So far, I’ve shared two extremes in thinking about God’s will and six bedrock truths. But while we have to be biblically thoughtful in decisions, that alone is not enough. We need practical guidelines for how to do it.

Meet Larry. He’s a good guy, and he loves the Lord. Larry was driving his three-year-old Camry with the radio tuned to a Christian station—a great thing to do. The announcer read the story of Joseph, including Genesis 49:26 where Joseph “made ready his chariot.” Larry started thinking. His car was three-years old now. “I might not be ready if God called me to take a trip or become a missionary. Maybe I need to make ready my chariot.’” So right away he pulled into a dealership. He prayed that God to make it clear if he should buy a new car. The dealer offered him a discount of $4,926 dollars. That’s right—Gen. 49:26 and then a discount of $4,926. It was clear. Larry bought a new car on the spot.

Admirable? Foolish? How can you know? If it isn’t good, how do we make decisions? Here’s a step-by-step pattern for when you’re standing at the crossroads.

1. Pray and meditate on God’s Word.

We can stress out about how to “find God’s will”or believe that God has already given His will. He wrote an entire Book full of it. Sometimes we ignore the truth that couldn’t be clearer (His Word) while searching for personalized revelation. How do you know what your brother wants for Christmas? You ask him. How do you know what God wants you to do? Humbly ask Him. Pick up the book He gave you and find out!

2. Learn as much as you can about the choices.

This is where spiritual advice meets common sense. “Should I marry her?”Well, get to know her first! What’s her background, her goals, her heart for ministry, her devotional life?

“Should I take the job?”Well, is there a good local church in the area? Can you minister and serve in that city? Does the job pay well? What are the hours? Will it take you away from church? What does your family think? What other options do you have? You can’t make a wise decision if you don’t know what you’re choosing between.

3. Pray and meditate on God’s Word.

Maybe this seems redundant. It is. But God’s Word isn’t. Go back to your Bible. Read it again. Get back on your knees. Talk to God again.

4. Talk to your spiritual leaders.

We’re a very independent culture. If you’re a cowboy, that’s really great. But not so great for church members. You should be accountable to a church body and church leadership. Don’t make major life decisions without talking to your Pastor. Wives, talk to your husband. Teens and college students, talk to your parents. For that matter, parents are nearly always a great resource for all of us. And remember that talking to spiritual leaders doesn’t mean finding people who will agree with you and ignoring the warnings of mature believers. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice (Prov. 12:15).”

5. Pray and meditate on God’s Word.

“But wait,”you say. “I already did that. Twice.”

That’s true. Make it three times.

6. Make a decision.

Some people make decisions before they’re even done with step 1. Some people can’t make a decision, repeating this cycle many times. If you’ve already followed the biblical steps, at some point you need to make a choice. God can close doors to redirect you, and if your heart is genuinely turned towards Him, He will.

7. Pray and meditate on God’s Word.

I know you saw that coming. There are at least four reasons I keep on repeating this step.

First, this must be our goal for all of life. And this is one of those areas where there are only advantages, no disadvantages.

Second, God’s Word is the single most important component of any decision. Without it, our decisions will go wrong. God designed it to be that way.

Third, we all have an extrordinary capacity for self-deception. If we really want something, we can find a way to make it sound like God’s will. I know of people who claim God’s leading to commit adultery. Honest correction before the light of Scripture is the only way to illuminate our self-deception (Jer 17:9).

Finally, this highlights the real point of decision-making. We tend to focus on the decision itself; God is more concerned with our hearts. At the end of every decision you ought to be stronger in your faith and dependence on God than when you began. That is true success.

8. Rest in God’s care of you.

After making a decision, trust God. If you asked for God’s wisdom, humbly sought counsel, and constantly adjusted your thinking to Scripture, you can be secure. Your life isn’t yours; it’s His. He will direct your steps.

One final note—if you’re wondering about Larrry, you can breathe a sigh of relief. I made him up.

But your life decisions, if you follow God, will be much wiser than Larry’s. For that matter, your story will be much better than anything I could make up. Because at the end of the day, it’s God’s story, not yours.

God has a plan for you. Now go live it.