How can I know God’s will for my life? This is a question I hear all the time. Your best bet and definitely the best place to start is by reading the Bible. If you’ve never read the whole thing, and aren’t still ploughing through it day by day, then how can you expect to know anything about what God wants for you? Having said that, there are things about our lives that aren’t immediately addressed in the Bible, such as: what job we should pursue, who to marry, how many children should we have and the like. I think what people mean when they ask what God’s will is for them, is how can they know which life-choices God wants them to make at any given time.
I’ve been trying to know my wife’s will ever since we started dating and I haven’t got a clue what she wants a lot of the time. The same is true of her. She often has a hard time guessing what it is I’d like to eat, what I want to hear and how I’m feeling at any given time. So, if I sometimes have difficulty knowing her will and she sometimes has difficulty knowing mine, how can we expect to know what God’s will is if what we’re looking for is not written in the Bible?
The reason we struggle with knowing God’s will is because we are asking the wrong question. There is a reason we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. There is a reason why things happen to us unexpectedly. We can’t know God’s will anymore than we can know when the world will end. Instead of desperately wanting to know what God’s will is for our lives, we should be asking: ‘How can we know God himself better?’ So, stop trying to work out his will, and start working on getting to know him as God.
The more I get to know my wife and the more she gets to know me, the easier it becomes for us to know what the other wants, what the other needs, and how we’re likely to respond to certain situations. This is universally true of all relationships. So my point is: the more we know God himself, the more we will align our will with his as we grow in our relationship with him by understanding his character, how he works, what he hates and loves, what he expects of us and how we can grow to be more like Christ. Too often we demand immediate answers from God: Should I or should I not apply for this job? Is pastoral ministry something I should pursue? Am I meant to marry this person? What church should I join? How much money should I tithe? Where should I live? And so on.
The problem we have (which is why we keep asking this question) is that we are too caught up in ourselves; what God has for our lives, instead of being caught up in him; who he is. No one ever asks: Should I read my Bible? How often should I pray? Should I be in regular fellowship? These are a given, but they are repeatedly neglected. We’re too occupied with what we want for us.
Let me suggest 3 ways to better know God himself, which will naturally equip you to better seek his will in all things:
1. Be in your Bible regularly
Notice I have said ‘be in your Bible’ instead of ‘read’ or ‘study’ your Bible regularly. What I mean by ‘be in your Bible regularly’ is that you should so soak yourself with the word, that you are drenched with its wisdom. To be in the word is to have the word dwelling in you. If I asked you to sing the words of your favourite song, you would be able to do it because you are so familiar with it. If you truly love something, you will invest your time doing what it is you love. If you love God, reading the Bible carefully will dramatically transform your understanding of the purpose of life.
Read it through fast and regularly to become familiar with it – become familiar with the storyline of scripture, where the prophetic books fit into Israel’s history etc. There are plenty of Bible reading plans online to make use of.
Also, be sure to study the word by spending quality time on small sections to become acquainted with the hidden jewels that can only be attained through careful study. Investigate books of the Bible and fight to understand what each book is about. Take care in interpreting its meaning and applying it to your life. Use other book to help you like commentaries, a concordance, Bible maps, theological and doctrinal books and other Bible translations. Read books on the Christian life, Christian biographies and Church history. Make use of the vast amount of resources available to you.
Meditate on verses and small passages of the word. Memorising scripture will aid you through personal struggles, suffering and will help you in your evangelism. Have verses and passages imprinted in your brain and recite them to yourself often while you drive, clean, cook or while you’re getting ready in the morning.
The more you are ‘in your Bible’ the better you will understand who God is, what his plan is, how providence works, what he wants from us and ultimately, how we should seek to understand his will.
2. Pray without ceasing
You may already know that ‘pray without ceasing’ is a verse in the Bible, found in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. It’s one of the most famous verses quoted when prayer is discussed, and rightly so. However, before we can pray without ceasing, we must first have a sense of direction, that is, why do we pray without ceasing and how can we pray without ceasing? The answer to both is found in the verses either side of “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Paul’s whole sentence is (1 Thess. 5:16-18): “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Why do we pray without ceasing? Because we “rejoice always” (v.16). We rejoice in the Gospel of God, in the salvation that we have been given through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we pray because of what we have been given by God himself – our reason for praying is because we are full of joy. Christ is ours, and we are his!
How do we pray without ceasing? By giving “thanks in all circumstances”. In other words, there should never be a situation or circumstance to discourage us from being in prayer. We should pray through the good times and the bad by trusting that God is sovereign over all and is good to his children. Poverty is not a reason to stop praying, neither is being rich. Physical illness is not a reason to stop praying, neither is being healthy. Depression and anxiety is not a reason to stop praying, neither is being happy. Praying without ceasing is recognising our need for God in every situation. The more we realise our need for him, the more we shall understand his will because the verse ends with, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (v.18). The will of God is that we should know him by rejoicing in him and praying to him by giving thanks in every circumstance. Therefore, whatever job we get or don’t get, whichever church we are a part of, however much money is in our bank accounts, glory and praise belong to him and in that we rejoice and are satisfied. Our true fulfilment is found in Christ, not in the things of this world.
So, with a measure of sensitivity I will say, who cares what your job is or how much money you earn? Whether you’re a cleaner, doctor, astronaut, teacher, actor, pastor, bin man/woman or anything else, no job nor circumstance should separate you from his will. His will is for you to rejoice in him, giving thanks to him through the Lord Jesus Christ. Anything that distracts you from walking with the Lord, get rid of it!
3. Be in regular fellowship
When referring to fellowship, I mean Christian fellowship, primarily within the church. Every Christian should be a member of a local church. God saves us individually to be added into a community of believers. The church is the bride of Christ – the fulfilment of Israel. It is through the church that God evangelises and blesses the world.
If a church has a morning and evening service on a Sunday, then the desire of a true Christian would be to be at both. If there are meetings in the week designed for Bible study, prayer and fellowship, then the Christian should desire to be there. There is a dumb cultural habit among church-goers to think that Church is meant only for Sundays where everyone dresses their best and pretends their lives are great and there’s nothing wrong. The Sunday best comes on, smiles all around, they say their prayers, shake hands, sing the hymns, say the right things, then go home and gossip about the preacher until next Sunday. This is bizarre.
Concerning the Church, Luke writes in Acts 2:46-47a: “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people.” Fellowship was practiced every-single day, which interestingly enough was not in a church building, but at the Jewish Temple, town halls and in each other’s homes. As they didn’t have a designated building to meet in, they met wherever they could. When the Apostles were seeking to appoint deacons, it was because the widows were being neglected in the “daily distribution”, meaning ministry was going on ‘daily’. Moreover, other early Christian texts like the Didache (AD80-140) shows us that the early church emphasised daily fellowship: “Every day, seek out the faces of the saints, so that you may be refreshed by their words.”
Christians should make every effort to meet with each other as often as possible because it’s good for them and it brings glory to God. By being in regular fellowship, you will be taught, rebuked, encouraged and motivated to do God’s will. It’s God’s will for you to be in regular fellowship with Christians, so if you are not in regular fellowship, how can you expect to fulfil God’s will in relation to anything else? For example, if I have ignored my wife in the day, how can I expect to receive her attention in the night? If I don’t take care of my marital responsibilities, I have no right to ask her to be responsible for hers. So, why should God set everything in place for us if we are refusing to be in regular fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ?
When people ask me ‘How can I know God’s will?’, I will usually respond with 3 questions myself: Are you in the word daily? How is your prayer life? Are you in regular fellowship? If they are not, then how can they expect to know God’s will? If someone are not obediently seeking to know God himself, there is no way they can know what his will is for their life. What this person needs is to be discipled, which basically means to be disciplined—spiritually disciplined.
Consequently, if we seek his will in the basic things: Bible reading, prayer, fellowship, evangelism, fasting, serving and so on, then God will deal with the every day things (bad or good) through our obedience to him. God’s will for us is that we be “conformed to the image of his Son”, whatever it takes, which he predestined for us that we may be justified and glorified before him (Rom. 8:29-30).
Written by: Pastor Gwydion Emlyn