For believers, our lifelong desire is to know and obey God’s will for our life. As simple as this sentence is stated, accomplishing this goal is not as simple as that in our day to day life! The recurring question for a number of people that I have met is how do I Know God’s will. Sometimes the question may be in relation to a specific matter. For those who have established God’s will for themselves, they may lack the discipline or power to carry it out. So, how can we know God’s will or those pursuing the execution of God’s will in their life?
Knowing God’s will
I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. – 2 Cor. 8: 16 – 17
I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his interest, not those of Jesus Christ. But Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. – Phil. 2: 20 – 2
Titus and Timothy in the passages above had a genuine interest in the welfare of others. They were concerned about pursuing the welfare of their target group. They proved their concern by taking initiative on what God has placed in their heart. God placed the interest or desire for someone or something in our heart. This resulted in the drive to pursue the object of interest. There were enthusiasm and personal motivation. The person who has your welfare or interest as their concern is a natural choice. These are the ones that are referred to as shepherds. The hired hands are only interested in their own welfare.
In response to our prayer, God creates the desire for someone to make themselves available to solve that particular problem. What distinguishes a hired hand and a shepherd? The difference lies in the interest they pursue. Selfish pursuits sabotage or sacrifices the interest or well-being of any other people or enterprise they are supposed to be promoting.
Doing God’s will
Knowing God’s will is not synonymous with doing it. Our faith in God is expressed in actions we take and not just in verbal expressions.
What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘’Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’’ ‘’I will not,’’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, I will, sir,’’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?’” – Matt.21: 28 – 31
A proof of a person’s concern or interest is their willingness to take initiative to broach an idea and execute it, take responsibility, or to go an extra mile without being asked. It is one thing to express interest or willingness to make oneself available. It is another thing to follow through on one’s commitment. People are generally committed to what they love or are interested in. They prove their love or interest by their pursuit.
This scripture in 2 Cor. 8: 16 – 17 and Phil. 2: 20 – 2 helps us to see that one of the ways to identify God’s will for us in different situations is the concern or interest that is generated in our heart or put in our heart by the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, as we can see in Matt.21: 28 – 31, the proof of our willingness to do God’s will does not lie in mental assent but in actual practice. The testimony of Timothy in Phil. 2: 20 – 2 is that he proved himself. We prove our testimony by the action we take on our confession.
How to clarify God’s will
One may want to ask that how may we be sure that this particular interest is of God? Here is a checklist of ways to identify God’s will:
- By faith in the fact of God’s word that God has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth and therefore He will confirm His will by the presence or absence of His peace in our lives. The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6b)
- We also can confirm the will of God by the kind of results we get when we pursue that interest. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)
- Another way to clarify if this is God’s direction is to check if the intent reflects the attributes of God. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:17 – 18)
- Lastly, does this pursuit glorify God? Getting married is God’s plan for mankind but being unequally yoked does not glorify Him.
Taking the next step
Knowing the will of God is one thing, doing God’s will is another matter entirely. For instance, it is God’s will for us to get married but being unequally yoked is not God’s will for a Christian. In doing God’s will our actions must be in total compliance with God’s plan. Saul was to wait for seven days for Samuel to come and offer sacrifice to the Lord but his self-compulsion outside God’s plan did him in.
In Matt.21: 28 – 31, the father spoke to the two sons about going to work in the vineyard. It was the son that rejected going that eventually obeyed his father. A lot of people will express interest but not everyone will follow through on their commitment. It is those that take definite steps that truly know God’s will.