The Will of God

   Growing up in church as I did, I often heard the phrase, “the will of God”. It seemed that everywhere I turned, that phrase was being thrown around by pastors, youth ministers and anyone else who had input in the direction of my life. I was encouraged to pray for God’s will in who I married, my “full time Christian service” (isn’t that supposed to be a given, anyway?), my ministry and generally every aspect of life.

The “will of God” was at times presented in a way that made it seem to be a vague concept. It was as if we were to wander through a dense fog in our life until suddenly the Holy Spirit would give us an opening where we would suddenly discover the details of God’s plan for our life and everything would be great.

Now I am not mocking the idea that God has a perfect will for our lives. In fact, I believe very strongly that He does. I believe that every believer has the responsibility before God to discover God’s will and to do it. I believe there are blessings to be found in the center of God’s will.

The problem I have seen is that there are myriads of formulas people use for determining whether or not something is God’s will. I have seen people use a multitude of factors in deciding what they believe God wants them to do in a given situation. Here are some them:

1.  Burden–Some feel that as long as they have a burden for a particular ministry, area of service or geographical location, then that is God’s way of telling them they should do something. Yet, when we look at Scripture, we see that isn’t always true. Jonah felt anything but a burden for the citizens of Nineveh, yet it is obvious that God wanted him to go there. By the same token, the Apostle Paul felt the most intensive of burdens for the nation of Israel, yet God had called him to minister to the Gentiles.

2.  Desire–it is so easy to confuse our desires with “peace from God”. There have been a number of occasions in my life that I wanted something so desperately to be the will of God that I convinced myself that I had peace that it was God’s will. The fact is, our heart is compromised by our sinful nature and can fool us. Even if our intentions are sincerely to do the will of God, we are playing with fire if we use desire as the determining factor of direction.

3.  Circumstances–Circumstances do not always determine the will of God. There are times when I believe God does use circumstances to move His people in certain directions. I believe that the life of Naomi is a good example of this. At other times, though, it may seem as if circumstances would force us one way, and God miraculously works through the circumstances to open the way for us.

4.  Opportunity–some people feel that if a door is opened, they are obligated to walk through it. We should give great care to make sure that it is God who has opened the door. In my ministry, I have been presented with many opportunities to do good things. Opportunities for ministry, missions, fellowship, education and several other things have offered themselves from time to time. There is nothing wrong with any of these (in fact there is a lot that is right with them), but I cannot honestly say that all of these opportunities were from God. Some of them came through association. Some of them came through well-meaning, godly people. Some of them I discovered on my own.

Is it possible that opportunity coupled with either desire or burden, yet lacking wisdom and discernment has probably caused as many people to miss the will of God as has outright rebellion?

Here are some things I do know concerning the will of God:

God’s will can be known

God’s will always brings glory to God

God’s will does not contradict His Word

In my next post, I hope to examine what I believe is the primary scriptural criterion for knowing the will of God. In the meantime, I would love to know your thoughts on this topic.

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20 responses to “The Will of God

  1. Preacher aside from the good works that are clearly set forth in the scripture I think we can measure our proximity to God’s will in any action by our love, hope and faith. If we are being motivated by our love for God or godly love for another and, by faith, hope to please Him with our effort then I think it good to step out on faith and trust in Him to correct our course if need be.

  2. are you saying that is we don’t know God’s will for our life’s , that we are fighting against Him?

  3. KC, I would agree with you. In fact, in my next post I had intended to bring out something very similar to what you said. I hadn’t thought of it in terms of faith, hope and love, but I like what you did with it.

    Janice, not at all. I’m just saying that we have the responsibility as Christians to find and do the will of God. Sometimes finding His will takes longer than others. In the meantime, there are some very basic aspects of the will of God in which we should remain faithful.

  4. I believe that God’s will for most people is the same: Love God and keep His commandments (which are Love God, Love each other).

    I think seeking God’s individualized career path for each and every person’s life is an enormous source of distraction that diverts many believers from God’s actual will, as stated above.

  5. Dorsey, welcome to HH. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. The things you have listed are certainly supposed to be characteristic of every Christian’s life and are indeed the “top two” commandments.

    And while I would agree that many probably get obsessive or at least imbalanced in what you described, I do believe that our path is ordered by God. Scripture seems to indicate this. Do you believe that God is indifferent as to who we marry, our career, our service to Him, general choices in life, etc?

  6. Gordon I also think we can know when we’ve moved away from His will by measure of the peace and joy in our heart though it may take some self-examination to identify the specific point where we left. I can almost always trace it back to a point where my lust overcame my conscience though there are times where I know I ignored the prompting of the Holy Spiri.

  7. Gordon,

    Good post. You have done a good job at knocking down some of the ways we typically decipher the will of God.

    We do throw the phrase “the will of God” around a lot without considering how God’s Word uses it. I think it would be helpful to look at the specific ways the word “will”, “willing” or the the phrase “the will of God” is used in Scripture. I’m not sure that our use of the phrase always matches the way Scripture uses it. Most of the time we are talking about the “unknown”, circumstantial guidance of God in our daily decision making. That doesn’t seem to be the predominant use in Scripture.

  8. KC, I would agree with you concerning the sense of peace and joy that God gives us. However, I think even in that we should be cautious. I know that in my own life, I have wanted something (good things) to be “God’s will” so badly that I convinced myself I had peace about them when it was really my own misplaced, albeit sincere, desires. I will say, though, that I have always known a genuine peace when I am doing God’s will.

    Don, thanks for your comment. I want to let this discussion continue to percolate a little, but in my follow-up post, I hope to make a connection between sanctification and the ability to discern God’s will.

  9. Once in a SS class, when the will of God was being discussed, someone mentioned finding God’s partner for you and being in God’s will. My husband made a comment that sort of made sense. He said, ” Once you’ve married that person, that becomes the will of God for you.” I hadn’t thought of it that way before, but I think he was right.

  10. To me, the most obvious way to seek His will, is to cultivate a sensitivity to His leading.
    This includes spiritual disciplines (prayer, His word,fellowship, worship) as well as the somewhat less obvious measure of obedience to conscience (Romans 14:22-23)

    We should not only be sensitive to conscience when making decisions, but we should -at the same time – be having our minds renewed (Rom 12.2).

    With our renewed minds, we are told, we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is.

    This would make sense, since the undergirding principle of life as revealed in the N.T. is Love, which is exhibited in relationship — relationship, with God in particular.

    When in doubt, compare your decision with wha you know of the word.

  11. Bev, what your husband said was indeed true. But if that is true, would that not indicate that perhaps there are different degrees of being in the will of God?

    Wes, that is a great comment. In fact much of the next post will be based upon some of the things you said about Rom. 12.

  12. Yes, I know we used to talk about the perfect will of God and His permissive will. Perhaps that statement would have gone in the latter.

  13. That was my thought, too.

  14. About marriage, there is the complicating factor of Sampson. Judges 14:4.
    (That is to say nothing of Gomer, Hosea’s lovely wife.)

  15. Those were certainly interesting pairings to which you refer. Do you mean that they complicated God’s will, the lives of Samson and Hosea or this discussion? 😉

  16. With respect to this thread.

    Thought I’d spice up a rather subjective and hypothetical discussion with real-life examples from scripture, since it was gravitating toward ‘marriage’.

    My understanding of His will was outlined earlier.

    I don’t believe God’s will is mutable, so I don’t think it CAN be complicated, only difficult to understand.

    Sampson and Hosea would probably have (if the question came up) wondered whether they were correctly in His will’, but Scripture says that both were. Just because life is messy, does not mean you are contrary to His will!

    Have fun! 🙂

  17. Just because life is messy, does not mean you are contrary to His will!

    You need to put that on a t-shirt or coffee mug. That’s pretty good.

  18. T. A. Blankenship

    Gordon,
    Great thoughts. Sometimes knowing the will of God seems like a real struggle. I do not think He wants it to be a struggle, but maybe in some cases.
    I think you were right about the “open doors” policy. I used to really follow that one, and then, I learned that doors can be opened to test us, and doesn’t always mean that is God’s will for us to go through.
    Sometimes God opens doors, gives us a choice, and neither one would be a wrong decision. In other words sometimes He gives us a choice. With two doors of ministry opportunity, and both can be right.
    I hope I haven’t confused the situation.
    Great article and discussion.
    T.A.

  19. Bro. TA, you haven’t confused things at all. These are some great insights you have provided. Your input is always appreciated.

  20. I have really enjoyed both of these posts on God’s will, Gordon. Some very stimulating discussion here as well.

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