Is there a divine plan for your life? Is there a path to follow and a light to guide you into the perfect will of God? Listen to this plea: “Be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). God wants us to know His will. He wants us to be filled with the knowledge of it (Colossians 1:9). He is the most wonderful of all Counselors (Isaiah 9:6), and whatever He tells us will stand the test of eternity (Psalm 33:11). How could the Creator have no plan or offer no guidance for His creature?
How do we experience the guidance of God and walk in the path of that perfect will? The Lord Jesus is our example. The key was His willingness, His fervent desire to do the will of God. “Not My will, but Thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). “I came down from heaven not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me” (John 6:38). “I come to do Thy will, O God” (Hebrews 10:9). He taught the disciples to pray in this manner: “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). The secret of knowing the will of God is to be truly willing to do it.
The key to the Divine plan is the Word of God. The will of God and the Word of God are inseparable. The Scriptures are the revealed will of God. Here are His promises, commands, warnings and principles of life. He gave the Word to man that he might know and do the will of God. To be ignorant of that Word or to neglect its precepts, while professing to seek the will of God, is contradictory. There are, of course, circumstantial matters not directly covered by the Word. These include matters of places, times, persons and details of life. Where should I go? What should I do in this instance? Here the Holy Spirit is properly our guide as we faithfully seek to know God’s will. Even so, the Word of God is the instrument of the Spirit. Principles and incidents from the Word often can be used to illuminate the path of life.
To summarize then: God has a plan for your life, a path to follow. Two principles to keep in mind are first, to be willing to follow His guidance; second, to know the Scriptures and search them daily to perfect your knowledge of the will of God.
What Is the Value of Seeking God’s Will?
It is surprising that most decisions of life are made by professing believers without making a serious effort to know the will of God. We may feel confident that we know best, even when surrounded by those making grievous mistakes. We may assume that God’s guidance is an automatic thing. Yet we would not fail to consult knowledgeable people in other areas of needed action, nor ignore those in authority over us, if we exercised good judgment. Another obstacle may be the fear or doubt that God’s will is best for us. There is a need to reconsider these attitudes.
1. God Knows The Future And Therefore Knows What Is Best. “If I had only known that was going to happen, I would not have done it,” we often hear. That is just the point. We do not know what a day may bring forth (Proverbs 27:1), but God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). Multitudes consult horoscopes, psychics, experts and consultants of all types in order to anticipate future developments. How foolish to ignore the God that knows everything, including the wisest course of action in every situation.
2. God Loves And Wants To Direct His Child. It would be incredible for a parent with any care for his own children to be disinterested in guiding them. The best of human parents, however, cannot compare with the goodness of our heavenly Father. If parents want the best for their children and make every effort to see them receive the fullest provision, how much more would the Lord “give good things to them that ask Him” (Matthew 7:11). Hear the promise of the Lord to His people: “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with Mine eye” (Psalm 32:8).
3. God Wants To Bless Us According To His Wisdom. It is sad that there are some who fear the will of God. How could His wisdom prescribe evil for His children? “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ “ (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV). If the Lord’s plans call for the cross, as it did for His Beloved Son, it still is for the blessing of multitudes and the glory of His Son. The wisdom of God holds out for us the higher blessing. Often His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are His ways ours, but they are higher and better (Isaiah 55:8-9).
When Will God Guide?
1. When We Want To Do His Will. At times we ask God to bless our plans and confirm our choices. At other times we seek to bargain with Him, making promises in return for His agreement to our desires. We may go through the form of asking, with no real interest in knowing and obeying His perfect will. We may even distrust or fear His will. But the Lord said, “If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God” (John 7:17 NASB). Light upon the path comes with yieldedness (Romans 6:13). Present your body to Him and He will take control (Romans 12:1). We must also obey what we already know. “But if ye will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then shall the hand of the Lord be against you” (1 Samuel 12:15). Why should the Lord give further direction when we have not obeyed what He has already shown?
2. When We Believe That He Will Guide. “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13 NIV). The conviction that this is so releases us from a frantic worry that we must find out everything on our own, without Divine assistance. We are to believe this: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). We must realize that His guidance may not come with powerful subjective emotions. Quivering, weeping and other flashes of emotion are not necessarily the evidence of the witness of the Spirit.
3. When We Maintain Right Attitudes. Be meek in coming to God and do not give Him ultimatums (Psalm 25:9). Confess anything in thought or outlook that is wrong (Psalm 66:18). When you are bitter, self-pitying, jealous, resentful, ungrateful or complaining, you are in poor condition to experience the guidance of the Spirit.
How Can We Do God’s Will?
It is not a question of knowing God’s will in order to think it over. The true goal should be action. We should:
1. Pray And Patiently Seek God’s Will. “Wait on the Lord” is one of the Bible’s great imperatives, but it chafes the human spirit. We want instant answers and have little time for the persistent “Ask … Seek … Knock” at the door of Heaven, commanded by the Lord (Matthew 7:7). The Psalmist said, “Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, and be gracious to me and answer me. When Thou didst say, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to Thee, ‘Thy face, O Lord, I shall seek’ “ (Psalm 27:7-8 NASB). The Apostle Paul exhorted continuance in prayer. “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18 NIV). We must consider that God’s will is often revealed a step at a time.
2. Know Biblical Principles And Read Scripture Thoughtfully. The Lord Jesus said the errors of the religious leaders of His day were because of ignorance of Scripture (Matthew 22:29). When we do not take the trouble to know the direct commands, clear principles and love warnings of God, we fall into many a pit. If we are clear about what the Word commands and what it forbids, then we will not ask Him to change or add to what He has said. When we ask according to His will, He hears (1 John 5:14-15). There are matters not directly covered, such as the habit of smoking. But there is a principle that applies. The human body is the temple of the Spirit and should not be defiled. The Scripture directly forbids marriage to an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6:14). One must weigh this in the western custom of dating. When reading prayerfully, regularly and consecutively, verses often come alive upon the page and God speaks to us. We need this communication from Him.
3. Put God’s Interests First. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Decisions should be built around God’s interests rather than upon career and home interests. God’s direction may or may not agree with our personal preferences. God does promise to give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4), but this is not without qualification or exception. The will of God was for Jonah to go to Ninevah, something that was far from his desires (Jonah 1:1-3). The experience taught him the value of submission to the will of God, however. God does give grace in difficult times.
Russ Johnston has observed that most questions about the will of God involve either vocation or location. Yet these are hardly mentioned in the Bible. “God is not as concerned about where we live or what we do for a living as He is about what we are.”6In questions concerning romance or what person to marry, we should first determine questions about our life goals and when we will be able to consider a partner. Then we can attempt to choose between one person and another.
4. Weigh Circumstances Carefully. We tend to rely exclusively on circumstances. A favorable and easy road may seem attractive. The wrong path is often easy and may be favored by our bias. A difficult path, with much opposition, might be the path to which God has called us (1 Corinthians 16:9). This was often true of the Apostle Paul, yet he was a man manifestly in the will of God, even while in prison. The opening and closing of doors must be of God, confirmed by other factors. God can providentially clear the way through giant obstacles and provide in unexpected ways. However, it is wise to remember that it is the broad way that leads to destruction, not the narrow one (Matthew 7:13). Do not take circumstances apart from other confirming factors.
What about asking for signs, or “putting out the fleece” (Judges 6:36-40)? This is practiced by many believers. In one sense, this might be used to eliminate all that has been set down before. Gideon’s request followed a promise of God and therefore was not an act of faith, yet God graciously answered. When you are anxious to do His will, you may ask God to clarify it through circumstances. But the path of genuine faith is not the one marked by things God sends us to see (Hebrews 11:1).
5. Seek Godly Counsel (Proverbs 1:5; 11:14; 15:22; 24:6). The word “godly” does not mean “any” person. Look to spiritual leaders that know you (Hebrews 13:7,17). Moreover, the best counsel is not of the quick variety, but is drawn out slowly (Proverbs 20:5). Self-willed people tend to avoid counsel altogether or to consult with friends who will not oppose their ideas.
How Do We Apply the Principles of Guidance?
As you put God’s interests first, He will guide you through prayer, the Word, counsel, and circumstances. Since God does not contradict Himself, these should all speak as one voice, not as several conflicting voices, to show you the proper course of action. Record all the input you have which bears on the decision. Make a “pro/con” list wherein you set down reasons for and against each alternative open to you. Weigh carefully all the input, giving greater weight to the objective factors than to the subjective factors. As you prayerfully consider your intended course of action, do you have peace or do you experience inner turmoil? Wait on the Lord when you have serious doubts. Perhaps additional counsel and prayer are required to clarify all the factors involved. However, you need not procrastinate or agonize endlessly. In faith, ask God for His wisdom (James 1:5-6). By faith, choose the course of action most clearly directed by the light He has given you. The decisive man of faith enjoys the peace of God that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). When you are committed to the Lord, you can be confident that He will guide you. He wants you to know and do His “good and acceptable and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
Doing The Will Of God
1 .Why is God’s will for our lives worth seeking? Why should we not lead our lives the way we want to? Use the following verses in your answer:
Ephesians 5:17 2
2. What happens when one disobeys the revealed will of God (1 Samuel 12:15; Ecclesiastes 11:9)?
3.Study the following examples and explain the results of disrespect for the will of God. What applications can we make from their lives? What dangers can we avoid?
Moses: Numbers 20:7-12
Saul: 1 Samuel 15:2-23
Unnamed prophet: 1 Kings 13:6-24 4
4. Why do we often fear the will of God for our lives?
5.What would make us have the attitude of David (Psalm 40:8)?
6.Practically speaking, what does God desire for His children? John 14:27
John 15:5 Psalm 84:11
John 15:11 Psalm 37:1-4
7.What effect do the following things have on discerning God’s will?
Our attitude - John 7:17; Ephesians 6:6
Our diligence in Bible study - Psalm 119:9-11
Prayer - Colossians 4:12; Daniel 10:12
Counsel - Proverbs 11:14
Circumstances - 1 Corinthians 16:8-9
8. Why are circumstances alone insufficient for determining the will of God (1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:18)?
9. What things should be considered for a Christian choosing a career? a mate? a new location? Select one of these areas and give applicable verses in your answer.
10. In what areas of your life are you concerned to know the will of God? What steps have you taken to discern His will?
6 “How to Know the Will of God” (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1976), p. 10.