It is God’s desire and purpose to commune with His children. He has promised to lead and guide us, and it is possible through the divine gifts and tools of the Spirit to individually know the will of God for our personal lives. It is imperative for spiritual success that we be wise and understand “what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).
God Wants To Reveal His Will
Promises of Leadership
The promises of God are sure and applicable to everyone in this generation who meets the conditions. Proverbs 3:6 says, “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” If a child of God will acknowledge God and give Him the right and room to work, He will reveal His divine will and plan. The mystery and questions of life can be answered as Christ has “made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure” (Ephesians 1:9). While the world may scoff and sneer at Christians, saints of God can trust and rest in the Lord, as they are “filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Colossians 1:9). What a comfort and strength it is to face the dilemmas and problems of life with the knowledge that God with His infinite wisdom will lead us in a manner befitting our personal capacity to comprehend His will. The major decisions of life can rest in the knowledge and power of God rather than on the wisdom of this world and the flighty whims of feeling and emotion.
God’s General Will
God has a general will for all mankind coupled with a specific will and plan for each individual. God’s plan for the individual will never violate or supersede His general will as expounded in the scripture. Hence, God’s general will should always be the foundation upon which one seeks for individual direction and guidance. God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). As God desires each soul to be saved from sin, it is also His will that we “be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). People who pray for God’s will and leadership in their lives are praying in vain if they will not first yield to the general will of God. God is not obligated to answer the questions that so often bring stress and difficulty if one is not first willing to yield to His will that is clearly revealed in the Holy Scripture.
It is God’s general will that His children specifically live “holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15). Someone need not pray for direction about an issue that leads them closer to the world and further away from God, for that is NOT His will. It is God’s express will that we should follow the example of His son, Jesus, after that pattern of sinlessness, holiness, forgiveness, and love (1 Peter 2:21-23). It is the written will of God in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 that we be sanctified (set apart from the world for the exclusive use of the Master). We must rejoice, pray, and give thanks, for this is “the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
“God’s general will should always be the foundation upon which one seeks for individual direction and guidance.”
Tools to Know God’s Will
God has given a number of tools and gifts by which we can know and learn His divine will generally and specifically for questions in our lives. God has given two witnesses on earth which do testify of Him and His will—the Word and the Spirit.
Word of God
Psalm 119:105 states, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” The Bible is an instruction manual for godly living. It will answer many of the personal questions people may have, not only about spiritual issues, but about marriage, child raising, finances, etc. The Word of God is an invaluable resource to discovering God’s will, but it takes time and effort to study it with an open heart and mind. The Scripture “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:15-17). God can directly inspire a scripture which provides the answer to the seeker. A mistake can be made when a scripture is misinterpreted or misapplied to a situation. People looking to go somewhere can find a verse that tells them to “go.” They can also find a scripture that says to “stay home.” Many fanatics have twisted scripture to their own purposes outside of the will of God. However, God will and does use His Word through the inspiration of His Spirit to give specific guidance to honest souls seeking for answers.
God gave a wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit to His children. The Holy Spirit came to “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13), and God’s children are “led by the Spirit of God” (Romans 8:14). It takes time to learn how the Holy Spirit leads, directs, and inspires. In seeking God, what a beautiful experience to have your ears “hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isaiah 30:21). When the Holy Spirit leads, it is from deep within the soul and is very different than the thoughts of the mind that come and go. He works through inspiration and burdens of the heart, and when it is truly the Holy Spirit, His leadership is clear and distinct. The Holy Spirit will never speak contrary to the Word of God, and they both will always coincide. It is a litmus test for knowing the will of God to have the Word and the Spirit agree in conjunction with other secondary witnesses.
Voice of God
God at times has spoken with an audible voice, such as when He spoke from a cloud to the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matthew 17:5). An angel of the Lord spoke to Philip and told him to go to Gaza (Acts 8:26).
While it might seem easiest to have God speak audibly, when God speaks through His Word or through His Spirit, there is an acute illumination and a voice to the ear of the spirit of man that leaves no doubt but that it was God.
God often uses other people to witness of His Word and Spirit to the seeker. While there are many voices in the world, the true minister and counselor of the Lord will speak that which is in line with the two primary witnesses. God put the ministry in the body for the perfecting and edification of the saints (Ephesians 4:11-13). When there are questions requiring God’s direction, He often uses His ministering servants to confirm His will. “Where no counsel is, the people fall” (Proverbs 11:14) and it is a valuable resource to seek godly counsel in life-changing decisions, especially in spiritual matters.
The providence of God is another way in which God can reveal His will. This applies to the seemingly natural opening and closing of doors. If someone is seeking the Lord for direction between two opportunities, and one opportunity closes, that would illustrate the providence of God. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28). While God does not exclusively use His providence, the child of God can trust that God is directing and allowing circumstances that will best accomplish His will in the lives of His people. Plans can be thwarted by circumstances, and it is important to learn the difference between difficulties to be overcome and obstacles meant to lead a different direction.
In the Old Testament, Gideon placed a fleece before the Lord to determine the mind of God (Judges 6:36-40). While God has honored fleeces at times, Christ also reproved the Jews in Matthew 12:38-40 for seeking a sign by which to believe. When a sign does not come, it is not necessarily an indication of God’s will. Fleeces are to be used rarely and carefully and only under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is not up to us to tell God the manner in which He is to reveal His will.
Visions and Dreams
Similarly, visions and dreams are to be used carefully and not abused. Acts 2:17 states that when the Holy Spirit was poured out that “your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” Joseph received instruction in a dream to flee to Egypt in Matthew 2:13. God taught Peter a lesson about accepting the Gentiles in a vision about eating unclean beasts (Acts 10:9-10). It is of note that the Holy Spirit confirmed the dream to Peter in verses 19-20: “While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him…. Arise … and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.” When God speaks through dreams and visions, they will always be in accord with the other witnesses. The meaning will be clear and not an obscure, muddled mess like a natural dream. Be careful about trying to interpret God in every dream.
“When God speaks through His Word or through His Spirit, there is an acute illumination and a voice to the ear of the spirit of man that leaves no doubt but that it was God.”
How to Seek God’s Will
It is God’s purpose and desire to reveal His will and guide His people. His will need not be a mystery in every area of life. However, God normally does not answer our questions with a thunderbolt in the sky. There is an acceptable manner in which to seek for God’s will as we utilize the witnesses and tools with which He has blessed us.
Desire and Willingness
God’s will should be sought with the foremost desire to please the Lord. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). People who are not putting God first in every area of life, often will not receive the answers as they desire. There must be a desire to learn and a spirit of receptiveness. “Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths” (Psalm 25:4-5). God will guide the meek (Psalm 25:9) and will direct the path of the earnest seeker (Proverbs 3:5-7). When the answer does not come, it is like an email that is sent and lost because of an account that is filled up with clutter. Clear the mind and seek God with an open and honest heart.
Pray in Faith
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:5-6). When there are major decisions and the need for God’s guidance, pray for the specific need and have faith that God will answer in the right time. Stresses and worry can be minimized as one learns to trust and pray.
Draw Near to God
Hosea 6:3 teaches a vital truth about knowing God’s will: “Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD.” The longer you know someone, the more you know their character, thoughts, preferences, purposes, and will. It is the same way with God. As we draw closer to God, we get farther from the world. We see and know Christ more and more for who and what He is. This then enables us to understand His voice and His will more clearly in our lives.
Be Still and Listen
When in confusion and when God’s will is not clear, it is time to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). It is time to just get quiet and start listening for that still, small voice. God is in control and will not forsake His children.
When seeking God’s will, children of God will soon discover that God works on a different timetable than theirs. He is not constrained by our deadlines nor our necessities. However, He is always on time. God does not reveal everything all at once. During the time of waiting on God to reveal His will, there is growth taking place. “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage” (Psalm 27:14). God’s will is often accomplished during our time of seeking and waiting. During the waiting, do not falter nor be discouraged. Stay faithful doing that which you know God has for you to do. Let God speak how and when He will, but do not take things into your own hands. Trust in Him and wait patiently for God to reveal His divine will. If uncertain, wait.
Submit to God’s Will
While God is sovereign, He created mankind as free moral agents with the capacity for free will. Hence, the will of man can subvert the perfect will of God from being accomplished in an individual life unless there is a choice to submit and follow God’s will. Jesus would have protected Jerusalem and desired to do so, but they would not (Matthew 23:37). God’s will should be sought with a concerted effort to submit personal desires and preferences into His hand. Too many people seek God’s blessing on their decisions without first seeking Him for His divine will. We should pray as Christ: “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). If we are not willing to submit to God’s divine will, for what are we seeking?
Walking in Obedience
It is important to seek God’s will while living in obedience in all areas of life. We cannot expect God to reveal His purpose in one area according to our whims if we are not being obedient to that which we know is His will in other areas. Once God reveals His will, there is a wonderful blessing in following through in obedience and in doing the will of the Lord. “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land” (Isaiah 1:19).
It is not only a possibility but a glorious reality to live under the leadership and inspiration of God. When we prepare our hearts and seek after the Lord, we can know and do His will. Knowing the will of God is a process of time and growth, so do not be discouraged. As you follow on to know the Lord, you will learn to identify the wonderful sound of His voice and can live and move under His guidance. God will direct and guide you in this journey of life. Praise be to God! ■