Wednesday, February 1, 2017

How To Discover "God's Big Picture" & "God's Little Picture" for your life

Image result for map and compass
Acts 16:6 "They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; 7 and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them."

Acts 18:19-21 "They came to Ephesus, and he left them there. Now he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to stay for a longer time, he did not consent, 21 but taking leave of them and saying, “I will return to you again if God wills,” he set sail from Ephesus."

In today's post we consider what is entailed in discerning God's will in everyday life. We will first of all consider what I will call "God's Big Picture" for discerning His will, which is to say, four principles that anyone can use in navigating through the process of discerning His direction in our lives. For ease of study in understanding "The Big Picture", I will have each main point begin with a subsequent letter of the alphabet as we navigate through Acts 16. 

The second and closing part of the post will then deal with the "Little Picture of God's Will" with regards to how to practically hone-in on God's will for the reader. I will be utilizing a teaching I heard years ago that used the acrostic M.A.P. Hopefully, the reader will find this post helpful in grasping God's Big and Little Picture for their life. 

Grasping "God's Big-Picture" for Discerning His Will by considering the A,B,C's of discovering what He desires

In the opening text of Acts 16:6, we find the Apostle Paul being hindered by the Holy Spirit from entering into the region of Asia Minor (Ephesus, Mysia). Why would God prevent this great missionary from sharing the Gospel in that land at that time? We discover in Acts 16-17 that God had a mission for Paul to achieve first - namely going over to the region of Macedonia. The fruits of Paul's Macedonian mission can be seen in the letters he wrote to the churches in that region: Philippi, Thessalonica and Corinth. 

Image result for Paul's 2nd missionary journey

We then find after Paul had completed his assignment, the Lord had lifted the restraints and Paul was then permitted to freely enter into Ephesus.

How is it that Paul was able to discern the Spirit's leading and promptings? I would suggest that God's way of leading His people entails a combination of interior promptings, circumstances, people and of course the objective, infallible Word of God. We will list four major components in discerning God's Will. Notice the following ABC's of discerning God's Will:

Active obedience.  

You and I dear friend cannot expect to detect God's leading and promptings if we are operating outside the known will of God. Paul was obeying God in his work of spreading the Gospel. Obedience to Christ's Lordship positions us in ready mode for sensing God's direction. 


It is impossible to hear God and know His will apart from the Bible. The Bible was revealed by God for the sake of "us and our children" (Deuteronomy 29:29). God's Word is the objective standard by which all the other methods of discerning God's will are evaluated.


How often do we take the time to "read" our circumstances. God is creative in the ways He guides His people. Circumstances are a big indicator of what God is doing in our lives. Certainly Paul had to read his circumstances and make an informed decision. He had Divine guidance from God for sure, but the circumstances acted as a secondary method of confirming that he and his companions had to go one way, rather than another.

Divine Promptings. 

This refers to the internal leading of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Person of the Godhead Who indwells us and is fully God. He speaks to us from the moment of the new-birth / conversion (Romans 8:14-16). By the scriptures the Holy Spirit inside our human spirit delivers insights and illumination (1 Corinthians 2:10-13). The Holy Spirit is the One who provides warrant or justified reasons for why we believe we are saved, Jesus is Lord and the Bible is true (1 Corinthians 12:1-3; 12:12; Galatians 4:6; 1 John 2:20,27).

All four of these elements are evident in Paul's missionary journeys here in Acts. As we noted already, he was actively obeying God (Acts 16:10). Paul had a Divine word from God, which would be tantamount to our scriptures, since he did not have a completed New Testament at that point (Acts 10:10). Paul discerned from the circumstances that he could not go into Ephesus, concluding that the Spirit was not leading them there (Acts 16:6-7). Later on of course Paul was able to go into Ephesus, recognizing that God's will was involved (Acts 18:19-21). Then we find Divine promptings at work, as demonstrated in the cited texts and by the presence of the Holy Spirit through the passages. 

Grasping "God's Little-Picture" for Discerning His Will by considering the A,B,C's of discovering what He desires

Years ago I heard a teaching from Dr. R.C Sproul that helped me to better understand what I call "God's little picture" for my life. If we take the above principles to be God's "Big-picture" or principles applicable to anyone, then the following principles or M.A.P can enable us to apply what we learned above to our individual lives. In other words, think of God's M.A.P for your life...


What motives do you find in your heart as you pursue your passions, dreams or what you believe to be God's "Big-Picture Will". The first part of Proverbs 27:7 states - "For as he thinks within himself, so he is....". Proverbs 16:9 notes: "The mind of man plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps." Motives are generated from within the control-center of our soul - the heart. God alone reads the motives of the heart. Thus, in grasping the little picture of God's will for my life, I need to discern my motives or motivation for why I am doing what I am doing.


Sometimes when we are pursuing a course of action, we may very well have a lot of motivation and yet, not possess the necessary skills to carry out the task. Now this is not to say that we have met a closed-door-so-to-speak. What it may say is that we're not yet ready or we may require additional training, life-experience, mentoring or a deepening in prayer and God's Word. We know that God grants natural abilities from birth and spiritual abilities following our new-birth in saving faith (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12-14). Wherever Motives and Abilities mesh, we will then find the following result...


When you and I discover our passion, we have zeroed-in on God's little picture for our lives. This is the "M.A.P" so-to-speak. Jesus modeled this for us by being passionate to bring glory to the Father. 

Closing thoughts

So as you and I live our lives for the Lord today, let's aim to do His will. Let's grasp "God's Big-Picture" by:

Active obedience.
Divine Promptings.

Then we can take what we learned from "God's Big-Picture" and utilize what we saw from a suggestion made in a teaching by Dr. R.C Sproul concerning our "M.A.P" or what we can also call "God's Little Picture": 

Motives + Abilities = Passion. 

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