At some point in our Christian walk, many of us come to a fork in the spiritual road where the Lord makes us aware that we’ve been asking Him to join us in what we are doing, rather than us joining Him in what He is doing.

That’s often the uncomfortable bottom-line of the choice we have as Christians when making decisions. It’s easy to take all the available information, set our course, then ask God to join us in what we’ve decided. It’s much harder to surrender a decision to God, ask for His direction, then wait for an answer.

(No, I don’t always hear clear direction, even when I ask, wait, and seek. Be encouraged — the Lord often grants us the freedom to choose among our available options. Moving forward in a case like that is quite different from not asking, waiting, and seeking first!)

The problem with setting our own course without listening first for God’s direction is that even seemingly great ideas don’t always line up with God’s plan. Surrendering completely to God often leads to surprising outcomes.

King David’s experience with the temple offers a great illustration. If ever someone could have reasonably assumed his thoughts were being led by God, it would be David in 2 Samuel 7-10. These chapters are the glory years of David’s life. God had shown him incredible favor, established him as king, and given him victory over his enemies.

As David reflected, it bothered him that the Ark of the Covenant was sitting in a tent while he was living in a palace. So David decided to build God a temple. But David had learned (in 2 Samuel 6) that God can be very particular about how He wants things done. So before taking action, he called the prophet Nathan to confirm this plan was indeed God’s will.

At first, this seemed to be such an obviously good idea that Nathan immediately agreed David should proceed. Oops. See, building a temple was something God wanted to happen. The idea was right. David’s motive was right. The problem was God didn’t want David to be the one to build it.

The reason wasn’t obvious at the time; only later do we learn why God chose someone other than David to build the temple: “You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood” (1 Chronicles 28:3). God corrected Nathan’s assumption, reminding us that His plans don’t always line up with our “common sense.” David was humbly surrendered to do whatever God wanted. So David’s son Solomon was given the honor of building the temple, and God was pleased.

Each of us can apply the lessons of this story to our lives — including in the area of our personal finances. First and foremost, have we really surrendered our finances 100% to God, or are we merely asking Him to join us in what we’re doing? (This requires regular check-ups. Even if we’ve surrendered before, we have a tendency to gradually re-assume control of areas that were once fully given over to the Lord.)

When we’re sure our heart is surrendered to whatever God’s answer may be, the next step is simply to ask Him to show us His will. Here are a few specific areas to ask the Lord about:

  • your job or career path;
  • retirement plans and amount of saving;
  • current and future giving;
  • family plans/children/childcare-work decisions;
  • lifestyle and other purchase choices.

Could it be the Lord desires something out of the ordinary from you in one (or more) of these areas? Once you’ve prayed and asked Him to reveal His will in a particular area, be diligent to look and listen for His answer! If we come with an open heart, God is faithful to show us areas we need to surrender.

The path to true financial freedom begins with surrender and the realization that God owns it all anyway. We are merely His managers and stewards. Too often we believe the age-old deception that God’s plans and our personal best interests are two separate things. Pride whispers that we really do know best; that giving up our rights costs us something of value. But as we lay down our agenda and surrender to God, we realize that His plans and our best interests are perfectly aligned.

As John Piper says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” We get maximum satisfaction in the same place He gets maximum glory. The journey to that place begins with our surrender and a willingness to follow His lead.