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December 5, 2012

Will of God
: First a disclaimer: This post is only a “snippet” of the truths about the profound topic of GOD’S WILL but hopefully will give you some general guidance. First, we must distinguish between the HIDDEN WILL of God and the REVEALED WILL of God. The HIDDEN (SECRET) WILL of God can only be known in retrospect (if even then) because the “secret things belong to the Lord” (Dt 29:29-note). Recall that Joseph did not understand the “hidden” will of God in His life until later when he looked back over the events of his life and the Spirit revealed to him that he could confidently say to his brothers “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Ge 50:20-note) In this life, we may never know God’s hidden or secret will for our life, but we can be assured that God’s ultimate purpose for us as believers is good for He promises to cause all things to work together for good, using them to conform us progressively into the image of His Son (Ro 8:28-28-note). John Piper adds that HIDDEN WILL is when “God sovereignly decrees (“Will of Decree”) and designs circumstances so that we end up where He wants us to be even if we don’t have any conscious part in getting there. For example, Paul and Silas found themselves in jail, and the result was the salvation of the jailer and his household (Acts 16:24-34note)!”

ROLE OF GOD’S WORD: God’s REVEALED WILL is most clearly revealed in the HIS WORD, which provides clear guidelines regarding moral and spiritual matters (E.g., 1Th 4:3-note = a holy walk, 1Th 5:18-note = a continual attitude of gratitude, 1Pe 2:15-note = good behavior, etc). Swindoll writes that “The better you get to know the WORD OF GOD, the less confusing is the WILL OF GOD. Those who struggle the least with the will of God are those who know the Word of God best.” It follows that the best way to know GOD’S REVEALED WILL is by diligently studying HIS REVEALED WORD (cf 2Ti 2:15-note, 2Ti 3:16-17-note, Ps 119:105-note, Pr 3:5-6-note). But we need to beware of the delusion that just reading His Word is sufficient to discern His will (cf James 1:22-note). When we obey what we read we will be blessed in what we do (James 1:25-note). In Jn 7:17-note Jesus explains that whoever is willing to do (obey) God’s will, will know whether His teaching is of God or merely His own. The first prerequisite to ascertaining God’s leading in some matter is a willingness to follow God’s will, even if the answer goes against our preference. Someone has well said that most people don’t really want to know the will of God in order to do it. They want to know it in order to consider it. Spurgeon emphasizes that “Our responsibility is to seek out and walk in the good old paths (“Will of God” – Jer 6:16-note), even if it goes against our own wills.” And Alan Redpath warns us “Don’t expect God to reveal His will for you next week until you practice it for today.” And so “To understand the will of God is my problem; to undertake the will of God is my privilege; to undercut the will of God is my peril.” (Rees)

In short, the best way to know God’s WILL
is to say “I WILL” to God!

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS ON GOD’S WORD & GOD’S WILL: John Piper asks “Do you see the implications of saying that we discover GOD’S WILL from HIS WORD? It means that if you are really serious about wanting to do God’s WILL, you will become a meditative student of his WORD. I say MEDITATIVE because it’s not just memorized facts that we need. It is a knowledge of “trajectories.” And we get that by asking (Ed: asking questions of the Scripture we read = “Inductive Bible Study”…questions like) WHAT’S the point of this? WHERE does that lead to? WHY did he say this? WHERE is he heading here? WHAT does this imply? To ask those questions prayerfully is to MEDITATE. If you are not spending much time in MEDITATIVE STUDY OF GOD’S WORD, then probably doing God’s will on earth is not the passion of your life. And if you ever ask the question, “What is God’s will?” you probably get very confused? Do you think that in this atmosphere you can maintain a vigorous, powerful, free, renewed mind with a ten-minute glance at God’s book once a day? The reason there are church people who are basically secular like everyone else except with a religious veneer is that they devote 99% of their time absorbing the trajectories of the world and 1% of their time absorbing the trajectories of the Word. If you want to bring forth the will of God in your life like a mother brings forth a child, you must “marry” the Bible. For some of you the Bible is a stranger that you greet on the way to work but never have over for a relaxed evening of conversation and seldom invite along to spend significant time with you on vacation. Then do not be surprised if you are ill-equipped to read the “trajectories” of God’s will for your own life. Summer is a time for experiments. May I suggest one? If you are discouraged and perplexed about God’s will in some area of your life, plan in the next couple weeks to find a quiet place totally alone, and read the Bible meditatively for four hours interspersed only by prayer. Here’s what will happen. For some of you the clouds of confusion will lift, and the trajectory of God’s will shall be perfectly clear. For others the precise decision won’t come that quickly, but you will experience a wonderful purifying and stabilizing of your mind (Ro 12:2-note).”

ROLE OF A RENEWED MIND: What about those situations where there is no obvious Bible passage clearly revealing God’s will? Piper notes that in fact “Most of the decisions we make are not spelled out specifically in the Bible.” He advocates an approach based on Ro 12:2-note which says“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove (Greek means to test & approve) what the WILL OF GOD is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” And so we seek to spend time with God in His Word and in prayer, not so much to discern His will, but primarily to allow the Spirit to RENEW OUR MINDS with the truth (cp 2Cor 3:18-note, Jn 17:17-note, Eph 4:23-note, Col 3:10-note). As our mind is renewed, we are better able to see things the way God sees and understands them. Then when we are faced with a choice, there is something in our renewed mind (1Cor 2:16b-note) which is able to discern “where Christ would be magnified, where faith would be built, and where people would be loved.….The Spirit shapes the mind and heart through the WORD and PRAYER so that we have inclinations toward what would be most glorifying to Him (1Cor 10:31-note)” (Piper). Piper goes on to emphasize that the “the prerequisite of divine guidance is NOT the quest for messages, but the quest for holiness. Guidance is the product NOT of ecstatic heights but of spiritual depth.” In other words, we can best discern God’s will when we seek first His kingdom (and Jesus the King), for then all these things (including God’s good and acceptable and perfect will) will be given to us (Mt 6:33-note). The relationship with God must come first!

ROLE OF PRAYER: Jesus taught us to pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Mt 6:10-note) And on the night before He was crucified and experiencing intense agony (being in the center of God’s will does not mean we are immune to suffering!) and selflessly prayed “yet NOT MY WILL but THINE be done.” (Luke 22:42-note, cp Jn 4:34-note). Watson agrees that “If we would do GOD’S WILL aright, let us labor for self-denial. Unless we deny OUR OWN WILL, we shall never do God’s will. His will and ours are like the wind and tide when they are contrary.” Indeed, Jesus could affirm “I always do the things that are pleasing (His Father’s will) to Him.” (Jn 8:29-note) And so if any of us lacks wisdom as to what to do in a difficult situation, James instructs us to ask God, believing that He will generously give us wisdom (James 1:2-7-note). We should also ask God that we might be  FILLED WITH (controlled by) the knowledge of GOD’S WILL in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that we might walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Col 1:9-10-note) We can also pray as David did for God to teach us to do His will and to let His good Spirit lead us (Ps 143:10-note).

ROLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT: Paul writes that believers should “not be foolish but understand (put the pieces of the puzzle together so to speak) what the will of the Lord is (indicating that not to understand God’s will is foolish, and also that God’s will while mysterious can be discerned).” (Eph 5:17-note). Andthen what does Paul say? “Be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph 5:18-note) Clearly when we are filled with (controlled by) the Spirit, we are more likely to “understand what the will of the Lord is” in a given situation or circumstance. Watson adds “If the lodestone draw the iron, it is not hard for the iron to move: if God’s Spirit enables you, it will not be hard, but rather delightful to do God’s will (Ps 40:8-note).” However you still might be wondering “What about those nudges I sometimes get to do this or that?” Scripture says that the Spirit indwells us to guide (lead) us (Jn 16:13-note, Ro 8:14-note, Gal 5:18-note, 1Cor 2:12-13-note) and He may give us inner impressions. While subjective impressions can sometimes give guidance, we need to be cautious & should “minor” on this approach, and instead “major” on understanding general biblical principles that the Spirit can use to give our renewed mind a sense of whether something is the will of God (Ro 12:2-note). John Piper has some helpful guidance in this more subjective area asking “as I face all the decisions of today, how will I have a spiritual “taste bud” so that I can taste what is the WILL OF GOD, what is good, acceptable and perfect? And the answer that the Bible gives is, “Get a transformed mind.” So we labor in the WORD and in PRAYER not just to figure out lists of deeds that are more or less acceptable, BUT we labor to get a MIND that thinks & feels about things the way Christ does. So that when a phone call comes in, or an opportunity to go somewhere arises, or we have to choose this or that, there is something about our minds that discerns where Christ would be magnified, where faith would be built, and where people would be loved.”

Martin Luther adds the caution that

Feelings come and feelings go,
And feelings are deceiving;
My warrant (authority) is the Word of God–
Naught else is worth believing.”

Henrietta Mears said “A bird is free in the air. Place a bird in the water and he has lost his liberty. A fish is free in the water, but leave him on the sand and he perishes….The Christian is free when he does the WILL OF GOD and is obedient to God’s command. This is as natural a realm for God’s child as the water is for the fish, or the air for the bird.”

True freedom is not in having your own way,
but in yielding to God’s way…


Finally, remember that that God seldom gives us the whole picture of His will for our life, but leads us one step at a time – The steps of a man are established by the LORD (Ps 37:23-note).

Rich Mullins has a great song about the stepwise revelation of the will of God, and in his song he also addresses those times when God’s will is difficult or we fail to obey — “I may falter in my steps but never beyond Your reach.”

Sing this song (Sometimes by Step) as your prayer to God

Oh God You are My God
And I will ever praise You
And I will seek you in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And STEP BY STEP You’ll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days.

Well done book on Will of God “How to Really Know the Will of God” – Richard Strauss

Preceptaustin links related to Will of God…
The Will of God

Colossians 1:9-10 Commentary

Ephesians 5:17-18 Commentary

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  1. julianna permalink

    Thank you preceptaustin! As a bible student trying to figure out the next step, reminders like this are so helpful.

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