How Can I Know the Will of God?

Anyone who is a follower of Jesus Christ will sooner or later ask this question.  The desire of every Christian should be to please God.  Knowing and responding to the will of God is an important matter to us.  Therefore, we ask: How can I know the will of God?

Let me first address something that I feel is important to realize as we try to find an answer to this question. That is, a very large part of God’s will for us has already been revealed in Scripture.  For example, in Romans 12:18, Paul wrote that his readers should “live peaceably with all men.”  This seems like a general command. In other words, I don’t think we can say that Paul wanted only his Roman readers to live peaceably.  Rather, this seems to be a commandment that is consistent with all of Scripture and would therefore be applicable to all Christians.  If someone is struggling to know if they should live peacefully or as a source of agitation to others, this verse should answer that question.

I believe that there are many other similar commandments in Scripture that convey God’s will for all believers.  For example, Christians are called to love our enemies, pray for the government, help the poor, honor our parents, and serve employers with honesty.  Husbands are to love their wives and wives are to respect their husbands.  Children are to obey their parents.  The list is quite long.  In my opinion, the Bible contains so many of these “general’ rules that a Christian could get along nicely without ever receiving any further detail from God.

Now, someone might say that what I’ve just pointed out is so obvious that it should not even need explained.  I wish that that were the case.  The truth is that many Christians don’t seem to be aware of these general commands of God.  For example, several years ago I knew a married woman who was having an affair with her pastor.  They felt that God had brought them together to do ministry. So, they divorced their spouses, married each other, and as far as I know are “doing ministry” somewhere today.  Sadly, they felt that God was leading them to do this, and from what I understand, had actually prayed about their decision.  So, let’s not be too hasty in assuming that all Christians have a sense of God’s general will for us.  This couple obviously was in the dark.  One does not need to pray to ask God if they should violate their marriage vows and commit adultery.  Scripture is very clear on what God wants people to do in terms of their marriages. God does not need a ministry team so badly that He would call someone to commit sin and break their promises to innocent spouses.

So a good rule of thumb in determining God’s will for yourself is to answer the question: has God already given a general commandment about this?  Another equally good question is: does doing this violate something that God has forbidden?  If God has already spoken, then there should be no question about what we must do.  We should not need special revelation from God to do something that is what He has already asked us to do (or not to do).

But, I think there’s more to this question than what’s already been discussed.  When I generally hear this kind of question it’s because someone is trying to make a decision that isn’t a question of morality.  For example, someone might be trying to decide between going to this school or that, or they are wondering if they should marry this person or that one.  They don’t know whether to take the new job and relocate, or keep the old one and stay.  All of these can be big, life-changing decisions in which neither choice seems to violate any of God’s commandments. The problem is that the Bible doesn’t tell us which college to attend or if we should lease our next car.  Figuring out what God wants us to do isn’t as always easy as reading a passage of the Bible.  So, how do we know God’s will for us?

A few years ago I read the autobiography of George Mueller.  He was a 19th century Christian pastor, evangelist, and organizer of several orphanages.  Mr. Mueller had a habit of praying about everything.  It seems that he didn’t go the grocery store without first talking to God.  And, when he got there he would pray over his purchases.  Sometimes he seemed to hear from God about what choices that he was to make, but it mostly seemed he didn’t get any special revelation.  He simply made his choice based on whatever information that he had, and trusted God.  That struck me as a good approach.

There have been many, many occasions in which I had to make an important decision.  I took it to the Lord and waited to “hear” from God.  Oftentimes I longed to have a visit from an angel, see some handwriting on the wall, or get some kind of obvious sign that made God’s will clear to me.  Generally, things remained pretty quiet.  So, I would seek advice from fellow-Christians, weigh the options the best that I could, make the choice, and trust God.  It’s been a good combination.

Sometimes God gives us specific direction.  Other times He seems a little more quiet.  In those quiet times it’s been my experience that He is letting the choice up to us.  After all, we can’t mess things up so badly that He can’t fix it.  We can’t lose something that God can’t find.  In fact, I think that He glories in showing us how He can redeem any situation – and problem.  So, in that sense, we can’t go wrong!

Let me summarize what I’ve said so far.

First, in understanding God’s will, ask yourself if He has already spoken about it.  If you aren’t sure, then ask a trusted person who is more familiar with the Bible and the ways of God.  Second, ask yourself if any of the choices actually violate something that God has said.  Does it go against what He has already decreed?  In many cases you will find your answer just by asking those two questions.

If God hasn’t already spoken about the choice you are facing, then pray about it (if you haven’t already started).  Ask God what He wants you to do.  Ask God if one of these choices pleases Him more than the other.  Don’t be afraid to ask God for a clear answer.

If you get your clear answer than without hesitation, follow God.  However, if you don’t get a clear answer, I would suggest that you talk the situation over with mature believers.  Perhaps God will speak through them.  After all, wisdom is found in a multitude of counselors (Proverbs 15:22).

If you’ve followed all of the above steps but still have not received a clear word from God, then do not despair.  God may be more interested in showing just how well He can provide for you in any situation, than He is in the actual choice.  In that way, there can be no bad choices!

Finally, above all, trust in God.



Dane Cramer is a backpacker, Christian blogger, jail chaplain, amateur filmmaker, and author of two books: Romancing the Trail and The Nephilim: A Monster Among Us.



Leave a Reply