This article/sermon answers the question, “How can I know God’s will for my life?” It gives five Biblical aspects of discovering God’s will for your individual life.
To help us understand and to know what God’s will is for our lives and to discover what God wants us to do we looked at four aspects of God’s will last week. Let’s review them quickly.
- God’s prevailing will: This deals with God’s sovereign and predestined will. Nothing or no one can stop it. It will prevail. The creation, the cross, the resurrection, and the Lord’s return are all a part of God’s prevailing will. Nothing could have or will stop it.
- God’s private will: These are things that God in His infinite wisdom and love has decided to keep hidden. We may or may not ever know these things.
- God’s permissive will: God gives you permission to obey or disobey His general will and to receive the consequences. Generally speaking, it is God’s will that we all be thankful people, but we can choose to be either thankful or ungrateful. It’s God’s permissive will.
- God’s personal will: This is God’s will for you personally. This deals with your life. Your marriage. Your career. Your college. Your life.
We looked at all that in detail last week. Today, we are going to focus on determining God’s personal will for your life. How do you know if God wants you to take this job and not that one? Marry this person and not that one? Stay single or get married? Buy this house and not that one? Go to that college and not that one? Join this church and not that one?
These principles also apply to us as a church body. These Biblical filters can guide the leadership of the church when deciding things like which ministries to partner with? What type of evangelism strategy to adopt? What type of discipleship strategy to implement? What kind of children’s ministry should we offer? What type of youth ministry should we have? What type of remodeling do we need to do? Or does God want us to relocate?
Today I am going to give you five Biblical filters that will help you discover God’s will clearly. God wants you to know His will. Listen carefully to Romans 12:1, “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (HCSB). These five principles will help you discern what God’s will is.
Principles: What does God’s Word say?
First of all, God is going to give you guidance through Biblical principles. Here is where we ask the question, “What does God’s Word say?” Listen carefully, the Word of God is the will of God. God’s Word reveals God’s will. Always start with God’s Word. Don’t start with your feelings or what you are comfortable with or use too. Start with God’s Word. Don’t start with history or tradition. Start with God’s Word.
Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path” (NLT). God’s Word will show you which path and which decision to make. It will point you in a good direction.
2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (NLT). God’s Word will show light on what is right. God’s Word will reveal the answer you need.
God’s Word will give guidance and direction on where you need to go. What God says in His Word is what He wants you to do. Let me give you some examples of God revealing His will to you through Biblical principles.
- You might be asking the question, “God, who am I to marry?” A Biblical principle to give you guidance is found in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” (NIV 84). God just gave me guidance by saying, “Jeff, if you are going to marry someone, choose a follower of Jesus.” That eliminates a lot of choices. God says look for a believer. If they are not a follower of Jesus, then I’m not interested.
- You might be asking the question, “God, they have lied about me. What am I to do about it?” God’s Word says in Matthew 18:15, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over” (NIV 84). God’s will is for you to go talk to them, not slander them, gossip about them, and hold a grudge against them. If you feel like someone has sinned against you, go and lovingly talk to them.
God’s Word gives us principles and directions about a lot of things:
- What is God’s will when you are worried?
- What is God’s will when you angry?
- What is God’s will when you are depressed or discouraged?
- What is God’s will when you are afraid?
- What is God’s will regarding how to manage your finances?
- What does God want you to do as a parent?
- What does God want you to do in regards to your parents?
- What does God want me to do with the finances He has blessed me with?
God’s Word has principles about all that and more. It also has principles and directions for church leadership.
- What kind of church leadership should we have?
- What is the mission of the church?
- Who oversees the church?
- How to deal with church leadership when it’s gone bad.
So whatever you are needing God’s will on start with the Word of God. Research it. Study it and do what it says.
People: What do God’s people say?
This brings us to second action of discovering God’s will for your personal life, God’s people. This is where you ask the question, “What do God’s people say about this?” What advice do they give me? Listen to what the Bible has to say about getting advice.
- Proverbs 12:15, “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others” (NLT).
- Proverbs 15:22, “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success” (NLT).
- Proverbs 20:18, “Plans succeed through good counsel” (NLT).
This advice can come from talking to godly people, reading their books, blogs, or articles. This is simply getting advice from others about the decision you are making.
- If you are thinking about marrying someone, study God’s Word and see what God has to say about it in His word. If you think you found Mr. or Mrs. Right go and talk to some godly people and get there advice.
- If you are thinking about getting involved in a ministry, study God’s Word about it, and go get some godly advice. Your counsel may affirm what you are sensing or they may say you are way off or they may say you need to wait.
- If you are having difficulties as a parent, study God’s Word on parenting and then listen to godly advice from others regarding the details of your situation.
This applies to every area of your life.
This not only applies to you on a personal level, but it also applies to us as a church body. The leadership of the church will research the Scripture and talk to others who have proven they are reaching people and making disciples well. We will get advice from them and apply what is necessary. Healthy churches are always listening and paying attention to other healthy churches when it comes to outreach methods, discipleship methods, worship methods, and administrative methods.
Providence: What does your circumstances say?
This brings us to our third aspect of discovering God’s will, God’s providence. Here is where we ask the question, “What does your circumstances say?” What is going on around you? What is happening in your world right now? Circumstances can involve a lot of things like…
- Your age: There are some things you cannot do at 13 that God wants you to wait on until you are 31. God’s Word has various instructions to various age groups and how they should behave and things they should focus on.
- Your gender: Male or female. Even though we are created equally, we have different roles given to us by God. God’s Word has specific instructions for men and women, for husbands and wives, and for fathers and mothers.
- Your marital status: God’s Word has detailed instructions for married people, for singled never married, single by divorce, and for widows.
- Your health: Your health can often be a determining factor of where you serve or what God has planned for you.
- The time period you live in: God is not going to tell me to talk to Samson about his wild behavior. Samson lived a few thousand years ago. God is going to talk to me about what He wants me to do in my world. God is going to speak to me about my wife Pam and how I can serve her, my kids and how I can love them, and Genesis Church and how I need to lead them as a pastor. He is not going to tell me much or anything about how to lead First Baptist Church Jeff City, or Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta. This is the world I live in. These are my circumstances.
Your circumstances and the providence of God can involve where you work, go to school, your health, your financial status, the church you attend, the country you live in, the language you speak, etc.
God can speak to you through your circumstances. These circumstances may come in the form of a failure, a success, a disappointment, or tragedy. Let me show you from the Bible how circumstances can affect you and determining God’s will.
- Nehemiah: His circumstance was that he was a cup bearer for the King. He was well trusted. Because of His position, he had contacts. He was in the throne room with the king when someone approached the king and gave a horrible report about the walls and city of Jerusalem and the people of God scattered. His heart broke. He went to God about this and sensed God wanted him to lead a building campaign to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Which he eventually did. God used the circumstances in Nehemiah’s life to guide him where he needed to be and to do what he needed to do.
- The Prodigal Son: Sometimes God will use circumstances to wake you up spiritually. The story of the prodigal son, as told by Jesus illustrates that God may allow your circumstances to go from good to bad so that you will come to your senses in the pig pen like the prodigal son. He didn’t get back into the will of God until he had lost everything and was working in a pig pen. That’s when he decided to humble himself and go back to his father.
God will often use the circumstances in your life to guide you into His will. Pay attention to what God is doing around you and pay attention to what is happening around you. God is always at work. His providence is always active.
Let me give you a warning. Never determine God’s will based only on circumstances. You can easily misinterpret your circumstances if you don’t filter them through God’s Word and godly counsel.
Peace: What does your conscience say?
A fourth aspect of discovering God’s will is God’s peace. Here is where we ask the question, “What does your conscience say?” This is an often overlooked aspect of seeking God’s will. Often times you will hear someone say, “I have a peace about this.” What they usually mean is they have a clear conscience about it. They have a clear conscience about what they are going to do or say. Even if what they are going to do is difficult or scary, they have a peace about it. They have a clear conscience. Let me show you this in God’s Word.
- Romans 9:1, “With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed – cut off from Christ! – if that would save them” (NLT). This explains why Paul was willing to be beaten, stoned, imprisoned and eventually killed for the cause of Christ. He was willing to sacrifice everything in order to make disciples of Christ. He was so dedicated and committed to reaching the lost and making disciples that if it were possible he would give up his own salvation for the salvation of others. He had a clear conscience about what he was doing and how he was doing it.
- 2 Corinthians 1:12, “We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you. Our letters have been straightforward, and there is nothing written between the lines and nothing you can’t understand. I hope someday you will fully understand us, even if you don’t understand us now. Then on the day when the Lord Jesus returns, you will be proud of us in the same way we are proud of you” (NLT). Paul had to make some tough decisions for the church and say some things that stung them. But he knew he was doing what God wanted him to do because he had a clear conscience about it. He had an inner peace about it. He knew that what he did and what he said some people would not immediately understand it or like it and he was okay with that.
- Before we move on, let me give you a warning about your conscience. Look at 1 Corinthians 4:1, “So look at Apollos and me as mere servants of Christ who have been put in charge of explaining God’s mysteries. Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful. As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. [Paul just told them, when it comes to doing ministry and doing God’s will for my life, I don’t care much at all at what you think about me and how I do what God has called me to do. But now, here comes the warning) I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord Himself who will examine me and decide” (NLT). Ultimately, in the end, he knows the greatest evaluation will come from his Lord. He knows that simply having a clear conscience is not enough.
There are some people who don’t studying the Word, don’t get godly advice and don’t really pray about it. They just do what they want to do. They still may have a clear conscience because their conscience is based on the wrong things. You want to have a clear conscience based on God’s Word, godly advice, understanding your circumstances, and prayer. Build your conscience on the right things and God will be able to use your conscience to guide you into His personal will for your unique life.
This clear conscience was another barometer for Paul and can be for us as we seek what we should do when it comes to God’s will.
Prayer: What are you hearing from God?
A fifth aspect of discovering God’s will is prayer. This ask the question, “What am I hearing from God?” Prayer is talking to God and God talking to you. A few weeks ago we looked at the five most common types of prayers. One of them was a petition.
A petition is asking God to do something in your life. A petition is asking God to fulfill His will in your life in some way. Philippians 4:6 says, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (HCSB). You may be concerned about a decision you need to make. When you are asking God to do something in your life, you are petitioning God.
So you go to God and say, “Should I take this job or that job?” “Lord, should I have this surgery or not?” “Heavenly Father, should I attend this church or that one?” “Lord, should I speak to her about what she said that offended me or not?” “Lord, what’s the best way for me to discipline my children?” There are a host of petitions you could place at the Lord’s throne.
When you pray the Holy Spirit is at work.
- The Holy Spirit guides you to what God’s Word says about it.
- The Holy Spirit guides you to godly people to ask their advice.
- The Holy Spirit guides you in evaluating the circumstances and context the petition is made in helping you to determine when, if, who and how something should be done.
- The Holy Spirit guides you in your conscience affirming which is the right answer for you.
Through talking to God and listening to God, the Holy Spirit of God will guide you in the will of God. When you are praying the Holy Spirit will talk to you through God’s Word, godly advisors, your circumstances, and your conscience. Jesus made this very clear when He said in John 16, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13; HCSB).
Conclusion: What is your next step?
What is your next step? When God reveals His will to you, you are going to experience two things.
First you will experience a crisis of belief. This crisis of belief is a turning point or a fork in the road that demands that you make a decision. This is where you decide to obey or disobey God. You must make a decision to either do what God is telling you to do or not. This is where you listen to God or ignore Him. The crisis is when you know what God wants you to do, will you trust God and do it. A crisis of belief.
When doing God’s will you will experience a crisis of belief but you will also experience major adjustments. Every example in the Bible of someone realigning their life to God’s will had to make a major adjustment. These adjustments may involve relationships, circumstances, commitments, actions, thinking, or beliefs. You cannot do nothing and go with God at the same time. When God reveals His will to you, it is an invitation by God to follow Him.
The crisis of belief is asking, “Will you do what God is telling you to do?” The major adjustment is asking, “Will you leave behind what God is saying to leave behind? Will you repent of what He is telling you to repent of? Will you add what He is telling you to add to your life? Will you let go of what God is saying let go of?”