The Will of God
A missionary summed up his desire for the uncertain and unknown future as follows: “to be in the centre of God’s perfect will.” Indeed, the cry often goes up from the heart of those who really love the Lord, “I want the will of God done in my life, but how can I really know what His will is for me?” This is one of the many problems facing every sincere Christian in his daily pathway, but it is also a crucial question on the hearts and minds of Christian young people who are earnestly seeking God’s will for their life-work, a question about which the writer was deeply concerned and troubled as a teen-ager.
There is no higher ambition in life than that of wanting to know, to do, and to love God’s perfect will, and we are assured in His Word that we shall receive divine guidance in order that we might come to know His perfect will (e.g., Psa. 32:8; John 7:17; 16:13).
In our development of this vital subject we want to consider four main things, the first being-
The Seriousness of Discovering the Will of God
Never lose sight of the fact that God has a definite PLAN for your life. The Holy Scriptures clearly reveal this (cf. Psa. 143:10; Rom. 12:12; Eph. 5:17; Col. 1:9; Heb. 10:36; 1 Pet. 3:17; 1 John 2:17). The Lord Jesus Christ is the pre-eminent example of One who, throughout His earthly life and ministry, lived in the perfect will of God and perfectly carried it out (see Luke 2:49; 22:42; John 4:34; 6:38; Phil. 2:5-8; Heb. 10:9). A few other splendid, though imperfect, examples are found in Abraham, Joseph (Gen. 50:20), Moses (Ex. 2-4), Elijah, Isaiah, Daniel, John the Baptist, and the Apostle Paul (Acts 6:9 with 9:15-16; 13:1-3). Examples of men who failed to truly discern and fulfill God’s plan and will for their lives are Saul (1 Sam. 9, 10, 13, 15, 28, 31), Solomon, and Uzziah (2 Chron. 26). Even Abraham missed the will of God at one highly important juncture in his life (cf. Gen. 16), and his failure has widespread effects even to the present moment.
To be indifferent about discovering God’s will for your life is to miss out on the abundant life in Christ (John 10:10), as well as to “suffer loss” for all eternity at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:15). How different history would have been had Paul been careless and insensitive about seeking God’s perfect will for his life (e.g., Acts 16:1ff.).
We come now to the second main thing
The Specific Requirements for Discovering the Will of God
There are at least four specific requirements in relation to this all-important subject.
Stillness (Psa. 46:10; see also Psa. 27:14; 37:34; 62:5; 123:2). The key to clearing a muddy glass of water is simply WAITING. This is the supremely essential factor in discovering the divine will — WAITING UPON GOD.
Surrender (Rom. 12:1). James McConkey has written: “Will to do God’s will for your life instead of your own. Do not launch out upon the sea of life headed for a port of your own choosing, guided by a chart of your own draughting, driven by the power of your own selfish pleasures or ambitions. Come to God. Yield your life to Him by one act of trustful, irrevocable surrender… . So shall you come steadily to know and see God’s will for your life … Without a shadow of a doubt, we will begin to know God’s will as soon as we begin to choose His will for our lives instead of our own.”
Separation from the World (Rom. 12:2; see also John 15:18-19; 17:15-16; Gal. 1:4; Jas. 4:4; 1 John 2:15; 3:13). In his fine little book, The Perfect Will of God, G. Christian Weiss has aptly defined what is meant by Paul’s words, “be not conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2), indicating that the Christian must not conform to the world’s pattern, or principles; nor must he seek after or indulge in the world’s pleasures, nor must he set his affection on the world’s possessions (cf. 1 John 2:15-17).
J. B. Phillips renders the opening words of Romans 12:2 as follows: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold…”
Spiritual-mindedness (Rom. 12:2; Col. 3:1-4). “… but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind …” (Rom. 12:2). Only through prayer and the searching of the Scriptures day by day can the life of the true believer be renewed, refreshed, transformed and thereby “conditioned” to receive the knowledge of God’s perfect will.
Harold R. Cook of Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute has listed the general principles of divine guidance as follows: “A recognition of the need for guidance, a willingness to be led, a deliberate renunciation of a self-interest, a close walk with God so as to be sensitive to His wishes, as well as a constant use of the Word of God in earnest prayer.”
The words of Isaiah 30:12 will only be our experience as we seek to truly walk with the Lord, and truly walking with the Lord is not an experience of days or even weeks, but of months and years.
We come now to our third main point —
The Sources of Discovering the Will of God
The Word of God (John 5:39 with Psa. 119:9, 11, 105; see Matt. 22:29; Acts 17:10-11). the spirit of God (John 14:18; Rom. 8:14-16; see Acts 8:26, 29; 11:12; 13:2), the peace of God (Col. 3:15), prayer (e.g., Phil. 4:6-7; Col. 4:2-4), circumstances (e.g. Acts 16:6-10), the advice of spiritually-minded and mature Christians.
What about asking God for some sort of “sign”? If we can ask sincerely and earnestly, as Gideon did (Judg. 6:36-40), then the Lord will undoubtedly guide in this way, but so often “sign seeking” manifests a lack of faith (see Rom. 14:23). Remember, Gideon did not have the entire Word of God, nor did he possess the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, nor did he have such promises as Philippians 4:19, which today are the possessions and resources of every true child of God.
The saintly F. B. Meyer was once asked how a person might unmistakably recognize the will of God, and he replied: “This question was answered for me once on board ship, as in a very dark night we were entering harbor. I asked the captain how he was able to find the narrow entrance to the harbor at night. He said to me, ‘See yonder three lights? When those lights are in correct alignment, I know I am in the right channel.’ So it is with the will of God. When the Word of God, the impulse of the Holy Spirit in my, heart, and the outward circumstances are in harmony, then I am convinced that I am acting in accordance with the will of God.”
George Muller’s method for discovering and discerning God’s will in all matters, great and small, has been summarized by another as follows: 1 surrender your own will, 2 seek the Spirit’s will through God’s will, 3 note providential circumstances, 4 pray for guidance, 5 wait on God.
In regard to discovering the will of God, this same great man of faith has asserted: “Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord’s will, whatever it may be.”
Finally, we come to
The Sequel of Discovering the Will of God
The sequel of discovering God’s will, and doing it from the heart, is manifold. Nevertheless, observe at least seven things all illustrated, to one degree or another, in Acts 16 (I have purposely withheld any verse references in order that you might find them for yourself — and perhaps a few more “by-products” of doing the perfect will of God): 1. heart rest, 2. heavenly joy, 3. holy boldness, 4. spiritual power, 5. blessing to others, 6. growth in grace and knowledge, 7. God glorified.
May our constant ambition be: “The Will of God — nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.”