Knowing God’s Will

— Dana

The past month, the topic of “How do I know God’s Will for my life?” has come up more than once. So, here is what I’ve learned the last year on this particular subject…

If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you will eventually pick up on the idea of “being in God’s Will”. But how do we know what God wants us to do? I’ll first open up with the most common (and wrong) way Christians determine “God’s Will”.

“I need to make a decision. I’ll pray that God will tell me what I need to do.”

This is wrong. Yet this is the way most Christians figure out God’s Will. I’ll call this method of discerning God’s Will, “The Pray, Wait…then Act” method. Now before you call me a heretic, there’s something fundamentally wrong with that method. Have you figured out what it is yet? Let me show how this type of thinking will get you into trouble.

Let’s say I want to figure out how I need to talk to a person that just wronged me. Now, I go to God and pray about it. Now what? God’s going to speak to me, right? I’m somehow going to magically feel “God’s Will”? I’m going to hear that “still small voice”? Well let me ask you this, “Are you without sin?” Because that’s the only way you’re going to hear God’s voice and only His voice.

Romans 7:21-23 “I have discovered this principle of life–that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.”

Psalm 66:16-20 “Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me. For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke. If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me.”

Okay, so let’s assume God is speaking to you, your sinful nature is telling you something different. But, wait, that’s not all. Satan is there whispering to you, too…tempting you!!! So, now you have God, your flesh and Satan all telling you to do something. (Note: The three enemies of the believer are Flesh, Satan and the world…you can read 1 John if you like). So how do we determine what is from God and what is from our flesh or Satan?

Let’s go back to the “Pray, Wait and Act” method. The fundamental error that I mentioned above is…are you ready…the fact that people often forget to add scripture to this method, which is called “God’s Word”. Okay, think about the example where someone wronged me and I’m trying to figure out what to do… Do you think any of these verses might help me figure out God’s will?

Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.”

Matthew 18:21-22 “At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.”

All three of those passages have already told me how I should act in the situation with the friend that hurt my feelings. Those passages are God’s Will. It is God’s Will that I love and forgive. How much praying did I do to figure that out? None. Now I’m not saying prayer is useless. It’s important, just not in the way most Christian are using it in the “Pray, Wait then Act” method. I’ll show how prayer fits in a bit.

Look at this verse, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, and for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action). So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Notice how the passage says “equipped for every good work.” That means every single situation that you are in, the Bible already tells you what to do. Let me say it again…God’s Word tells you what you need to know, so you know what to do!!! If someone punches me in the face, how much prayer (without knowing scripture) is going to point me to do what God says to do in Matthew 5:38-42 “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, gift wrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.”

So, what we need to realize is this…God has already told you what to do. If you just “Pray and Wait” you are assuming God hasn’t told you how he wants you to act. If that were the case then the verse would read, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for a bunch of good works. Not all of them, though…because the others you’ll have to pray about.”

The “Pray, Wait then Act” method, actually neglects God’s Word. This means that when someone uses this method, they really end up doing their own will because God’s Will is located in the Bible…which they usually neglect to check. But because we all think the “Pray, Wait, Act” method is the correct way, we think what we’re doing is actually God’s Will…when really it’s our own will. We then make God into our own image…not the other way around!!!

So, what can you do now? In the most recent years, I have found that God’s Will is easily found and here are five principles to think about when you want to make sure you are doing God’s Will and not your own.

1. Scripture

Think of it this way. Instead of God speaking audibly to you, He made it really easy and wrote it all down (in His own words) so that we can “listen” to his commands whenever we want.

Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”

Now the Bible isn’t going to say if you should be friends with Billy, but it will say the types of friends you should have. It’s not going to say if you should date Sally, but it will tell you the type of person you should date (or not date). It’s not going to say that you should go to your local University, but it will tell you about calling, finances, responsibility, etc.

But now here’s the thing. Just because you know the Bible, does that mean you know what passages to apply to your situation? And even if you know what passage to use, does that mean you know how to apply it? For example, you probably know that you’re supposed to treat that person who just wronged you in love, but what words should you say? Should you even say anything now? Should you wait till he’s calmed down? This is where 2 comes in.

2. Godly Wisdom

James 1:5 “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”

Wisdom, I have learned, is “knowledge righteously applied.” Christians can have all the Bible Knowledge in the world…and still choose not to use it in day-to-day situations. Heck…Satan knows the Bible better than we do, and he uses the Bible to deceive people. So knowing the Bible isn’t enough, you have to know how to apply it in your situation. Godly wisdom will help you figure out what words to say to that person who wronged you, or if you should wait till next week…or if you should keep your mouth shut and pray that God will change them. Godly Wisdom will help you figure out which college to go to or if you need to chose between two different cars when you are looking to buy. Godly Wisdom takes scriptural principals and applies them to a situation by weighing the consequences and choosing the best (most scriptural) option. Okay, great. But no one is as wise as they could be. So where do you go from there? You get more wisdom from others. Which is my next point.

3. Godly Counsel

God did not create us to be alone. He created us to be in fellowship with one another…often getting wisdom. Sometimes you get wisdom from your parents. Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.”

Other Godly counsel can come from pastors, Christian friends, scholars, books, reference guides, the internet (but be careful with this one), Bible Programs…etc. You, of course, need to use wisdom (principle 2) and see if what they are saying matches up with Scripture (principle 1). The next point is not a new idea to those Christians that are already operating on the “Pray, Wait…then Act” method. (The “Act” part of the equation.)

4. Open Doors (Opportunities)

If God wants you to go in a certain direction, He will open doors for you. Or He will close certain doors.

Revelation 3:8 “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.”

Each situation that you face basically is an open door…it’s an opportunity. You have to keep your eyes open for opportunities because God wants you to do something. If you’re not looking for open doors, then you’ll be passing them by…and in essence, you’ll be disobedient because you were too lazy to look and will end up not doing what God wanted. But be wary, Satan can open doors too. That’s called temptation. Just because someone offers you drugs, doesn’t mean that God opened that door. You must use Godly Wisdom, Godly Counsel and the Bible to determine who opened that door in the first place.

5. Peace of Heart

Philippians 4:6-8 “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

If you truly have an open door (principle 4) opened by God, where you are taking scripture (principle 1) and applying it (principles 2 and 3) then you will have a true peace of heart (principle 5) about it. Now I’m not talking about just being comfortable with your actions…because we can feel okay with our sin. I’m talking a true, God given peace. Peace in the midst of adversity, not just in fun or good times. Long lasting peace with God that we are doing the right thing.

Now What??? Just Read, Pray, Ask and Apply (move forward)

Discerning God’s Will is correctly applying God’s Word to your situations. We cannot possibly attempt to ask for God’s guidance when we neglect his Word and it’s application. So, (this is where prayer comes in) how should you pray? You should be looking up scripture that applies to your situation and pray for wisdom…that you can apply scripture to your situation. Pray for Godly Counsel. Pray that God would open your eyes to opportunities. Instead of trying to discern God’s Will by doing the typical “Pray, Wait then Act” method….we should adopt the new method of “Read, Pray, Ask and Apply (move forward)”

Romans 12:1-2 “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life–your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life–and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

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