A LifeGuide® Bible Study
Seeking God’s Guidance
9 STUDIES FOR INDIVIDUALS OR GROUPS
Getting the Most Out of Decisions
1 Why Is God Silent?
2 Hard & Painful Decisions
3 God’s Unique Plan
4 The Anatomy of a Wise Decision
5 Good Advice
2 Timothy 3:10–4:8
6 Keep On Praying
Luke 11:1–13; 18:1–8
7 How Does God Speak?
8 What If I Make the Wrong Decision?
9 Worry-Free Decisions
Getting the Most Out of Decisions
Where should I go to school? What career should I choose? Who should I marry? How should I invest my money? Help! God has given me free will, and while I appreciate his confidence in my ability to choose, there are times when I wish that he would make the decisions for me. One wrong decision could seriously mess up my life. Why doesn’t God just tell me what to do?
While the Bible cannot give us the answer to every decision that we face, it does teach us how to make decisions. Prayer, study, the leading of the Holy Spirit, circumstances, seeking advice and common sense are all involved. Still, there is no formula that works for every decision. God shows us the way in his own time and by his mysterious methods.
I have found that the constants in making wise decisions are (1) setting your desire on God and (2) patience.
The studies in this book were written while I have been struggling with decisions concerning my future. These Bible passages have been important to me as I have been knocking on God’s door. As of this writing, I am still waiting, praying and listening.
I pray that you will hear God speaking to you through these studies, and that you will experience his guidance in the decisions that you face.
Suggestions for Individual Study
1. As you begin each study, pray that God will speak to you through his Word.
2. Read the introduction to the study and respond to the personal reflection question or exercise. This is designed to help you focus on God and on the theme of the study.
3. Each study deals with a particular passage—so that you can delve into the author’s meaning in that context. Read and reread the passage to be studied. If you are studying a book, it will be helpful to read through the entire book prior to the first study. The questions are written using the language of the New International Version, so you may wish to use that version of the Bible. The New Revised Standard Version is also recommended.
4. This is an inductive Bible study, designed to help you discover for yourself what Scripture is saying. The study includes three types of questions. Observation questions ask about the basic facts: who, what, when, where and how. Interpretation questions delve into the meaning of the passage. Application questions help you discover the implications of the text for growing in Christ. These three keys unlock the treasures of Scripture.
Write your answers to the questions in the spaces provided or in a personal journal. Writing can bring clarity and deeper understanding of yourself and of God’s Word.
5. It might be good to have a Bible dictionary handy. Use it to look up any unfamiliar words, names or places.
6. Use the prayer suggestion to guide you in thanking God for what you have learned and to pray about the applications that have come to mind.
7. You may want to go on to the suggestion under “Now or Later,” or you may want to use that idea for your next study.
Why Is God Silent?
An enemy of Joan of Arc once mocked her by jeering, “She says she hears God’s voice; why don’t I hear his voice?” It is reported that Joan replied, “Don’t you wish you did?”
Group Discussion. If you could ask God one question and be assured of an answer, what would it be?
Personal Reflection. Why have you begun a Bible study on making decisions? Begin by praying that God will lead you in the decision you are facing.
In the year 537 b.c., Cyrus, King of Persia, allowed a small number of his Jewish captives to return to Jerusalem for the purpose of rebuilding the temple. The foundation for the new temple was quickly laid, but then the political situation became uncertain, circumstances interrupted, and economic troubles became so severe that the operation was discontinued. Isaiah 58 is a message for these confused and off-track people. Read Isaiah 58.
1. What frustrations do the people feel with God?
2. When have you felt a similar frustration with him?
3. What have the people done to try to gain God’s guidance?
4. In what similar ways do people attempt to discover God’s will today?
5. Why does God declare the people rebellious (v. 1)?
6. If the people’s fasting was sincere, how would it have been different?
7. What is the connection between receiving God’s guidance and a concern for justice?
8. What promises does God make in verses 8–14?
9. What are the requirements for receiving these promises?
10. Why might God be withholding his light from us as a nation?
from you as an individual?
11. What have you learned from this passage that will help you to discover God’s will?
Take time to confess your lack of sincerity and to ask for God’s light to break forth.
Now or Later
The letter to the Ephesians explains why many people have become ignorant of and separated from God. Read Ephesians 4:17–5:21.
What are the results of doing things our own way?
What behaviors are to characterize our new life as Christians?
Which of the commands in these verses are the most difficult for you to keep?
How will keeping these commands help you to hear the voice of God?
Hard & Painful Decisions
“We are not necessarily doubting,” said C. S. Lewis, “that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”
Group Discussion. Describe a time when God’s best has been painful for you. How has this experience affected you?
Personal Reflection. Do you ever fear God’s will? When and why?
The apostle Paul made a momentous decision to return to Jerusalem. Even though many Christians urged Paul not to go and warned him that he would be arrested in Jerusalem, still Paul remained convinced that this was what he should do. As he traveled, he made several brief stops to visit friends, explain his decision and say farewell. Read Acts 20:17–21:14.
1. If you had been in Paul’s position, would you have gone to Jerusalem? Why or why not?
2. For Paul, what were the issues involved in his decision to go to Jerusalem?
3. What do you find admirable about Paul’s convictions?
4. How are your convictions similar to or different from Paul’s?
5. What price have you had to pay for your convictions?
6. If God wanted Paul to go to Jerusalem, why did the Holy Spirit give so many warnings not to go?
7. How did Paul’s meetings with various communities of disciples encourage and prepare him to enter Jerusalem?
8. How has God encouraged and prepared you for difficult times in your life?
9. Many Christians expect God’s will to be the most pleasant and trouble-free alternative, but from Paul’s experience, that is apparently not so. What would be a better criteria for interpreting God’s will?
10. In your decision-making process, have you usually been more concerned about personal comfort or following God? How has this been shown?
11. Verse 14 says that in the end, the disciples “gave up and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done.’ ” Why is it so often difficult to give in to the Lord’s will?
12. What are you having difficulty giving up to God’s will?
Pray for each person in your group who is facing a difficult or painful decision.
Now or Later
A vivid description of someone facing a painful decision is found in the story of Jesus at Gethsemane. Read Mark 14:32–42.
Compare and contrast Jesus’ decision to go to the cross with Paul’s decision to go to Jerusalem.
What encouragement do Jesus’ and Paul’s examples give you for facing your own painful choices?
What do you learn from these stories about how to encourage a friend who is facing a painful decision?
God’s Unique Plan
Because each of us is different, God’s plan for each of us is also different. If we are to know that plan, we must know ourselves—our gifts, talents, strengths and shortcomings.
Group Discussion. What gifts and talents have you observed in each member of your group? Have each member of your group take a turn to listen while the other members tell him or her what gifts they have seen evidenced.
Personal Reflection. What has God made unique about you?
In the first eleven chapters of the book of Romans, Paul tells about the facts of the gospel. Beginning with chapter 12, he speaks of the practical implications of the gospel for our behavior. His words have much to say about God’s plan and direction for our lives. Read Romans 12.
1. After reading this chapter, how would you define a “living sacrifice”?
2. Verse 2 says that being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” will allow us to “test and approve what God’s will is.” What is a renewed mind?
How does it differ from a mind that has been conformed “to the pattern of this world”?
3. How do our minds become either conformed or renewed?
4. What disciplines are helping you to renew your mind?
5. What responsibility do you have to “test and approve what God’s will is”?
How can you take this responsibility seriously?
6. What do verses 3–8 teach about God’s plan for the Christian community?
7. What is meant by making a “sober judgment” of yourself (v. 3)?
8. How will failure to do this lead you off track in understanding God’s will?
9. As you look at yourself with “sober judgment,” what do you believe to be your function and gifts in the body?
10. How has an understanding of your gifts helped you to “test and approve what God’s will is”?
11. How do verses 9–21 tell us that we should be treating other people?
12. Why would it be futile to seek God’s will if we are not being renewed in our love for others?
13. Continue to make a sober judgment of yourself by evaluating whether you have been conformed or transformed according to each of the ethical instructions in verses 9–21.
Ask God to be continually renewing your mind, and confess to him where you have been conformed to the pattern of this world.
Now or Later
Make a list of the spiritual gifts that are mentioned in Romans 12:6–8; 1 Corinthians 12:7–11, 27–31; and Ephesians 4:11–13. Write out a definition for each of these gifts. Which of these gifts has God given you?
The Anatomy of a Wise Decision
Although knowledge will help us in making decisions, it is even more critical that we choose wisely. Wisdom combines good judgment, knowledge, experience and understanding, but it is different than any of these.
Group Discussion. Ask each member of the group to write a definition of wisdom. After listening to each definition, discuss how you would now change your answers.
Personal Reflection. Who do you consider to be wise? How has his or her wisdom been demonstrated?
The book of Proverbs offers practical advice through poetry; short, pithy sayings; and vivid comparisons. The main point of the book is that we should always seek the wisdom of God. Read Proverbs 3:1–26.
1. This passage describes many benefits of wisdom. Which of them are most attractive to you?
2. According to verses 1–12, what characterizes a wise decision?
3. Why is a commitment to “love and faithfulness” (v. 3) important to making a wise decision?
4. Some people would argue that it is unwise to trust anyone but yourself. How would you answer them after reading verses 5–8?
5. Why is it wise to “honor the Lord with your wealth” (v. 9) instead of spending it on yourself?
How have you done this?
6. How do people today “despise the Lord’s discipline” (v. 11)?
7. What role has God’s discipline played in making you wiser (vv. 11–12)?
8. What makes wisdom so valuable (vv. 13–18)?
9. How can you “embrace” wisdom (v. 18)?
10. According to verses 19–26, what can wisdom accomplish?
11. In what ways are you like and unlike the person described in verses 21–26?
12. What can you do to become more like the wise person pictured here?
13. What have these proverbs taught you about wisdom and how to find it?
Pray for godly wisdom in the decisions you face.
Now or Later
Read Jesus’ parable about wisdom and foolishness in Matthew 7:24–27.
The wise and foolish man both faced the same decision—where and how to build a house—but they made very different choices. What factors do you think influenced their decision-making process?
Why are so many foundations built on sand?
What does this parable teach you about making wise choices and avoiding foolish ones?
2 Timothy 3:10–4:8
It is said that “advice is cheap,” which is probably due to the fact that there are more people selling it than buying it. The book of Proverbs, however, encourages us to value advice when it teaches, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise” (19:20).
Group Discussion. What is the best and worst advice you have been given? What happened when you followed each?
Personal Reflection. How do you normally react to people who give you advice: (a) appreciative? (b) resentful? (c) indifferent? (d) skeptical? What does this tell you about yourself?
2 Timothy is a letter the apostle Paul wrote to a young pastor he had trained. In it, he encourages Timothy to stand strong in a world full of godlessness, false teaching and bad advice. Read 2 Timothy 3:10–4:8.
1. What information does Paul give about his character and suffering?
2. Why is it important to consider the character of those we seek advice from?
3. According to the criteria given in 3:10–11, who do you know that you might go to for advice?
4. How was Timothy to evaluate the advice he received from others, including Paul (3:14–15)?
5. Why was Paul such a good mentor for Timothy?
6. Focus on 3:15–17. What is the purpose of Scripture?
7. How can Scripture be used in helping us to make decisions?
8. How might Scripture be misused in decision making?
How can you avoid this?
9. What does good advice consist of according to 4:1–2?
10. Why might some people be motivated to give bad advice?
11. How can you avoid having “itchy ears” (4:3) as you seek advice?
12. How will this study change the way in which you seek advice?
Pray for God’s guidance as you study Scripture and seek advice.
Now or Later
A contrast between people with “itchy ears” and people who know how to accept advice is found in Acts. Read Acts 17:1–12.
In what ways does Paul follow the principles of good advice you discovered in 2 Timothy?
Why did the people of Thessalonica not listen to Paul’s advice?
How is this similar to the people with “itchy ears” in 2 Timothy?
How is it similar to people in your community?
What is commendable about the Berean style of evaluating advice?
Have you been more like a Thessalonian or a Berean in accepting advice?
Keep On Praying
Luke 11:1–13; 18:1–8
Billy Graham has said, “Heaven is full of answers to prayers for which no one ever bothered to ask.”
Group Discussion. What has been your most amazing answer to prayer?
Personal Reflection. Corrie ten Boom once asked, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” How would you have answered her?
Although most Christians believe in praying about important decisions, they often make their decisions without prayer. There are many reasons for this: They question whether the particular decision they are facing requires prayer. They do not have time to pray because a decision is needed immediately. They do not know what to ask. They don’t really believe that God will give them an answer. Even Jesus’ closest disciples needed instruction in prayer. Read Luke 11:1–13.
1. What one idea about prayer stands out to you the most in these verses?
2. What kinds of things does Jesus tell us we should pray for in verses 2–4?
3. Which of these has been most prominent and most lacking in your own prayer life?
4. How would you feel about a friend who would be so persistent in bothering you in the middle of the night (vv. 5–8)?
5. How would you characterize the awakened neighbor?
6. How does the awakened neighbor differ from God?
7. In what ways are we to be like the persistent neighbor?
8. How are we to practice asking, seeking and knocking?
9. What assurance do we have that God will give us good gifts (vv. 11–13)?
10. Read Luke 18:1–8. Why would Jesus compare God to an unjust judge?
How does this comparison help Jesus to make his point?
11. When in your prayer life have you felt like the widow in this parable?
How do you think that God would prefer that you pray?
12. How do the lessons of these parables apply to your prayers concerning your decisions?
Thank God for his past answers to your prayers and ask again for his guidance in the decisions you face.
Now or Later
“Reading a book about prayer, listening to lectures and talking about it is very good, but it won’t teach you to pray. You get nothing without exercise, without practice. I might listen for a year to a professor of music playing the most beautiful music, but that won’t teach me to play an instrument” (Andrew Murray, “The Spiritual Life,” Christianity Today 34, no. 2).
Spend time in prayer on your own, with a prayer partner or with a small group.
How Does God Speak?
It is very easy for us to confuse our wishes with God’s leading. Is it possible to be certain that it is God who has spoken and not our hearts playing tricks on us?
Group Discussion. Be creative as you work together in making a list of “Top Ten Ways to Know God Has Spoken.”
Personal Reflection. How would your life be different if every decision you made was based solely on the feelings of your heart?
Just before going to the cross, Jesus spoke to his confused disciples and assured them that he would continue to lead and guide them. He said that he would give them two signs to show them that they were going in the right direction: love and the Spirit. Read John 14:15–27.
1. What promise in this passage gives you the greatest sense of assurance?
2. How will we recognize our love for God and his love for us?
3. Looking back at your last major decision, how did it demonstrate your love for Christ?
4. What facts are given about the identity of the Spirit?
5. What is Jesus’ purpose in having the Spirit sent to us?
6. What help can we expect from the Holy Spirit in making decisions?
7. Describe a time when you have known that the Holy Spirit was counseling you.
8. How does Jesus answer Judas’s question, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” (v. 22)?
9. Describe the special relationship you have with Christ. What has he shown you?
How have you felt his love?
10. What kind of peace is Jesus talking about in verse 27?
How does it differ from the world’s version of peace?
11. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the Nazis for his faith, said, “Peace is the opposite of security.” What does it mean to have peace about a decision you have made?
12. What have Jesus’ words in this passage taught you about identifying God’s voice?
Pray for the ability to discern the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life.
Now or Later
Moses had trouble believing that it was really God who was telling him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Read about Moses’ call in Exodus 3:1–12.
If you had been Moses, how would you have reacted to the sign of authenticity that God gave in verse 12?
When have you received God’s after-the-fact assurance regarding a decision you have made?
Read Exodus 4:1–17. What additional signs of assurance does God give to Moses?
Why do you think Moses had so much trouble believing God? What can you learn from Moses’ struggle?
What If I Make the Wrong Decision?
A major barrier to making a decision can be the fear of making the wrong choice.
Group Discussion. On a scale of 1–10 (1 = I’m sure everything will work out; 10 = A wrong decision will destroy my entire life), how fearful are you about making a wrong decision?
What experiences in your life have contributed to or relieved your fears?
Personal Reflection. Think of the worst decision you have made. Why was it wrong?
God had promised Abram and Sarai that they would have many descendants and become a great nation. On the basis of this promise, Abram had left everything familiar and had followed God to the strange land of Canaan. However, after living there for ten years, Abram and Sarai were still childless (and at eighty-five years old, well past their childbearing years). Impatient with God’s failure to act, they made a desperate decision. Read Genesis 16.
1. Which character in this story are you most like and why? (Sarai—regretful of a decision you have made? Abram—wondering what went wrong? Hagar—blamed for someone else’s bad choice? Ishmael—the product of others’ dysfunction?)
2. What decisions do Sarai and Abram make in this story?
3. Looking at these decisions from our perspective, several millennia after the fact, why were these decisions so flawed?
4. Why do you think Abram and Sarai believed these decisions to be for the best?
5. What were the consequences of Abram and Sarai’s decisions for themselves?
for the world?
6. What have been the consequences of your worst decisions?
7. Where does Sarai place the blame for her troubles?
8. Why do you think people are reluctant to take responsibility for their decisions?
9. What good does God bring out of these bad decisions?
10. Why did God intervene instead of simply letting everyone live with the mess they had made?
11. After reading this report of Abram and Sarai’s mistake, what can you expect God to do with your own bad decisions?
12. What is comforting about being seen by God, even at our worst moments (v. 13)?
Confess to God the mistakes you have made and ask him to bring good from them.
Now or Later
King David seemed to make as many bad decisions as he did wise ones. He tried to hide from King Saul by living among the enemies of Israel and almost had to go to war against his own people (1 Samuel 27–29), he committed adultery and covered it up with murder (2 Samuel 11–12), he contributed to a family feud (2 Samuel 13–14), and he took a census of Israel and Judah (2 Samuel 24). Read what he has to say about finding forgiveness for our bad decisions in Psalm 32.
According to this psalm, what should we do about our bad or sinful decisions?
What will happen if we do not come to God with our mistakes? What will happen if we do? In what ways have you acted like a horse or a mule (v. 9)?
Have you ever given a friend a gift that you knew was exactly right? Remember how good it felt to see the joy in your friend as he or she opened the gift. Wouldn’t it feel good to experience God’s pleasure over a decision you have made, never having to worry whether you have done the right thing?
Group Discussion. Describe something you did that brought real pleasure to another person. What has someone done for you that pleased you?
Personal Reflection. Who have you been attempting to please? How have you been going about it?
When a man came to Jesus upset about an inheritance, Jesus took the opportunity to talk with his disciples about pleasing God instead of worrying about self. Read Luke 12:13–34.
1. Describe the man in verse 13. What were his worries?
2. What do the people of our society worry about?
3. What impact do our worries have on our decisions?
4. Why wouldn’t Jesus help the man in this story?
5. To what extent has “the abundance of possessions” been an ingredient in your decision-making process?
6. The rich man thought he had made a worry-free decision (v. 19). Why was he called a fool (v. 20)?
7. The rich man did have a problem that needed to be solved (v. 17). What decisions could he have made that Jesus would have found pleasing?
8. Why are ravens and lilies so carefree?
9. What would be different about making a decision from a raven or lily’s point of view?
10. How does our worry dishonor God?
11. What does it mean to seek the kingdom of God (v. 31) and provide a treasure in heaven (v. 33)?
12. How have you sought God’s kingdom as you have been making decisions?
Pray about everything that worries you, putting it into God’s hands again.
Now or Later
Doubt can often be the same as worry. Read what James has to say about this in James 1:2–8.
According to these verses, why are some people confused?
Why is a wave an apt description of a doubter?
What advice does James give us for dealing with doubt and worry?
 Baker, Donald. Decisions: Seeking God’s Guidance: 9 Studies for Individuals or Groups: With Notes for Leaders. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Connect: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2001. Print. A LifeGuide Bible Study.