"I have no will but that of God." Brother Lawrence
Most Christians wish they could say those words. There are two barriers to this: first, the barrier of our own willfulness that tends to oppose Gods will; second, the barrier of knowing Gods will. This second barrier produces the question that, as a pastor, I was asked more than any other: "How can I know Gods will?" The Bible provides abundant direction.
You must realize you can know Gods will and that it is important to seek it.
You must first be convinced that God wants you to know His will and that He will make it known to you. "You ought to say, If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that " (James 4:15*).
Romans 12:1,2 must be a reality in your life: "Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
Until you are yielded to His lordship, you will likely fear Gods will. But when you do make Him Lord, you will find that what you feared before is now "good and acceptable."
Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (Luke 9:23). If you dont follow Him, youll be too far away to know what He wants you to do. Realize too that God measures the sincerity of your listening. "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts" (Proverbs 21:2).
When you know His will and it looks difficult, go to Him for the strength you need to follow through. Pray as did the father of the demon-possessed son: "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24).
But, more important, "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17) beforehand. When prayer is a way of life, it is easier to discern His voice than if you only pray when you need to know His will. You most quickly recognize the voices of those with whom you spend the most time. Making prayer a way of life helps to make the voice of God recognizable.
"Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple" (Psalm 119:105,130).
Begin Scripture reading by praying that the Holy Spirit would speak to you from it. It is this dynamic relationship with the author of the Bible that brings home the reality that Gods Word is "living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword" (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible must be allowed to speak its living words into our lives: "the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Corinthians 3:6).
Most Christians want Gods will to be revealed in no uncertain terms. They wish God would speak dramatically, as He did to Moses out of a burning bush. But the fact is that He seldom shouts. The problem is we tend to fill our lives with other voices. Many homes find it impossible to turn the television off, even when no one is watching. Other noises crowd our days, making it nearly impossible to hear a "delicate, whispering voice" (as someone paraphrased 1 Kings 19:12). One needs to be quiet and to find a quiet place. You cant hear that kind of voice when it is only one among many. Finding a place and time to listen every day is important.
If you have laid all the groundwork and are "walking in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16), when you hear a voice of direction, you wont ask, "Is it God, me or Satan?" Youll recognize Gods voice.
When seeking counsel, it is important to seek out those who walk close to God. But no counselor is perfect. A counselor is not a decision-maker but a light-shedder. Ministries that specialize in "personal words" that authoritatively direct peoples lives should be highly suspect.
"Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed" (Proverbs 15:22, NIV). This doesnt mean you accept everything they say. In fact, two godly counselors may disagree; but it may be important for you to hear two sides. Thats why "in a multitude of counselors there is safety" (Proverbs 24:6).
Anything a counselor says, no matter how godly the individual, must be weighed before God. He must make the final decision.
One of the greatest barriers to knowing Gods will is what I call Christian fatalism. Lazy Christians typically say things like, "If God wants it to happen, it will happen," shunning their responsibility. In the words of the old song, "Que será será. Whatever will be will be." If there are problems, they say, "The door is shut."
But many times, its not. It just appears that way. Paul said, "For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries" (1 Corinthians 16:9). Many would have said, "The door is closed in Ephesus." But Paul saw an open door with "many who oppose me" (NIV). Christians too often stop short of Gods perfect will because a situation looks difficult. The doors closed, they think, when in reality it is wide open and Satan has jammed the doorway with adversaries to keep the Christian out. Gods way is seldom the easiest way. The devil invests a lot of energy throwing obstacles in the way of doors God has opened. He wants to convince you they are closed.
Jesus is "He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens." He says, "I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it" (Revelation 3:7,8). It is tragic when a believer turns away from an open door simply because he has been opposed by Satan.
Romans 8:28 assures us that all circumstances "work together for good to those who love God." Speaking of his imprisonment, Paul said, "What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel" (Philippians 1:12, NIV).
Sometimes the reverse is true. What seems to be an open door is, in reality, one God does not want you to walk through. Earl Beaconsfield said, "Next to knowing when to seize an opportunity, the most important thing is to know when to forego an advantage."
God can and does arrange circumstances, and they should be weighed. But circumstances, good or bad, must never stand alone in determining Gods will.
Before implementing that decision, talk to God. "God, I have sought Your will, but have not heard clearly from You. This is what seems best to do. If this is wrong, please let the Holy Spirit check me." Ive never known God to let someone make a mistake who honestly prayed this.
*Verses are from the New King James Version, except as noted.
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