It’s written in black and white, laid out like a blueprint. There is no guesswork, no margin for error, no queries as to the next step or to where this is leading. The picture is clear as shown by the dotted lines; just follow along and fill in the spaces. How tidy life would be if this were the case!
If you are a young person reading this article, be assured that while the principles presented have you in mind, they are not for you only. Many of us who are a little further along in our Christian experience have learned, and proved, the faithfulness of God through life experiences. We too need to be reminded of how, as those linked with a sovereign Lord, we can continue to “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing” (Col 1:10).
Four Aspects of God’s Will
A consideration of the will of God in Scripture reveals four aspects that will guide our thinking and pursuit of discovering God’s will for our life; His sovereign, moral, particular, and permissive will. God’s sovereign will recognizes the right and authority of God to do whatever He wills. Nothing in the universe can stop it. He will carry out His purposes and will always have the last word. While our flesh may balk at this, we must bow. Our resistance is likely due to a misunderstanding of God’s nature and ultimate purpose that results in us failing to see that God wants the best for us. In everything He does, He works to bring glory to Himself. “Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev 4:11). Consider also Psalms 135:6; 115:3; and Daniel 4:35.
The second aspect is His unchanging moral will clearly laid out in His Word. Regardless of what society says, there are things that are in themselves right or wrong based on specific truths of Scripture. These moral absolutes are inviolable, and in the keeping of them the believer displays submission to the Lordship of Christ, which is necessary before any further light is given as to the will of God for our personal lives.
This will of God for our personal lives can be called the particular will of God. More on that later. The last aspect of God’s will is His permissive will whereby He permits us to take our own course outside of what He calls us to. In these experiences of life, we often learn valuable lessons about ourselves and our God. An example of this may be Peter’s desire to step out of the boat to come to the Lord Jesus. The particular will of God was that they go to the other side, but it was the permissive will of God that allowed Peter to step out of the boat. Peter was taught valuable lessons about his own weakness, fear, and doubt as well as the faithfulness, power, and care of his God. It is interesting that we never read of Peter asking again if he could walk on water with, or to, the Lord Jesus. (For further study on the permissive will of God, consider the story of Balaam in the Old Testament.)
Assuming a genuine relationship with God and an honest desire to know and do His will, there are four areas that need to be addressed.
1. Knowing the Word of God
There are no shortcuts. Devotionals are nice, commentaries helpful, dictionaries often necessary, but there is no substitute for having a daily quiet time alone with your Bible. Knowing God’s will for our lives means we must know Him; His heart, His desires, His character, and methods. To young Timothy, Paul writes, “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear to all” (1Tim 4:15).
When we consider the will of God in Scripture, there are precepts (rules) and principles which need to be considered. The difference can be noted through the example of family life. Parents have parameters that their children follow for their protection and good. The child may not always understand these demanded parameters while young, but with time and teaching they will come to see them as a reflection of the care and character of the parents. As the children continue to grow, the parents will have the delight of seeing their children begin to live, not based on a response to precepts (rules) alone, but on directional principles that were established by the parent’s expression and example. The child no longer operates based on “Mom says this,” or “Dad says that,” but on an understanding that they can or cannot do a certain thing because it would violate who they are, in association with their parents. A further aspect is a young person, acting in obedience to the precepts and principles because of a devotional desire to please those they know love them.
In like manner, the Word of God guides our daily life and growth through demanded parameters and directional principles that reflect the care and character of our heavenly Father. The result being not a pharisaical keeping of precepts and principles, but our devotional pursuit to, in all things, obey and seek to please and glorify our heavenly Father, knowing our Father desires the very best for His children.
The demanded parameters of Scripture given for our guidance are crossed over at our peril. God has given us directives in His Word that are in keeping with His holy character and are for our blessing and protection. When we seek to know God’s guidance in our lives, we need to ensure that we are submitting to the authority of these moral absolutes. These things include the “thou shalt” and the “thou shalt nots” of the law, as well as forbidden works of the flesh as listed in Galatians 5:19. A general reading of the New Testament will allow you to discover many such other passages (Ephesians 4:17-31 and 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, etc.) that testify to God’s demanded parameters in our lives. Not all, however, are things forbidden, for there are those things which are required for us to do: forgiveness (Eph 4:32), repentance (Acts 17:30), faith (Acts 16:31), baptism (Mark 16:16), and the commemoration of the Lord’s Super (1Cor 11:24).
As we begin to obey God in His demanded parameters, we become increasingly sensitive to His will for our daily walk. Will the activity, word, or place, cause us to sin against God by disobedience to a given precept? Graciously, He gives us principles to direct our steps. They are equally as binding, but much broader in their application. In studying the Bible, look for principles that are being taught, for through their proper application, many questions will be answered when it comes to decision making. While there are many more, we will briefly consider six guiding principles.
- In 1 Corinthians 6:12 we have the principle of benefit. Paul says “All things are lawful for me but all things are not expedient.” The “all things” whether taken as things possible or things amoral (not sin in themselves), does not change the principle presented. We need to determine if what I am about to do or say is expedient (profitable or helpful) in bringing me to my God-given goal.
- In that same verse is the principle of bondage. Paul says “I will not be brought under the power (authority) of any.” Any activity that may enslave you, though it may not be sin in itself, is wrong. When an innocent pursuit begins to control you or you become addicted to it, it has become sin to you – you are “under the power” of it.
- Paul states in 1 Corinthians 8:1 “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak.” The immediate context (vv4-13) surrounds the issue of meats offered to idols. The principle is that of “the brother” (v13) and involves prayerful consideration of the influence of my behavior on my brother or sister in Christ. Will it stumble or help them in their Christian experience?
- First Corinthians 10:23 gives us the principle of building. “All things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” Every movie, every music CD or download, every program, every friendship will build you up as a child of God or pull you down. True entertainment is legitimate and a gift from God, but the devil is clever and knows that if he can get you to laugh and enjoy that which is degrading to the image of God, he has gained the day. In your decision-making, ask yourself, is this choice edifying? Will it build me up spiritually?
- The principle of benediction in 1 Corinthians 10:31 is universal in its application: “Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” This underlines every other principle. Am I seeking God’s glory in everything or my own? Every conversation, every activity, every vacation, every outing, every wardrobe (Decency: How I cover my physique; Dignity: How I carry my person; Deportment: How I convey my personality) will either bring honor or dishonor to the Lord.
- The principle that emerges from 1 Corinthians 10:32-33 is that of blessing to the unsaved. What does my neighbor think is the most important thing in my life? Not all of us yet have the courage or ability to present an unsaved friend or acquaintance with a gospel tract or message. Is my manner of life such that, by doing so, I would not bring reproach to the glorious gospel of Christ?
Knowing God’s word in terms of its demanded parameters and directional principles will give you guidance in determining God’s will from Scripture, and should result in a devotional pursuit whereby your motivation as a believer in making choices is to delight the heart of your God.
We have looked at the Word of God in relation to receiving guidance for determining God’s will for us and it is there that we must always start. There are however, other aspects of guidance regarding determining the will of God for us.
2. Commitment to the Will of God
We must face the reality of our commitment to the will of God. After, or at the time of salvation, each Christian is brought to a point where, in recognition of the “mercies of God,” he places himself on the altar in an act of total commitment. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom 12:1-2). While there is an initial act of submission to His will, it becomes a daily process of unreserved commitment which is stated in verse 2 of Romans 12.
3. Trusting the Way of God
Taking that step of faith in what I feel is the will of God for my life can be daunting. I would suggest that if we are walking in obedience to His revealed will, though the path before us may be blurred, what we choose will be, for the present, His particular will for us. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Prov 3:5). “Ye that fear the LORD, trust in the Lord: He is their help and their shield” (Psa 115:11).
4. Praying for the Wisdom of God
It is vitally important to bow our hearts in prayer and request the wisdom of God in respect to the pathway of our life. Paul to the Philippians says “but in all things by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (4:6). James reminds us, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not” (James 1:5).
As The Hunter’s Guide to hunters, so Scripture to believers makes us aware of many deviant pitfalls. We have many enemies that assail us. Satan despises what God loves. The world, with its attractions, diverts our attention and affection. The ever-present flesh is relentless with its insatiable appetite. The Lord help us diligently to be “filled with the knowledge of His will …walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing.” (Col 1:9-10).