How Do I Recognize God’s Will?
A farmer in North Carolina lived on a beautiful farm that his family owned for many decades. They had cultivated that same land for several generations, sowing and reaping in the fields year after year. Finally the farmer died, and after being in the family for more than two hundred years, the property was sold to one of the neighbors.
As the new owner of the farm was walking in the field, he saw a large, unusual-looking rock just barely sticking out of the dirt. He picked it up and began to examine it. He could immediately tell that this was no ordinary rock but some type of gemstone. He took it home, washed it, and took it to a jewelry store in the town where he lived. The jeweler confirmed what the owner already suspected; the old stone that had been in that field for thousands of years was a large, uncut emerald that has since proved to be worth several million dollars!
This gemstone was in that field all along just waiting for someone to come along and “discover” it. For generations farmer after farmer had worked in that field. Undoubtedly that emerald had been seen thousands of times before, but it was overlooked because, to the casual observer, it appeared to be nothing more than an ordinary rock.
When we “discover” a thing, we are actually uncovering or finding something that is already in existence but that we were unaware of previously. And while many people are desperately seeking God’s will for their lives, the reality is that often what they are looking for is right under their nose, but they continue to look for it because they don’t recognize it. In order to recognize a precious stone, one would need to be familiar with its characteristics and know what it should look like. In the same way, if we desire to discover God’s will for our lives, we must learn to recognize the characteristics of His will.
God Has a Standard Will and a Specific Will
I was approached recently by a man who wanted my advice in a very difficult situation. The man, who was a husband and father, had decided to leave his wife for another woman. He felt this other woman was his “soul mate,” and he believed God had spoken to him and told him to divorce his wife to marry the other woman. When he asked me for counsel in this matter, I immediately knew God’s will for the situation. I told him in no uncertain terms that it was absolutely not God’s will for him to leave his wife for another woman and that God had not told him to do so.
Now you may ask, “How did you know this? Did you hear an audible voice from heaven? Did you receive a prophetic word?” No, I didn’t even need to pray about it. I knew it was not God’s will for this man to leave his wife and commit adultery (Matt. 5:28) simply because of what God has already revealed to us in His Word.
As we begin the journey of discovering God’s will for our lives, it may seem like the options of tasks God may be calling us to are endless, and this can feel overwhelming. The good news is that God has already gone to great lengths to reveal to us in His Word what His will is for everyone – I call this the “standard will of God.” But in addition to His standard will, God has something tailor-made for each of our lives. I call this the “specific will of God.”
It is important, however, to understand that the specific will of God for your life will never go against His standard will – what He has already revealed to us in His Word. This understanding will quickly help us to sort through the plethora of options and instantly eliminate confusion. For instance, if you hear a voice telling you to open a Christian strip club or start a Christian drug cartel, you can be sure that the voice you are hearing is not from God.
These may be extreme examples, but this problem is not as farfetched as you might think. It never ceases to amaze me the things that have been done throughout history by people who thought they were doing God’s will when they were actually working in direct opposition to God’s revealed Word. People claiming to be Christians doing God’s will carried out the Crusades in the Middle Ages; the atrocities committed during that time could not have been more contrary to the teachings of Jesus. The Ku Klux Klan also uses the Bible to justify its detestable activity. According to Jesus these hateful hypocrites are murderers at heart. There are, in fact, many people who have done appalling things in the name of God. Many of them sincerely believed they were doing God’s will. But there is no need for this confusion because God has clearly revealed His standard will for everyone in His Word if we would only make it our compass and our guide.
The specific will for your life is something that is unique to you as an individual and something that you must discover for yourself. But our quest to discover God’s will for our lives must begin with the Word of God. By following principles from the Scriptures, we will be able to navigate the ocean of options and opportunities without a shipwreck. Whatever you do in life, it must line up with God’s Word, and He will never call you to do something that is contrary to it.
God Has a “Good Will” and a “Perfect Will”
God has a wonderful plan for our lives. But because God has given us the freedom to choose whether or not we are going to follow His will, it seems there are actually four possibilities for how we can respond to discovering God’s will for our lives.
- We could be content to remain ignorant of God’s will. This is not you because if it were, you wouldn’t be reading this book right now. You obviously have a deep desire in your heart to discover God’s will for your life, and you are going to make that discovery.
- We could know what God wants us to do but choose to disobey Him and do things our own way instead. This is disobedience, and it is the head-on collision of God’s will and the stubborn rebellion of human flesh.
- We could know God’s will and follow it in part but still settle for less than what God had in mind. This is the biggest challenge most people face. You wouldn’t be reading this book if you weren’t interested in finding God’s will. But settling for less than God’s best for our lives is often the easy road, and good things are often the greatest enemy of the best things.
- We can choose to contend for nothing less than God’s best in our lives. This is the big challenge for many people, because impatience to get what we want is a powerful force. But if we really believe God has a perfect will for us and that His will is always better than ours, we will be willing to wait for it and fight for it if necessary.
God has a “good” will for your life, but He also has a “perfect” will. His perfect will and the blessings that accompany it are reserved for those who are willing to be radically obedient and to wait when necessary. Those who are slow to learn this lesson will make many trips around the wilderness and endure much unnecessary hurt and loss.
There are moments when God’s way will seem so difficult, so prolonged, and so unrewarding, while our idea will seem much easier, much quicker, and so much more enjoyable. But it is only an illusion. Looking back, we will always find that God’s plan is so much better than ours. There will never be an exception to this rule, so you might as well just decide from now on to yield to God’s will, do it God’s way, and wait for God’s best.
God Is Interested in Our Journey, Not Just Our Destination
Why are we still here? Jesus died on the cross two thousand years ago and completed the work of salvation “once for all.” So why doesn’t He just rapture all of us so we can be with Him? One man told me that we are all just waiting for Jesus to build our mansions in heaven. I thought to myself, “It took Him only six days to create the entire universe. Can your mansion really be that difficult?”
If I were that guy and I thought my mansion in heaven was the only thing delaying the coming of the Lord, I would be praying, “Lord, forget the mansion. Just come and get me out of here!” And why wouldn’t the omniscient God have thought ahead and had those mansions already prepared? There is obviously something else going on here. It seems clear that God is interested not only in our final destination but also in the journey because on that journey He does a work in our lives that has eternal value.
As a father of wonderful young children I can tell you that when kids get into a vehicle, they have only one thing on their minds— arriving at their destination. Five minutes into a five-hour road trip my kids will begin asking, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” And the incessant inquiry will not abate until we have arrived.
This is how many of us are when it comes to God’s will for our lives. We just want to get there already. We want to hear the little GPS unit say, “You have arrived.” But in most cases there is a great deal of time that elapses between when God calls us and when we have fulfilled His will for our lives. What we need to understand is that the journey is an important process that matters very much to God. The process of following Him in obedience, step by step, through many unknowns, trials, and difficulties, is a significant part of our development and preparation.
God uses the journey to teach us faith, to refine our character, and to equip us for the greater challenges that lie ahead. “If you have raced with men on foot and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses?” (Jer. 12:5, amp). In most cases, without the journey, we would not be ready to step into the fullness of what God has for us. The journey is not just necessary for fulfilling God’s will for our lives. It is in many ways an integral part of God’s will for our lives.
In fact, even if you are in the process of seeking God’s will right now, you are actually already fulfilling a part of it. God promises in Psalm 32:8 to “instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go.” My friend, don’t make the mistake of thinking, even for a moment, that just because you don’t know today what God’s will is for your life that you are not making any progress. Something is happening right now. Your faith is being stretched, and your patience is being tried. Your spiritual ears are being tuned as you listen to hear the voice of God’s Spirit. You are confronting doubts and questions. You may be going through a great struggle, but that struggle is all part of the process of birthing all God wants to do in your life. God always prepares us in advance for what He has in store for us! That process may be uncomfortable, but it is necessary nonetheless. Get ready. Good things are coming for you!
Heavenly Father, I present myself to You today as a living sacrifice. Because You gave Your Son for me, I give myself to You fully. This is my reasonable service. I lay my dreams and desires at Your feet and ask that Your will would be done in my life. Use my mortal hands to build Your eternal kingdom. Use my life to propel Your purposes forward.
In Jesus’s name, amen.
This excerpt was taken from Daniel Kolenda’s book ‘LIVE Before You Die - Wake up to God’s Will for Your Life.’ If you enjoyed it, you can get the rest of the book at shop.cfan.eu