Have you ever wished you knew God’s will? If you’re like me, then you probably came to the conclusion that it’s incredibly difficult.
But then I ran across a few scriptures that convinced me otherwise. Knowing God’s will is incredibly simple! Today, I want to teach you how you too can know God’s will.
You probably already have one eyebrow raised. Can it really be that simple? Who does this guy think he is? Well, I have no interest in rattling off a list of credentials, but let me at least say that I’ve done some incredibly dangerous things for Jesus that could have resulted in my death if I wasn’t certain of being in God’s will. And the truth is, it’s not as complicated as many Christians seem to make it out to be.
In Acts 20:27, Paul said something fascinating to the Ephesian elders: “For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.” It would be one thing for Paul to make the claim that he knew the “whole will of God;” but don’t you find it mind-blowing that he could condense the “whole will of God” into few enough human words that it could be adequately proclaimed? Apparently, it’s a lot more simple than we may have previously thought.
I believe God’s will is clearly reveled in Scripture. Before I show you how to navigate difficult life-decisions, I want to share with you the five basic principles of God’s revealed will. These, I believe, are what can be proclaimed as “the whole will of God.”
- Reach the Unreached – Second Peter 3:9 tells us that God’s will is for no one to perish. That’s an easy one. In other words, we should be doing all we can to preach and proclaim the Gospel whenever and wherever we have the opportunity. The only exception is if the Holy Spirit is stopping us (as in Acts 16:6, when the Holy Spirit compelled Paul not to go into Asia). We have already received our commission: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel…” We do not need to wait to find out whether or not that is God’s will.
- Live a Holy Life – First Thessalonians 4:3-6a is very clear: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him…” Furthermore, God’s will is that as you live in this way, the mouths of the ignorant will be shut (see 1 Peter 2:15).
- Engage in Continual Joy, Prayer and Gratitude – According to First Thessalonians 5:16-18, “…this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” In other words, God has a plan for your attitude and lifestyle. I have found that following His will in this matter is even more important than trying to figure out His will about decisions I’m trying to make (which we’ll get to in a moment). In summary, these three things are words of relationship. It is God’s will for you to commune with Him through joyfulness, prayer, and gratitude.
- Follow the example of Jesus – Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus is the “exact representation” of the Father’s being. In other words, Jesus perfectly revealed the will of God on earth. He calmed storms, multiplied food, healed the sick, raised the dead, cleansed lepers, cast out demons, confronted false religion, spoke truth, forgave, loved, served, and more. He did not call fire down out of heaven to destroy villages (see Luke 9:51-56). He did not curse people with sicknesses or diseases (see Acts 10:38). He only did what He saw His Father doing (see John 5:19). If you can’t find something in the life of Jesus, then you have reason to re-evaluate whether or not it is God’s will for you to do.
- “On Earth as It Is in Heaven” – When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, one of the classic lines was this: “May Your kingdom come and Your will be done on earth, just like Your will is done in heaven” (paraphrased from Matthew 6:10). God’s will is perfectly done in heaven, and we are to pray for that heavenly perfection to infiltrate the earth. What is heaven like? For one thing, nobody is sinning in heaven–ergo, God’s will is that you live sin-free, holy lives. For another thing, no one is hungry or poor in heaven–so feed the hungry and give to the needy. We care for the sick and minister healing to them because there is no sickness or disease in heaven. We comfort the mourning because in heaven, every tear is wiped away. If you’re wondering what God’s will is in a situation, one overly simplistic method is to ask, “Well, is it like this in heaven?” If not, then ask God how to address it on earth.
If you’re following these five principles, then you’re doing God’s will. It really is that simple! The more we spread the Gospel, pursue holiness, fellowship with God, participate in the example of Jesus, and set our minds on things above, the more we find ourselves thinking differently.
I used to think it was peculiar when people were miraculously healed; now I think it’s strange when it doesn’t happen. I used to marvel at storms moving in Jesus’ name; now I find it odd when they don’t obey. Through my time spent with Jesus in prayer and the Scriptures, I find that my human mind is continually being renewed. I’m not perfect, but I’m thinking more like Jesus now than I ever have. The result of a renewed mind, according to Romans 12:2, is that I can now “test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing, and perfect will.”
We tend to be very comfortable with the idea that God’s will is good and perfect, but what about pleasing? According to the verse I just shared, you don’t have to be afraid of God’s will. Many people assume that surrendering to God’s will is going to be a chore. They think that it’s going to ruin their lives. I like to say that surrendering to God won’t ruin your life; it will ruin your death. The things you don’t want to give up are “death”–not “life.” Jesus alone has life. Surrendering to God enables you to have the most joyful and fulfilling life imaginable–even in the midst of this fallen, messed-up world. Those who live according to God’s will are no longer slaves to the systems of this world (see Romans 12:2, Hebrews 10:36, 1 Peter 4:2, and 1 John 2:17); but this does not mean that God’s will is not enjoyable or pleasing.
That’s it. Now you know God’s will. (1) Reach the unreached, (2) Live holy, (3) Fellowship with God, (4) Follow the example of Jesus, and (5) Introduce the world to the Kingdom of heaven.
But what about everything else? How do I know if it’s God’s will for me to marry a person, or take a new job, or move to a new city, or buy a car, or enter the mission field, or anything else relevant to my everyday life?
These questions also have easy answers, and I’ll give you five points to follow:
- Would doing such a thing hinder the above five principles? Or would it make those things more likely to happen? If it hinders your ability to reach people, live holy, commune with God, live like Jesus, or usher in the Kingdom, then it’s probably not God’s will. If it opens new doors for those things, then it probably is God’s will. And if it doesn’t influence those things one way or another, then it probably doesn’t matter. Both options are fine right now, so move to point 2…
- Have you asked God to confirm the decision to you? Christians today seem to think that asking for a sign is wrong; but God didn’t condemn Gideon for asking for his many signs–nor did Jesus condemn Thomas for needing to touch His wounds. If you receive a sign regarding one decision or another, then check the rest of the things on this list; it’s probably God’s will. If God isn’t giving you a sign in one direction or another, then it probably doesn’t matter. Move on to point 3…
- Do you feel like God does NOT want you to do this thing? If you think He might be saying “no,” then don’t do it. If you’re not feeling that way, then take it as a sign of approval (not necessarily a “yes,” but at least as a “go ahead” to check point 4).
- What are other Spirit-filled Christians saying? While I suppose that it is possible that you’re the only person following God (and everyone else is wrong), I still believe that God stands with those who submit themselves to the Body of Christ for mutual accountability. Even the apostle Paul heeded the advice of average Christians despite what he felt he should have done during a riot in Ephesus (see Acts 19:30). If other trustworthy, mature, Spirit-filled Christians are against your decision, then you have reason to seriously re-evaluate. They love you and truly want the best for you. If you’re still in the game, move on to point 5…
- Does the decision qualify as “heavenly wisdom?” After all the above, it’s time to do one last test to make sure your decision iswise. James 3:17 tells us, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” Consider each of those traits of heavenly wisdom in light of your situation. Is your decision pure? peace-loving? considerate? submissive? full of mercy? likely to produce good fruit? impartial? sincere? If you can answer yes to all these, then it passes this test.
If points 1-4 aren’t producing meaningful answers, then it’s possible that God is truly giving you the option to make the decision based on wisdom (point 5). He’s not interested in micromanaging your life–otherwise He would have created you as a robot. He gave you a free will for a reason. He gives you decisions as gifts so that you can learn to lead and steward things well. Sometimes He just wants to give you the joy of making the right decision–not because He wants to test you, but because He trusts you with the decision.
Don’t agonize over direction for your life. Continue to love God, love people. and remain faithful where He has you. If a new opportunity arises, run it through the tests above. If it passes without raising any red flags, then the decision is in your hands.
God set up a pattern in the Garden of Eden: One tree was within His will for Adam and Eve. One tree was outside His will for Adam and Eve. But every other tree on the planet was made vulnerable to the wills of Adam and Eve. God loves to give us options simply because we’re His kids.