How Can I Know the Will of God?
How do you know when God is speaking to you, and when it simply our self-will?
You have asked a very good, yet difficult question to answer. The reason it is difficult is because God does not always reveal His will in the same way all the time, or in the same way to all believers. Sometimes it comes as a still small voice, and other times with bolts of lightning. God often deals with individuals in different ways. Some people He reveals His will to by showing them a vision, while others He gives them small, unbidden impressions to their mind. God is a God of variety and is not limited to doing something any one way.
It is not always easy to determine if something is our will, or Godís, and it is good to be concerned about making the distinction. We should always pray that the Lordís will be done on earth as it is heaven, and not our wills in heaven as they are on earth; but sometimes I think we make finding the will of God harder than it really is. Some believers get frustrated with not knowing the will of God because they are seeking Godís will on something that God has no particular will on one way or the other, and thus God does not express His will to us. God gave us brains and common-sense to make some decisions. I do not believe we need to seek the will of God when purchasing a pair of shoes. I do not believe God prefers Nike over Adidas. Our decision to purchase Adidas will not change our lives or advance/hinder His kingdom. God may not reveal His will in some cases simply because we have the freedom to choose as we will in the particular situation, and He trusts us to make a good decision. This is not to imply that God does not care about every aspect of our lives, but is to say that God is not a God of control who makes us do whatever He wants in every aspect of our lives. Just as a parent does not try to make every decision for their grown child, God gives us the ability to choose what we will in some situations.
Some view the will of God in a fatalistic fashion. About twenty years ago there were a series of books written commonly referred to as "which-way" books. One would read so many pages, and then come to a juncture where they would be given various options as to what they wanted the character to do. One would turn to different pages for the different options they chose. Nobody would ever read the book straight through, nor would they end up reading every page. There were multiple endings to the story, the ending of which one arrived at depending on various decisions they made earlier in the story. One wrong choice and the destiny of the character would change. Some people view the Christian life in this manner; i.e. if we make one wrong decision or ever miss the will of God, it will change our destiny. While I do believe that one can miss the will of God and change their destiny, the Scripture does not indicate that missing the will of God for oneís life comes from making a few bad choices. Abraham went out of Godís will to conceive Ishmael, yet Godís will for Abrahamís life still came to pass. Pages of Biblical examples of this nature could be cited. God is able to get us back on track if we are willing to follow Him. As long as we are willing to allow God to lead us in the direction we should go, being more concerned about His will than our own, I do not believe we need to fear missing the will of God for our lives.
Although there are times in which God is silent concerning His will, many who seek God's will fear they will not find it because they are not in tune enough with God. If God is speaking on the spiritual station 90.1 FM, they fear they will be tuned into 90.3 FM. While it is true in some cases that our carnality can blind us to God's revelation of Himself to us, most people who fear missing the will of God are the godfearing, praying, faithful saints of the church.
The notion that we may not be able to hear/know the voice/will of God when seeking after it (and when God is wanting to reveal it) presumes something very crucial about Godís will and power that must be critically examined. To believe that God desires to communicate His will to us, and that we desire to be communicated to, and yet we can still miss His voice/will, is to question Godís power. Does God do what He wills, or does God try to do what He wills? Does God ever try to do anything? Does God try to heal someone, speak to someone, or reveal Himself? No. With God it is yeah and amen. Whatever He purposes to do He does. God does not try to do anything.
This is not to say that Godís will always comes to pass. It is Godís will that none should be lost, yet many will perish in the end (II Peter 3:9). It is also God's desire that none would sin, yet humanity continues to sin. How can this be if God always accomplishes that which He wills? We must distinguish between Godís absolute will and His moral will. The former is always accomplished while the latter is a desire whose fulfillment is contingent on the response of man. The fact remains here that if the heart is willing to hear Godís will, and it is Godís will to reveal it to the heart, we can rest assured that God will accomplish His will in this regard.
To confess that God wants to let us know His will, but cannot communicate it to us because we are not spiritual enough is not a Biblically informed position, nor is it reasonable. The Scriptures indicate that God clearly revealed His will to sinners (Genesis 20:1-7; Matthew 27:19). If they could know Godís will without even having a personal relationship with Him, how much more should we be able to know Godís will while enjoying communion with Him? The fact that we are breathing makes us able to receive Godís will for our lives.
We are to seek after the will of God (Romans 12:2; Colossians 1:9; 4:12), but seeking the will of God is not like trying to find a needle in a hay-stack. The Bible seems to paint the picture that the will of God was accessible, not in a distant galaxy far, far away. The will of God was known to those who sought it. The Biblical data gives me reason to believe that God will often seek us out to reveal His will to. How did God reveal His will to Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and the apostles? He made it plain to them. Abraham, Moses, and Paul were not even looking to hear from God, yet they could not miss His voice/will because God desired to communicate it to them. Paul said God is working in us to give us the will and the ability to perform His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). The author of Hebrews gave assurance that God would equip us with everything good so that we could do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight (Hebrews 13:21). We need not fear that God is not working out His will in our lives.
Trust in God and His ability to lead you in the paths you should go (Proverbs 3:5). As long as you keep a prayerful attitude and spirit you can be sure that the desires of your heart are not self-willed desires, but God-given to fulfill His purposes (Philippians 2:13). If you truly desire to know and do His will, He will make that will known to you.
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