Study Guide: What’s God Thinking?

Sunday August 21, 2011 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

Discerning God’s will can be difficult. In the final sermon of God Will Hunting, Greg offers some practical suggestions for knowing God’s will. He also tells stories that highlight how these suggestions work in the real world.

Extended Summary:

Over the past weeks, we’ve been studying different aspects of God’s will. This study has not been exhaustive, but we hope that it was informative. One of the topics that hadn’t been discussed yet was the idea of how to practically discern God’s will. We’ve talked about it, but there have been a lot of questions as to how to find God’s will in the real world. There are three good ideas to keep in mind when attempting to discern God’s will for your life.

The first idea is to use imaginative discernment. Imagination is important in our relationship with God. It can show us pictures that speak into our lives, through which we can discern if God is speaking to us. Although in our scientific world it can be difficult to be imaginative, learning this technique will help to discern God’s will for our lives.

Purge your motives before you begin. Make sure that you’re a blank slate, as much as that is possible. Be in a quiet place, free from distractions, and ask God to reveal his will to you. Begin to imagine possible future scenarios. When you do this, look for the scenario that gives you the most peace in your spirit. This will lead you to God’s will more likely than not.

The second idea is using community discernment. Imaginations can run wild, and it’s important to have trusted, Kingdom people around you that can help in your discernment process. Sometimes, God speaks through other people to us. These people may be spouses, family, or friends. The important factor is that they are a community of Kingdom comrades that you trust and who trust the Lord. Your community can also walk alongside you, supporting you as you push towards God’s will.

Finally, remember that God’s will is always in the present. Sometimes, our plans can go awry. Sometimes, when God says yes, it might turn out bad. It is easy to turn this back on God and ask why he led us down this path only to fail. We can also begin to question ourselves and whether we heard right, which can lead to a lot of doubt and worry.

It’s important to note that God’s ultimate will and his nature never change. Our God always searches for the best for us. In the Bible, Greg has seen over forty times where God changes his plans. It’s not because he’s fickle, but rather, God changes his plans to account for the free will that is a part of his creation.

However, God’s particular will can change for people. Even though his ultimate will and nature are steadfast, his particular will can change given different circumstances. He might want a particular job for you, but factors outside of God’s will may make that impossible, and God changes his plan to help you find a different job.

This means that we can’t coast on yesterday’s will. We must be ever-present with God, always seeking his will. As Greg said last week, we don’t have to ask about *everything*, but we can seek his will on the big things. And even though we may get a yes, that doesn’t mean that it won’t change in the future. If God calls us to something, and it doesn’t work out, he will call us to something else. We can’t hear this second call if we’re not listening and only focusing on the first call.

Use your imagination to find God’s will. It is one of the primary vehicles which God communicates his will, because the Holy Spirit speaks through our imagination. Have a community of believers who you trust around you. This community can help confirm your imaginative discernment, and they can also give advice, search on your behalf for God’s will, and support you in your pursuit of God’s will. Don’t get stuck in the past when it comes to God’s will. Be ever-present in seeking God’s will, and always look to see where he is moving. These three basic principles of discerning God’s will are not exhaustive, but they will be an excellent start in your journey of discovering God’s will.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What additional questions and comments did you have about the sermon and supporting texts?
  2. Have you tried imaginative prayer before? Why is it difficult to use your imagination when speaking with God?
  3. Community is extremely important in discerning God’s will. How has your community positively (or negatively) affected your understanding of God’s will?
  4. God’s will exists in the present. In the past, have you had an understanding of God’s will that seemed certain, but changed later? How did you respond to that change?
  5. Do you want to know God’s will about a situation in your life? Try imaginative prayer and write your thoughts below. Speak to trusted Kingdom people about your imaginative prayer. What is God saying to you?