Can We Know What the Will of God Is?
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
Every Christian is interested in “discovering” God’s will for their life. But what is God’s will, and how can we go about “discovering” it? Is His will something hidden that we need to seek out, or is it something obvious? More importantly, can we “miss out” on God’s will, or can we somehow mess things up by making the wrong decisions?
These are tough questions that have serious repercussions, and the good news is that we can know and live out God’s will as it is revealed to us in prayer and Scripture through the Holy Spirit. God does not want us to spend our lives trying to figure Him out like some kind of cosmic puzzle, but instead He reveals Himself to us when we seek Him. We will never fully understand God’s will, as it is beyond our comprehension. Yet God doesn’t leave us wondering how to please Him, and he has given us ways to ensure that we are in His will.
What Does "the Will of God" Mean?
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
Jesus taught the disciples to pray for God’s will to be done, and by extension, He is teaching us the same thing. The will of God consists of things that are in line with God’s plan and purpose. Simply stated, it is the things that God wants, and God is unafraid to communicate these things to us. For example, the Bible tells us that it is God’s will that none would perish (2 Peter 3:9), and we understand this to mean that salvation for everyone is what God wants. Throughout history, we see that God reveals His will to all who truly seek Him.
Scripture gives us many clear examples of God revealing His will to people such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Gideon, and many others. Henry Blackaby has written that with all these examples, the pattern was the same. 1) He came to them; 2) He revealed His planned activity; 3) They believed Him and adjusted their lives to Him; 4) they obeyed Him; and 5) They experienced God doing His will through them. God still comes to us and speaks to us through prayer and through His Word, and enables us to adjust our lives to Him and see His will lived out in us.
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When People Speak of God’s Will, What Do They Mean?
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
We often speak of a desire for God’s will to be done in many of the big decisions in our lives: asking His guidance in who we marry, where we live, where we work, and for the salvation of those we love. These are perfectly good places to seek out His will, and He is glorified when we pray for His will to be done in us. However, we must be aware that He may not answer when we expect or in the way that we expect.
God reveals much of His will for us in verses like Micah 6:8, which teaches us that He wills for us to be humble, merciful, and just. It isn’t some great mystical discovery, but it is exactly what we need to do in order do see, understand, and do His will.
As we pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, we must accept that His will may not look like our will. Perhaps the most astonishing example of God’s will being different from our own comes from Jesus Himself on the night He was betrayed.
In His humanity, He wanted nothing to do with the pain and agony of the cross. Who would! His prayer serves as a beautiful picture of submission to the will of God: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Because the life of Jesus was so amazingly tuned in to God’s will, He was prepared to set aside His own will and embrace the eternal work that God was about to do through Him.
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10 Helpful Bible Verses about God's Will
Listed below are 10 verses and passages that can help us to understand God’s will and how it is at work within us:
John 6:39-40 – “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 – “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God.”
1 Timothy 2:3-4 – “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
Daniel 4:35 – “All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’”
Galatians 1:3-4 – “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.”
Acts 21:12-14 – “The people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, ‘Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done.’”
Romans 9:18-23 – “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?’ But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? ‘Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?”
Ephesians 6:6 – “Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.”
James 4:14-15 – “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”
As you meditate on these Scriptures, pray that God will draw you close to Him and reveal His will as you seek Him.
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Can We Know What God's Will Is for Certain Situations?
The answer is a resounding yes! Yet knowing His will, and hearing His voice, require us to first be seeking Him in the little things, getting to know Him and grow in our relationship with Him simply because of who He is, and asking Him to reveal His will to us. We can certainly pray for God to teach us His will as the Psalmist did in Psalm 143:10; “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.”
Jesus makes it clear that by seeking God and choosing to live according to His Word, we can not only do His will, but we will be rewarded as heirs with Christ because of it, saying that, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35).
This world can be tricky, and things that are not of God can initially appear to be good, Godly ideas. In differentiating the true from the false, we can look to Paul. Paul knew a little bit about understanding the will of God, and even states that he knew it was God’s will that he become an Apostle (1 Corinthians 1:1).
In Romans 12:2, Paul teaches that we can weed out these subtle lies and learn the will of God when we hold nothing back from God, allowing God to have full control of our minds; “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” We can know God’s will by testing and approving it with a mind renewed by God.
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How to Pray to Follow God’s Will for Our Lives
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14).
We can pray in confidence for God’s will to be done in us. We can ask Him to reveal Himself to us by the power of the Holy Spirit through prayer and His Word. We follow the example of Colossians 4:12, which reveals that early believers fervently prayed God’s will for one another; “Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.”
In the same way, I pray that you will find God’s will where He has revealed it to you through His Word and through time spent with Him in prayer. I pray that your relationship with God be intimate, that your faith may be strengthened, your heart deeply rooted in the truth that is only found in Christ, and that your mind would be fully renewed by His love and mercy. I ask that you would stand firm, fully trusting in God and faithfully following Him, even when you cannot see beyond the next step. May you seek to live out love, justice and humility in all of your relationships, and in so doing be prepared and ready to live out God’s good and perfect will. I pray that as you seek Him, you will find Him and that His will be accomplished in you. Amen.
God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and He is eternally good to us. As we seek to know His will, let us first seek to know Him deeply, and in knowing Him, our lives will naturally bend in the direction of His will.
Blackaby, H. (1988). Knowing and Experiencing the Will of God. In Disciple's Study Bible (pp. 1794–1795). essay, Holman Bible Publishers.
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Jason Soroski is a homeschool dad and member of the worship team at matthias lot church in St. Charles, MO. He spends his free time hanging out with his family, exploring new places, and writing about the experiences. Connect on Facebook or at JasonSoroski.net.