When God first spoke to me about furthering my study back in 1999, it was spectacularly clear. I was halfway through a Bachelor of Ministry when he told me to switch to a Masters – a noble idea, but one that would cost an additional $4400 in the first year. “But I can’t afford it!” I protested; “If you want me to do this, you’ll have to show me clearly.”
That Sunday after church a young couple came up to chat: “God told us to give you our car,” they said a little sheepishly.
Martyn and Ros were lay leaders in our church. They were well-educated, had two children and as far as I knew, were not given to mystical or outlandish behaviour.
Still I didn’t want to tell them, I already had a car. A gold Honda Civic hatch I was quite fond of. It wasn’t the Rolls Royce of cars by any means, but it was zippy and fast and didn’t require repeated visits to the mechanic like the last one.
“Yes, God told us to give it to you.”
They led me outside to the parking lot and pointed me to a red Corolla sedan. “It’s yours” they said, handing over the keys. I put the keys in my bag and thanked them as graciously as I could.
Now I had two cars. My gold Honda and a red Corolla. What was I supposed to do with two cars?
I advertised the red Corolla and it sold a week later for $4400.
The next day I signed up for my Masters.
As it turns out, that decision opened the way to take a part-time lecturing job that supported me while planting my church. The subjects equipped me perfectly for pastoring and later it qualified me for my role as Academic Dean at Hillsong College. It had the hand of God all over it.
A Second Decision
Fifteen years later and the idea of doing a Doctorate in Ministry popped into my head. I could do my thesis on a question that had been bugging me for years. I could use my findings to strengthen my God Conversations ministry. My research would empower me to lead more effectively across the globe. Doing a doctorate made sense.
So I asked God to speak to me. I prayed for clarity and guidance – just like last time.
While I was waiting for his answer, I visited my alma mater, Harvest Bible College to discuss their newly approved course. An important question was how to find the right supervisor in my niche. I’d never met an academic who fully understood the problem I wanted to study. Within fifteen minutes I was introduced to a man who’d just published on exactly the same topic and believed my idea would be eminently helpful to the church at large.
Another issue was the fees. Having been in ministry for twenty years, I couldn’t afford the thousands of dollars required to fund a doctorate. I soon learned that the Government provided Fee-Help for the course and I could start it straightaway.
“Do you think I should do it?” I asked two of my closest friends when I told them what I was thinking. “It’s a no-brainer,” they answered.
Still I was waiting for God’s direction. I wanted to do his will. But there’d been no prophetic word. No neon-flashing sign. How would I know this was the right decision? I prayed, and I waited. But nothing.
How to Make God-Decisions
It’s a dilemma we often find ourselves in. There’s a decision to make – perhaps a job opportunity, a new relationship or a choice to relocate. We pray and seek God’s will. We surrender our heart to his plan. We’ve heard about those stories of miraculous guidance and we know God wants to be involved in our lives. But what do we do when there’s no answer?
In the Bible our relationship with God is sometimes described in terms of a power hierarchy. God is the King and we are the servant. He is the Lord and we are his subjects. But when Jesus spoke of the kind of relationship he wants to have with us, he described it as friendship; “I have come to call you friends”, he said, “not servants.” (John 15:15) In this relationship God is guiding and directing, but we’re involved too. The picture Jesus paints is more of two close friends sharing life’s journey, rather than an employee waiting in the boss’ office for the next set of instructions.
So yes, sometimes God specifically directs our lives. He calls us to do something out of our scope or beyond our logic. We hear him; we test the revelation and in faith we follow.
Then there’s other times when God says nothing. He leaves it to us to do the research, seek advice from others and consider our talents and desires. We use our common-sense and act on the wisdom principles he’s taught us. And, we make a decision.
I’ve since signed up for my doctorate. I realised I didn’t need a prophetic sign. I didn’t need a God-intervention like I did fifteen years ago. Back then, I didn’t understand what God was calling me to. My desires weren’t aligned with what was best and I had no idea who God had made me to be. God needed to speak clearly to get me moving in a direction I would have never chosen for myself.
But now I know who I am. I can research the options and choose the best one. I can consult the experts and those who believe in me. I can make a decision without a word from heaven. And it’s still in the will of God.
Tania Harris is a pastor, speaker and founder of God Conversations, a ministry that equips people to recognise and respond to God’s voice. She is the producer and presenter of The Other Side of the Conversation and the author of The Easy Way to Hear God’s Voice. When not ministering, she is most likely to be found kayaking on Sydney Harbour or climbing a really high mountain and skiing down it! Hillsong is her church home in Sydney, Australia. For your free ebook, podcasts and resources that will help you recognise the voice of God, visit godconversations.com.