Understanding the Will of God
Robert Wurtz II
“And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes” (Luke 12:47 KJV).
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15–17 ESV).
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove (approve) what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).
“Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth” (John 9:31 KJV).
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21 KJV).
I have chosen these five verses to illustrate the vital importance and the biblical progression of knowing, approving of, and doing the will of God. This is the pattern of the Lord Jesus who said, “Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God” (Hebrews 10:7 KJV). His “food” was to do the will of Him who sent Him (See John 4:34). The beginning of our walk with the Lord must regard the fact that to become a child of God we must exchange our will for God’s will. This is a simple truth and it stands as the great stumbling block for many. They will not surrender their own will and adopt God’s in its place.
To add to the difficulty, in modern times, the concept of God’s will is all too often used as a weapon to manipulate Christians into thinking that His will is some mysterious and hard-to-discern reality. This fallacy fosters the notion that the way to learn God’s will is to receive so-called “words of knowledge” and “discernment” from people purported to be spiritual. It is a subtle revision of the Roman Catholic heresy that places a priest between an individual and God–sort of undoing the priesthood of all believers that was restored during the Reformation. It throws the door open to someone inserting his/her will in the place of God’s will… and in the name of God. People who do these things often take matters into their own hands to try to fulfill the very “will” that they are saying is God’s will (but it’s truly their own will).
Understand that this fallacy of dependence on leaders is being used as a tool to control others with what the business world calls FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt). This approach is not only utterly false, but it is dangerous at best and diabolical at worst. Any teacher, preacher, pastor, bishop, or prophet worth their salt will labor to help individuals hear God for themselves and to know God’s will for themselves. Be suspicious of church leaders who want people to be dependent on them for guidance and make the leader’s will the final authority rather than the persons’ own understanding of what God is saying to them. Be suspicious of anyone who takes matters into their own hands or becomes angry and spiteful when you don’t follow what they believe is God’s will for your life. Selah.
Our Individual Accountability
I must emphasize the fact that it is each person’s responsibility to follow God’s will. Why? Because each person is accountable directly to God for their own actions (See Matt. 12:35, Luke 16:1, Rom. 14:12, 1 Pet. 4:5). It’s not the teacher, preacher, prophet, bishop or pastor’s job to tell others what God’s will is for them. Their job is to encourage people to follow what they sincerely believe to be God’s will for their life. This is primarily obedience to God’s written word. A shepherd is an expositor of God’s word and it is that word that the hearer must obey (See Heb. 13:16-18, Acts 20:28). In regards to specific matters, God Himself will make His will known to the person–even if He chooses to use others in the future to confirm it. Paul is a great example of this. Jesus told Saul (Later known as Paul) what God’s plan was for his life and in time the Holy Spirit spoke within the church saying “separate unto me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (See Acts 13:2). Saul (Paul) already knew what that was because Jesus told him on the road to Damascus.
Knowing God’s will is not as difficult as it is often made out to be. The late G.W. North once made an analogy of a parent who wanted their children to accomplish a series of chores before they returned home from work. He asked rhetorically, “what parent would hide the list from the child? What parent would paste the list behind the wallpaper?” The obvious answer is, no parent in their right mind would do that. He went on to ask Christians why they think God would do so foolishly with His children? He wants us to know His will because He is determined to have it carried out–as surely as a parent wants the list of chores done.
There is a passage in Proverbs that sets the stage for following God’s will. We read, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5–6 NKJV). We must trust the Lord with all of our hearts. We must not lean to our own understanding or any other person’s understanding. In other words, we must resist people who opine their own will and ideas as “prophetic knowledge.” We must never follow a “word” unless God has already spoken it to our hearts. I sometimes say that the so-called prophetic is far too often pathetic; especially when it’s used as a tool to control peoples’ lives. Some leaders are so deceived that they actually believe they know the will of God for everyone that they minister among. The fact is, nobody knows God’s will for my life, but me.
The First Stage of God’s Will: Knowing
The first aspect of God’s will that He has made plain to us (especially those who have the Bible translated into their own language) is the revelation of God’s written word. This is the place to begin. Sadly, the emphasis for many Christians is on ascertaining specific details about God’s will for their life to the exclusion of the plainly recorded part. What good is it to stress about what career, what home, what car, or even what church I should attend if I’m not following the clearly defined revelation of God’s will that is discovered in His word?
God’s will for your life first and foremost is that you become and live as one of His children. He wants you and me to be partakers of the Divine nature and escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. This truth means that we are to live Spirit-filled lives. Moreover, the Holy Spirit and the word of God agree. The same Holy Spirit that indwells the Saints breathed the Word of God. He will never lead you to act contrary to God’s word.
When you wake up in the morning and put your feet on the floor, this is God’s will for you. He wants you to be filled with the Spirit in such a way that you are energized and led by the Holy Spirit and thereby establish the law. There is no use in stressing about any other aspect of God’s will until we have done this part. In the words of Jesus, “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes” (Luke 12:47 KJV).
The Second Stage of God’s Will: Approving
Paul wrote in Ephesians, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15–17 ESV). Walking is our step-by-step manner of life. We can walk in wisdom or in foolishness. It is a choice. The challenging part is that the days are evil and God’s ways are constantly under attack–not just in the world but also within the Visible Church.
When people walk foolishly and do not understand God’s will for their life or for the churches, they model themselves and the churches after this present evil world. God’s will is that we be spiritual lights in the spiritual darkness. This is far more than stringing together a bunch of power words and catchy Christian sound bites. It is to recognize what the Israelites failed to see; we are an expression of God’s will and that will is to be a holy nation and a peculiar people.
If there were a broad-band, one size fits all, pill (scripture verse) that could single-handedly cure much of what ails us today it is Romans 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove (approve) what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
The word translated as “approve” or “prove” is dokimazien and it comes from dokimazo and is translated as like, approve, prove, discern, and test. This is important because earlier in Romans we have the word adokimos used to describe the mind of people who have rejected God’s counsel concerning sexual sin (See Romans 1:28). If we allow the world to infiltrate our minds with its diabolical propaganda we will turn on God and His word and side with the enemy on important subjects such as sexual immorality, abortion and a host of other ungodly practices. We must ask ourselves, am I approving of God’s word or am I approving of the world’s line of reasoning and teaching?
The Third Stage of God’s Will: Doing
James spoke of the type of person who “hears” the word of God, but they are not a “doer” of it (See James 1:25). Moreover, it’s been said that the most difficult people in the world to try to reach are those who are “Gospel hardened.” Multitudes are hardened to the words of scripture. This was the case more often than not in Israel. This is why the prophets resorted to extreme measures in order to gain the attention of the people. They would hear but the word made no impact on their hardened hearts.
Our responsibility as human beings is to respond rightly to what we know about God’s will. If we will do this God will give us a greater grasp of His will for our lives. “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth” (John 9:31 KJV). Notice this pattern. Worship is connected to doing God’s will and is a prerequisite for being heard of God. What good is it to pray, praise, and worship and then neglect God’s revealed will?
Finally, Jesus stated “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21 KJV). This verse clearly defines the key to entering the kingdom of heaven. It’s not enough to call Jesus, “Lord” or even “Lord, Lord” (with great emphasis). The demons believe and tremble. As individuals and as churches our objective must be to now and to do God’s will. We must recognize that our own perceptions of God’s will must agree with God’s word.