A friend of mine recently told me that God led him to move to another country…again. This wasn’t the first time. In fact, several other times, he told me he was moving to another country. The problem was that he has never moved anywhere.
I have met many others who told me that God led them to take this job or marry that person. But after things didn’t quite work out like they expected, they decided to take a new direction. After experiences like these, many believers find themselves confused and disillusioned when trying to understand and follow God’s will. Did they not really hear from God? Or did they simply not follow through on what God had said when the going got tough?
If you ask a Christian whether he or she would like to know God’s will for his or her life, the person will likely say, “Yes, I would love to know God’s will for my life!”
If you ask the person, “Do you know how to find out God’s will for your life?” he or she will likely pause and think. “Hmm…I’m not sure.”
I have met many believers who do not have confidence that they can discern God’s leading in their lives. I have also met believers who have plenty of confidence but probably shouldn’t. In other words, they are operating on questionable understandings of how to discern God’s will. In some ways, God’s will and purposes will be accomplished, no matter what we do. God “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). The creation of the universe and God’s provision for salvation in Jesus Christ were parts of God’s unalterable plans (Revelation 4:11; Galatians 1:4). Also, no matter what we do, Jesus Christ is going to return, judge the world, and raise those who trust in him to eternal life (John 6:39–40; Ephesians 1:7–10).
In other ways, the will of God is either carried out or not carried out in people’s lives. Sin is the rejection of God and his will. That is why doing God’s will is a characteristic of believers (Matthew 7:21; 12:50; 25:31–46). We are exhorted in Scripture to make an effort to discern, understand, and live out God’s will (Romans 12:2; 1 Peter 4:2; Hebrews 10:36).
Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord…
Therefore do not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Ephesians 5:10, 17
Paul says it is foolish not to know and do God’s will! This is because we know that God is wise, trustworthy, and loving (Numbers 23:19; Isaiah 40:13–14). We know that God’s will is good for us (Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 12:2) and that we need his help because we are not wise on our own (James 1:5–8; Proverbs 3:5–8).
In the following posts, I will exploring nine important principles for understanding God’s will for our lives. These are separated into five foundations for discerning God’s will and four avenues for discerning God’s will.