How Can I Know God's Will for my Life?

One of the more common questions on Welcome Cards is, "How can I know what God's will is for my life?"

In the midst of daily activities and busyness, it's certainly easy to lose sight of this sometimes! The good news is that for anyone willing to do God's will, we have very clear teachings from Christ (John 7:17) and his apostles (Acts 1:8; 22:14).

However, before asking "what is God's will for my life?" we first need to consider what God's will is for mankind.

The clear teaching of the Bible is for people to be reconciled through the grace of Jesus Christ (John 1:12-13). His next desire is for people to grow in love and knowledge as his disciples. As you adopt a cooperative attitude, Jesus can transform your life in a way that will extend his love to other people — Christ calls this "bearing fruit" for God, while at the same time promising that in this way your own "joy may be made full" (John 15:4-12).

Are you basing how you're doing on your circumstances and the world around you? Do you shake your fist at God when things don't go your way?

As you begin to trust Christ with every part of your life, this is the highest expression of New Testament worship and you will experience a life that more and more glorifies God (Romans 9:20-22; 12:1-2).

Your conscience and prayers will become more and more sensitized to the leading of his Holy Spirit. In place of confusion and restlessness, you will experience a peace that surpasses understanding as you bring your questions to God and practice the things you've learned.

No matter how troubling the current times, there is no safer place to be than in the center of God's will.

Many of our day-to-day decisions are not black and white. In these areas, God just asks that when we know the right thing to do, we do it; and when we make our plans, we subject them to his will first (James 4:13-17). Subjecting them to his will means having an attitude that's predisposed to do his will before making our mind up. We cannot expect wisdom from God when our heart is in two places. As you look at your weekly planner, ask yourself, "Am I investing the time to grow in knowledge of God's will?"

With regular spiritual workouts, your senses will become trained to discern good and evil. Coming to expository Bible teachings like the ones at Xenos is a good start, but it's just the beginning of a lifestyle dedicated to understanding God's will. Taking classes such as Basic Christianity or Christian Principles, and being active in a home group are excellent practical steps.

Another root question is, "Do I invest time with mature Christians who know well enough to ask me hard questions, pray with me, teach me, warn me, encourage me and help me lean against my tendencies?"

Often, the very resources to give us feedback when we have questions about our spiritual direction are other Christians whom God has put in our lives. God has called us to live out Christ's commandment to love one another in real community. This is why home groups are such a core value of our fellowship.

Our home group leaders follow God's will as they live out exemplary lives and shepherd those in their groups, not under compulsion or for personal gain, but voluntarily (1 Peter 5:2). To not take full advantage of such leadership is unprofitable (Hebrews 13:15-17).

When I'm confused or trying to sort things out, I ask two questions with the attitude, "God, do whatever it takes" to help me see the honest answer:

  1. "God, am I trying to do my will or your will?"
  2. "God, am I trying to do things under my own power or your power?"

We can be confident God will always hear and answer this prayer (1 John 5:14-15). The answers fall into four different quadrants. I've listed symptoms I've seen in my own life that help with the diagnosis:

My will and My own power: Symptoms: alienation, loneliness, butting head into wall after wall, breaking of self, fatalism.

My will under God's power: Symptoms: frustration, superstition, anxiety— God won't be manipulated this way, even though many try–including a high percentage of Christians!

God's will but under my power: Symptoms: burnout, putting God or others on my timeframes, overplaying my role, messiah-complex, being judgmental toward others. (See Philippians 1:6, 2:12-14.)

God's will under God's power: Symptoms: peace, sense of safety, perspective, poise, energy when I need it.

Sometimes the reason for confusion about his will is overt sin, but often it's because I've run out of spiritual "gas." (I haven't "filled my tank" recently through prayer, reading God's word or hanging out with others.)

Do you have a pattern of filling up and then running on empty? Do you tend to just run around on fumes? Did you know that God's will is for you to habitually top off your tank to keep it full at all times? You can't give away that which you don't have, and it's only as we continually are "setting our minds on the things above" (Romans 8:5-6) that we tap into God for his direction, wisdom, help and resources.

Often, we have specific issues in mind when seeking God's will. Three of the more popular questions concern career moves, financial giving, and marriage and divorce.

For further reading, see a related teaching by Gary DeLashmutt on "Faith, Experience & God's Word" from John 4:45-54.