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Knowing God's Will
Thomas R. Fletcher
Many of us who seek to live our lives for the Lord struggle with the concept of God's will. As a child of God our inclination is to please our Father. God places within us the desire to do what pleases him. Yet, we often face choices where we are unsure of what God would have us do. We do not know his will in those circumstances. For many, the concept of God's will becomes nothing more than a nebulous, abstract idea. Some feel that perhaps God's will only pertains to certain individuals: preachers, missionaries, people in full-time ministry. The truth is, God's will pertains to each and every individual.
The Bible uses the term "will of God," in two distinct manners. In one usage, it means God's decree. Used in this way, it speaks of that which definitely will occur, because God has so ordered it. Galatians 1:4 says that it was the will of God that Christ give himself for our sins. Such was God's decree; nothing mankind could have done would have changed that decree. It was destined to occur. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3 it says that God's will for the Christian is sanctification (the process of being made holy). The context is sexual purity. We have all heard of situations in which professing Christians were less than sexually pure. This is an example of the second way the Bible uses the term "will of God," that is to refer to God's desire. Generally speaking, when we refer to "God's will," we are referring to this second usage. We can never alter God's decree, but we are all quite capable of fouling up God's desire for our lives. It is God's desire for us that we seek to know.
How may we determine God's will? I have found that Colossians 3:15-17 offers a practical outline for determining God's will in particular situations. In these verses are found three elements. These elements, taken together and applied to our lives will direct us to God's desire for our lives. The three elements are: let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, and whatever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.
If I were to choose the most important element, it would be the second. If we know the word of God and seek to apply it to our lives, we are well on our way to fulfilling God's desire. It is only as we know the word of God that we can tell if that peace we feel is truly the peace of Christ or merely the peace of satisfied flesh. Neither can we knowingly walk in disobedience to Scripture and truly "do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." God's will for our lives will never violate his written word, the Bible.
Scripture does not address every choice we face in life. Is it God's will that we buy a home or rent? Would God have me purchase a new car or used? These are just two examples in which we cannot appeal to Scripture for a clear-cut answer. It is when faced with such choices that we may appeal to the "peace of Christ," for guidance in determining God's will. As we face such choices, many times we will feel a certain uneasiness about one or more of our choices, while feeling a sense of peace about one of the choices. These feelings can be God's way of directing us in his will. The Greek word translated "rule," means to rule as a referee or umpire. Peace or absence thereof is to cast the deciding vote in the decision making process.
The third element, "do all in the name of the Lord Jesus," bears some consideration. The Bible uses "name" differently than we typically do. Name, as used in the Bible, means "character." Whatever we do is to be in the character of Jesus. Faced with choices, if we feel Christ would not make certain choices, then neither should we. How do we know the character of Jesus? Again it goes back to the principle of knowing God's word.
These three principles are linked together. If we study the Bible; seek to act in the character of Christ; and let the peace of Christ cast the deciding vote in our decision making process, we will fulfill God's will in our lives. As you can see, fulfilling God's will in our lives involves a step by step process. Visions of our life's mission do not normally appear on the horizon. God is not in the habit of dropping blueprints out of the sky. We are not left to rely upon some subjective, mystical experience to know his will. His desire for our lives is not abstract, but concrete. Fulfilling his desire is as practical as obeying scriptural precepts, seeking his peace, and honoring him with our lives.
We do not normally think of our daily decision making process as changing the course of lives. Yet it does. As we submit our decision making to the process outlined in Colossians 3:15-17, we will be fulfilling God's will. God's will in our lives is fulfilled one step, one decision at a time.