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You can know God’s will

By Ken Horn

"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 God’s will; second, the barrier of knowing God’s will. This second barrier produces the question that, as a pastor, I was asked more than any other: "How can I know God’s will?" The Bible provides abundant direction.

Several things must occur before you can hope to accurately discern God’s will for your life.

You must realize you can know God’s 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*).

The lordship of Jesus Christ is important. Is He really your Lord? Or do you want Him primarily as a Savior, with none of the responsibilities? Knowing His will is dependent upon the answer to this question: Are you willing to do what He says no matter what?

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 God’s 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 don’t follow Him, you’ll 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).

It is always in your best interest to "commit your way to the Lord; trust in him" (Psalm 37:5). Going your own way will lead to trouble. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths" (Proverbs 3:5,6).

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).

In the messages to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3, this admonition is repeatedly given: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." It is all too easy to "turn a deaf ear" to the promptings of the Spirit. We must be making a concerted effort to hear what He is saying.

Pray specifically for any direction you need. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6).

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.

With your heart adequately prepared, you can now look for God’s direction in several places.

The Bible is God speaking to all who read it. It has general principles that apply to every believer. We need not seek direction from God on an issue that is clearly addressed in Scripture. If the Bible says it, our responsibility is to obey. Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples" (John 8:31, NIV).

Most Christians have had the experience of a passage of Scripture "jumping out at them." This is the Holy Spirit shining God’s light on it, saying, "This is for you!"

"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 God’s 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).

Inner prompting
John 16:13 promises that "the Spirit of truth … will guide you into all truth." One of the most common ways God speaks is through a "still small voice" (1 Kings 19:12).

Most Christians want God’s 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 can’t 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 won’t ask, "Is it God, me or Satan?" You’ll recognize God’s voice.

Godly counsel
"The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise" (Proverbs 12:15). Much of the best counsel comes from the public ministry of men and women of God. Other counsel is personal.

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 people’s lives should be highly suspect.

"Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed" (Proverbs 15:22, NIV). This doesn’t mean you accept everything they say. In fact, two godly counselors may disagree; but it may be important for you to hear two sides. That’s 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.

God-given gifts
Recognizing that "our sufficiency is from God" (2 Corinthians 3:5), we should also realize that those talents God has given us should be used to give Him glory. But we cannot say that, because we lack an ability needed for a particular ministry, God does not want us involved in it. Perhaps the gift is dormant, or God may want to take you beyond your strengths. He specializes in using "weak members" (see 1 Corinthians 12:22). "Whatever you do," advises Paul, "do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Circumstances are the most often used and the least important means for determining God’s will. Jesus had harsh words for those seeking a sign (Matthew 12:39). Though He did signs and wonders, He never did them on command. Putting a "fleece" before the Lord is based on one biblical episode (Judges 6:36-40) and is not taught as a regular way to determine God’s will.

One of the greatest barriers to knowing God’s 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, it’s 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 God’s perfect will because a situation looks difficult. The door’s closed, they think, when in reality it is wide open and Satan has jammed the doorway with adversaries to keep the Christian out. God’s 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 God’s will.

But what if you need to make a decision and have not heard from God? You are told to "Love the Lord your God … with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37). He also says, "Come now, and let us reason together" (Isaiah 1:18). Use the mind, the logic, God has given you. Reason through the pros and cons of each decision, then make the best informed decision possible.

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." I’ve never known God to let someone make a mistake who honestly prayed this.

When you have found God’s will and implemented it, there should be peace. His peace "surpasses all understanding" (Philippians 4:7), regardless of what God has asked you to do.

*Verses are from the New King James Version, except as noted.

Ken Horn is managing editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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