Ask Steve: Knowing God’s Will









Question: Steve, I am trying to understand God’s will for my life. Do I know it is God’s will if I have peace about it? How can I know God’s will, for example, in the choice of a career? 

Answer: It is the desire of and command to every Christian to know God’s will. But sometimes it is difficult to understand God’s will for one’s life because it is not so clear in Scripture, especially if it involves very specific circumstances that so culturally and socially distant from biblical times. Is it possible to have peace about God’s will in a given choice or circumstance? The Bible teaches that it is possible to have such peace, if done according to the proper biblical guidelines. Scripture teaches that Christians live by God’s will if they obey God’s commands in Scripture and submit to God’s sovereign will.  

First, a Christian lives by God’s will by obeying God’s commanded will in Scripture. If a Christian makes career decisions based on God’s commanded will, then he is abiding by God’s will in all cases. All decisions done by Christians should be done in accordance with the integrity of God’s word. Specific commands in Scripture that give clear directives to Christians are what are called God’s commanded will, or directive will. These are aspects of His will which are available to all men in writing (the Bible), are specific, and to which men are held accountable. An example is 1 Thessalonians 4:3: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that you abstain from sexual immorality.”  

If he does not abide by the word of God, then he is not following in on God’s will. It is possible that he may not see any real troubling consequences in this life, but Scripture warns that repeated rebellion will lead to God’s discipline as a father (Heb 12:6; Prov 3:12) and the Christian’s shrinking back in shame at the coming of Christ for His church and the Bema Seat Judgment (2 Cor 5:10). So the first principle to keep in mind is God’s will must be a decision that is not only in agreement with Scripture, but that it is not something that the Lord forbids.

Second, a Christian obeys God’s will by submitting to God’s sovereign will. As it pertains to the choice of a certain career, the Bible will not have much, if any, thing to say to a Christian living in the 21st century. This is the process of trying to discover God’s sovereign will, or decretive will. God’s sovereign will involves His ultimate, complete control over everything. Nothing happens that is not in God’s plan. History is the unfolding of God’s purposes, which happens exactly as He planned. An example of God’s sovereign will, as it regards an individual’s life, is Philippians 2:13, which says, “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

The Christian will have to make his career decision not based on an explicit imperative from the Bible, but via submission to God’s sovereignty, although he still must follow general principles from Scripture. Although he won’t be able to have direct guidance through dreams, visions, and spoken revelation from God like the prophets and apostles did in biblical times, he can have indirect guidance through multiple avenues. One of these ways, of course, is through God’s word, since it is what every Christian needs to turn to. It is the lamp to our feet and the light to our path (Ps 119:105). We can also be guided through our conviction, which is also called internal impressions. This is one of the ways that the Holy Spirit moves in filling a Christian with His holy will, and also how He stimulated Paul to action in Athens (Acts 17:16).

Understanding God’s will is something that Christians still struggle with on a daily basis, many times due to ignorance of Scripture. But if we follow God’s word, then we are on the right course of pleasing the Lord, knowing that obeying God’s commanded and sovereign will leads to peace in our short-term and long-term choices in the Christian life.

Recommended Reading: Found: God’s Will by John MacArthur