I received some questions that our mentors hear from time to time and thought I would address them here. The first one was “How Can I Know God’s Will?”
Other similar questions might be: Can I really know God’s will for my life? Do you think God really has a plan for me? How do I know that what I’m doing is God’s will? Does his will change?
Without reservation, I believe God has a plan for our lives! However, living day to day can feel like visiting a major city for the first time without a GPS or map. Sometimes we just feel unsure of what direction to go or what to do. We would like God to write us a message in the sky telling us what to do.
What do we normally do when we get lost or disoriented? Asking directions is usually what gets us back on track. I just gave a truck driver directions this morning, he had received confusing instructions about where he was going. After talking with him for a while I discovered where he needed to go and was able to give him clear directions on how to get there.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could meet with Jesus like that and ask for directions. As Christians we have a personal guide and map as we try to navigate through life. The Holy Spirit is our guide and the Bible is our map. That is what we need to look to, to know God’s will for our lives.
God tells us this in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plan I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
If we want to know God’s will for our lives, we need to look to God’s Word. Much of God’s will has already been revealed through the Bible. For example in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 it says, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified (holy): 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 those who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him.”
- God’s Word reveals His will for our attitude in certain situations: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thess. 5:18
- God’s Word reveals His will for how we should handle critics: “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” 1 Peter 2:15
The purpose of the Bible is to reveal God’s character, and express His deep love for us. We can be certain that God’s purpose and vision for our lives will never be contrary to His revealed character. For instance, it is not God’s will to sin in anger, to disregard human life, to neglect children or your spouse or to be rudely impatient.
Revealing God’s will in our lives is a process. We wish He would just tell us who to marry, where to work, how to raise our children and how to have healthy relationships. The problem is, even if He would do that, we often would not listen and still do things our own way. The Old Testament is full of stories demonstrating that.
That is the journey we are all on, learning from mistakes and painful experiences in life. Without those difficult, hard times, we would not be growing to be more like Jesus. Here are some stages along the way to knowing God’s will for our lives:
- Obey God’s Word – We should not ask God to reveal His will and then decide after He reveals it whether or not we will obey it. If we take that approach, we will miss out on God’s best for us. In order to obey God’s Word, we need to know God’s Word.
- Ask God what His will is for us – Prayer is vitally important is this process. Psalms 143:10 says “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; may Your spirit lead me on level ground.” God will not always reveal His will immediately even after you pray about it. However He will reveal as much as we need to know at that time. Prayer often changes us not the circumstances. A mark of a mature believer is praying for God’s will to be done and really meaning it. Maybe His will is for you to change!
- Recognize that His Spirit bears witness – The Holy Spirit lives in us to help us with the decisions of life. He interacts with our spirit so we can know that we are in the center of God’s will. One benefit of the Holy Spirit living in us is peace. When we are doing God’s will, we can experience peace, even when a storm is raging around us.
- Pay attention to circumstances – God opens and closes doors. Because we are His children He promised to direct our steps. Life is not a series of accidents, based on chance or happenstance. We are not some insignificant blob. The Bible says “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 He did not say some things, He said all things – God speaks and directs through life’s circumstances. So ask yourself, What does God want me to learn in this circumstance.
- Have a relationship with the body of Christ – A key element of our process or spiritual growth is our relationship with a local church. Having close relationships with other believers is vital in following God’s will for our life. God often speaks through other people.
If you are facing some difficult decisions in life or are trying to find God’s will for your life, here are five simple things you can do:
- Read the Bible – God will never ask you to do anything contrary to His Word
- Pray – Ask Him for direction, peace, wisdom, discernment, courage.
- Ask your self and those close to you if there is peace in going this direction. Peace not relief from pain or difficulty.
- Is a door clearly open, do you have an opportunity to do something good. Or are you trying to force the door open on your own?
- Seek other Christ followers to affirm whether this situation is God’s will. Ask for honesty not for agreement or sympathy.
If you have done all five of these you should have a pretty clear indication of whether this is God’s will or not. If one of these is not in agreement, you should consider that a yellow warning light from God. Maybe it’s not against God’s will, but it may be the wrong timing.