How should Christians go about making decisions? When we’re faced with having to make a decision, what are we trying to find?—The will of God! So the real question is this: How do we find the will of God?
A good Scripture on the subject is found in Romans chapter 12, verses 1 and 2: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
So what is the most important requirement in finding God’s will?—Having no will of your own! Surrender your will, your body, and your mind to the Lord. Everybody has free will, of course, but as Christians we’re supposed to have already chosen to surrender our will to Jesus Christ. We’re supposed to let Him make the decisions. This is one of my favorite little poems on the subject:
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing His truth can dim!
He gives His very best to those
Who leave the choice with Him!
That may not be an actual Scripture, but it’s scriptural. “He knows, He loves, He cares.” Do you believe that? “Nothing His truth can dim.” Is that true? “He gives His very best to those who leave the choice with Him!” If you’re His child and you’re letting Him do the choosing, what is He going to choose for you? He’s going to choose that which is best for you, that which will make you happiest in the long run.
Some people say, “Yes, my will is surrendered to God. I have yielded my life to the Lord, I am trusting the Lord, but I still haven’t been able to find His will. I’m still confused. I can’t even understand the problem, much less the answer!” It’s a dilemma most of us face at some time in our lives.
So how do you find the will of God? What does He require, according to the Scripture in Romans?—Utter abandonment! Utterly yield your mind, body, and will to God. Then you’ll know! You’ll soon find out, because then you’re in a position for God to show you!
Here are seven basic elements to finding God’s will:
1. The Word
The first place we look for the will of God is in the Word of God, the Bible. This is the known, sure, absolute, revealed will of God. There’s no doubt about it. This is it! If God never tells you another thing than what He has already written, if you just operate according to the Bible, you’ll get along great!
If you never have a revelation, if you never hear a heavenly voice, if you never receive a prophecy, if you never have the gifts of knowledge or wisdom or discernment or healing or of performing miracles, if you’ll just operate according to the Word of God, you’ll accomplish a whole lot—and eventually you’ll probably receive many of these spiritual gifts as well!
Some people don’t appreciate the Bible like they should. They’ve got to have it all spoon-fed to them. They don’t know how to dig out the spiritual nourishment for themselves—the strong meat of the Word. Some things you’ve got to work for! “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
2. The Voice of the Word
The second way to find God’s will is by the voice of His Word. God speaks not only through His Word, but He speaks through the voice of His Word. The Psalmist says, “Bless the Lord, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His Word, heeding the voice of His Word” (Psalm 103:20).
Have you ever been reading a passage of Scripture when all of a sudden a verse or phrase or even a single word comes alive and hits you between the eyes? “That’s for me! That’s the answer!” Or perhaps you’ve been praying about a certain situation when the Lord reminded you of a verse or passage that was exactly the answer you needed. It was so loud and clear that God couldn’t have spoken any more emphatically if He’d yelled it out! That is the voice of His Word, speaking through His tried-and-proven written Word. It may have been originally given for somebody thousands of years ago, and yet, all of a sudden, it speaks to you personally.
So the first way to find God’s will is through His Word, the Bible. Then there is the voice of the Word—a specific verse, phrase, or passage from the Bible, which speaks to you personally.
3. Direct Revelation
What do you think would be the third surest indication of the will of God?—A direct revelation: a prophecy, dream, vision, or voice.
For example, when God speaks to you in prophecy, it may come in the form of one or more Bible verses, or fresh, new words not found in the Bible. When I ask God for an answer to a problem, I have found that He usually gives me a Scripture—an answer that He’s already given somewhere in the Bible. As the old song says:
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
Be sure that any direct revelation you receive does not contradict the Word of God. You have to measure your revelation against the Word. “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Make sure it is according to His Word!
4. Godly Counsel
Fourth on the list is godly counselors. “In the multitude of counselors there is safety. … Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established” (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22). Godly counselors are people who not only believe the Bible, but who are practicing it the way they ought to. They are not only hearers of the Word, but doers also (James 1:22).
A godly counselor is someone who loves the Lord, and whose life shows the good fruit of living close to Him (Matthew 7:15-20). If I wanted to learn how to play the piano, I wouldn’t go to business college; I’d go to a pianist who knows how to play well. If I wanted to learn how to cook, I wouldn’t go to a see a computer technician, but to somebody who knows how to cook, whose meals I’ve enjoyed. So godly counselors are people that you can trust because they bear good spiritual fruit.
God does not necessarily follow any particular order when revealing His will through these means. He may speak to you through a prophecy first, then you may confirm that prophecy by the Word. Or He may speak to you through the voice of His Word, and then you search other Scriptures and see what the Lord generally has to say about the subject. We can’t put God in a box and say He’s got to speak to us in this or that way, or in this or that order. But these are ways we know He works, not only from our own experience, but also from what He has said in His written Word.
5. Open and Closed Doors
The fifth way to determine the will of God is through “open and closed doors.” These are generally a poor means of finding the will of God, but sometimes they are an indication (1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Revelation 3:7-8).
For example, many years ago the board of my church decided that my family and I could not go to a certain country as missionaries, and they gave several reasons: The country that I wished to go to was closed to any new missionaries, there were severe food shortages there, and I had been unable to raise our fares. I looked at all those “closed doors” and agreed that that country wasn’t the place for us to go. Then right about that time, the Lord opened the door to another place of service where there were millions of people who needed to hear the Gospel!
So which way does God seem to be leading? Where do you have open doors of service? Where have you got a possibility of a job? In which direction does it seem that God is providing the way and the means? That’s one way to find out the will of God—the circumstances and conditions, the open and closed doors.
6. Burdens (the Witness of the Spirit)
Number six is the witness of the Spirit—a certain intuitive conviction that gives you faith. You just know that a certain course of action is the will of God! The Lord may not tell you in an audible voice or give you a visible sign, but you know from that still, small voice in your heart (1 Kings 19:12), that inner conviction. Some people refer to this as “burdens.”
I don’t like to go by feelings, because sometimes feelings can be wrong. They can be the wrong feelings from the wrong spirit! Nevertheless, some feelings are put there by the Lord, as one indication of His will for you. The Spirit of God speaks to your heart about a decision you face, and gives you an inner conviction about what God wants you to do.
Sometimes the witness of the Spirit may be a warning not to do a certain thing—that it’s not God’s will. Your heart or spirit hears a voice saying Stop, don’t do that! Watch out! The Holy Spirit doesn’t even have to use words, but you know what He means!
So that’s the sixth way to find God’s will: the witness of the Spirit.
And finally, what is the seventh way to know the will of God? Sometimes you can ask for a specific sign. This we call a “fleece,” a term taken from the story of Gideon in the Old Testament (Judges 6:36-40). Gideon wanted to know the Lord’s will about a matter, so he spread out a fleece of wool on the ground one evening and said, “Now, Lord, if tomorrow morning the fleece is wet from the dew and the ground all around it is dry, then I will know that You have been talking to me and I’m supposed to do such-and-such.” But even when the Lord met that condition, Gideon still wasn’t sure, so he asked the Lord to do the reverse. “Now, Lord, tomorrow if the fleece is dry and the ground is wet, I’ll believe that You want me to do such-and-such”—and the Lord did it! So if you resort to fleeces, check and double check.
I like to get a sign from the Lord, a confirmation that I’m on the right track, and that’s one way. I’ll ask for a sign, I’ll “put out a fleece” by asking God to meet certain conditions.
So how do you find the will of God? Surrender your all to Him and “do not be conformed to this world [or worldly ways of doing things], but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove [there will be no doubt] what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
Sometimes we want to know what God’s will isn’t! If, after trying all these ways, you still can’t find the will of God, go ahead and do something. You will soon find out whether it is His will or not. Just pray for God to lead you, and start. A boat has to be in motion before the rudder can take effect.
You don’t find God’s will by just sitting around doing nothing. I once knew someone who did that. He said that he had been called by God to be a missionary, but he had since been sitting around, doing little or nothing, for many months. He said he was “waiting on the Lord.” Well, while this man was waiting on God to do something to get him started, God was waiting on him to get busy!
So may God help us all to not only find His will, but to do it! “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17).
Summary: Seven Ways to Find God’s Will
- The Word
- The Voice of the Word
- Direct Revelation
- Godly Counsel
- Open and Closed Doors
- Burdens (the Witness of the Spirit)
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