Last week we emphasized the importance of keeping the Word of God, the Bible, as the primary source of discovering the will of God. By “primary” we mean that it is not the first in a list of sources but rather the most important and foremost source, and the one by which the other sources are judged. We will look at other sources of ascertaining heaven’s will, but we must remember that all should agree with His principles found in Scripture.
A great gift to Christianity through the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the gift of prophecy and the writings of Ellen G. White. Many practical applications of biblical principles are revealed through her numerous writings. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, she wrote on numerous topics including health, education, marriage, family, stewardship and finances, prophecy, ministry, evangelism, and nutrition. One area where she wrote extensively and expertly was in spirituality. In the arena of ascertaining God’s will, she wrote the following:
“There are three ways in which the Lord reveals His will to us, to guide us, and to fit us to guide others. How may we know His voice from that of a stranger? How shall we distinguish it from the voice of a false shepherd? God reveals His will to us in His word, the Holy Scriptures. His voice is also revealed in His providential workings; and it will be recognized if we do not separate our souls from Him by walking in our own ways, doing according to our own wills, and following the promptings of an unsanctified heart, until the senses have become so confused that eternal things are not discerned, and the voice of Satan is so disguised that it is accepted as the voice of God.
“Another way in which God’s voice is heard is through the appeals of His Holy Spirit, making impressions upon the heart, which will be wrought out in the character. If you are in doubt upon any subject you must first consult the Scriptures. If you have truly begun the life of faith you have given yourself to the Lord to be wholly His, and He has taken you to mold and fashion according to His purpose, that you may be a vessel unto honor. You should have an earnest desire to be pliable in His hands and to follow whithersoever He may lead you. You are then trusting Him to work out His designs, while at the same time you are co-operating with Him by working out your own salvation with fear and trembling. You, my brother, will find difficulty here because you have not yet learned by experience to know the voice of the Good Shepherd, and this places you in doubt and peril. You ought to be able to distinguish His voice.” (Testimonies to the Church, 5:512)
The three ways in which God reveals His will are through the Bible, His providential workings, and impressions by the Holy Spirit. The first was elaborated upon last week. The second refers to different circumstances happening in our lives where opportunities are opened and closed. These providential workings can be coincidental, experiential, historical, and/or supernatural. It should be noted that every open opportunity is not necessarily God’s will, nor is every closed opportunity not God’s will. As Ellen White qualifies, these occurrences are only to be taken into account when our spiritual lives are connected with God. We should examine our heart through the Holy Spirit and with prayer to determine whether these occurrences are indeed providential.
The third mentioned source of God’s will is impressions of the Holy Spirit. Again, Ellen White qualifies this by limiting it to areas of character development—not for major life decisions, but impressions that affect who you are as a person, as you are moved by the Holy Spirit. Character impressions might include some like “your tone was too unkind”; “that dessert was a little too glutinous”; or that your finances were spent rashly for whatever reason. As it is with the second way, these impressions must be subject to Scripture.