We are all faced with daily choices. Paper or plastic? Cream and sugar? Pie or cookies? These choices are easy to make based on our routines, preferences and whims. But what about the bigger choices…Should I take that job in another state? Whom should I marry? Do I want to adopt a child? These can often leave us floundering in indecision, making endless pro and con lists as we try to determine what direction God would want us to take. All Christians recognize that we “no longer should live the rest of [our] time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:2). But what exactly is God’s will for our lives?
The starting place
The best place to go for answers about life's major decisions is always in the pages of our Bible. It is there that we are able to seek to understand and follow God’s will. Let’s take a look at some scriptures. David was faced with these same questions about God’s will, and he wrote in Psalm 143:10, “Teach me to do your will, for You are my God…” (emphasis added throughout). Here we see that doing God’s will does not come naturally to us. God must teach us to do His will and we are expected to seek out that teaching of His will.
We are also expected to meditate on it. Paul urged early Church members to, “…not be unwise, but understand [the word for understand in Strong’s Concordance means “to put together mentally, to comprehend, consider”] what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). It’s hard to find the mental space amidst the clamor of our daily thoughts to devote to thinking deeply about God’s will, but Paul points out how essential it is to do so. If it’s hard to do so, then we should ask for the wisdom that Paul says leads to such focus, and God promises to give it to you (James 1:5-6).
In doing this, a byproduct will be improvements in our relationships with God and others. Paul told the Colossians that he did “not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work…” (Colossians 1:9-10). The result of doing God’s will is the development of the fruits of God’s Spirit (Colossians 1:11-12).
Doing God’s will determines your eternal future
By learning how to understand and do God’s will now, we will be ably prepared for our future roles as kings, priests and judges once Christ has returned and established God’s Kingdom.
Christ showed us all that we need to pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10) on a daily basis. God’s will has a future focus as He desires to fulfill His plan for everyone who has ever lived. To be a part of His plan, we must actively do His will. It is only then that we are welcome in His eternal family (Matthew 12:50). Unfortunately, it is all too easy to get sucked into the minutiae of daily living and forget that “…the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17). God’s will and the ways of this world system are incompatible. It is essential that each of us is striving to understand and do God’s will in order to pursue the only true, lasting investment we can make with our time, energy and resources in this life.
It is one thing to know God’s will in this life and it is another to actually do it. Luke records Christ saying, “…that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes” (Luke 12:47). If we are not actively pursuing God’s will for ourselves, He may make sure we go through a sufficient number of trials and difficulties to shape us into what He wants us to be for all eternity.
Only in submitting to God’s will (as we learn His will) in this life can we appropriately and adequately fulfill our future roles. As Christ stated, “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30). In order to learn to judge the world with righteous judgment as we are destined to do (1 Corinthians 6:2; John 7:24), we must seek God’s will as Christ wholeheartedly did during His life.
He wants us to show others how to follow a similar path (James 1:18). His desire is that all will someday have the same opportunities we have now. As Christ pointed out, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:39-40). Consider your words and actions. Are they reflecting well on the God Family and helping others move toward the Kingdom of God, or are you mimicking more of what you see in the world around you? Ask God to help you see clearly if you’re not sure.
What exactly is God’s will?
We know doing God’s will is essential for our future, but what are some practical aspects of it that we can know today? God’s will involves following His laws. After all, King David said, “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8). David, though he was not perfect, spent his life pursuing an understanding and practice of God’s laws. We must do the same. Study the Ten Commandments and gauge how you are measuring up to the deep spiritual principles imbedded in each (Matthew 23:23). Only by pursuing God’s law can we “know His will, and approve the things that are excellent” (Romans 2:18). His law allows us to see what is truly good and right in life.
Paul urged early Church members to “…present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove [in Strong’s Concordance prove also means “allow, discern, examine, try”] what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). We see three more elements of living God’s will. First, we must be a sacrifice.
This means to be completely willing to surrender to what God says. It is absolute and total obedience and submission even though that royally chafes our human nature. It means giving up what we want for what He ultimately wants for us, and it means maintaining an attitude of thanksgiving and praise for His ultimate wisdom for our lives no matter what that might look like. Second, we have to make sure we’re not drifting into tolerance of the world’s sins. Making even tiny compromises with what the world says we primarily should pursue: rather than godly pursuits. creates a crack in our characters that will only grow ever wider as we focus more on the physical rather than the spiritual. Paul puts it succinctly, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). You can’t get any clearer than that. We are to be set apart from the world’s system. We are to be different, even if that difference is uncomfortable at times. And third, we must counteract the world’s influence by renewing our minds through Bible study, rest on the Sabbath, prayer, service to others, fasting and more. Examine the fruit of God’s Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 and ask God to help you to grow in areas you may be lacking.
All of this sounds like a tall order sometimes, but Christ said of His life, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34). Doing God’s will is like eating food in that it will energize and sustain us on a daily basis. And it’s something that we must seek every day or we will soon spiritually starve. Each of us has to help “finish God’s work” by keeping the vision of the Kingdom alive in our minds and living toward that end (Micah 6:8).
God’s will also might mean that we may endure some difficult times. Peter wrote that “…it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:17). We are told that we cannot shy away from answering with truth and confidence when we are questioned or challenged in our beliefs (1 Peter 3:15-16; 1 Peter 2:15). Christ suffered greatly to fulfill God’s will, and even though He asked for another outcome (Matthew 26:39, Matthew 26:42), He set the ultimate example of submission to what God desired for His life and death.
When going through a health trial, or even more maddeningly, watching a loved one go through physical pain, we still have to have the attitude that God’s will might mean the suffering may continue. We have to ask, as the leper did early in Christ’s ministry, “’Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean’” (Matthew 8:2). In that case, Christ healed him, but we have to recognize that God has a very good reason if His ultimate answer is “no” to healing someone.
God’s will is also about developing our spiritual gifts for the edification of His Church. After all, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11). Examine your gifts. God wants you to grow in them and use them to help others to grow. If you’re not sure what your spiritual gifts are, there are numerous books on the topic that can point you in the right direction.
Making concrete choices
So then how do you go about making the important choices of where to move or work and whom to marry and whether or not to have children, etc? Ask yourself questions to see which choice best pursues God’s ultimate will for you.
If your answers show that all of your choices are in accordance with God’s will, and you’re still not sure what to choose, seek out the advice and example of men and women of character in God’s Church (Proverbs 11:14). Ultimately, if you are seeking God’s will, He will make sure that “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28).
In a little book called, God is in the Small Stuff I found some wise words. "Don’t think that God is trying to play a guessing game with you. He is not difficult to find, and neither is His will for your life. But most people are looking for the wrong thing when they are trying to find God’s will. They are looking for a time, or a place, or a person, or a job. Oh, these things may be part of God’s plan, but His will for your life is mostly an attitude of your heart. God wants you to give Him a place of priority in your life…He wants your relationship with Him to be the part of your life that is most important to you. As you relinquish control of your future to God, you are doing God’s will for your life” (p. 280-281).
Or as David aptly put it, “Trust in the Lord, and do good…delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:3-5).
If you want to learn more about God’s will for your life, read the free study aid Making Life Work.