How to Ascertain God’s Will?

Introduction

1. Everybody wants to know God’s will for each decision he makes. Simply because he wants to be victorious and successful, and he doesn’t like to suffer and loose.

2. Some people want to know God’s will to hasten their journey towards holiness.gods-will

3. The Bible has no black and white or legalistic, accurate steps on how to come up in a certain course of action, scenario, victory or solution.

4. The following discussion is just a guideline, more or less to “appropriate” or “reckon” the will of the Lord in a certain situation or problem.

5. To develop my piece I am using the thoughts of some theologians such as Zac Poonen (Finding God’s Will), Gee Lowe (Class notes on Bio Ethics) and G.I. Williamson (The Westminster Confession of Faith).

Williamson says, “The will is a faculty of man’s soul or personality. The will is therefore determined by the soul (self, ego, or personality) of the man. It cannot escape the moral character out of which it comes. If the soul is entirely corrupt so that its knowledge and desire are defective and rotten, it follows that it can will to do only that which is evil. Thus complete liberty exists even though there is total inability to do good.”

Williamson distinguishes (1) that man is free to do good or evil, that he is at liberty to do either, but (2) that he is able to do only evil because of his fallen condition (Deut. 30:19; Jn 6:44). With the entrance of sin, man lost his ability to do good and not liberty. Before the fall man was at liberty to do either good or evil, and he was able to do either. After the fall he remained free to do either good or evil, but he was able to do only evil. Now “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen.6:5; compare 8:21; I Cor 2:14; Ps 14, 53).

DOES GOD HAVE SPECIFIC PLAN FOR US?

1. God has plan for each individual (Noah’s clan-Gen 9:1-3, 7-17; Abram-Gen 12:1-5; Ishmael-Gen 16:11-12; Sarah-Gen 18:10-15; Jacob-Gen.27:27-29; Esau-Gen.27:37-40; Samuel-I Sam.1:10-11, 20; Solomon loved by God and He would use him later as king of Israel-2 Sam 12:24-25; Jeremiah-Jer 1:5; Jesus Christ-Isa.7:14, 9:6) Indeed he has plan for you and me.

2. Doing God’s will is a proof of believing (Mt. 12:50; 7:21).

3. God freed men from sin to follow God’s will (I Pet.4:1-2).

4. David desired to do the will of God (Acts 13:22; Ps.40:8).

5. Believers missed God’s perfect plan for their lives through disobedience and compromise (I Cor.10:1-12; Heb.3:7-14).

6. Take the best of your time to know God’s will (Eph.5:15-17).

CONDITIONS OF KNOWING GOD’S WILL

1. Faith in God (Prov.3:5-6). “By faith, meaning not merely acceptance of truth but a confidence in God that comes through personal knowledge of Him” (Poonen).

2. Trust God, don’t rely on your own knowledge (Prov.3:5).

3. Fear the Lord (Ps.25:12; 32:8).

4. Renew your mind (Rom. 12:2).

5. Be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph.5:17-18).

6. Lacking of wisdom? Ask God in faith (James 1:5-7; cf. Prov.2:1-5).

7. Man must plan (Prov.19:21).

8. Commit your work to the Lord (Prov.16:3).

9. Diligence leads to success (Prov.21:5)

10. Do not haste, “Don’t panic!” (Isa.28:16). “If we trust God, we fear no more, we will not seek to grab for ourselves ahead of God’s time out of fear that we might lose the best of waiting” (Poonen).

11. Wait for the right time—God’s time (Isa.64:4; cf.49:23) “Those who waited, God’s works and shows Himself active on behalf of him who (earnestly) waits for him.” Remember the experiment in the class, shake the bottle with water and small particles, like sand or dirt, at first it is vague but as you wait the particles go down and later you will see clearly the separation of the particles and the clear water. God’s will would be clear to us in His time, we just wait.

GUIDANCE THROUGH THE INNER WITNESS

1. Rely on The Holy Spirit.The Holy Spirit now lives in a believer to be His guide (Jn 14:16-17).

2. Recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit speaks to us through an inner pressure on our spirits rather than through an audible voice (Numbers 12:7-8). He urges us inwardly either to take or not to take a certain course of action.

3. Distinguish the voice of the Holy Spirit from the voice of your own hearts. Let us examine our motives and see if they are pure. Are we choosing this job because it will make us rich? How about if that is contrary to morality? Are we choosing this person as a spouse because he has all the riches, beautiful face, great education? Look what God instructed to Hosea (Hosea 1:2-9). God let Prophet Hosea marry a prostitute, Gomer, just to reveal God’s will to Israel and Judah. The marriage and the giving of three children (Jezreel, Unpitied, Not-my-people) symbolized dramatic prophecy to the Israel and Judah. Again, we are challenged to hear God’s voice and not the palpitation of our hearts.

4. A “balance sheet” is necessary to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of a proposed course of action, this will help us know God’s will. God has given us a lot of options, even in choosing spouse, we must decide according to God’s standard and not in our own standard.

5. Peter follows the Spirit (Acts 10:19-20). In the Bible, those who did not follow the Lord had experienced hardships and difficulties in life. Remember the life of Moses and Israel, because of their disobedience they supposed to arrive early in the land of promise but because of their disobedience they traveled in the wilderness for 40 years. Actually Moses did not arrive in the land of promise, only the remnants of the people of God.

GUIDANCE THROUGH EXTERNAL MEANS

The Holy Spirit speaks to our spirits through the following external means also, when we are seeking His guidance:

1. The teaching of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17). For example, (1) if you are considering marriage with an unbeliever, the Word of God is explicit: “Do not be unequally yoked up (a symbol of marriage) with unbelievers-do not make mismated alliances with them” (2 Cor.6:14). Faith is the prime criterion in choosing a spouse. Is he/she willing to travel with you in faith and God’s service? (2) The Bible is clear concerning the teaching of getting rich (Prov. 13:11; I Tim. 6:9-11). Indeed, the love of money is the root of all evil! Sometimes we forget or “set aside” our faith and our focus is money. We forget or suspend to serve and worship God because of our jobs and money. Another worst thing is that we “rationalize” our actions and wrong decisions.

2. The witness of circumstances (Ps.37:23-24).

1) “God is God of providence. He can control our circumstances and thereby indicate his will. He allows certain things to befall us either to confirm the guidance we have received through the witness of the Spirit or to step us from taking a wrong step” (Poonen). We can learn something from the life of Moses (Exo 2:1-10), God did not let him die in the Nile river because He had plan for him, and it was to save the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt to the land of promise.

2) But Satan too can order our circumstances to some extent. So they are not always an indication of God’s will. Satan hindered Paul from going to Thessalonica, but Timothy went instead and God’s purposes were still fulfilled (I Thess. 2:18; 3:1-2).

3) God may prevent or let us in many ways. God opens and shuts the door for us (Rev. 3:7-8). God opened Leah’s womb (Gen.29:31-35), and He also opened Rachel’s womb (Gen. 30:22-24). Opportunities come from the Lord, but as long as those opportunities relate to the propagation of his Gospel, affirmation of His will, and furtherance of his kingdom.

4) Dreams? (Numbers 12:6). God spoke to Jacob in his dreams (Gen.28:10-17; 31:10-18). He also spoke to Laban (Gen.31:24-29). Joseph dreamed of his future and even the future of his clan (Gen.37:1-11). God spoke to Solomon in a dream (I King 3:5-15). God showed his vision or will in Daniel’s dreams (Daniel 7:1-28). Dreamers and visionaries were prophesied (Joel 2:28). Joseph talked to an angel in dream (Mt. 1:20). However, we should be careful in interpreting our dreams, since maybe it is just “natural dream” as the dream psychologists put it. You have that dream because you eat a lot or you eat less or eat nothing before you sleep.

5) Signs? Believers who asked signs from God: servant of Abraham (Gen.24:10-27); Gideon (Judges 6:36-40). Jesus Christ gave signs of the end times (Mt.24:3ff), but not for the non believers and Pharisees (Mark 8:11-12). Jesus as the sign that Jews could not see (I Cor.1:22). Beware not all signs are coming from the Lord, they might come from the Adversary (Rev. 16:14).

6) Casting of lots (Jonah 1:7; Joshua 7:14; Isam 10:20; 14:41-44; Prov 16:33; Acts 1:23-26) “After the advent of the Holy Spirit no more recorded case in the New Testament of believers seeking to find God’s will through a sign” (Poonen).

7) Democratic decision, vox populi vox dei. Is the voice of the people a voice from God? The two instances of people power in the Philippines are excellent examples of vox populi vox dei. In those people power revolutions, God’s power and prayer power were prevalent. God heard the cry of Filipinos and he executed his plan.

3. The counsel of other believers (Prov. 24:6; 20:18; 13:14; 12:15, 26). The top leaders in the government, private sector and even in the religious sectors must regularly consult matured believers for guidance. Congress and assemblies are started with ecumenical prayers. Kings in the Old Testament consulted the prophets in every difficult problems of the land. Remember most of the times they killed their prophets because they were telling the will of the Lord. Individuals must also consult matured believers, usually the pastors are consulted, for guidance.

There are two extremes to be avoided:

1) Completely independent of the believers’ advice.

2) Completely dependent on believers’ advice as to accept it without question in every case as God’s perfect will.

3) Balance is necessary (Ex. Paul-Acts 13:1-3, 21:1-15; Gal 1:15-17). “These examples from God’s Word suggest that there are some occasions when we should pay attention to the advice of godly men, and some occasions when we may have to go against the advice of those same men, and yet other occasions when we do not have to consult anyone at all. In any case, whether we accept or reject or do not seek the advice of others, the ultimate decision must always be your own, for we are personally answerable to God for our decisions. The advice of a man of God can be invaluable but is never infallible” (Poonen).

CHRISTIAN ETHICS PARADIGM (Gee Lowe)

1. Understand the facts of the case, e.g. Euthanasia, divorce, genetic engineering.

2. Identify issues and conflicts.

3. Gather relevant principles from the Bible.

4. List options. St. Augustine’s style of finding God’s will through elimination. For example, a man has given by God 5 ladies to choose as future wife. He must pray for his “screening and evaluation process.” (1) He must use his faith as guidance and measuring rod, (2) he must use his love—meaning, is he willing to give himself to her even though she is not unlovable? (3) Man may have other “criteria” in mind and he may use them, but they are not required like faith and love. He must prioritize daily his options, maybe in day 1, he may write in his board lady A, lady B, Lady C, Lady D, and lady E. In the second day he may write, lady B, Lady C, lady D, lady E, and lady A. The next day his notes might be different, he might eliminate some and retain two or three. Until in the nth day he might zero in Lady E with peace of mind and less anxiety. Then he is ready to decide.

5. Examine the options with Christian worldview, if possible from the redemptive story of God.

6. Consider consequences. If I will do solution 1 this will happen, and if the solution 2, this will happen. Am I ready to bear the consequence?

7. Consult others (pastors, believers, experts)

8. Pray for God’s guidance from the beginning to the end of the process.

Conclusion

1. God permits perplexity (puzzle) in order that we may know Him better. So that we might come to him daily in prayer and reading of the Word. He also sifts our motives and strengthens our faith thereby.

2. In all except major decisions, we should move forward even when vague about God’s will, if we have ascertained the mind of God to the best of our knowledge. We should not wait indefinitely.

3. We should not look back in regret over past failures or past decisions.

4. We must never let either fear of danger or fear of making a mistake keep us in perpetual inaction.

5. We should leave it to God as to how He guides us.

6. The above discussions may help us know God’s will for a certain problem or situation, but objectively, still only God can tell if our actions and decisions are correct. However, if we apply the above steps they may guide us to peace and may lessen our anxiety in decision-making.

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