Knowing the Will of God for Your Life

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rm. 12:2).

There is much talk about “knowing the will of God” for one’s life, and all sorts of methods are proposed for discerning it. Many will tell you (and many of them from good sources with good intentions) that you discover the will of God through prayer, by being still and listening to the “still, small” voice of the Spirit of God. Others will tell you that you do not know the will of God because you are out of the will of God, thereby making your case hopeless. And yet others will tell you to search for open and closed doors (i.e. those things with offer little resistance to you and those that offer major resistance, respectively), with the “open” doors being those things which are the “will of God,” and the “closed” doors being that which is not the will of God.

There are many problems surrounding the discernment of the will of God in these ways. First, we are never told in Scripture that prayer is a two-way conversation, or that we are to seek special revelation in the audible voice of God. The passage from which this notion is taken, i.e. 2Kg. 2:12, is concerning the Lord’s speaking to his prophet Elijah in a low whisper. The problem in using this passage to conclude that God speaks to everyone in this way is an interpretive one, for it is a narrative of Elijah’s life not an instruction to the saints of God. It would be just as valid to say that we must do as Gideon did and throw out a fleece to determine God’s will (cf. Jdg. 6). Additionally, we are not told anywhere in the apostle’s writings to seek the will of God in this manner.

Secondly, the notion of closed and open doors is contradictory to the hardships promised to the saints by the apostle. For if open doors are those which are the easiest to come by and closed doors are those which are only opened with much difficulty, then every promise by the apostle of hardships and sufferings in the life of the Christian are of little consequence. This teaching of following the path which is most open is more a product of the prosperity gospel than it is of orthodox Christianity, for esteems the path of supposed blessing and comfort over the life of strife and struggle. This is not to say that God might not close doors, as he did upon the apostle’s desire to carry the Gospel to Spain, but we, like the apostle, will not know this until we are on the other side of the grave.

However, we are told often in the Scriptures how we are to seek the will of God, but it is not popular. The apostle exhorts the church in Rome, to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern the will of God” (Rm. 12:2b). This transformation by the renewal of our minds comes by renewing our minds by the Word of God–the Holy Scriptures. In a previous discourse in the letter, the apostle, speaking to Jews who esteemed themselves as great teachers, says:

But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God, and know his will, and approve what is excellent because you are instructed from the law, etc.” (Rm. 2:17, 18).

Though he is chiding the Jews in this section, it is not because of their knowledge of the will of God through the law, but it because they are hypocrites for not applying it to their lives (cf. Rm. 2:19-24). They knew the will of God, but they did not live the will of God.

The same could be said of the American church today, that the church knows the will of God, but she does not do it. She is encumbered by cares of this world so much so that she has lost focus of her mission in the world, i.e. being a light shining through the darkness. She is much more concerned about the politics of this world and pursuing the American Dream than she is about living a holy life that is characterized by love and self-sacrifice. That is why the apostles exhorts, “Do not be conformed to this world [literally this age], but be transformed.” Rather than seeking for signs and voices, which could as easily come from demons and indigestion, we are to be transformed by the Holy Scriptures. Then, and only then, will we know the will of God for our lives.

Not only must we discern the will of God from Scripture, but we must be transformed by it. We cannot simply do as the Jews the apostle chides in chapter 2 and know the will of God through the Scriptures, but we must actually practice it, lest we too be hypocrites. We cannot be like the world and love its materialism, working and buying for ourselves a better life through nicer cars and bigger houses. We cannot be like the world and succumb to its philosophies and distort the Gospel by those philosophies. We cannot be like the world and invest our lives in the supposed “change” that politics can bring. That is not our calling. We are rather called to love our brothers and sisters to such an extent that we are willing to forego our material desires and aspirations for their sakes (cf. 2Cor. 8:2). We are called to esteem the foolishness of the cross of Christ and preach it all the same, knowing that it is God who saves souls not philosophy and sound reasoning (cf. 1Cor. 1:18). And we are not called to invest our lives in our present country, but we are called to live like the righteous Abraham, who wandered as a nomad upon this earth, waiting for the coming of the City whose builder is God (cf. Heb. 11:16).

Therefore, church of God, be not conformed to the world, but accept the command that the Lord gave to his prophet Joshua:

Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success (Josh. 1:7, 8).



Categories: Fridy Night Bible Study

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3 replies

  1. Don't "open" and "closed doors" in the Bible _always_ refer to being able or unable, respectively, to do something good without sacrificing something better? In this sense, we should obviously walk only through open doors. A silly example is sprouting wings and flying–the door to that is obviously closed. A more common example is buying something one does not need that is beyond or barely within one's means to pay in monthly installments, because it is clearly putting that thing ahead of service to God.

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  2. I think you're right, because the apostle does pray that a door would be opened for the Word (Col. 4), however I think we use "open" and "closed" doors differently than the apostle does. I think the difference is that Paul knew the will of God (which was to preach the Word) and prayed that doors would be opened for him to do the will of God which he already knew. We rather do the reverse. We look for what we think are "open" and "closed" doors and then declare them to be the will of God.

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  3. Thanks for this post, Matt. I personally believe that sometimes He answers our prayers through the Holy Spirit, sometimes we are led to answers through scriptures, sometimes He answers our prayers through the people in our lives, and sometimes we don't understand God's will until much later after things have happened. Regardless, we should always be living our lives in a way that we can know what He would have us do, and then do it without excuse or procrastination. I love this sentence,

    "She is encumbered by cares of this world so much so that she has lost focus of her mission in the world, i.e. being a light shining through the darkness. She is much more concerned about the politics of this world and pursuing the American Dream than she is about living a holy life that is characterized by love and self-sacrifice."

    I think this perfectly describes our society today. It is hard to be IN the world, but not OF the world. I think so many times we know we should be living a more Christlike life, and be less encumbered by material things, but we justify things, rather than realizing that our possessions in this world don't matter. As we continue to understand this, we can better be a light in the world around us through love and self-sacrifice. This post was a good reminder for me. Thanks:)

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