How Can I Know the Will of God for My Life?
Howard Coles, Coleford, England
This is a question often asked by young believers and is as relevant to decisions that affect our longer-term future as to our daily circumstances. Sometimes this needs to be asked of life-changing circumstances such as ‘Where should I live?’ Or it could be in relation to our spiritual aspirations such as ‘How should I serve the Lord?’ We are often faced with multiple choices and no simple answers, so what to do and how to discern the mind of God in particular circumstances is often a perplexing question.
The following points give some guidance in answering this:
1) We need to refer to the word of God - the Lord would never tell us to do something contrary to His word. This will involve spending meaningful times alone with Him in prayer and Bible reading. By meaningful it is meant that we read expectantly, waiting upon the Lord to speak. Often He will make His will known through consecutive rather than haphazard Bible reading. A married couple were once exercised about where they should serve the Lord on the mission field. They decided after much prayer that the Lord wanted them to go to India. However, at the point of their travelling, the door was shut by the India authorities who withdrew their visa. The next morning in their Bible reading they came to Esther 1. 1, ‘Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia’. These latter words leapt out of the page. They realized that God had spoken to them and eventually, after many other confirming evidences, were able to serve the Lord in Ethiopia. Care must be taken not to make scriptures suit our own will. This is sometimes very difficult when deep down we desire something or some single course of action.
2) If we are to hear the Lord speaking to us, we must spend time in prayer with Him daily. We must get to know Him, talk things over with Him, for He said ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me’, John 10. 27. The Lord uses the metaphor of sheep to describe His followers and this is so apt as sheep only get to know their shepherd’s voice after spending a lot of time with him. Familiarity with Christ gives this inner sense of that which will accord with His mind.
3) If we are to know the specific will of God when faced with multiple choices then we will need to be living within what could be termed the ‘general will of God’. This will involve obedience and submission to His word in matters of daily living and practice. For instance, we cannot expect to hear His voice in specific guidance, if we refuse to obey Him in baptism or neglect to meet and participate as fully as we can in the local assembly, Heb. 10. 25.
4) The advice and wisdom of older and more experienced believers should always be sought as a matter of course. For this we need to know those who are our spiritual fathers and mothers. They will be those godly believers who are praying for us, having our best interests at heart and will not just want to say things that please us.
5) Maybe even after all this the way ahead is still not clear. There is perhaps no ray of light or word from the Lord speaking to us clearly. It is at this point that we need to look carefully at the circumstances surrounding our decision. In this situation, being exercised as we are to do that which pleases the Lord, it may be that we should now push at doors of opportunity to see if they will open for us whilst at the same time asking the Lord to shut them if it is the wrong way to go or the wrong thing to do. Many have found the Lord has shut doors when they tried to move forward and have needed to accept by this that it was not His will for them. Remember, He is able to open up any way for us if it is the way He wants us to go.
In conclusion, remember Jacob who only moved after:
1) His circumstances changed - ‘And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before’, Gen 31. 2;
2) He had inner conviction that it was right - ‘I see your father’s countenance, that it is not toward me as before’, Gen 31. 5;
3) Ultimately he had a direct word from the Lord - ‘And the Lord said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers’, Gen 31. 3.
To know the will of the Lord in life and to do it is the greatest thing any one could ever know or do.