When It's Time to Get Married, Listen to Your Mother

When I was in college, I convinced myself that I was supposed to marry a certain girl. I even talked myself into believing that God was leading me to do it. In retrospect, I can see many reasons that I was wrong, but I did not see those at the time. Fortunately, there was one key that prevented me from making a mistake. My mother simply would not agree. I made a commitment as a young man that I would never marry someone unless I had the blessing of my parents. I believe this commitment was built on a biblical principle that helps us learn to discern God's will for our lives.

In the past few blog posts, we have been exploring important principles for understanding God’s will for our lives. These are separated into five foundations for discerning God’s will and four avenues for discerning God’s will.


  1. We can discern God's will by surrendering our lives to him.
  2. We can discern God’s will by studying Scripture (Psalm 19:7–11; 1 Thessalonians 4:1–6; 2 Timothy 3:16–17).
  3. We can discern God’s will by seeking him in prayer (Philippians 4:6–7; Jeremiah 29:11–13; James 4:2b).
  4. We can discern God’s will by waiting for him to lead us (Psalm 25:4–5; 106:13).
  5. We can discern God’s will by listening to the testimony of the Holy Spirit.


  1. We can discern God’s will by observing our personal desires, convictions, and abilities (1 Cor. 7:8–9, 36–38; Exod. 25:2; 2 Thess. 3:5; 1 Cor. 12:4–7, 11).
  2. We can discern God’s will by observing God’s work in our circumstances (James 4:13–17; 1 Kings 12:15; 1 Cor. 16:8–9; 1 Pet. 3:17; 4:19).

Now we can cover the last two avenues.

3. We can discern God’s will by listening to the counsel of the church (Matt. 18:15–17; Heb. 13:17; 1 Cor. 12:4–20, 14:29–33; Prov. 15:22).

Learning to live in community and to submit to the authority that God has placed in our lives is critical to discerning Gods' will. When you are seeking God’s will on a particular matter, go to those who have authority in your life and ask for their counsel. It is also helpful to get feedback from others in the body of Christ. Take the time and effort to find godly people you trust, and ask them for counsel as well. This might not be easy, because it takes humility to ask for and listen to advice from others. But we can be sure this is a part of how God intends to give us his wisdom.

Once again, we cannot discern God’s will only by listening to the advice of others. Sometimes we may receive conflicting feedback—and sometimes even godly people are wrong. But getting counsel from others is a critical piece that must be taken seriously to see how it fits into God’s overall movement in our lives.

4. We can discern God’s will by reasoning and testing (Prov. 14:15; Rom. 12:2; 1 Cor. 1:20–21, 2:4, 4:6, 10:15; Acts 17:2, 11, 17; 1 John 4:1–6; James 3:17).

Seeking truth is more than, but not less than, using our minds (Phil. 4:7; Rom. 12:2). We tend to try to think our way out of troubles or calculate the wisest decision. This is simply not enough.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5

At the same time, it is right to use our intellect as we seek God. Although God’s ways transcend our understanding, his life-transforming work is generally discerned through the mind of the believer. Furthermore, while God’s ways may transcend logic, they are not illogical, chaotic, or confusing. If we build our thinking on the presuppositions of the love and power of God and the revelation of his Word, then his leading is going to make sense. So as we seek God’s will, we are supposed to be reflecting, thinking, remembering, paying attention, and making wise choices. As you make decisions, try to think clearly and objectively about the situation and what you know about God and his ways.

When you are seeking God’s will on a particular issue, you can use the following questions to help process these foundations and avenues for discernment.

  1. Am I willing to follow God’s will in this matter, even if it is not what I want to do?
  2. What scriptural principles are relevant to this question? Do I need to study more on this subject?
  3. Have I spent significant time in prayer seeking God about this question?
  4. Have I worked through any feelings of pressure or impatience? Will I wait until I am clear about God’s leading?
  5. Has the Spirit convicted me of any sin related to this question? Can I sense his peace in moving in a particular direction?
  6. What desires and abilities has God given me that are relevant to this question?
  7. How has God worked in my circumstances to lead me concerning this issue?
  8. Have I sought the counsel of godly leaders and others in my church? What do they have to say about it?
  9. What are the pros and cons surrounding this question? What makes most sense from a biblical perspective?

This is the the sixth post in a series. The first five are:

A Lost Concept: Respect and Honor to Authority

I am rereading the book Discipline: The Glad Surrender by Elizabeth Elliot. This book contains powerful, timeless biblical principles. She discusses the discipline of body, mind, place, time, possessions, work, and feelings.

When Elliot talks about discipline of place, she is talking about giving others the honor and respect that is due them based on their position in our lives. Our culture teaches us that we don't have to submit to anyone and no one is in charge of us. This line of thinking also appears in the church. Submission to others and to those in authority is a wonderful and powerful truth! Let us not rob our children of this provision and protection from God. Here are some excerpts from Elliot's chapter on The Discipline of Place:

A second reason for confusion in the matter of respect, in addition to that over the definition, is the current notion that everyone deserves tit-for-tat equality. This is one of the excesses of democracy, which ought not to be confused with Christianity. The truth is that not everybody has a right to everything. A child has the right to be taken care of. An adult has not. An adult has the right to vote, get married, be taxed. A child has not. . . . Different kinds of honor and respect are suitable to different people. . . .

Christianity teaches righteousness, not rights. It emphasizes honor, not equality. A Christian’s concern is what is owed to the other, no what is owed to himself. . . .

A sense of place is important for a Christian. We cannot give honor duly—where it is due—without a sense of place. Who is this person, who am I in relation to him? We are people under authority at all times, owing honor and respect to a king or a president, to parents, to master, teacher, husband or boss, to ministers and elders and bishops, and of course always and most important, to Christ.”
— Elizabeth Elliot, Discipline: The Glad Surrender

Free E-Book for You (or a Friend)

Most of you probably did not get up this morning thinking, "I really need to find some good material on leadership in the church!" That is the topic of this free e-book, so let me tell you two things before you tune out.

1) It is important for believers who are not paid or educated for ministry to provide leadership in their church.

Often the overall direction of the church is not determined by pastors, but by the people who appoint pastors and establish policy. Unfortunately, many are sitting back and allowing the pastors to make all the decisions.

You, or someone you know, may be in a position to provide important leadership in your church, even if you are not a pastor or elder. This free e-book can be a useful tool in trying to understand what the Bible says about pastors or elders.

2) You might know someone who is interested in the topic of leadership in the church, so please pass this on to them.

There is a significant movement of people leaving the church, but it is not because they are losing their faith; they are disenchanted with the church. Some are asking questions about how we should "do" church. I don't think anyone should leave regular fellowship with a local church (even though it has problems). But we should be asking what the Bible says about church.

There are also many pastors and leaders who are frustrated and are looking for answers. One of many issues about church is leadership. "How should pastors lead?" "Who should be in charge?" "How many pastors (or elders) should there be?" "What are pastors (or elders) responsible for?"

This free e-book attempts to find answers from the Bible for each of these questions and more!

ONE LAST ENCOURAGEMENT: You do not have to read this whole book to find out what you need to know. This is a pdf version of my Ph.D. dissertation and is therefore quite detailed.

You might want to start with the conclusion and dig in where it seems interesting.

Here is an excerpt from the conclusion:

"That elders in sin are to be confronted demonstrates that the church is not to submit to their leaders blindly. Instead, they are to follow as those who are persuaded (Heb 13:17). Elders and leaders who teach twisted things are not to be tolerated (Acts 20:29–31; Titus 1:9–16). The ultimate basis of the authority of an elder, therefore, is not his office or his authorization to lead and teach. The basis for his authority is the alignment of his life and teaching with the truth of God’s word. While elders have authority de jure of position and responsibility, the primary authority that elders exercise in the community is authority de facto of influence based on sound teaching, wise leadership, and godly character."

Conclusion on Church Elders' Authority

Here is a link to the conclusion of my dissertation, The Authority of Church Elders in the NT. Aside from the readers on the committee at school, I have not received much in the way of critical feedback. I am anxious for my conclusions to be challenged and improved. I also pray that where ever I have accurately understood the Scripture, this will be an encouragement and challenge to others. I have only uploaded the conclusion. I can also make available the chapters that discuss each relevant passage individually if there are further thoughts or questions.