Years ago when I was in my twenties, Numbers 9:22 popped off the page into my heart and became a “life verse” for me.

“Whether it was two days or a month or a year that the cloud lingered over the tabernacle, staying above it, the sons of Israel remained camped and did not set out; but when it lifted, they set out.” (NASB)

This Old Testament version of a spiritual GPS came about in the wilderness wanderings of God’s people. God promised to guide them through manifestations of his presence hovering over the tabernacle as a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night (see Numbers 9:15-23 and Psalm 78:14).

Wow! This seems like such an easy way to know God’s will for us, right? Just a quick look out our window to see if the cloud is resting or on the move when we have questions such as these:

  • Lord, that woman seems to need a friend, should I reach out and offer to meet up for coffee, or not?
  • Start a blog?
  • Adopt, or not?
  • Make this purchase?
  • Go back to school?
  • Open an online dating account?
  • Pay the monthly fee for a gym? Netflix?
  • Volunteer to be on the retreat planning team?
  • Be a small group leader at women’s bible study?
  • Go back to work? Look for a job that pays more but will be more time consuming?
  • Talk to my pastor about a concern I have about leadership, or “just” pray?

How do we discern what to say yes to, and when we need to say no? In a world of thousands of choices, how do you decide what is the best way to spend your precious, limited resources of time, emotional energy, relational capacity, finances, and physical strength?

Our Daily Yes

Thirty years later, the principle of Numbers 9:22 continues to keep my heart oriented to the big picture of being a Christian. Our lives belong to Christ and this gives us the most foundational YES we live out: Lord, as an act of faith and love, I will follow you and go where you want me to go and do what you ask of me.

Christ clearly and lovingly commands his followers to a lifestyle characterized by a variety of heart commitments: to die to self, take up our cross, follow him, love him and his commands, teach the gospel to others, be holy, set our hearts on things above, throw off sin and distractions, enter into and receive rest, and to be holy (Luke 9:23; John 15:1-10; Matthew 28:18-20; Colossians 3:1-4; Hebrews 12:1-3; 4:9-10; 1 Peter 1:13). And that’s just for starters!

Our daily yes, simply put, is a lifestyle of loving obedience and submission to our Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever promotes, encourages, helps, and nurtures that, we say YES to. Whatever distracts, tempts, or weakens us to live a Christ-centered life, we are to say NO to.  The gospel’s trajectory of transformation in our lives is a process of increasing yeses to obedience and decreasing noes to disobedience.

Wisdom for Grey Areas

But, you ask: ok, that sounds great but how DO we decide about practical decisions, like those listed above where the bible doesn’t give a clear-cut answer?

Here are some biblical guidelines that help me:

  1. What’s the motive of your heart in the issue at hand? (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  2. What are the freedoms and limitations given your current season of life? How would this decision impact your obvious responsibilities in this season of life? (Psalm 16:1-6)
  3. As best you can discern, what will the impact be of this yes or no? (Romans 8:5-8, Galatians 6:7-9)
  4. To say yes to this, will you need to say no/let go to something else and if so, are you willing and able to say no?
  5. Consider the trajectory of God’s work in your life. Does this decision seem to be in sync with him or not? (Ephesians 2:10, Philippians 2:13)
  6. What does Scripture say regarding the sphere(s) of life this decision will touch: finances, relationships, marriage, sexual integrity, thought life, busyness, rest, serving others, etc.?
  7. What do mature and wise-in-Christ people in your life say about it? (Proverbs 11:14, 15:22; Titus 2:1-15)

God continues to use Numbers 9:22 to orient my heart and vocational decisions. It’s not always been easy or comfortable, but I’m deeply thankful for God’s kindness in leading me year after year, and for wisdom through the Spirit in decision-making. My Christian life is imperfect but the more I taste the spacious freedom of obedience and faith, the less I’m tempted to give way to saying an unholy or foolish YES or NO!

About the Author:

Ellen Dykas

Ellen received her MA in Biblical Studies from Covenant Theological Seminary in 1999 and serves as the Women’s Ministry Coordinator for Harvest USA, a national ministry focused on gospel-centered discipleship and teaching regarding sexuality. Ellen loves ministry to women and is most passionate about mentoring, teaching God’s Word and spiritually nurturing others to walk deeply with Jesus. New Life Presbyterian in Dresher, PA, is her home church.