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Knowing the will of God is one of the most important things we can seek in our Christian walk. The keys to knowing God’s will for decisions we make are twofold. First, we have to be sure what we are asking or considering is not forbidden in the Bible. Second, God’s ultimate will for us is always to glorify Him and help us grow spiritually. If what we want meets these two qualifications and we still don’t receive what we are asking for, then it is likely not God’s will for us to have what we are asking for. Or, perhaps we just need to wait a while longer for it.
Knowing God’s will in specific situations is sometimes difficult. People want God to tell them specifically what to do—where to work, where to live, whom to marry, etc. God rarely gives people information that direct and specific. But the key to knowing the will of God is found in Romans 12:1-2: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” This passage tells us that obedience to God is of utmost importance. We are to be “living sacrifices” to Him, offering everything we are and think and feel to Him, the essence of the greatest commandment—loving the Lord with all our heart, mind and strength (Matthew 22:37).
We also need to deliberately reject the voices that are contrary to His—”Do not be conformed to this world.” We will find it difficult to determine God’s will if we are so wrapped up in an ungodly culture that our thinking is warped. Paul explains that no one knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man (1 Corinthians 2:11-16). Believers have been given the Spirit of God, and He can teach us God’s thoughts and will. But we won’t be able to hear Him if our minds are filled with worldly concerns. To know the will of God, we should be so submitted to His Spirit that we can hear Him when He leads us.
Being able to determine God’s will in a situation is influenced by our effort to submit to Him and obey Him. But it’s also a matter of practice. We shouldn’t be so anxious to get it exactly right that we’re too paralyzed to act. God knows when we are trying and He is bigger than our mistakes. He can redeem anything we do wrong. And the simple act of growing closer to Him through obedience and prayer will reap rewards of its own.
Related Truth: How can I recognize the voice of God?Why should we study the Bible?What is God’s will?Is God sovereign or do we have free will?If God already has a plan for me, why should I pray? If He already knows what I want, why should I tell Him?
Truth about the Christian Life
How can you know God’s will? How is it possible for a man to know the mind of God? If God has a plan for your life, how does He reveal it to you? How can you find that plan? How does a sinful, finite human being come to know what a holy and infinite God desires?
Our starting point is Philippians 3:15, which assures us that God will reveal unto us the guidance we need for every aspect of our lives. Once an amateur pilot explained to me how airliners are kept on their course by radar. A pilot cannot always see what is coming, particularly in bad weather. At best he can see only about a hundred miles. And yet he can fly his aircraft safely in all weather, for the course is marked out for him by radar. If he deviates either to the right or to the left, the radar warns him accordingly. It is thus that God guides us. Our text does not mean that we shall always be able to see more than one step ahead in our Christian lives. It does not mean that we shall even always be able to see ahead at all. But it does mean that God has a plan for our lives — for your life and mine — and that He promises to reveal the steps of that plan to us.
The basis for this assurance lies in the nature of God. For it is God’s nature to reveal Himself and His purpose to man. Quite a few years ago when I was in seminary I learned the famous definition of God contained in the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” The first time a person hears that definition I suppose he inevitably thinks that just about everything that could possibly be said about God is wrapped up in it, for the definition is so long. And yet, as I began to memorize and study it, I learned that it was far from comprehensive. For one thing, there is no mention of God’s being love. And God is certainly infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His love. Moreover, today I believe I should also like to see God’s desire to reveal Himself to man included. I should like to say, “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, truth, love, and desire to reveal Himself to man.”
In one sense all that God has ever done has been directed to this end. When God made the world it was to reveal Himself to those who would eventually live on it. Creation reveals God. Hence, Paul tells us that “the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). When God caused the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be written, this too was to reveal Himself to man. Finally, just as God revealed His power in nature and His purpose in Scripture, so did He reveal His personality in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus could properly say, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9).
It is God’s nature to reveal Himself. And God’s revelation always involves a disclosure of His will for the individual person. On this basis Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse used to say that it was actually impossible for a Christian who wanted to know the will of God for his life not to know it.
Now this statement by Dr. Barnhouse also brings us to the first of the great biblical principles by which a Christian may unquestionably come to know God’s will. For the Bible teaches that if you really want to know God’s will, you must be willing to do it even before you know what it is. This is clearly taught in John 7:17: “If any man will do His will , he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” In this verse, although Jesus was speaking literally of the rejection of His doctrine by the Jewish leaders, He was actually teaching the great principle that knowing the will of God consists largely in being willing to do it.
Now if we are going to come to the point where we are willing in advance to do God’s will, we must recognize first that in ourselves we do not want to do it. If you are saying to yourself, “Oh, but I have always wanted to do the Lord’s will,” you are kidding yourself. For “the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither, indeed, can be” (Romans 8:7). And there is a great deal of the carnal mind in all of us.
In ourselves we are a bit like the Israelites when they had first come out of Egypt. They were a huge company. The Bible says that there were 600,000 men, and in addition to that there were the women and children. So the total must have been in the neighborhood of two million. Now this great host had been led into the desert where the temperature goes much above 100 degrees in the day-time and often falls below freezing point at night. When I was in Egypt in the middle of the summer of 1961, the temperature was 140°F at Luxor. And it was even hotter in the middle of the desert. In these circumstances the people would have perished from the extremes of temperature if God had not performed a great miracle to save them.
The miracle was the miracle of the cloud which signified God’s presence with the people and led them in their wanderings. The cloud was large enough to spread out over the camp of the Israelites. It provided shade during the day-time; and it gave warmth by night, when it turned into a pillar of fire. It was the banner by which they regulated their march. When the cloud moved the people moved, and when the cloud stopped they stopped. One of the great hymns describes it by saying,
Round each habitation hovering,
See the fire and cloud appear,
For a glory and a covering,
Showing that the Lord is near.
Thus, deriving from their banner
Light by night and shade by day,
Safe they feed upon the manna,
Which he gives them when they pray.
The cloud was the single most distinguishing feature of their encampment.
Now we must imagine how it would be when the cloud moved forward and how weary the people would have become of following it. We read in the final verses of Exodus, “When the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys; but if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up” (Exodus 40:36-37). Sometimes it moved often, at other times not at all. We must imagine a family coming to a stop under the cloud’s guidance in the middle of a hot afternoon and immediately beginning to unpack their baggage. They take down their bedding and set up their tent. And then, no sooner has it all been arranged, than someone cries out, “The cloud is moving.” And so they repack their baggage and start to go on again. One hour later the cloud stops. They say, “We’ll just leave our things packed this time and sleep on the ground.” Well, they do. And the cloud stays that night and all next day and all that week. And as they are going into the second week the family says, “Well, we might as well get it over with.” They unpack. And immediately the cloud begins to move again.
Now the people must have hated the moving of the cloud by which God guided them. But no matter how much they hated the cloud they still had to follow its guidance. Because if someone had said, “I don’t care if the cloud is moving; I’m going to stay right here,” the cloud would have gone on, and he would have died in the heat of the desert, or he would have frozen at night. They hated God’s leading. But by this means God was molding a nation of rabble, of slaves, into a disciplined force that would one day be able to conquer the land of Canaan. And He was teaching them absolute obedience.
It is the same with us. Neither you nor I naturally want God’s will. We want our will. We will always hate God’s way, and particularly His way of training us to be soldiers. But we must go through it. For through that training we must learn to say, “Father, even though I do not naturally want Your will, nevertheless, I know that it is the best thing for me; and it is necessary for my spiritual training. Lead me in the way I should go.” And God will do that. For to know God’s will we must come to the point where we first want to do it.
The second great principle for knowing the will of God is that nothing can be the will of God that is contrary to the Word of God. The God who is leading you now is the God who inspired the Bible then, and He is not contradictory in His commandments. Consequently, nothing can be the will of God for you that is not in accordance with what is taught in His Word.
God’s will is expressed in great principles. Take John 6:40, for instance. I call this verse the will of God for all unbelievers. It says, “And this is the will of Him that sent me, that everyone who seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” If you are not a Christian, God is not at all interested in telling you whether you should accept a job with General Motors or with Dupont. He is not interested in whether you should marry Sally or Mary, or Henry or John, or whether you should enlist in the army. He is interested in whether or not you will believe in Jesus Christ and receive Him as your personal savior. God’s will for you starts there. This is His will. And you must accept this demand before you can begin to go forward on any other level.
Another passage is Romans 12:1-2. It is an expression of God’s will for the Christian. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” If you are a Christian, you can take it as an unchangeable principle that anything that contributes to your growth in holiness is an aspect of God’s will for you. And anything that hinders your growth in holiness is not His will. God is interested in having you become like His Son, the Lord Jesus.
Colossians 3:23 is an expression of God’s will for your work. It says, “And whatever ye do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men.” I think this is especially applicable to young people. Not long ago a member of my congregation remarked that all too often young people interpret a difficulty in their work or their schooling as being an indication that what they are doing is not God’s will for them; actually, she said, it is probably God’s indication that they should work harder at it. This verse tells us that God wants us to do everything we have to do well.
A principle that is closely related to this one is found in Ephesians 6:5-6: “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear the trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service, as menpleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” This is for you if you have a difficult boss, or a difficult teacher. The Bible says that it is God’s will that you should avoid gossiping about him or her and instead work as well as you are able under his guidance. And you should do it, not only when he is watching, but when he is not watching — as unto the Lord and not unto men.
Perhaps you are saying, “Well, these principles are good, but they do not touch the small things with which I am wrestling.” You want to know whether you should go to the movies as a Christian, join a bridge club, make friends with the people at work, join in social drinking, or some other thing. Well, let me give you a final principle that covers most of these. Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Do you see the instruction? God says that you are to pursue the best things in life. If these things are the best things for you, then do them. If not, you are to go another way. Just be sure that you take your guidelines from Scripture.
The third principle is also important. It is the principle of daily and even hourly fellowship with the Lord. Psalm 32:8 states it like this: “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with mine eye.” Clearly, if God is to guide us with His eye, He must first catch our eye. And this means that we must look to Him regularly throughout the day.
Let me illustrate this by a story. I have a good friend who is a gospel singer and who for many years was a bachelor. He once said, “You know, Jim, it is always easy to find a Christian girl to marry. And it is always easy to find a beautiful girl to marry. But it is not always so easy to find a beautiful, Christian girl to marry.” I suppose he was partly right. At any rate, he eventually found a beautiful, Christian girl and married her. And she was perfect in every way but one. The one imperfection lay in the fact that at times she talked with a very shrill voice, especially in the presence of company. And because he was a great baritone singer, her voice often grated on his ears. This was the making of a serious problem in their marriage.
Well, the Lord had given him a great deal of tact among many other talents, and he used his tact to go about the problem in this way. One day he came to his wife and said to her, “Look, dear, do you know the first thing that a drama coach teaches an actress when she begins training?” His wife said, “No.” “He teaches her to lower her voice. By nature a woman’s voice is shrill, but it becomes warm and pleasing when it is lowered about an octave. A drama coach will teach an actress to say a phrase, count down eight notes, repeat it again, and then practice that repeatedly. I think your voice would be improved if you would do that.” When my friend’s wife agreed, they arranged a signal by which she would be reminded to lower her voice in the presence of company. The signal was for him to tuck in his chin.
My friend told me that there were times when this produced the funniest effect you could imagine. There they would be, sitting around the dining room table talking, and his wife’s voice would be rising higher and higher. He would tuck in his chin and look at her. And then, often right in the middle of one of her sentences, she would catch his eye. She would notice his chin, and her voice would drop like a lead marshmallow and then go on at a pitch one octave lower.
She saw the sign when she looked at her husband. It must be the same in our daily walk with the Lord. The Lord knows that we shall go astray. It is our nature to go astray. Our speech will become unpleasing, or our conduct. And we will always do things that displease Him. But we must get into the habit of looking to Him often — in church, in our quiet time, in the various periods of our day — to catch His eye, to notice His sign. For if we do, we shall find Him watching. He will direct us. And He will guide us with His eye.
Now there is only one more point that I need to make, and it is not difficult at all. If you are serious about knowing the Lord’s will and honestly seek it, then you must be prepared for the Lord to guide you into new ways. If there is one thing that I have most learned about the Lord’s guidance it is that He does not often lead us in old ways. God is creative. He is infinite. And He is infinite in His plans for His children.
David Wilkerson, the author of The Cross and the Switchblade and a minister who has been greatly blessed in a unique ministry to teenagers in New York City, tells in the opening chapter of his book how he was led in new paths in his ministry. He had been a Pentecostal preacher in central Pennsylvania, and by his personal standards he was doing quite well. The church had grown. There were several new buildings. And yet he was discontent. One day he decided to spend the late evening hours, when he had been used to watching television, praying. He sold the television set after much hesitation and began to spend time with the Lord. He did this for some time. Eventually, out of these times of prayer he was led to begin his work helping the youth caught up in drug addiction and delinquency in Manhattan. God’s will for David Wilkerson meant leading a country preacher into the heart and the heartbreak of the city.
It will also be true for you. If you will seek God’s will, determining to do it even before you know what it is, if you will look to Him while responding to His voice in the Bible, then God will reveal His way and direct you in ever widening and ever more interesting paths. He will be close to you, and He will lead you in the way that you should go.
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by Bob Picard, Pastor, God’s Grace Bible Church
There are many different ideas in the church today regarding the question, “How can I know the will of God? Can you find the will of God by taking a “so called” spiritual gifts inventory? The short, and simple, answer is an emphatic, “No!”
You, and those around you will begin to know your gifts, as you study, and grow in the grace of the Lord
Another method of finding the will of God that is so prominent in Christianity today is that your dreams and desires can be answered by God. One common mantra of this movement is, “You have to dream God sized dreams in order for God to do His will.” This also is a false view, which really is the opposite of the true will of God.
There are some that say that you must have “audacious,” or “adventurous” faith in order to know the will of God.
These things all sound like plausible arguments to the untrained new convert. Yet, trying to accomplish them is actually an impossible task.
The will of God, simply, is found by a consistent reading, studying and applying the Word of God, with the help of the Holy Spirit. In short; there are no magical shortcuts in determining His will. Simply put; when a Believer practices what is taught through the Word, he, or she, will begin to know what to do.
One of the first ways (along with reading, studying and applying) to know His will is church attendance. It’s amazing how many people are looking for a quick answer to knowing the will of God, yet they forsake the assembling together of the Saints (Hebrews 10:25) How can someone be in search of His will without partaking in the most basic tenet of the believer’s life? Dare I say it? But, would the same people miss their favorite television program, or sporting event? I’m just saying…
Secondly: How about the seemingly mundane things of everyday life
I was on a missions trip to the Yucatan, in Mexico. At one of the village church buildings I noticed that their was litter strewn about the area in front of the building. I recommended (through an interpreter) to an elder of the church, that someone needed to clean the mess up. At first he was rather annoyed. But then later, in church service, he thanked me for pointing that out. You see; no one needs a specific “calling” from the Lord when it comes to normal, everyday things. Those everyday things, and how they are handled, show that one is growing in God’s will.
Another thing to think of is this: If you are employed, do your job as unto the Lord. When you carry out your job as the will of God, you are actually ministering to others. This is the will of God If you are a husband, be a good husband. A wife? Be a good wife. A parent? Be a good parent. Attend to those everyday things as they were a vocation from God. Do you know what? They are
Paul’s first epistle to the Thessalonians sums it up:
Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no go beyond and defraud his brother in matter: because that the Lord the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit. But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more; And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and ye may have lack of nothing. (1 Thessalonians 4:1-12)
I emphasized “study to be quiet” for a reason. It all comes down to growing in the Word of God. As a Christian does these things, the will of God is made known. It is never God’s will to do anything which contradicts His written word. Sadly, I have heard people say that it is the Lord’s will to do things which I will not even mention here. The reason they “believe” that it is God’s will is because they do not believe that the Bible is THE source for knowing God’s will. Ascribing to other authorities will simply lead to deception.
Sadly, this is happening…
I submit one of our logos for your examination. We do need the Bible back into our churches as the sole authority for life and godliness:
MANY OF ST. PAUL’S EPISTLES begin with an introduction combining greetings to the community he is addressing and to individuals he knew in that community. As in the Epistle to the Colossians, the introduction may include prayers of thanksgiving that the Gospel has taken root there as well as prayers of intercession for the members of that local Church. These introductions provide us with models of prayer for our sister Churches and for our own local community as well. Paul’s prayer for the Colossians begins with verse 9 of chapter 1:
“For this reason, we also – since the day we heard it – do not cease to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.”
What does it mean to be “filled with the knowledge of His will?” St Paul is not talking here about God’s will for one or another individual. Rather he is speaking about the great plan of God for the restoration of creation, for which the incarnation is the linchpin. To know the will of God is to know the depth of His compassion for His fallen creation: a compassion which does not balk at setting aside for a time the splendor of His rightful place on what Scripture calls
“the throne of the majesty on high”
(Hebrews 1:3) to come as one of us, sharing our broken human nature.
“For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell and by Him to reconcile all things in Himself by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross”
(Colossians 1:19-20). To know the will of God is to know deeply – as a guiding force in our lives – that in Christ God and His creation have been brought together again. This is
“the mystery which has been hidden from ages and generations but now has been revealed to His saints: … Christ in you, the hope of glory”
(Colossians 1:26-27). While God’s will is for the restoration of all creation, His will for human beings is that they
“may be partakers of the divine nature”
(2 Peter 1:2) through Jesus Christ, united to God through Him. In the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch and so many others, “God became man so that man might become god.”
Knowing That You Are the Church
St Paul then turns his attention to practical questions concerning the Church. Many people in our society have come to understand “the Church” to mean its leaders, the clergy. Even practicing believers talk about “the Church” when they mean the hierarchy. In effect they place themselves outside the Church when they speak this way, relegating themselves to the status of spectators, clients, or even customers. The nineteenth-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard described this kind of church in terms of the ordinary Lutheran worship experience of his day. Kierkegaard said that in church the clergy and the choir are the actors, God is the prompter giving the lines and the people are the audience. In reality, he affirmed, it is the people who are meant to be the actors. The clergy and the choir are the prompters (“Let us pray”) and God is the audience. That the people of God are the “actors” not the audience points out another dimension to the will of God which we must know: all believers are meant to affirm by their actions their conviction that we are called to union with God. This happens first of all in the liturgical assembly where we are to be more than spectators,
“teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord”
(Colossians 3:16). St. Paul’s vision of the Church in this epistle is focused, not on distinctions of rank or function but on mutuality: the Church is one body with Christ as its head (see Col 1:18, 24), a theme developed further in other epistles. In his vision believers are called to bear with one another, forgive one another and pray for one another, thus building up the Church as one body. Our unity in the one body to which we have been called is first of all experienced in the local parish. As we look around the church at those worshipping with us we find countless opportunities to support, through prayer and interaction, those whom God has placed in our lives. Through prayer for those around us and by the way we relate to one another before or after the service we can demonstrate that love for our local parish which St Paul calls
“the bond of perfection”
(Colossians 3:14) We can extend our support for one another through the week as well. A custom which some have found helpful is to take your parish directory and so divide the list of names that in the course of one month you are praying each day for five or ten of your fellow parishioners. Making such a commitment is one way of responding to St. Paul’s injunction,
“Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving”
Praying for the Wider Church
The Christian family has been likened to a series of concentric circles. Beyond the local community we see the other parishes which make up our eparchy as well as the parishes of other eparchies in the community in which we live. Beyond them we see the other eparchies of our nation or our patriarchate. Praying for several in turn not only benefits them but deepens our feelings of connection to these fellow believers for whom we may pray. We may be moved to pray in a particular way for the suffering Churches throughout the world. There seem to be few countries in Asia or Africa today where Christians are not in constant danger on account of their faith. As a result of hardships in their homelands Eastern Christians have been scattered around the world in search of peace for themselves and their families. In response their Churches have journeyed with them, at first to support them in their time of need, but then to make with them a new frontier of witnesses to their particular traditions. Thus today we find Coptic churches in Australia, Syriac churches in Sweden and Malankara churches in Texas! We do well to pray for these “diaspora churches” that they may proper as loving witness to the diversity of the apostolic traditions nourished by them for centuries. When we think of missions we often imagine primitive peoples receiving the Gospel for the first time. There are still peoples all over the world whose Churches are in the early stages of development or whose economic environments compel then to continue seeking the support of more prosperous Christians. Missionary churches form another category of fellow believers in need of our intercession.