Knowing and doing the will of God matters to those who know God.
How to know God’s will is more challenging.
Since God doesn’t typically choose to speak audibly to us (I’ve never heard any voices), how can we do His will?
- Should we look to circumstances for divine guidance?
- Do internal impressions from the Spirit play a role?
- What about counsel from leaders or caring friends?
Each of these considerations could be helpful but there is a more objective way to know God’s will. Scripture offers a revelation of both God and his will for us (see: II Timothy 3:15-17).
Few of us struggle to know God’s will on clearly commanded or clearly forbidden issues.
The challenge comes where Scripture doesn’t give specific guidance. This is where we are free to make our own decisions as we walk in the wisdom in Scripture.
When we lack specific biblical directives, we should always look for principles and general truths from Scripture.
Here I offer 12 essentials to assist you in knowing and doing the will of God. This is not a formula for knowing God’s will but a focus to keep us in the right place for doing His will.
As you consider each one, notice the emphasis on being. Too often we focus on what God wants us to do when He is much more concerned about who we are or the formation of godly character.
Being should always be the basis for doing.
1. Be humble: Psalm 25:9- “God guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.” See also: Isaiah 66:1-2; I Peter 5:5,6; Romans 12:3. Note: The two means for cultivating humility on a daily basis are prayer and study of God’s Word. When we pray and look to God’s word, we are acknowledging our need for God’s strength and wisdom.
2. Be grateful: I Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Many step out of God’s will because of discontentment. (see, Hebrews 13:5; Philippians 2:14-15).
3. Be obedient to God’s revealed will: II Timothy 3:16,17: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” First do what you know to be God’s will. Always ask if there is any Scripture that applies to your decision (see, Deuteronomy 8:3; Psalm 19:7; 119:98; Colossians 3:16).
4. Be connected to a local church: Hebrews 13:7,17: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account” (see, Ephesians 4:11,12). Be open to godly counsel. See Proverbs 12:15;19:20. Godly mentors are essential for navigating life in a fallen world.
5. Be spiritually minded: Romans 8:5-8: “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (see, psalm 1:1-3; 19:14; Romans 12:2; Galatians 5:16; Philippians 4:8).
Focus on spiritual and eternal goals and try to minimize the material and temporal commitments that do not serve those goals (see, I John 2:15-17, Colossians 3:1,4; II Corinthians 4:16-18). Be kingdom-minded (Matthew 6:33) and deny the flesh — this is what it really means to be led by the Spirit (see, Romans 8:13-14; 13:14; Galatians 5:19-22).
6. Be wholehearted: Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (see, Ecclesiastes 9:10; Romans 12:11; I Corinthians 15:5-8; Ephesians 6:7,8).
7. Be committed to excellence: Philippians 1:9-10a: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best.” Ask, “What is the best I can do for God?” (see, I Corinthians 10:31, II Corinthians 5:9-10).
8. Be willing to step out in faith: Hebrews 11:6-10,13: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God….All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth” (see, II Corinthians 5:6-10).
Sometimes God calls us to follow Him without disclosing a full understanding of His provisions and purposes (see, the life of Joseph (Genesis 37-50). However, we should not confuse faith with presumption. Those who, for example, go into unmanagable debt and claim it as a step of faith are being presumptuous toward God.
9. Be patient: Hebrews 10:36: “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (see, James 1;2-5; 5:7-8).
Abraham and Sarah are examples of those who were unwilling to wait for God’s timing. Instead of trusting God for the impossible (a child in old age), they took matters into their own hands by having a Son through Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid (Genesis 16). The consequences of this act continue today in the conflict in the Middle East between the Jews and the Arabs –the seeds of Isaac (Sarah’s son) and Ishmael (Hagar’s son).
10. Be open to the unexpected: Isaiah 55: 8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” This truth is powerfully illustrated in the lives of many in scripture (e.g. Abraham and Sarah, Joseph, Elijah, Paul)
11. Be willing to suffer: I Peter 4:19 “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (See also: II Corinthians 12:7-10; Hebrews 12:4-11). God’s will involved suffering for Jesus as it will for His followers (see, Luke 22:39-46; Hebrews 5:7; John 15:18-20; II Timothy 3: 12; I Peter 2:21).
12. Be bold for Christ: Galatians 1:10: “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
“Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God” (John 12:42,43).
“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38)
- 10 Point Inventory
- The will of God:
- When Christians disagree:
- Do inner promptings reveal God’s will?