Finding the Will of God

Title: Finding the Will of God

Bible Book: Selected Passages

Author: Paul E. Brown

Subject: God, Will of; Will of God; Christian Living



How do you measure success in life? Some folks measure it by material wealth, or prominence in the community, or vocational achievement, or in other such ways. But in reality there is just one ultimate measure of success. 1 John 2:17 says, “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” Doing the will of God brings blessings that last for eternity.

Whether or not a man has much of this world’s goods, or is ever known outside his little circle of family and friends, or ever makes it to the top vocationally, he is a success if he has sincerely devoted his life to doing God’s will.

The inspired writer of Psalm 143:10 said, “Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.” The psalmist was saying that making God’s will your top priority is the way to steadfast, wholesome character.

Jesus said, in Matthew 12:50, “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Our Lord was saying that the way to experience sweet fellowship with God the Father and with Jesus the Son is by doing God’s will.

No wonder the author of Psalm 40:8 said, “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.”

In the way of His will there is peace, There doubtings and restlessness cease;

Tho’ the pathway be drear, and sacrifice dear, In the way of His will there is peace.

In the way of His will there is joy, There praises our heart will employ,

Amid sorrow and pain, when tears flow like rain, In the place of His will there is joy.

In the place of His will there is power, His Spirit flows in every hour,

Tho our strength be small, tho’ we have none at all, In the place of His will there is power.

All of that adds up to this: Our experiencing life’s highest and best hinges upon our doing the will of God. But that raises a prior consideration. Before we can do the will of God, we must find it. Thus, the question that looms large for all of us is: how can I find the will of God?

I. The first requirement is to BE SURE THAT YOU ARE SAVED

The Scriptures make it crystal clear that being saved is the first phase of God’s will for everyone. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that the Lord “is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Acts 20:21 spells out both of the conditions we must meet in order to receive God’s great gift of salvation: “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Until a person is saved, he has neither the inclination nor the capability of finding the further aspects of God’s will. In Romans 12:1-2 Paul wrote:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

If you’ve never done so, the wisest thing you could possibly do would be to repent of your sins and, by faith, to invite Jesus Christ into your life to be your personal Lord and Savior. He will forgive your sins, transform your life, and change your eternal reservation to heaven instead of hell - and then you’ll be in a position to discover the further aspects of his will for your life.

Ephesians 5:17 declares, “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” That admonition doesn’t tell us that it’s always easy to know God’s will. At some points it is - some aspects of his will are glaringly obvious - but at other points it’s not easy. Nevertheless, if a person will meet God’s conditions, he can find God’s will.


As I have studied the Scriptures and looked at how God has worked in the lives of various people through the centuries, I have come to the conclusion that there are SIX GUIDEPOSTS that God normally uses, in some combination or another, to show us his will. Those guideposts are intertwined and at some points overlap, but each deserves separate mention. Let’s look at them.

A. One profoundly important guidepost is THE BIBLE.

My brother-in-law, Jim Smith, whom I love like a brother, was - until his recent retirement - a builder of houses. He was known as an outstanding, first rate builder. If you bought a Jim Smith house, you had a top quality product. There were numerous reasons why he was such an excellent builder. He was, and is, a man of integrity. He was well trained and used first rate materials. But another reason that he was such an excellent builder is that throughout each project he continually studied the blueprints, to be sure that everything was going according to plan. In like manner, if you and I are going to build the right kind of life, it’s imperative that we continually study God’s blueprint for living, the Bible.

Occasionally someone commits some bizarre, outrageous act, and when asked about it, says, “God told me to do it.” But such a statement, made by someone who has done something immoral, is a lie from the depths of the bottomless pit. God is consistent. He never contradicts himself. He says, in Malachi 3:6, “...I am the Lord, I change not....” Hebrews 13:6 says that Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” God never leads anyone to do anything, any time, anywhere that is contrary to the guidance he gives us in this Book. The Bible is the repository of God’s truth - and it us essential that we increasingly familiarize ourselves with its contents.

The poet said, “Because the way was steep and long, and through a strange and barren land, God put upon my lips a song, and a lantern in my hand.” The Bible is God’s lantern, and it plays a prominent part in revealing to us his will. The author of Psalm 119:105 said, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

Occasionally we see an appliance or a machine of some sort on which the manufacturer has - with tongue in cheek, no doubt - placed a sticker which says, “When all else fails, read instructions.” Well, this is God’s instruction book - and I can tell you right now anything contrary to what it teaches will fail.


Another guidepost that God often uses in helping us to understand his will is CIRCUMSTANCES. In Acts 16 we read of how Paul, Silas, and Timothy - later joined by Luke - set out on a missionary journey. Let’s look at verses 6-10:

Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

This little missionary band had tried to go in certain directions, but the Holy Spirit forbade them. Then Paul, through a night vision, learned of a great need for the gospel in Macedonia. Obviously he shared with the others what he had seen, and doubtless they must have prayed about it together, and - according to verse 10 - they “assuredly gathered” that God was leading them to go preach in Macedonia. The Greek term which is translated “assuredly gathering” literally means “to cause to come together.” In other words, as we might express it today, this group of men simply “put two and two together.” Certain doors had been closed to them, but this one was open, and they were available - so they concluded that ministering in Macedonia was God’s intended assignment for them.

Often you and I find that certain doors are closed to us but then find that another door opens, and we need to be sensitive at such times to the possibility that that may be God’s means of revealing his will to us. In all likelihood he will then corroborate it in additional ways, but in many cases that’s one factor that he uses in revealing his will to us.


Still another guidepost is THE COUNSEL OF OTHER PEOPLE. Psalm 1, which tells us how to experience blessedness, begins in verse 1 by saying, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly....” The clear implication is that we all need counsel - advice - at times, but that we should be extremely careful as to where we get that counsel. Sometimes we get ourselves into real trouble by going to the wrong sources. Be sure that you seek counsel from someone who is qualified in the area of concern, and also has clean hands and a pure heart.

Often we unnecessarily bear heavy burdens in isolation when we could be greatly helped by sharing that burden with someone else. At times we feel that no one else has experienced the particular crisis that we are facing, but that is never the case. For example, in regard to the experience of temptation 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man....” Whatever your problem, someone else has been down that same road before.

We need to be cautious, of course. We don’t want to go around telling our problems indiscreetly. But, bearing that in mind, we often do need to seek advice from trustworthy, spiritually mature individuals who have, themselves, achieved a measure of victory. The Holy Spirit often works through human instrumentality.

Dr. George Truett, the great pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, for over 30 years, told a story regarding his early manhood. He was facing a grievous crisis that was deeply troubling him. An older man in his congregation sensed what was going on in Truett’s life and said to him one day, “George, let’s take a walk.” As they walked along, the man began sharing his personal testimony. As he talked, George Truett said to himself, “This man is telling my story. That’s the same problem I’m dealing with.” The man went on to tell how God had brought him through. Telling about that experience years later, Truett said that by the time they ended that walk he felt that he had been through an epoch in his life. He had found new hope and encouragement - and all because of the counsel of another believer.

So, don’t try to be a lone ranger. Romans 14:7 says, “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.”


Another important guidepost that God always uses is PRAYER. In Matthew 7:7 Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” He doesn’t say that when we ask he will always give us the exact answer we wanted or expected, but if we’ll ask we will receive the answer that God, with his infinite wisdom, knows is right and best for the situation at hand. In Jeremiah 33:3 the Lord says, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” God may give you or me an answer that hasn’t even crossed our minds!

I got up early one morning and rushed right into the day.

I had so much to accomplish that I didn’t take time to pray.

But problems just tumbled around me, heavier became each task.

“Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered. God answered, “You didn’t ask.”

I read of a farmer who was working in the hay. Using a pitchfork, he was piling loose hay into a huge room in the barn, then he would get into the room and move the hay around so as to make room for more. But as he was working in that room, he realized with alarm that he had lost his pocket watch. It wasn’t just an ordinary watch, it was a family heirloom, handed down from one generation to the next. It was one of his prized possessions. He began frantically pitching hay from one side of the room to the other, trying to find his watch. He searched and searched, but to no avail. Finally, in exhaustion, he sank down into a sitting position to rest. As he sat there quietly, he heard a faint sound: tick, tick, tick. He quietly began easing over in the direction from which the sound was coming, and it got louder: tick, tick, tick - and by that careful process he found his watch.

How often we thrash around and get all uptight and distressed trying to find answers, when what we need to do is follow the Lord’s admonition in Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God....” In Isaiah 30:15 we are told, “ quietness and in confidence shall be your strength....” When problems are pressing in and we’re trying to find answers, we need to quietly get on our knees and seek God’s guidance.


A powerfully important guidepost in discovering God’s will is this: we must be sure that we can sincerely pray, as Jesus taught us in the Lord’s prayer, “THY WILL BE DONE in earth, as it is in heaven.”

I was saved when I was a junior in college, shortly before my twentieth birthday. In my very early days as a believer, I was struggling with what was to me a monumental decision. I shared my plight with my mother, who was a wonderful Christian. She told me that if I would seek God’s will in the matter he would guide me. I said, “Mom, I don’t doubt that God will reveal his will; but what I fear is that in my spiritual weakness and immaturity I won’t recognize what he is showing me; I’m afraid I’ll miss it.” Then here’s what she said - and I’m paraphrasing; she said, “Son, if you are sincerely surrendered to his leadership, and are willing to go in whatever direction he might lead you, he won’t let you miss it.”

I have come to realize that what my mother said is absolutely in accord with the Scriptures. For example, Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

If our attitude is, “Lord, I’m not going to try to call the signals. I’m open to whatever you want me to do,” then God will see to it that we find his will in spite of everything.


One final guidepost, and a profoundly important one: If we are to know the further aspects of God’s will, we must address ourselves to DOING WHAT WE ALREADY KNOW TO BE HIS WILL.

In John 7 Jesus was talking with a group of skeptics, who didn’t believe that he was from God or that what he was teaching was from God. Here’s what Jesus said to them in verse 17: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” Jesus was saying to them, in essence, “If you’ll get busy doing what you already know to be the Father’s will, then you’ll have the spiritual insight to understand that what I’m teaching is also from the Father.”

Jesus was stating a timeless principle, which applies to all of us. He was not requiring perfection, of course, because we Christians are not flawless by any stretch of the imagination - but he was saying that we must earnestly, wholeheartedly address ourselves to doing those things which we already know to be his will if we expect him to reveal the further aspects of his will.

In Leonard R. Jenkins’ book, 450 Stories From Life, Mrs. William J. Slater tells that in a particular section of India they have a most unusual custom. When women want to go somewhere at night, they make two little torches, and fasten one to each ankle. The material from which those torches are made is such that when the woman stands still, the glow of the torches is just barely discernible. But when she steps forward, the movement causes that torch to glow more brightly and to light the way for one more step. If she stops it is dark again, but if she keeps going forward those torches will continue to light her way, one step at a time.

That’s how God works in our lives. As we take a step of obedience to his will, he then gives us light for the next step. But if we stop, the light stops. One step at a time - that’s how God reveals his will to us.

Years ago I was preaching in a week-long revival meeting in a town in Mississippi. Early in the week a young woman came to me after the service one night, and wanted to know if I could help her. She was a young career woman, with a good job, but she looked as if she had the weight of the world on her shoulders. She said, “I think God may be calling me to be a foreign missionary, but I’m not sure about it - and the uncertainty is just about to wear me out. I struggle, trying to know for sure, and yet no answer comes.”

I called her by name and said, “Let me ask you a question: Are you witnessing to your colleagues where you work, to your friends with whom you socialize?” She was honest. She hung her head and said, “No, I don’t. I invite folks to Sunday School and to church, but so far as getting right down to talking with them about how to be saved, I haven’t been doing that.”

I said, “You and I know that sharing our faith with others is a command that God has given to every believer - and I believe that if you’ll begin working on that, which you already know to be his will, you’ll find relief from your burden of uncertainty.”

One night toward the end of the week she came to me again. She had a smile on her face and she said, “I’m so relieved. I have begun now making a serious effort to witness to the people that I associate with at work and to my friends that I see socially - and even though I don‘t yet have the answer about foreign missions, the burden is lifted. I feel now that since I am earnestly striving to do what I already know to be God‘s will, he will in his own time and way settle this other issue. So, I‘m not worrying about it now. I‘ll just leave it to God to reveal his will when he’s ready.”


Thomas Carlyle said, “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”

God loves you, Christ died for you, and God has a wonderful plan for your life - but, as the old Chinese proverb says, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step” - and the first step in God’s plan for you is that you be saved. Have you ever truly repented of your sins and sincerely, by faith, asked Jesus to come into your life to be your personal Lord and Savior? If not, this would be a great time to make that surrender to him - and I challenge you to do it.

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