You Can Know God’s Will
Some years ago I was invited to teach the “Foundations” class for the men’s ministry at my church. We developed a new study guide for the class, to help the members really learn the basics of the Christian Faith. (By the way, I’m happy to send this to study guide to you, just let me know). So I spent a few months and went back through the core doctrines and verses that teach the key Christian principles. While I had read all these verses before, I came away with a new and very important revelation – ignorance of God’s will is totally unbiblical. To put it another way, God never wants us to lack knowledge of His will. We can and should know God’s will at all times.
God has a will for our lives. God wants certain things in our lives, and God does not want other things in our lives. God’s will for our lives does not automatically come to pass, we need to learn His ways and His will and then work with God to see His will become our reality. Maybe you don’t believe that last sentence, but we can’t go down that road today. It’s just the way it is. God’s will for your life is not going to automatically happen.
Most of us, regardless of whether we believe God’s will is automatic, want His will for our lives. We love God and trust Him and believe that He knows best, so we want what He wants. But the hard part is knowing His will, and then knowing what to do in our lives in the light of His will. We find ourselves saying things like “if it be Your will.” We are in these situations because we don’t know God’s will. But that should never be the case.
I will grant you that it’s probably not a huge list of people that live (or ever have lived) with a constant working knowledge of God’s will. Furthermore, even those who do aren’t born with this knowledge, they must spend time with God to learn His will. Look at this passage from the life of Jesus -
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.” (Luke 6:12-13 NIV)
Jesus may have had a very good idea about which disciples were to become the apostles, but He still spent all night praying about it. These apostles (eleven of them not counting Judas) were ultimately tasked with taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. We don’t get a lot of their stories in the Bible, but that’s exactly what happened. All eleven of them gave their lives to the Gospel. This personnel decision was very important, so Jesus spent serious time with God to make sure He got it right.
I love that story because it illustrates Jesus’ relationship with God and how He spent time with God to learn His will. Look at these other statements from Jesus. “For I have come down from heaven not to do My will but to do the will of Him who sent me.” (John 6:38 NIV) “"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.”” (John 4:34 NIV)
Jesus knew God’s will and lived for it. The same should be true for us. Most of the people I know that read or hear these teachings want God’s will for their lives. You love God. You want more of God in your daily life. You like the idea of living in God’s will. You aren’t even dealing with the wrong idea that maybe God’s will for you is to have some sort of major problems like poverty or sickness. You know God has abundant life for you (John 10:10) and you want His will for your life.
What is God’s will? How do we learn God’s will? What we should do about it? These are major questions that most Christians ask themselves throughout their lives. And this brings me back to the revelation I received (which many people already know, I’m sure) that we should know all of God’s will for our lives, and we should know what to do about it.
This brings us back to the topic of hearing from God. Just the other day my daughter asked me about how to know what God wants for her life. I explained that we need to put the issue before God in prayer and then listen to His various communication methods. As always, I encourage you to listen to my teachings on hearing from God. The Bible clearly describes several different ways that God communicates to His people. When you tune in to God’s frequency, you are going to start hearing Him. But let’s stay focused on this idea of knowing God’s will, as I want to build your faith that you can know God’s will for your life.
Again, God’s will is not automatic, and knowing God’s will isn’t automatic either. Look at what the Apostle Paul prayed for the Colossians, and this prayer still reflects God’s will for you and me today. (Colossians 1:9 NIV) “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.”
I like the way that the NIV translation renders the last part of that verse, “wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.” Other translations read “wisdom and spiritual understanding” and that’s fine too, but I think the NIV translation nicely emphasizes that it’s the Holy Spirit that brings us this wisdom and understanding to have knowledge of God’s will.
Oh that God would give me the platform to help everyone understand the importance of our relationship with the Holy Spirit! I will never stop talking about it, and that relationship is absolutely crucial to knowing God’s will.
Let me briefly mention 1 Corinthians Chapter 2 again because you will see the connection and hopefully remember it forever. In Colossians 1 Paul said that he wants God to fill us with the knowledge of God’s will through the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “the things God has prepared for those who love Him, these are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 2:12 says, “[w]hat we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.”
God wants to fill us with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. Yes, the Spirit gives us many things, and He gives us wisdom and understanding in many areas. But Colossians 1:9 says He gives us wisdom and understanding that will fill us with the knowledge of God’s will. 1 Corinthians 2 tells us specifically that God’s Spirit reveals to us everything God has prepared for us and the Spirit helps us understand everything God has freely given us. This is everything God wants you to have and everything God wants you to do. Those are major parts of God’s will for your life.
How can I tell you that you should absolutely know God’s will for your life? It is because, if you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit is inside of you, and it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to reveal God’s will for your life. This is one of the major reasons we even have the Holy Spirit, to reveal God’s will to us. You should absolutely know God’s will, every single part of it that you need to know at any given time.
And let me show you something else amazing before we move on. Paul, after telling us God wants us to be filled with the knowledge of His will, goes on to say this, “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3 NIV)
All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ, and Christ is in you! Let me take a moment to put some ideas together which may sound complicated to Christians, at least at first. God is the Trinity, a Three-Part Being. God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, and it is this same Holy Spirit that comes to live inside of us when we become Christians. The Spirit of God is also the Spirit of Christ. When the Bible says that God and Jesus come to live inside of us, they come to live inside of us through Their Spirit, the Holy Spirit. Does that make some of those ideas a little clearer? I hope so.
So God and Jesus live inside of you by Their Spirit, the Holy Spirit. All of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Christ, and they are in you by His Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2 also tells us that the Holy Spirit knows everything about God, even God’s deepest thoughts. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to reveal all of God’s will for your life to you. That’s a big reason why He is in you. You can and should know God’s will!
So now let’s look at this another way. The Holy Spirit knows all of God’s will. God wants you to be filled with the knowledge of His will, and in fact you already are filled with this knowledge through the presence of His Spirit in you. The complete knowledge of God’s will is actually inside you already. You don’t need to pull it down from Heaven, it’s already in your spirit through your union with the Holy Spirit.
But God understands that while this knowledge, wisdom and understanding might be present in His Spirit, you need it to reach your mind before you can really act on it. We have talked about how your nature can change and how God’s Spirit will change your heart over time, and those are wonderful truths that can bypass your thinking on a certain level. But fundamentally our minds need to change too. We need to let the wisdom of God, from both His Word and His Spirit, change the way we think if we really want to see all of God’s will in our lives.
(Romans 12:2 NLT) “Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Allowing God to change the way you think is key to knowing God’s perfect will for your life. You may recall that we talked about this in our discussion on becoming spiritual. The change in your thinking that must take place is the change from carnal thinking to spiritual thinking. We need to stop thinking about the things of the world and the things of the flesh and we need to start thinking about the things of God. We need to take a spiritual and Godly approach to our lives, a spiritual mentality, if you will.
My guess is that most of you are somewhere on this journey. You have started allowing God’s Word to guide your lives. You are allowing God’s Word, slowly but surely, to change the way you think and live. That’s wonderful. This takes time for everyone. We grow and learn and change and see that we still have more growth, learning and change ahead of us. But that’s not bad news, it’s great news. We are on our way. We are doing what God wants us to do. We are growing up and maturing in the ways of God.
And, in fact, you know a lot more of God’s will than you probably realize. The next time you are confronted with a decision and you want to know God’s will, put it through a decision making paradigm based on God’s Word. I find this is actually easy and helpful.
To start, is what you are considering a sinful act based on a reasonable view of the action and God’s Word? If so, then don’t go forward. Just let it go. You will forget about it soon enough, and not long after that you will (if you think about it) be glad you avoided the sin. If you can’t answer that initial question (and you think it might be sinful) then ask a more mature Christian in your life. Really, if you think it even might be sinful, then you should probably skip it.
Assuming the potential action or decision is not sinful, you can keep taking the decision through the paradigm. How does it fit with God’s directions for your life? Will it help you spiritually? Will it help other people? Think about this with me. Imagine you are floating down a river towards God’s perfect will for your life. There are various tributaries you could take that are the wrong way. You could get out of the river and start walking in the wrong direction. There are nourishing and pure springs that feed the river. But there are also pollutants that could harm you or the river. You don’t want someone putting garbage in the river do you? So now picture your river and picture how this potential decision fits into your river. Does this help you or the river as you are going forward to God’s will? Or does this situation really not belong in your river? I’m not saying this is a perfect illustration, and you should always be praying about your decisions. But I think this is helpful.
As you spend more time with God in prayer and Bible study, you will tune into God’s Spirit. You will begin hearing from God through His Biblical communication methods, and that is going to help guide you into God’s will tremendously. But as you are learning, as you are tuning in, I believe that mental frameworks, based on what you know about God already (He is loving, He is kind, He is holy, etc.) will greatly help you.
I recently had two work situations that put me in difficult positions. I had to decide whether to get involved with a couple of matters. While I acknowledged the presence of the Holy Spirit within me and looked to discern His leading, I also put them through the decision making paradigm. As they did not involve anything sinful, I analyzed the two situations in the light of the overall direction for my life God has given me over the past few months. These situations are equally difficult, I would say. But while one of them makes sense in light of my current understanding of God’s will for my life, the other one does not. A year ago, the decisions would have been the opposite. I also know that, even if I have decided incorrectly, I made the decisions in the integrity of my heart, doing my best to live in God’s will. God will protect me and help me in all these situations. Interestingly enough, after I made one of the decisions (the one of the two that was more difficult) I had a dream from God confirming it was the right decision, so that helps!
Knowing God’s will may sound difficult or impossible, but that is not what the Bible says at all. First of all, we have the Word of God which teaches us about all of God’s general will for our lives and gives us a great amount of guidance on His specific will for our lives. Also, as Christians we have the Spirit of God and one of His primary jobs is to reveal God’s specific will to us. Analyze your decisions in the light of God’s Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit. As you tune into God’s frequency, you will hear from God regularly. God will reveal His will to you in every area of your life. Keep tuning in more and more to hear from God. Keep working on changing the way you think by spending time in prayer and God’s Word. You are going to know God’s will, and you are going to live in it. Next time I’m going to talk about the peace of God and how that will also greatly help us discern God’s will as we go through our lives. God bless you!