The Bible talks about the will of God. That is that God has desires or plans that he would like for us to willingly cooperate with. The confusing thing for the Christian is that He does not give us all of the specifics about His plans. So we ask ourselves; am I in the will of God? I want to be trusting God? But how am I to know what he wants me to do? The Bible does give us some clues.
You can click on “The Will of God” to start reading at the beginning of this topic or use the page index to jump to the part that interest you most.
Overview of content in this section is as follows:
The Will of God
Overview of content in this section is as follows:
THE WILL OF GOD
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE IN THE WILL OF GOD?
To be in God's will means that you are carrying out what God’s purpose is for you. You are fulfilling God's desires and wishes for your life. God really does have a purpose for each and every one of us. As our Father he also has our best interest at heart.
The majority of God's will for your life has to do with your relationship with Him. Where you live, work, go to school, whom you marry, are all secondary issues. God cares about your character more than where you live work or go to school. God does indeed care about all of the little details in your life; yet it seems to be these secondary issues that most often lead to confusion about what God's will is for our lives.
It is in these secondary issues that the will of God is often spoken of as some kind of mystery. Although it may be true that we may not know what the Lord would have us do in every situation, that has little to do with being in the will of God. Being in the will of God is not solely dependent upon our understanding of it. The simplest way that I can think of to answer the question, "How do I find the will of God?” is to answer, "By walking in it!"
When I am hiking a path out in the woods I cannot see the end of the path from where I start. I have to follow the path. If I leave the path and venture out into the bushes, I may not see the path at all — but it is still there. Sometimes I may come across fallen trees, landslides, snow, or other obstacles that obstruct the view of the path. At times, obstacles have obscured my sight of the path. I have found that, if I keep going in the same direction and look for it; I can find the path again. Sometimes the path is steep, and hard; often, that is when it is most rewarding to stay focused on the path. Following the will of God for your life is very similar. The farther off the path you go, the harder it will be to get back on track. You may even have to look at a map, or ask someone for directions by reading your Bible or seeking Godly counsel.
HOW HAS GOD LED PEOPLE IN THE PAST?
God has led people in a number of different ways in the past. In Exodus, God led Moses and his people in the desert with a cloud and a pillar of fire. God has led people in the Old Testament through prophets and signs. God also has led people using angels, dreams, and visions. God has spoken to people directly and through others. God is not limited to one set pattern in the leading of His people. We are to always seek God for His guidance.
WE CAN SEE IN SCRIPTURE THAT MAKING PLANS AND DECISIONS WITHOUT CONSULTING THE LORD IS NOT WISE.
HOW DOES ONE DETERMINE AND FOLLOW THE WILL OF GOD?
“The will of God Scripture”
The will of God is in His written word. I remember a friend once told me that the answer to everything was in the Bible. I objected and said that the Bible did not tell me what color of socks to wear each day. My friend Mark laughed, and insisted that it does! He then gave a partial quote of Matthew 6:25: “Do not worry about what you will wear! Is not life more than food or clothing?”
In God's written word there are a lot of things that we are told to do as well as things we are told not to do. However, God is not a cosmic killjoy who has set out to make your life miserable (Matthew 7:11). In fact, Jesus said that He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). Everything that God tells us to do, or not to do, is really for our own benefit — not His. As already stated, God is first concerned about our relationship with Him. Where we live, work, or go to school, comes after this.
Did you notice that these verses told us to put God first, and then “these things would follow”? There are a lot of “dos and don'ts” in the Bible. For those who fret over the letter of the law and become overwhelmed, Jesus made it simple when He said all of the Old Testament law hinged on two things.
To be in God's will we must be in a good relationship with Him. The thing that ruins our relationship with God is sin. To restore our relationship with God we need to continually admit our faults and turn away from them. We must confess our sins and repent.
So far we have seen that to be in the will of God we must first develop our relationship with Him. This involves confessing our sins and turning away from them. Next we will need Biblical convictions. There are numerous examples in the Bible of people who had predetermined to follow God no matter what. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to obey the King’s orders to worship the golden image that he had set up. They did this even at the risk of being burned to death (Daniel 3:17-18). Joshua also had predetermined that "as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:15). Ruth is also a good example of someone who was blessed because she had predetermined to stay with Naomi and serve God and not return to her people and their false gods (Ruth 2:15-16). Peter and the apostles said they must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). We also must predetermine that in any given situation we will follow God and not the crowd, or so-called wisdom of man.
We can apply this knowledge in many different ways. Let's say, for example, that a young beautiful woman is looking for a job. In the “Help Wanted” ads she sees two different job listings. One job pays five times as much as the other. Should the dollar amount be the determining factor? The lesser-paying job is as a waitress. The higher-paying job is as a stripper in a nightclub. For the woman with Biblical convictions, the decision is easy. She may consider what Jesus said — “men commit adultery simply by looking upon a woman with lust in their hearts” — and want no part of it. Biblical descriptions of a Godly woman would also help show her that the higher-paying job was not in God's will for her. Imagine that there is a third job listed, working as a business consultant, and the lady does have a degree in business. However, the job will require her to move. Does that mean that it is God's will for her to move? Not necessarily. How will this affect the rest of her life? Is there a good church in the new location? How will moving effect other relationships? All these questions are things to prayerfully consider before reacting. The woman following God knows that the salary offered by any job should not the determining factor of whether or not that job is accepted.
In out next example, we have a young Christian man who is lonely and would like to marry. He meets two ladies who show some interest in him. One is wealthy, and prettier than the other, but she wants nothing to do with going to church with him and shows no interest in God. The other woman, although not as pretty or as wealthy as the other, talks about the Lord regularly and consults the Lord in all of her decisions. Now, just because one woman loves the Lord does not automatically mean that it is God's will for our young man to marry her. The wealthy, prettier woman would be the choice many in the world would pick. However the young man following God automatically rules her out as a choice because the Bible tells us not to be bound together to unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14).
We should consider the counsel of God in His written word wherever we can find application. Determining to do this beforehand can save us from many pitfalls and miseries. This does not mean that we should be paralyzed and not do anything unless God directly tells us to. Rather we move ahead and filter everything through what we do know of God's will, and trust Him to lead us. In the case of looking for a job, we don't just pray for a job, but we also go out and look for one. While looking for the job we ask God to lead us, remembering that it is easier to direct us, if we are actually moving. Similarly it is hard to steer a parked car.
Page Index “Seeking the Will of God”
READ THE FOLLOWING PASSAGES AND ASK YOURSELF, “DOES GOD DIRECT OUR STEPS THROUGH HIS WRITTEN WORD?”
GOD CAN USE THE COUNSEL OF OTHERS TO DIRECT US
GOD ALSO DIRECTS US THROUGH CIRCUMSTANCE
For example the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, according to Old Testament prophecy (Micah 5:2). However, the reason Joseph took his pregnant wife Mary to Bethlehem was because of a decree issued by Caesar Augustus that required everyone to return to their own city for a census (Luke 2:1-8). Joseph did not go to Bethlehem to be in God's will and fulfill prophecy. Joseph went to Bethlehem because he was required to for the census. Joseph was in the will of God without knowing it.
I once drove from Oregon down to Yreka, California, to pick up my nephew. When I got there and knocked on the door, nobody answered. Since I had already driven that far I decided to drive a little farther, to hike around at Castle Crag State Park, and then come back to see if my nephew was home yet. I started up a trail that crosses the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from Mexico to Canada. As I was approaching that intersection I heard a little girl screaming and crying. I started running toward the sound to see what was the matter. It turned out she was lost and terribly frightened. I spent some time talking with her and praying with her concerning the whereabouts of the adults she was supposed to be with. I then took her back down the trail to a parking lot, where she recognized the car she came in. So I left a note on the windshield telling them they could find her at the ranger station. I then drove her to the ranger station and informed them that the adults could also possibly be lost out there. Later when I drove back to Yreka, I found out my nephew had been home the entire time. He had been asleep, and did not hear me knock on the door.
I am convinced that God had more in mind for me to do that day than to pick up my nephew or go hiking. The Lord led me to help a lost little girl. He led me there through circumstances. Call it a coincidence if you want to. I have found that the more I follow the Lord, the more “coincidences” I have, especially after prayer
Following is some Scripture that supports the idea that God directs our paths. Notice that these passages do not imply His leading only by His written word.
The next couple of verses are examples of how God closed doors to redirect Paul.
CAN ONE ALWAYS KNOW WHAT GOD’S WILL IS IN A PARTICULAR SITUATION?
As we can see in the following passages, the apostle Paul, James, and the writer of Hebrews, did not always know what God's will was in every situation.
IF I FOLLOW THE WILL OF GOD, WILL MY LIFE BE EASY?
It is most difficult to understand the will of God in the midst of a hardship or tragedy. Often there does not seem to be any answer that is comforting to the hurt deep down in our souls. Why does God allow some things to happen? There is no answer to that question that I know of that will make all of the hurt instantly go away. I can only tell you that we see a very narrow slice of the picture, whereas God sees everything — past, present, and future. We are not alone in this struggle of understanding. Many people in the Bible also struggled with this.
Perhaps the deepest anguish or hurting feeling recorded in this area is what Jesus experienced from the cross. What Jesus experienced when He cried out, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46) is far beyond what we can comprehend. We know that Jesus was made sin for us, and in this process He was accursed of God (2 Corinthians 5:21 and Galatians 3:13). We also know that Jesus committed His spirit unto the Father moments after this (Luke 23:46). Still, the anguish that Jesus must have experienced, to feel rejected by the Father while being tortured, is beyond our imagination. Yet even then Jesus was in the will of the Father. Consider what Jesus prayed before He went to the cross.
As we can see by what happened to Jesus while He was in the will of God, being in God’s will does not mean that our lives will be easy. Jesus was crucified. All of the Apostles died martyrs for their faith, with the exception of John, who was exiled to the island of Patmos. The Apostle Paul had many hardships during his missionary journeys, as we can see in the following passage.
In some cases we will be blessed because of our hardships.
This last verse lets us see a purpose in our trials. Notice that it says, "When you encounter various trials". It did not say "IF" you encounter trials, but "when".
WHAT IS THE INCENTIVE FOR FOLLOWING GOD’S WILL?
There are many incentives, which could be a study in itself, but here are a couple of examples of abundant life here and rewards in heaven.
“30 For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’
31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
32 But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings,
33 partly, by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated.
34 For you showed sympathy to the prisoners, and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one.
35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.
36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.”
PRAYER PLAYS A PART IN THE WILL OF GOD
You are not big enough to ruin God's will beyond repair. Learn from your mistakes and go on.
THE WILL OF GOD IS FOR US TO TURN TO JESUS
For those who do not know the Lord yet this is the place to start.
38 " ‘For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
39 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.
40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.’”
JESUS WAS ALWAYS WITHIN THE WILL OF THE FATHER
CONCLUSION: “How to Know the Will of God”
The Bible does not give us a set pattern by which we can make all decisions. God can lead us in a variety of different ways — including Scripture, advice from Godly and knowledgeable people, through circumstances, and, less often, through dreams or visions.
The best way to be sure to be in the will of God is to seek Him in everything. Pray and study His word and do your best to obey and please Him in all aspects of your life. God can and does direct us without our complete understanding of exactly what He wants us to do for every situation. Our main part is obedience to that which we do know, and seeking Him in everything.
I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.