Knowing and Doing the Will of God
by Pastor Errol Hale
“How do I know God’s will?” This is one of the questions most frequently asked by Christians, and for good reason. Believers want to know the will of God.
The following is a simple series of six steps (and one piece of general counsel on the subject) that will help those earnestly desiring to discern the will of God. This is not a magic formula (there are no such formulas), but it will help you to know God’s will so you can do God’s will.
1 Thessalonians 4:3 “For this is the will of God, your sanctification:…”
It is God’s will that every believer be sanctified, that is: be holy.
The first questions believers should ask themselves regarding decisions are, “How will the options in front of me contribute to, or detract from, my sanctification?” “How will this affect my spiritual life?” “Will it get in the way of obedience, or spiritual disciplines?” “Will it expose me to unnecessary temptation?” Choosing any option that detracts from personal holiness is very likely not God’s will.
Example: Choosing a job, or committing to an activity or hobby that will disallow me to remain consistent in Bible reading, prayer, or public worship is going to be detrimental to personal holiness and spiritual growth.
Since it is God’s will that you be holy, any decision that hinders that process is very likely not God’s will.
Are there scriptures that explicitly address this issue?
Luke 6:46 "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?”
If so, what do they say? Are any of the options in front of me explicitly forbidden by God’s Word? If so, the correct response is obvious.
Example: I want to marry this non-believer. God says. “NO.” No matter how I may try to rationalize, or insist that his situation is different, if God’s Word speaks directly, I must obey directly.
If scripture does not address this issue specifically…
Are there scriptures that implicitly address this issue?
2 Timothy 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
God’s Word may not say, “Though shalt,” or “Thou shalt not.” But virtually every decision we may face in life is addressed by God’s Word, at least implicitly, in principle.
Example: I am unsure whether I should purchase a car that costs $5,000 or another one that cost $105,000. There is nothing in scripture that addresses which car I should buy, but if I can afford the $5,000 car and would need to go into debt to purchase the $105,000 car, God’s Word does teach me a principle about going into the bondage of debt. Proverbs 22:7 “The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower is servant to the lender.” Romans 13:8 “Owe no one anything except to love one another…”
If you really cannot find either explicit or implicit instruction in God’s Word…
Seek godly counsel. Proverbs 15:22 “Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established.”
Seek godly counsel, not merely counsel from the godly. Some godly people may be biased in their counsel, either because they have an emotional interest in you, or because they have an unfair bias on the matter. Counsel from people who know us is helpful, but a measure of objectivity may also be necessary. In Acts 21:11-12, Paul was urged by people who loved him not to go to Jerusalem because going there was going to mean arrest and imprisonment. It was God’s will for Paul to go to Jerusalem, and to be arrested. Their counsel, though sincere, was tainted by emotion.
Seek biblical counsel. Counsel based solely on people’s experiences or emotions is often dangerous. Get counsel from people who will point you to the Word of God. Isaiah 8:20 “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
Ask your parents. This is especially true if you are younger and lack a great deal of adult experience. Your parents are older and more experienced than you. They probably know you better than anyone else does and they genuinely care for you. There are certain provisos with this, however. Ungodly parents or those who are decidedly worldly or unbiblical in their thinking may not give the best advice. Parents’ advice may also be tainted with emotion and personal bias.
Seeking multiple counselors. While it is assuring to receive the same counsel from more than one source, be careful not to jump from counselor to counselor looking for those who will simply tell you what you want to hear.
If you cannot find instruction in God’s Word (it is there, you just may not know it!), and if godly counsel has not been definitive…
Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.”
What is the desire of your heart?
This is not the same as the new-age nonsense, “Follow your heart.” Jeremiah 17:9-10 instructs us about listening to our lying and desperately wicked hearts.
When we are truly pursuing God, and delighting in Him and in His Word, assuming there is no particular reason to go one way or the other, ask yourself, “What do I want to do most?”
Example: Two career paths. Both are good, lawful and moral options. Which would you rather do? Which one more fully resonates with who you are?
James 1:5-6 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.
If you have diligently followed the first five steps, you have been asking God for wisdom.
What does it mean to “ask in faith”? Among other things, it means to do what you are convinced is God’s will without second guessing (doubting) yourself.
And it means that if you did what you truly believed was God’s will, and you find you were wrong, don’t condemn yourself for it. Simply humble yourself and change course (repent.)
General counsel about knowing God’s will:
The reason to know God’s will is to do God’s will!
Seek to know God’s will with a resolve to do God’s will even if once you have discovered it, it isn’t what you wanted to hear. Remember: God’s will is always right. It is not only good, it is best!
When seeking God’s will in areas of life that are not clear, be sure you are obeying God’s will in the areas that are clear. Too many are worried about God’s will in one area of their life while they are disobeying God’s clearly revealed will in nine other areas of their lives. As we are diligent to obey God’s will in what we do know, He is more likely to reveal His will in the areas about which we are unsure.