Determining God’s Will
One of the most important things, if not the most important thing, that a follower of Christ can learn is how to determine what the will of God is.
After all, our primary goal is to do the will of God, so if we are going to accomplish our goal we need to know what it is that God wants us to do
This sounds simple, but it’s quite a complex process
Think about it for a moment – if I were to ask you what God’s will is for you, could you really answer that question?
Of course there are the basics – the things that apply to all of us
Namely the big two – love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself
Then there’s the great commission – go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
However, I also believe that there are specific things that God has called each of us to do.
Many times over the years I’ve had people come to me and ask “Pastor, what’s God’s will is for my life?”
In other words, they are wanting me to tell them what God wants them to do
Asking someone else what God’s will is for you is dangerous on several levels
First of all if you are relying on someone else to tell you what God’s will is for your life you better make sure that they are a very Godly person
If they are not you are leaving yourself wide open for some serious manipulation
The second reason why this is dangerous is that you will never learn to hear God’s voice for yourself – this is the whole “give a man a fish/teach a man to fish” type thing
Another reason why this is dangerous is that 9 times out of 10 the other person will have no clue what God’s will is for you
That is something you need to determine
So, how do we do that?
Over the years I’ve heard many people say that they knew what God’s will was for them
I believe that some of these people were very accurate, others not so much
Let me give you a couple examples
Mother Theresa was convinced that God’s will for her was to work among the poorest of the poor in India – I think all of us would agree that she was right
Adolph Hitler also believed he was following God’s will for his life – I think all of us would agree that he most definitely was not
So again we come to the question - How do we determine God’s will for our life?
Honestly, this is a pretty deep topic that could take weeks to thoroughly explore
I’m going to do my best to give you a very brief synopsis
There is no one, specific way that God will always communicate
Sometimes it differs from situation to situation so all we can really do is look at ways that God has communicated His will in the past
One of the ways in which God communicates with people is through Scripture
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The Bible is full of wisdom and instruction for us and is, in my opinion, one of the first places we should turn when trying to determine the will of God
With that being said, however, the Bible cannot have every answer we are seeking
Yes, Scripture gives great guidelines and principles that it is imperative that we know
But there will be many times that we may be seeking answers that simply aren’t there
Let me give you a couple examples
If I am being treated badly by someone and want to know how to respond I can easily turn to Scripture for guidance
Luke 6:27-29 "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.
Romans 12:17-21 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
However, if I am wondering about whether or not I should accept the new job offer that would require me to move out of state, Scripture is not going to help much there
In instances like this I have to look beyond the written Word of God into the Spoken Word of God
Throughout Scripture we see God speaking to people in various ways.
Sometimes we know exactly how God communicated to them, sometimes we simply read that “God told them” without really knowing how He did it.
How has God spoken to people in the past?
Face to face
Adam & Eve
Genesis 3:8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
Numbers 12:6-8 "When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?"
Even though God could use this method today if He wanted to, I highly doubt that He would.
I believe that this method was reserved for just Adam & Eve before they fell, and Moses.
1 Samuel 3:1-5 “The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions. One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. Then the LORD called Samuel. Samuel answered, "Here I am." And he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." But Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." So he went and lay down.
At the baptism of Jesus
Matthew 3:16-17 “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
I have heard some people say that God spoke to them in an audible voice. It’s never happened to me, but it certainly can happen.
I Kings 3:5 “At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you."
Matthew 2:13 “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him."
How do we know that a dream is from God?
Well, I’ve never had God communicate to me through a dream before, so I’m not 100% sure
It would seem to me, however, that it would be the type of dream that would leave no doubt about it being from God!
In a vision
A vision is like a dream, except you are awake.
Daniel 2:19 “During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven”
Acts 9:10 “In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord," he answered.”
Once again, this method of communication from God does happen on occasion today, but it’s rather rare.
Through an angel
Luke 1:26-30 “In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.”
Acts 8:26 “Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Go south to the road-- the desert road-- that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza."
I’ve never met anyone that’s had an angelic visit, but I do know that they happen today.
More often than not, when God speaks to me it’s in the form of an idea or a notion that comes to me that makes so much sense it’s obviously not from me!
Here’s the key in hearing God’s voice – Listen!
It’s almost impossible for someone to say something to you while you are still talking!
Give God a chance to talk to you as well
How do we know it’s God?
Sometimes God’s voice can sound a lot like my own
I can want something so bad that I easily can mistake my will for God’s will
I have to look beyond my preferences, my opinions, and my desires if I want to seek the will of God
I’m going to say something that might surprise you - You cannot know 100% for sure that what you think is God’s will is really God’s will
I have to understand that I may very well be wrong
However, I would rather act on what I thought was the voice of God and be wrong then not act at all because I am afraid
Here are some things that might help you determine whether or not it is God that is speaking
It will always agree with what we know about God’s character
e.g. “God is love” so if it is not loving, it’s probably not God
It will always agree with Scripture
It will almost always be something that does not take us by surprise.
God tends to soften our hearts towards the things He wants us to do.
We may not want to do what He’s told us to, but in our hearts we know it’s the right thing to do.
When God speaks there will also not be any confusion
Gods will make His message plain, but …
When you’re unsure, ask God about it –
James 1:5-6 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
The Danger of Hearing God’s Voice
There is a danger in learning how to hear God’s voice – when you hear it, you are responsible to act upon what you hear
You have no excuse of “I didn’t know what God wanted”
You will be held accountable
Our heavenly Father loves us, and like any loving father He desires to spend quality time in conversation with us every day.
Don’t leave Him waiting
Don’t try to dominate the conversation
Listen to His voice, you might be pleasantly surprised at what you hear!