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Some people need 10 Bible verses and 14 prophecies before they can hear God speak. Stop making guidance so complicated!

Recently the host of a radio talk show posed a question we had not discussed in our preshow briefing. “Dr. Stanko,” he asked, “how would you define success?”

I could almost hear the radio audience inhale and hold their breath, waiting for the response. I didn't have much time to think, so I responded, “I think success is doing what gives you joy.” After I said that, the telephone lines lit up like fireworks-and my 20-minute interview lasted for more than an hour.

Do you know that God uses joy to direct His people? As I've traveled and talked to thousands about clarifying their purposes, I've found that many people are afraid of their joy, claiming: “You can't always do what you love. That's not realistic.” Others tell me that joy is a feeling and can't be trusted. I maintain, however, that joy is an important barometer in determining the will of God in your life.

You don't need a word from the Lord, confirmation or permission to follow your joy. You just need to trust God that He is with you and that He is the author of your joy.

Some people may have joy when they paint, others when they sing, and still others when they counsel, travel or speak. Who gave us this joy for certain activities? Isn't it the Lord who made us, who knit us together in our mothers' wombs (Ps. 139:13)? And if God gave us the joy, why would He want us to neglect or ignore it?

The well-known verse Nehemiah 8:10 states, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” If you don't have joy, then you don't have supernatural strength. And if you don't have God's strength, then whose strength are you functioning with?

I see so many people who are concerned about doing God's will, yet they ignore their joy and consequently are like an airplane parked next to a runway. They are close enough to take off but remain grounded because they don't recognize that the heavenly control tower has released them for takeoff.

I've been in ministry for 30 years. In that time, I've come across many common fallacies and misunderstandings concerning guidance.

1. We assume that most or all thinking is wrong or dangerous. Many people are waiting for God to speak or direct because they don't trust their own thinking. Yet Paul wrote, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2). This verse indicates that once your mind is renewed, you can use it!

On at least two occasions, Luke used his renewed mind to determine the will of God. The first is described in his gospel: “Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us … it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed (Luke 1:1-4).

Luke was a scientist who obviously enjoyed research and writing. I'm convinced he experienced joy in his work.

Notice what he didn't write in the passage above: “The Lord led me; the Lord spoke to me; I felt impressed by the Spirit to write.” The Lord does lead, speak and impress, certainly-but in this case, Luke simply had a good idea.

Do you have any good ideas? I believe God can use them to direct you into what He wants you to do.

The second occasion is described in the book of Acts: “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.' Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:9-10, emphasis added).

After they examined all the evidence, Paul and his team came to the conclusion that God wanted them to go to Macedonia. What conclusions have you come to after you've examined all God's evidence? I would advise you to pursue that course until God shows you another one.

2. We confuse thinking with speculating. I talk to hundreds of people every year and I hear many say, “I thought maybe God wanted me to do this” or “I prayed and then felt perhaps the Lord wanted me to do that.” Usually it is connected with something they don't want to do (or don't have joy doing), but they try to use a lot of circumstantial evidence that leaves them unsure and groping for direction.

God doesn't deal in “maybe” or “perhaps.” He is a big God, and He has no trouble communicating His will. Did Paul and Luke speculate in the passages quoted above? They came to a conclusion, but they had been praying and seeking God's will. They put their trust in God and what He spoke. Notice that they “got ready at once” and left. There was no doubt in their minds.

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