it will bring opportunity to reinforce your faith–not diminish it.
God’s gifts are sustained by Him, not forced by you
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17 ESV).
Another way to know whether God is behind a situation is if He is the one who starts it and sustains it. Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (ESV). This Psalm assures us that God doesn’t leave a job half-done! He doesn’t simply start the house–He builds it.
When you allow God to provide His gifts, you’ll find that your touch is no longer necessary. You don’t have to worry at night about what happens when it’s gone. You don’t have to fear the day when you can no longer keep up. When God builds the gift, it stands on a firm foundation.
This doesn’t mean that suddenly you have no responsibility. Galatians 5:25 says, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (KJV). If you’re striving to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, God’s leading, you have to follow Him. Walking in the Spirit is a daily lifestyle. Walking in the Spirit keeps you in shape. It’s what allows you to identify God’s voice when He speaks, and understand His doors when they open.
You have an unsettled feeling when you force something that isn’t yours. Consider a little, white lie. At first, perhaps it’s directed at one person. Then, that person tells another. Now there are two people you have to keep up with. And maybe it spreads. Maybe more people get involved in the lie. Suddenly, it becomes a whole show that you’re performing in. One misstep, and the whole production crumbles.
This is often the same pressure we get into when we try to sustain what doesn’t belong to us. Be it a persona, a relationship, a career, a lifestyle. God’s provision may require responsibility. However, God’s gifts will be sustained the more you draw near to Him; they will not disappear when you put Him first.
These points are some of many that can indicate God’s movement in your life. But it doesn’t end here. The more you get acquainted with the Bible, the more you are acquainted with biblical provision. When you seek God above all else, your needs will be taken care of. (Matthew 6:33 is no joke.) Hold onto your plans loosely, but hold fast to God who directs and steers your path.
In Part Three of the Trust Series, we’ll confront times when we’re not walking with God and understand how to get back on track with His plan. Before then, take some time to go over these points above. Do you see any of these elements in your life? If so, what’s your next step? If not, what’s getting in the way?
To receive inspiring content on faith and lifestyle, follow LM on social media!