KNOWING THE WILL OF GOD
Immanuel G. Christian
How are we to know the will of God in a specific situation in life? Some of the methods used in the Old Testament, putting out a fleece and casting lots, do not always help in discerning the will of God in a very clear and unambiguous way. How shall we, then, know the will of God in life's major decisions?
Doing His Will
One of the foremost and most important principles about knowing the will of God is to actually be doing the will of God that is explicitly taught in the word of God. It is obvious that those who want to know the will of God have to be living by the will of God. Otherwise, why would God make His will known? I am convinced that those who live by the will of God will have the spiritual maturity and Godly wisdom to discern the will of God in the personal and complicated issues of life. God reveals Himself to those who are seeking Him and He wants to show the way forward to those who are walking in His way. If we are living pleasing to the Lord in every area of our life, then, as Paul said, we "will be able to test and approve what God's will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will" (Rom.12:1-2).
Now those who have taken that first step of obeying the known will of God can take the following four steps to discern the will of God in a particular situation in life. We can have clear and definite direction from the Lord by studying the word of God, prayerfully asking for the guidance of the Spirit of God, and getting advice from the people of God. As a result, we will have the peace of God in the decision made.
Word Of God
First and foremost is the word of God. The word of God provides clear and definite direction for every aspect of our life and helps us to make important and right decisions. "Who, then, is the man that fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him" (Psa.25:12;32:8). Also, the Psalmist said, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path" (Psa.119:105), and "The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple" (Psa.119:130). The Lord said through the prophet Isaiah, "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it'" (Isa.30:21). And so Solomon's wise advice is, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight" (Pro.3:5-6). The word of God guides us and helps us to choose good over evil, eternal over temporal, things that would be a blessing to others over selfish desires, His kingdom and His righteousness over the things of this world.
The word of God has an answer to all the problems and puzzles in life. But many times we may not find a direct answer to a very specific situation in life. We cannot make a decision just by looking at one or two verses at random, but it requires an overall knowledge of the word of God. We have to have our hearts and minds saturated with the word of God so that, in a critical moment, we are not in a situation of 'digging a well when our house is on fire' (a Gujarati proverb!). Like Moses said, "…the word is very near us; it is in our mouth and in our heart" (Deut.30:14), and therefore the wisdom needed to make the right decision whenever we are in that situation will be available to us. Paul told Timothy, "…from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2Tim. 3:15-16), and also for every right decision.
Spirit Of God
Another resource connected to the word of God is the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God not only helps us to understand and to grasp the deep truth of the word of God, but He reminds us of this truth at very critical moments guiding us to the right path. As Jesus told His disciples, "The Holy Spirit…will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you" (Jn.14:26), and "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth" (Jn. 16:13). The Apostle John writes, "As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things…remain in Him" (1Jn. 2:27).
It is worth noting that one of the methods used in the Old Testament, casting lots, was also used once by the apostles for selecting the replacement for Judas Iscariot. But this was the last incident in the New Testament where this method was used and it took place before the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples. After that they followed the leading of the Spirit and never reverted to the method of casting lots.
The third resource that can help us in making the right decision is conferring with other people of God, people who are wise, spiritually mature, well versed in the word of God, and living lives that are pleasing to the Lord. We can tell them about our decision, but should be willing to change it, if they think differently than we do. As Solomon said, "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed" (Pro. 15:22), and, "Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise" (Pro. 19:20; 20:18;24:6).
All this has to be done prayerfully seeking God's leading as we search the Scripture, following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and discussing the matter with spiritually mature friends. One thing we have to make sure of is that whatever advice we get from others or whatever decision we arrive at in the end, it should not be contrary to the principles of the word of God, because whatever is contrary to the word of God is certainly contrary to the will of God.
When we come to the final decision that has been arrived at by following these steps, we will have the peace of God. The peace of God would be the natural outcome of the right decision. But if we still have some doubt and are not sure about the decision, we should continue to follow the above mentioned three steps until we arrive at the decision that gives us the peace of God. If we have made the decision considering, "…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable," then "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:8,7).