It is important to know God’s will for us. Jesus said that His true relations are those who know and do the Father’s will: “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35). He also taught his disciples to pray: “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10). In the parable of the two sons, Jesus rebukes the chief priests and elders for failing to do the will of the Father; specifically, they “did not repent and believe” (Matthew 21:32). At its most basic, the will of the Father for us is to repent of our sin and trust in Christ our Brother who will lead us back to Him (cf. Mark 1:15; Matthew 3:2; Acts 2:38). If we have not taken that first step, then we have not yet accepted God’s will.
Once we receive Christ by faith, we are made God’s children (cf. John 1:12), and He desires to lead us in His way (cf. Psalm 143:10). God is not trying to hide His will from us; He wants to reveal it. In fact, He has already given us many, many clear directions in His Word.
Firstly, we are to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). A truly religious life is a life of constant joy. And we should rejoice more, if we prayed more. Prayer will help forward all lawful business, and every good work. If we pray without ceasing, we shall not want matter for thanksgiving in everything. We shall see cause to give thanks for sparing and preventing, for common and uncommon, past and present, temporal and spiritual mercies. Not only for prosperous and pleasing, but also for afflicting providences, for chastisements and corrections; for God designs all for our good, though we at present see not how they tend to it.
Secondly, we are to do what is right and just (cf. 1 Peter 2:15). A Christian conduct must be honest; which it cannot be, if there is not a just and careful discharge of all relative duties: the apostle here treats of these distinctly. Regard to those duties is the will of God, consequently, the Christian’s duty, and the way to silence the base slanders of ignorant and foolish men. Christians must endeavour, in all relations, to behave aright, that they do not make their liberty a cloak or covering for any wickedness, or for the neglect of duty; but they must remember that they are servants of God.
Thirdly, “it is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). To abide in the faith of the gospel is not enough, we must abound in the work of faith. The rule according to which all ought to walk and act, is the commandments given by the Lord Jesus Christ. Sanctification, in the renewal of our souls under the influences of the Holy Spirit, and attention to appointed duties, constituted the will of God respecting us. In aspiring after this renewal of the soul unto holiness, strict restraint must be put upon the appetites and senses of the body, and on the thoughts and inclinations of the will, which lead to wrong uses of them. The Lord calls none into his family to live unholy lives, but that they may be taught and enabled to walk before him in holiness. Some make light of the precepts of holiness, because they hear them from men; but they are God’s commands, and to break them is to despise God.
God’s will is knowable and provable. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Conversion and sanctification are the renewing of the mind; a change, not of the substance, but of the qualities of the soul. The progress of sanctification, dying to sin more and more, and living to righteousness more and more, is the carrying on this renewing work, till it is perfected in glory. Such a renewed mind is essential to a successful inquiry after the will of God. Having a disposition to obey Him, the mind will be prepared to understand His precepts. There will be a correspondence between the feelings of the heart and His will; a nice tact or taste, which will admit His laws, and see the propriety and beauty of His commands. A renewed heart is the best preparation for studying Christianity; as a man who is temperate is the best suited to understand the arguments for temperance; the man who is chaste, has most clearly and forcibly the arguments for chastity, etc. A heart in love with the fashions and follies of the world is ill-suited to appreciate the arguments for humility, prayer, etc. “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God,” (John 7:17). The reason why the heart is renewed is that we may do the will of God: the heart that is renewed is best suited to appreciate and understand His will.
As we seek God’s will, we should make sure what we are considering is not something the Bible forbids. For example, the Bible forbids stealing; since God has clearly spoken on the issue (cf. Exodus 20:15;Matthew 19:18;Rom 13:9), we know it is not His will for us to be bank robbers—we don’t even need to pray about it. Also, we should make sure what we are considering will glorify God and help us and others grow spiritually.
Knowing God’s will is sometimes difficult because it requires patience (cf. Rom 8:25; 12:12). It’s natural to want to know all of God’s will at once, but that’s not how He usually works. He reveals to us a step at a time—each move a step of faith—and allows us to continue to trust Him. The important thing is that, as we wait for further direction, we are busy doing the good that we ought to do (cf. James 4:17). Omissions are sins which will be brought into judgment, as well as commissions. He that does not the good he knows should be done, as well as he who does the evil he knows should not be done, will be punished. Oh that we were as careful not to omit prayer, and not to neglect to meditate and examine our consciences, as we are not to commit gross outward vices against light!
Often, we want God to give us specifics—where to work, where to live, whom to marry, what car to buy, etc. God allows us to make choices (unlike robots), and, if we are yielded to Him, He has ways of preventing wrong choices (cf. Acts 16:6–7). We must follow Providence: and whatever we seek to do, if that suffer us not, we ought to submit and believe to be for the best.
The better we get to know a person, the more acquainted we become with his or her desires. For example, a child may look across a busy street at the ball that bounced away, but he doesn’t run after it, because he knows “my dad wouldn’t want me to do that.” He doesn’t have to ask his father for advice on every particular situation; he knows what his father would say because he knows his father. The same is true in our relationship to God. As we walk with the Lord, obeying His Word and relying on His Spirit, we find that we are given the mind of Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:16). In the Holy Scriptures, the mind of Christ, and the mind of God in Christ, are fully made known to us. It is the great privilege of Christians, that we have the mind of Christ revealed to us by His Spirit. We know Him, and that helps us to know His will. We find God’s guidance readily available. “The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness” (Proverbs 11:5).
If we are walking closely with the Lord and truly desiring His will for our lives, God will place His desires in our hearts. The key is wanting God’s will, not our own. “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). To delight in God is as much a privilege as a duty. He has not promised to gratify the appetites of the body, and the humours of the fancy, but the desires of the renewed, sanctified soul. What is the desire of the heart of a good man? It is this, to know, and love, and serve God. Once we come to understand the will of God for us, it will be easier for us to yield completely to the Holy Spirit who will fill our souls with great joy, strength, and courage to do God’s will.
Let us praise God with the song “Eye Has Not Seen”: