There are critical times in our lives when we especially need to know we are hearing clearly from God. It isn't always easy to know His voice from that of our own emotional reasoning. But I know from experience that God can open doors of opportunity that no one can close, and He can also close doors that we cannot open.
The apostle John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said, "These are the words of the Holy One, the True One, He Who has the key of David, Who opens and no one shall shut, Who shuts and no one shall open" (Rev. 3:7, Amplified Bible).
I spent many years trying to organize things I wanted to do in life. The result was frustration and disappointment. But if we depend on God, He will give us favor and make things easy for us when we seek Him and His perfect timing.
The Bible says, "A man's mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure" (Prov. 16:9).
Sometimes the only way to discover God's will is to practice what I call "stepping out and finding out." If I have prayed about a situation and don't seem to know what I should do, I take a step of faith.
I know that trusting God is like standing before the automatic door at the supermarket. I can stand and look at the door all day long, but it will remain closed until I take a step forward and trigger the mechanism that opens the door.
In 1 Corinthians 16:9 Paul stated that God had opened a wide door of opportunity for him and his companions. He also said there were many adversaries, so we must not mistake opposition for a closed door. To fulfill God's plans, we must be willing to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit—no matter what we might encounter.
Paul and his co-workers did not sit and wait for an angel to appear or a vision to be given to them while they prayed for direction. They were not discouraged or afraid of "missing God."
They were men of faith and action. They knew to step back quickly when it became evident that God did not want them to follow their own plan.
People often ask how to find their place in ministry. Some spend many years waiting to hear a voice or to receive supernatural direction. I tell them to step out and find out.
Early in my journey with God, I wanted to serve Him. I felt He had placed a call on my life, but I did not know exactly what to do, so I tried different acts of service.
I worked in the nursery at church and quickly discovered that I was not called to children's ministry. I got involved in a street ministry, but I had no real grace on me to do that either.
I came alive inside, however, when I had an opportunity to share the Word with people. I found joy in teaching, and it was obvious I was good at it. I knew I had found my place in ministry.
Don't spend your life in so much fear of making a mistake that you never do anything. Scripture says, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Tim. 1:7, NKJV).
You cannot drive a parked car. You need to be moving if you want God to show you which way to go.
He leads one step at a time. If you take one step forward in the wrong direction, He will let you know before you go too far.
Be aware that His thoughts are above your thoughts. He sees the end from the beginning. All His ways are right and sure. We can think that something makes sense, but it may not be what God wants at all.
We can hear accurately from the Father. We need only to apply the guidelines from His Word, and we will not be deceived.
Joyce Meyer is a New York Times best-selling author and one of the world's leading practical Bible teachers. She has written more than 70 books, including the popular Beauty for Ashes and Battlefield of the Mind, and her most recent, The Power of Simple Prayer (all FaithWords). She is also the founder of Joyce Meyer Ministries Inc. and the host of Enjoying Everyday Life radio and TV programs, which air on hundreds of stations worldwide. To read past columns in Charisma by Joyce Meyer, log on at www.charismamag.com/meyer.