God has a plan for you! Isn’t that comforting? You don’t have to come up with some remarkable life expedition, start an orphanage or move to the jungle. You need only spend time with him, listen and obey when he speaks.
God’s ultimate will is the advancement of his kingdom (Dan 2:44), his glorification (1 Cor 10:31), and the salvation and sanctification of his children through his son, Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:9).
It is his desire to be in a loving relationship with us first, and for us to practice good deeds secondly. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
Stop thinking of God’s will for your life as a separate plan from his will for his kingdom. They are the same.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 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.” Romans 12:1–2
MORE: This text was taken from my new faith-based Instagram account, House of Palms (#houseofpalmswillofgod). I hope you’ll come join us over on Instagram as we talk about a new topic each week! FOLLOW @house.of.palms
What is the difference between God’s sovereign will and his will for us?
There are two ways to describe God’s will:
1) His sovereign will
This is the will of God that will come to pass no matter what. Nothing will stop it. In Isaiah 46:10 God says, “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” Nothing will hinder or stop this plan. It takes into account human sin and evil.
Then this sovereign will can be broken into two categories:
- what he causes (efficacious will)
- what he allows (permissive will)
Jesus said in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
John Piper explains, “There was no changing it, and Jesus bowed and said, ‘Here’s my request, but you do what is best to do.’ That’s the sovereign will of God.”
“And don’t miss the very crucial point here that it includes the sins of man. Herod, Pilate, the soldiers, the Jewish leaders — they all sinned in fulfilling God’s will that his Son be crucified (Isaiah 53:10). So be very clear on this: God wills to come to pass some things that he hates.”
2) God’s will of command
These are the things he commands us to do and we can chose to obey or not.
Here are some examples in scripture of God’s will of command:
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
“For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” 1 Peter 2:15
Abstain from sexual immorality.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;” 1 Thessalonians 4:3
Seek the Kingdom of God.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
What is the will of God for my life?
1.) His primary way to tell us his will is through the Bible.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
2.) His will for us is to walk with him!
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
3.) He plans to give us a hope and a future.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
4.) He wants us to pray to him and says we will find him.
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:12-13
5.) He wants to sanctify us to be more like his son.
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23
5.) We can know his will by renewing our minds in accordance with the Holy Spirit.
“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.” Romans 12:2
How can I be in God’s will?
Let’s read this beautiful excerpt from “Experiencing God,” by Henry T. Blackaby:
Often people approach knowing and doing God‘s will this way: They ask, “Lord, what do you want me to do? When do you want me to do it? How shall I do it?”
Isn’t this response most typical of us? We are always asking God for a detailed “roadmap.” We say “Lord, if you could just tell me where I am heading, then I will be able to set my course and go.”
He says, “You don’t need to. What you need to do is follow me one day at a time.”We need to come to the place where our response to God will be: “Lord, just tell me what to do one step at a time, and I will do it.”
Who is the only one who really knows the way for you to fulfill God‘s purpose for your life? God is! Jesus said, “I am the Way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
- He did not say, “I will show you the way.”
- He did not say, “I will give you a roadmap.”
- He did not say, “I will teach you which direction to head.”
- He said, “I am the way. Jesus knows the way; he is your way.”
How can I make hard decisions?
Here is a helpful excerpt from Ann Graham Lotz from Daily Life for Daily Living:
Often I’m asked, “Anne, I have a major decision to make. How can I know if it’s in God’s will?” The four things I use to determine God’s will in making a decision are these:
- The confirmation of God’s Word
- My inner conviction
- Practical circumstances
- The counsel of godly, mature Christians
Before you step out in faith, have at least three of these four in place. But sometimes God might require you to take a step out in faith before circumstances confirm it.
Does God have a plan for my life?
Let’s read from “Discerning the Voice of God,” by Priscilla Shirer:
Before we can accurately discern God’s voice we have to recognize and believe that God has a plan. He has written a script we are to follow. He doesn’t want us to create our own, write new lines, or change his suit to our agendas. He just wants us to recognize and trust that his plans are best.
God‘s plans were formulated and prepared before your birth or even before time begin. He already has an agenda for your career, ministry, finances, and family; and his plans should always take precedence over your own!
We have to decide either to spend our time discovering and aligning ourselves with the purposes of God or doing what we want while asking God to bless it.
Why do some doors close?
I find it comforting to know that doors were opened and closed to Paul in Acts, just as they are to us today. He didn’t know God’s exact plan, but was willing to obey at each turn.
Here we read a short transcript from a sermon “The Mystery of God’s Will,” by Chuck Swindoll:
What is interesting that when Silas and Paul begin their journey — this is the second journey of Paul — doors close where they thought they would be open. … “And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.” (Acts 16:6)
Now wait a minute! Aren’t there needs in Phrygia and Galatia? Absolutely. Aren’t there lost there? Absolutely. Wouldn’t that have been a great place for this apostle and his traveling companions to minister? It seems like it would. No, the door closed.
Please observe the door wasn’t closed by Satan. And it wasn’t closed because they found it difficult. Paul has already proven he can handle hardship. The Holy Spirit has closed the door. He is forbidden to go there.
“And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.” (Acts 16:7-8)
… Troas is at the edge of the Aegean so they can’t go any further. Now, we don’t read all of their emotions here, but I’m sure there were a few evenings of wrestling and struggling and conversation over “why in the world would we even set out on this trip?”
“And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” (Acts 16:9-10)
I believe it is our responsibility to lay before the Lord a willingness that says … I will not give you my agenda. I will not expect you to fulfill my options. I am available to you. I can tell you that every place I have ministered to, I was surprised to be led to. I did not seek one of them.
What is God’s will and what is free will?
I read a book about God‘s will and it said that there’s no use even praying or asking others to pray for decisions in your life because it’s up to you. The author said God doesn’t necessarily care who you marry, what school you go to, what house you buy etc. I threw the book away. I believe that’s contrary to what the Bible says and contrary to my own testimony.
How could one say God doesn’t doesn’t care about major moments in our lives? The God who knows the number of hairs on our heads and collects our tears in a bottle doesn’t care about our loved ones, our dreams, our goals or life events? Impossible.
God is in the details. He is in ALL of the details. He is the reason a fern unfurls at a perfect 2:3 ratio. The reason the earth orbits at the perfect distance from the sun. The reason a 3 billion letter code exists in the human cell. God laid the foundations of the earth and sustains them. (Job 38)
I think the confusion comes when we need to make decisions. What if I make the wrong decision and am outside God’s will? How will I know which way he wants me to go?
Several years ago I faced a dilemma, and as I prayed to God I felt him speak to my spirit. He said “Child, if I went to all this trouble for free will, don’t you think I would give you a choice?”
You see, I was praying about a minor choice, fearful of being suddenly out of the will of God. If I choose the wrong thing to wear today, will I be out of God’s will? Of course not. Or if I eat a sandwich instead of soup for lunch? No!
That simple question he asked me was a turning point in how I see God’s will. He’s not trying to trick us or hide from us. He says if we seek him we will find him. He’s not waiting for us to choose the wrong path so that he can scold us.
So while he has written the script and we are to listen and obey, he has also given us a free will. We have free will to ignore him, push him away, disobey, yes. But this free will was meant for something more beautiful — a free will to love him, to create, to imagine, to dream. And these are things we can do within his will.
Sometimes when there is a choice to make there is no right or wrong answer. It can simply be a matter of preference.
Sometimes there are choices that right and wrong. And the primary way we know God’s will is through the Bible.
How can I hear from God?
Now I told you that I heard God speak to my spirit. How do I know it was God? First and foremost I have to line it up with the Word. There will never be a discrepancy between God and his Word. So God will not tell you have an affair, take money that is not yours or lie, etc.
It’s important to read your Bible daily so that you know what it says. The answers to most everything are there! He will most likely answer you through scripture.
- It gives us perspective. We don’t want to make decisions from a worldly view, but a heavenly one.
- It gives us peace. We don’t want to make decisions from fear.
- It gives us a personal relationship with God. We can make decisions with godly wisdom!
- It is our weapon against spiritual warfare. This prevents making decisions from confusion.
Take time making decisions. Sit in prayer. Sit in silence. Wait upon the Lord. Plan to obey when you do hear from him.
That time spent in prayer is not wasted. It builds a faithful relationship seeing an answer over time, seeing he has a plan and that his timing is best. What we learn during that time is valuable!
Trust and obey in the Lord’s plan.
God does not typically unfold his plan in detail to his children. Read what he told Abraham: “The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.’” God told Abraham to leave everything and everyone he knew for a land God would show him. He didn’t draw him a map or give him an outline of what would happen next. He only told him what to do in this moment. Abraham obeyed.
God told Abraham to circumcise every male in his house as part of a new covenant. How long did Abraham take to obey? How long would it take your to obey this command?
“Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him.” (Gen 17:23)
Abraham did as God asked that very day! When you do hear from your God who loves you, plan in advance to obey immediately.
My personal story
Several years ago God told me we would move and it would be with my in-laws! It would be a house with space for Bible studies and gatherings and His purposes. This sounded absurd to me. My in-laws lived in Italy. They don’t speak English and we couldn’t afford a bigger house. You want me to live with my in-laws, Lord?! Anyway, I was happy where we were.
That is oftentimes how I know God is speaking to my heart — I typically don’t want to do it. The other way to know God is speaking to you is when things come to fruition.
My in-laws’ visas were approved out of the blue and stamped with a very unexpected four-month timeline! We put our house up for sale that very week.
Twice we made an offer on a house with no guest house that needed work. And twice they didn’t respond. It was a clear no. In hindsight there was no way we could have handled all that with kids and in-laws. For the first time I did not beg God to have the house I thought I wanted. I prayed intensely for His will to be done instead.
Feeling insecure that I had made up my vision from God, I prayed for confirmation that we were on the right track. The very next day our pastor asked us to lead community group at our house. This aligned with the vision. We didn’t have space or parking to host a large group at our old house.
My mom saw a house out of our price range. It was perfect for us, too perfect. We made a low offer. It was all we had and could go no higher.
As we waited for the response I told Marcello that I submit to the Lord’s will. If they countered, we didn’t have more to give. If God said no, it was for our own protection. I submit. Less than 2 minutes later we got a text that they accepted and didn’t counter!
We’ve been in this house for two years now! The guest house was made for my Italian in-laws. They’ve sacrificed significantly financially for years to come here and now have a home of their very own.
The very week we moved in we hosted our first small group that now has 13 families. We’ve also been able to host four short-term foster kids with the extra space.
Praise the Lord that I didn’t stay where I was when he called me out!
See all the questions from this week on the will of God: #houseofpalmswillofgod