How to Know God’s Will

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 ESV)

Wisdom on the Street Level of Life

Wisdom. What is wisdom? Wisdom is the ability to discern the best choice for the best outcome. C.S. Lewis called this “sanctified common sense.” There are entire books of the Bible called wisdom literature, Proverbs most notably. Practical Christian living. Christian wisdom has different outcomes in view than worldly wisdom. In the world, decisions are made by what will make me the most money, most famous, most powerful, most whatever. For the Christian, the wisest way to live is in the way that pleases God the most and brings him glory.

God has so ordered the world that all human beings live in the midst of three circles of God’s will (see diagram below):

The largest circle represents God’s eternal or sovereign will, the next largest circle represents God’s revealed will, and the innermost circle represents God’s wisdom.

Why is this important? Because often people say, I want to know God’s will for my life. Great! Read the Bible. No, I mean, I have a decision to make and I’m not sure what God’s will is. Which will do you mean? Certainly not his secret will; you will never know that. Do you mean his revealed will? Maybe.

Let’s say a woman is considering marrying a guy. I’ve had this conversation many times. Pastor Steve, I’m in love. OK. Tell me about him. Well, he likes cats and he’s great with kids. We like so many of the same movies and we can talk for hours. Nothing you have said so far is important. Susie, is he a growing Christian? I don’t know. We haven’t talked about that. Really? Now I’m concerned about your priorities AND his. Why? It’s never God’s will for a Christian to marry a non-Christian. The Bible makes that clear. If he is a Christian, now this becomes a wisdom decision. Bill may love cats but hasn’t held a job in 10 years. He may love cats, but he despises your sister. Or your family despises him. Or worse, maybe he’s a Packer fan…. There are lots of deal-breakers out there. Within God’s revealed will and parameters, who you marry is a wisdom decision. Once you marry them, you have fulfilled God’s sovereign will.

Pastor Steve, so there isn’t one soulmate out there for me? My one true love? Nope. There are hundreds of thousands of potential spouses who are within God’s will. Do they love Jesus and want to be a biblical husband or wife? If yes, now it’s a question of which one you want to marry. For this, we need God’s wisdom. Did you know God encourages us to ask for it?

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). That is a great prayer when making decisions, God I lack wisdom here. Would you please give it to me? Incline my heart toward what would be most pleasing to you.

How do I find God’s will? Ask, does God’s Word give definitive direction in this? If yes, case closed. You don’t have to think about it. Does God’s Word give direction in principle? While it may not be clearly yes or no, the application of a biblical truth can be helpful. This is what Paul does in much of 1 Corinthians. The Corinthian Church was confused about many things including whether to take a fellow Christian to court or if Christians could eat meat offered to idols. Paul takes a truth like love your fellow brother and applies it to whether Christians can sue each other. In cases where God’s Word is not entirely clear, we must objectively apply the clear truths to the less-than-clear situations.

But what if there is no clear biblical teaching that either prohibits or requires something or principled application that gives direction for God’s will? Within that freedom we can make some really stupid decisions. I know; I have made them. So just because God’s revealed will allows it, doesn’t mean it’s best. Immature Christians struggle with that distinction. They want to ask, “Can I?” The right question is, “Should I?”

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2020 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

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