“What is God’s will for my life?” This is probably the most commonly asked question by Christians today. Paul addresses this matter (Eph.5:17-19) and tells us that wise people know God’s will, seize opportunities and invest their time wisely. Foolish people don’t know God’s will, they miss opportunities and they waste their time. God does have a will – a sense of purpose; intentions and desires; thoughts and plans. He also calls us to be a part of his purpose (2 Tim.1:9). The good news is that God wants us to know His will so we can then get on with doing it. He does not want to hide it from us (Col.1:9. Jn.10:27).
Wrong Approaches to God’s Will
Knowing God’s will can seem difficult and confusing at times. Often this is because of wrong approaches or misconceptions we have about God’s will. Let’s look at some of them:
- A Fatalistic Approach. This view says, “What will be, will be.” Some people just ‘resign’ themselves to God’s will. This view overemphasises the sovereignty of God and downplays human responsibility. It denies or minimises the fact that there are choices that we make and that we are therefore responsible for our lives. Yes, there are things beyond our control either caused by God or other people. But we don’t have to be victims of the circumstances or other people’s choices. We are responsible beings. Trust in God’s Providence but don’t believe in ‘fate’.
- A Negative Approach. Some people believe that God’s will is meant to make them miserable and depressed. God will make you marry someone you don’t like or send you somewhere you don’t want to go. The truth is that God’s will is ‘good, pleasing and perfect’ (it can’t be improved on). God’s will is an expression of His love. He knows more about what will fulfil you and make you happy than you do. Yes, there may be both problems to solve and sacrifices to make but his will is good (Rom.12:1-2. Jer.29:11).
- A Frustrating Approach. Some people become frustrated with God’s will because they believe that God has some super-detailed plan for every aspect of their lives that they have to try to discover. They think they must try to find the next step God wants them to take every moment of the day so as to not please Him. The truth is that God is a very empowering God. He gave Adam and Eve an overall purpose to live for. He also gave them some specific boundaries but he then gave them freedom of choice within those (Gen.2:15-17). God treats us the same way. He has a general purpose for our lives. He then communicates any ‘limitations’ or areas that are restricted to us (notice that the 10 commandments are mostly ‘what not to do’). Within these parameters, we are free to choose what we want to do. There is more freedom in God’s will than we realise. More often than not, there are many options we could choose from, all of which are in God’s will.
- A Fearful Approach. Sometimes people are so worried about missing Gods will or making a wrong decision that they live paralyzed by fear. Or people live in fear because they have failed in the past and think that they can now no longer be in the will of God. The truth is that a bad decision doesn’t ruin God’s will for your life. Yes, choices have consequences but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your whole life has fallen apart. The most important thing is where you are headed today. That’s more important than where you have been. God is the God of the “second chance”. Ask Jonah. Start afresh today and you can have a new end.
- A Mystical Approach. Some people think that being in God’s will is dependent on some special feeling, impression or sensation. They want God’s leading as to what clothes they should wear or where they should sit in church! The truth is that God’s will is very practical and it doesn’t depend on some mystical feeling.
God’s Guidance Principles
So, what are God’s ‘navigation systems’ to guide His people? Let’s consider five of the ways God uses to guide us:
- God’s Word – the Bible. God’s Word contains God’s will! As we read and meditate on the Scriptures, we will begin to think like God thinks. No other means of guidance should contradict the inerrant Word of God. Nothing He calls you to do will contradict the Word. His Word is a ‘light to our path’ (Ps.119:105). God gives us enough light to see to make the next step but not always enough to see the entire journey. You will arrive safely if you watch the lights on the road and following God’s leading. However, if you don’t know the Word, you may be deceived. God guarantees success in life to those who meditate upon and obey his commands and principles for life (Josh.1:8. 2 Tim.3:16-17). God’s Word contains principles for every area of our life. Unfortunately, we often tend to live our life without first reading the ‘instruction manual’, which often results in unnecessary mistakes and detours (Hos.4:6). Make a regular habit of reading God’s Word and listening to it being taught (1 Pet.4:11. 1 Thess.2:13).
- Wisdom. God created wisdom before He created the world (Prov.8). In the book of Proverbs, we are encouraged, if not urged, to get wisdom (Prov.4:7). God wants to help us develop wisdom, which is the proper application of knowledge and understanding. God gave us a brain – we should use it! He won’t make all the decisions for us. He wants us to use “common sense”. Ask God for wisdom (Jas.1:5), look in the Bible for it, do personal research and listen to wise counsellors or advisors (Prov.15:22; 19:20; 20:18). Every decision needs careful planning and thinking through. Jesus taught the importance of wise planning and decision-making (Lk.14:28-32). Consider your options and the likely consequences of each. Then choose the best option and commit to making that decision work.
- Circumstances. Circumstances define the context of every decision. God can use circumstances to direct us, but never in isolation from other guidance factors. Don’t let circumstances alone dictate your decision. It’s one way of guidance. You can’t be led by it alone. Gideon made use of a ‘fleece’ and God confirmed his will through this means because of Gideon’s fear and lack of faith in what God had already told him (Judges 6:36-40). We need to be very cautious in this type of approach to guidance (“If this happens, then I’ll know it is God’s will).
- The Inner Witness of the Spirit. God has sent the Holy Spirit to guide and lead us (Rom.8:14). Pray and commit all of your ways to the Lord, asking for His guidance and direction. God wants to reveal His thoughts and feelings to us. He does this through His Word but also through the person of the Holy Spirit. He has been sent to be our friend and our helper. He also gives us his peace to rule in our heart and mind (Phil.4:6-7).
- The Supernatural. God sometimes uses “special revelation” to guide us. This includes things such as dreams and visions (Acts 2:17-21), angelic visitation, an audible voice and prophecy (1 Cor.14:3). God uses the prophets to speak to His people and reveal His heart. We should not take prophecy lightly but we should also ‘test’ each word (1 Thess.5:19-24). We can be inspired and aided by the prophetic word (1 Tim. 6:12. 2 Tim. 4:7. 1 Cor.9:26). In God’s time he will bring His will to pass in your life (Ecc.3:11). Never give up! Pray them through! Understand the “time principle”. God’s word will be tested and so will your faith in it (Ps.105:17-19).
God never guides by one of these things alone, always by more than one. Like “lights” that need lining up, God established the principle of two or three ‘witnesses’ (Dt.17:6. 2 Cor.13:1). The bigger the decision, the larger the risk, the more witnesses you need lined up. Most errors occur when you make too much of one of these principles. Overemphasis will kill you. There is not one key to knowing the whole will of God or making wise decisions. Make sure things are in agreement. Don’t move until they are.
Our journey through life is nothing but a process of decision-making. Every day is a day of decisions. Our decisions greatly affect our lives. In fact, where you are today is largely a result of the decisions you made yesterday. Where you will be tomorrow will be a result of the decisions you make today. Make every effort to understand God’s will for your life. Seize opportunities and invest your time wisely to pursuing God’s will for your life.
Sample Discussion Questions
- Discuss the concept of being in the ‘centre of God’s will’. What does this mean and is it a helpful concept?
- Discuss the five ‘navigation systems’ God uses to guide us. Share stories or personal examples of how God used one or more of them to guide you.
- Discuss the concept of using ‘fleeces’ (see Judges 6:36-40). Is this an appropriate way to seek God’s guidance? What are the dangers of this approach?
- Ask people to share a decision that they made that they wish they hadn’t. What did they learn from it? How did it help them in future decision-making situations?
- Reflect on the Wesleyan Quadrilateral as a grid for wise decision-making.
- Some people are too dependent on ‘logic’ and ‘objective’ aspects of decision-making while others are too dependent on ‘feelings’ and ‘subjective’ aspects of decision-making. What are some ways we can achieve balance between these two extremes?