God: How do you know His will?
What a broad subject! Where do we find the right answer to this? The short but correct answer to this is, in the Bible. If you’re waiting for a “Damascus Road” experience, meaning if you’re waiting for God to literally appear and speak with you about it as He did with the apostle Paul, you are in for a long wait. It simply isn’t going to happen. There was obviously a time when that sort of thing did happen, but not today. God simply does not work that way in our time. All His revelation about such things has now been confined to the things we find written in the Bible. It is also important for us to realize that the portion of the Bible that has been specifically addressed to us today is found in the writings of the apostle Paul. That includes thirteen letters authored by him. You’ll find them between and including Romans to Philemon in the Bible. It is extremely important for you to realize that the whole Bible is there for your learning, but it is not all directed specifically to us today.
4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. [Emphasis added]
But please understand that until you’ve accepted God’s provision for your salvation and been saved, the Bible will not be of much help to you. We have a clear warning about that. Learning and being edified by the Bible is something that can only happen for someone who is saved and made alive spiritually.
I Corinthians 2:14
14 But the natural man [the unbelieving, unsaved person] receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. [Emphasis added]
I know you might like to sit down with the Lord and get His personal instructions on this matter of determining His will on some or even a lot of things. But again, things don’t work that way today. In fact, if someone ever tells you God literally “spoke” to them, you probably need to run in the opposite direction as fast as you can because it’s a false claim.
Having said all that, God does direct us with the Bible providing many general principles for knowing His will concerning many things. Anytime the apostle Paul led someone to know Christ as their Savior or came to know someone who had been saved, he very much wanted them to be a part of the process of learning God’s will for their lives. In fact, he wanted them to make this a priority.
9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of HIS WILL in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; [Emphasis added]
Such should be our prayer and our desire for all people who accept Christ as their Savior.
The first thing you need know about learning God’s will for some situation in your life is to understand that although the whole Bible is FOR us, it is not all TO us or ABOUT us. In the Bible this is called rightly dividing the Scriptures. In the same passage where this is mentioned, we are commanded to be diligent to study the Scriptures. It is this activity that’s going to provide a lot of answers for you about God’s will for your life day to day.
II Timothy 2:15
15 Study [SPOUDAZO = be diligent] to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]
That doesn’t mean an occasional devotional reading or just listening to some preacher’s sermonettes. The Bible is quite a book. If you’re to ever fully understand it, you’re going to have to get serious about the matter. You are to see it as a divine textbook. It is the most important book you’ll ever study. Right now, if you haven’t already, you need to resolve to make a habit of studying some portion of the Bible every day of your life. You should see that activity as even more important than your daily consumption of food.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. [Emphasis added]
This for us is a reference to the Bible. But if you want to end up in Heaven, be sure you have first accepted the good news [the gospel] about what Jesus Christ did for you to provide the way for your salvation.
I Corinthians 15:1-4
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel [the good news] which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]
By faith in that message, you are saved forever, but it is then that you need to begin focusing on your intake of God’s Word so as to mature as a believer. That takes time and a long-term commitment on your part. Life is full of distractions. If you don’t make it an ongoing priority, spiritual maturity will never happen for you. Furthermore, you’ll end up making many foolish choices because of that one very important decision. Just as you received the words about Christ by faith concerning His accomplishments for you through His death, burial, and resurrection, there’s now much more information you need to process the same way for your spiritual growth and development. Salvation is not a process, but spiritual growth certainly is. Salvation occurs in an instant of time but reaching spiritual maturity will take years. Some who begin reading this document won’t even finish reading it, let alone take the time it takes in study to reach spiritual maturity.
6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
Then he warns us about all the bad teaching that’s readily available.
8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. [Emphasis added]
Again, as it was by faith in God’s Word that we were saved, we are also matured by believing other things He’s set forth in Scripture for us to accept by faith. Isn’t it amazing how some people can’t even get past the first verse of the first chapter of the first book of the Bible without skepticism and disbelief?
1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
The first step toward your salvation came when you first realized you had a need for it. There are numerous passages of Scripture that point that out to us.
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
In the next verse of that passage, we are told something of the means to resolving that problem.
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: [Emphasis added]
What a very important statement! Being justified is to do with having acquired the perfect righteousness of God. As we’ve noted, we find that is something that happens for a person the moment they accept God’s provision for their salvation, namely, Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. It is that which is the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. This means Christ purchased, that is, He paid the redemption price for our sins. He was judged on the cross as a perfect sacrifice and died for our sins. Apart from accepting what He did as payment for our sins and receiving the righteousness of God by faith in that payment, we stand condemned by the justice of God.
19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. [Emphasis added]
The laws of God serve as a mirror to show us our sinfulness and our need for a Savior. But like a mirror, it can show us our flaws, but you can’t comb your hair with a mirror or make other corrections of your appearance with the mirror itself.
The salvation God offers us is a gift. That means it is absolutely free to us. Christ paid a tremendous price for it, but it is free to us.
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. [Emphasis added]
What Christ did for us came as a wonderful expression of God’s love for each of us. That, of course, includes you. Christ came to this Earth to die for your sins. He had YOU personally in mind when He did that.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. [Emphasis added]
It is when we believe in what He did for us that we gain the very righteousness of God.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; [Emphasis added]
This righteousness is applied to us through what is called a judicial imputation. It is not something you feel or experience, but it is real. God identifies His righteousness with you the moment you put your faith in what He did through Jesus Christ to provide it. In God’s eyes, so far as your salvation is concerned, you are then forever identified with Christ’s righteousness, not your own. Furthermore, it is a righteousness you can never lose. Because you did nothing to earn it, you can do nothing to lose it. It was a gift that is yours forever. As an expression of your appreciation for it, you should decide to dedicate your life to one of service for Him. The salvation He gave you was certainly the best thing that has ever happened to you. As we grow in our understanding and appreciation for this, our love for our Savior should grow. It was for this that the apostle prayed concerning a group of believers in a city called Philippi, as well as others.
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
As our knowledge of Him grows, our love and appreciation for Him will grow.
10 That ye may approve things that are excellent [DIAPHERO = to carry through, carry about, to differ, make a difference, surpass (in this case it addresses those things that differ); that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.
In verse ten, as is sometimes the case, the context has much to do with the translation of the Greek word [DIAPHERO]. In this case, it means to differ, that is, to distinguish the things of Scripture that are addressed TO us in contrast to those things addressed to the people of Israel. There’s a lot that’s different about it. Making such distinctions proves to be an essential help in understanding the Scriptures and God’s will for you in decision-making.
11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. [Emphasis added]
This “fruit of righteousness” naturally and spontaneously comes forth through our intake and application of God’s Word in our lives. On the other hand, the fruit of our sinful nature inevitably comes to expression when we don’t take in God’s Word. There’s no neutral ground on this. It’s going to be one or the other.
Every believer should work to be “filled with the fruits of righteousness.” This is what the command to be filled with the Spirit is about.
18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; [Emphasis added]
In other words, we’re not to live under the influence of spirits, but the Holy Spirit of God. Just as a person can choose to live under the influence of alcoholic beverages, a person can choose to live under the influence of the Word of God.
In Paul’s letter to the Colossians the meaning of all this comes to expression in terms I believe we can more easily understand.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. [Emphasis added]
All this speaks to us about the importance of allowing Christ to live through us as we apply His Word in our daily life. As we do that, it is inevitable that God’s will for us is performed. Either there will be fruit from the Spirit of God working in us or we will allow the flesh, our sinful nature, to control us. Here’s a passage where Paul is speaking of this and pointing out the contrast that exists between these two directions we can go with our decision-making.
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they [speaking of living as an unbeliever would live] which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
He then follows this up by speaking of the fruit of the Spirit of God we’re to have working in us as we seek, learn, and apply His Word in our lives.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. [Emphasis added]
As believers the choice is ours. That’s why we’re responsible for our thoughts, decisions, and actions.
The power to resist the works of the flesh comes forth as we work at allowing God’s Word to direct us in our decision-making. When we’re not doing that, the works of the flesh quite naturally come to expression. Our manner of life then begins to look like that of an unbeliever.
I Corinthians 3:1-3
1 And I, brethren [fellow believers], could not speak unto you as unto spiritual [ones functioning under the influence of the Word of God], but as unto carnal [ones controlled by their sinful nature], even as unto babes [immature believers] in Christ.
2 I have fed you with milk [beginning basic doctrine], and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able [they had failed to mature because they had chosen to live under the wrong influences].
3 For ye are yet carnal [living under the influence of their sinful nature]: for whereas [here’s the proof of it] there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men [living like unbelievers]? [Emphasis added]
It is when people function this way that some may even question their salvation, even though they’re just as saved as any believer. The problem is that they’ve allowed their sinful nature to get the best of them. Not if, but when that happens to us, we’re to come to our senses and get back on track, choosing to live in obedience to God’s Word. Some do, but there are times when people don’t. You need to be sure you’re one who’s quick to get back on the right track.
Any time we find ourselves functioning under the influence of our sinful nature we need to remind ourselves of some things. First, the time we log under the influence of our sinful nature will inevitably create some form or forms of suffering for us and often for others. Secondly, that is time we’ll be retrogressing in our spiritual growth. Thirdly, it proves to keep us from logging time in obedience that will qualify us for rewards in Heaven. However, throughout the time, whether we’re serving our Lord or not, God the Holy Spirit lives within us. He is in our body. We are to work at living under His influence, not that of the world, our sin nature, or Satanic influences. This is related to a reminder Paul gave the Corinthians.
I Corinthians 6:19-20
19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
20 For ye are bought with a price [speaking of Christ’s judgment for our sins]: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. [Emphasis added]
It is in such times that we need to heed the warning not to be quenching or grieving the Holy Spirit Who dwells in us.
I Thessalonians 5:19
19 Quench not the Spirit. [Emphasis added]
The reason we’re told NOT to do these things is because we’re all guilty of doing them at one time or another. This is true about every believer, not just some.
30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. [Emphasis added]
Unlike in times past when the Spirit of God could leave a person [as He did with King Saul—I Samuel 16:14], the Spirit of God dwells within us permanently. This passage here on our sealing of the Spirit of God is a reminder of that. It is one of many statements that assures us of the security of our salvation. That’s one thing you can rest assured of that you’ll never lose.
Since the time of our salvation, our main objective in life should always be to comply with God’s directives to us.
14 That we henceforth be no more children [functioning as immature believers], tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine [unstable], by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: [Emphasis added]
Such exhortations to us are found throughout Paul’s writings.
17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind [clearly indicating that this is exactly what they’d been doing],
This passage [as with nearly all the rest of the Bible] is clearly directed to believers. He tells us not to do these things because there’s always the possibility that we will. If we weren’t capable of such, what would be the point of such a command?
18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God [the kind of life He desires us to live] through the ignorance that is in them [living like an unbeliever], because of the blindness of their heart:
19 Who being past feeling [becoming calloused to wrongdoing] have given themselves over unto lasciviousness [unrestrained living], to work all uncleanness [forms of immorality] with greediness. [Emphasis added]
This is pointing out the depths of sinfulness to which a believer can fall. This is also speaking of the frantic search for happiness one experiences apart from functioning within the will of God. There are those who would claim that “true believers” would never do such things. However, all of Paul’s epistles are addressed to believers, God’s people. And in nearly all of them you will find many words of correction. Again, the reason he told them not to do certain things is because they were doing them. His commands were for them to STOP doing those things.
By choosing to do those things that are consistent with God’s Word we will quite naturally find ourselves living for Christ our Savior. Unlike before our salvation, we no longer have to be dominated by our sinful nature.
6 Knowing this, that our old man [our sinful nature and its production] is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed [rendered inoperative], that henceforth we should not serve sin.
This speaks of the new manner of life, living according to His will, that He wants for us all.
7 For he that is dead is freed from sin [given the option to live otherwise].
This is telling us that as believers we are no longer positionally slaves to our sinful nature. This means we are no longer obligated to live under its domination. We are now free to do otherwise. We are free to choose to serve Christ to avoid needless suffering and as an expression of our love for Christ and our appreciation for what He’s done for us. This is something the unbeliever is incapable of doing.
8 Now if we be [and we are] dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
This means since we’re now identified with Christ in His death for our sins, we share in His life. We NOW have spiritual life and some day we’ll get to enjoy physical resurrection life in a new body with all the wonderful features of Christ’s resurrection body.
Again, this is telling us that since we are no longer positionally slaves to our sinful nature, we are now free to choose Christ’s way of doing things because He is our new Master. Through His work to redeem us and because of our decision to put our faith in what He did for us, we’ve now been given freedom. Of course, we don’t have to serve Him, but we should want to because of what He’s done for us, as well as what He will do for us in the future. Because of our faith in Christ for salvation, we now have a new identity. We are now one with Him. We now need to think like it and act like it!
9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
In this next verse, He exhorts us to see ourselves now in this new relationship where we no longer have to serve sin.
11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin [having been freed from its tyranny over us], but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
13 Neither yield ye your members [the various parts of your body] as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members [the parts of your body] as instruments of righteousness unto God.
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law [a place of condemnation], but under grace [we’ve been set free]. [Emphasis added]
Again, because of who we are now in Christ, we need to think like it and act like it. Our goal is to make every decision under the influence of His Word, living according to His will, not our own. This is summed up in this next passage.
1 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 [considering all He’s done for you, this is the only rational thing to do].
2 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. [Emphasis added]
Yes, it is your intake of God’s Word rightly divided on a consistent basis that is the key to your function within the will of God for your life. It is God’s Word that will be your compass for knowing the path you should take in every decision. Never let anyone tell you that what you don’t know won’t hurt you. The apostle Paul brings up the problem of ignorance, just not knowing, three different times in his letter to the Corinthian church [I Corinthians 10:1; 12:1; 14:38]. It is extremely important that you see the importance of investing your time in the learning of God’s Word so that you DO know God’s will thoroughly. It is only through that activity that you’ll be made useful and productive in your service to God. When speaking to the Ephesian church leadership, Paul made some important statements about this.
32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance [God’s special blessings] among all them which are sanctified. [Emphasis added]
Living the Christian life is nothing more or less than letting Christ live through your life. But for that to happen, you will have to become oriented to His will for the kind of life He’d have you live. He wants your whole life to be stabilized by His Word, His way of thinking in you. There’s a passage in Colossians that speaks of this.
6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. [Emphasis added]
This is telling us He wants us to be stabilized through His Word in us. Far too many Christian people today are ignorant of God’s Word and the things that really matter. They spend little or no time studying the Bible. However, I’ve known many people who had read the entire Bible numerous times but knew very little about what they’d read. This just goes to show that there’s a big difference between just reading it and studying it, comparing Scripture with Scripture one verse at a time. It is clearly God’s will that He wants everyone to be saved and to be a part of this growth process.
I Timothy 2:4
4 Who will [THELO = desires to] have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. [Emphasis added]
But few are saved and even fewer follow the growth process. Where do you stand in all this? The purpose of this website is to help you with both—salvation and spiritual growth. Initially, before the Scriptures were completed, God gave special spiritual gifts to help people in this process.
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: [Emphasis added]
But today we have the completed Bible. These special gifts and the need for them passed away with the completion of the writing of the Scriptures. Today there are simply other believers who are more spiritually mature than you are who can be of great assistance to you regarding salvation and your spiritual growth. But the “spiritual gifts” all passed away many years ago. Note Paul’s words in the time before the Scriptures were completed.
I Corinthians 13:9-10
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come [the completion of the Bible], then that which is in part [spiritual gifts] shall be done away. [Emphasis added]
But because so many have not taken advantage of what has been provided, so many remain ignorant of even the basics of Bible doctrine. Therefore, they are so vulnerable to false teaching.
4 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; [Emphasis added]
As with the human body, if it is not properly nourished, it is vulnerable to all kinds of illnesses. In addition to the problems created by one’s own sinful nature, Satan has his own teachers in every generation. The only way to recognize them and their teaching is through one’s own faithful study of God’s Word. The apostle Paul warns us about all this too.
I Timothy 4:16
16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. [Emphasis added]
28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect [mature] in Christ Jesus: [Emphasis added]
People who may think one church or one Bible teacher is as good as another are badly mistaken. There’s plenty of diversity. There’s also plenty of false teaching going on. If you don’t do your “homework” on this, you are quite vulnerable to all kinds of deception.
II Timothy 2:2
2 And the things that thou hast heard of me [the apostle Paul] among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. [Emphasis added]
So, where are the “faithful men?” That’s something you’ll have to figure out for yourself just as I have. My over fifty years of working to sort these things out has been a tremendous challenge, but well worth all the time I’ve spent on it. The same will be true for you.
I hope you’ll choose to follow what you find on this website, but, again, that’s your decision. 4Us2UsMinistries.com was established for this very purpose. I hope and pray you’ll make good use of it. Even though there are those who financially support this work, no one is charging you anything. It is free to you and anyone you know. There’s no “membership fee” at all. If you wish to support it, you can. I believe our God will be faithful to provide the support needed to sustain it for as long as it needs to be in place. If that support stops, it just needs to be shut down. Meanwhile, get on with studying the things you find on the website. We’re doing everything possible to make it a quality place people can go to get the spiritual feeding so they can know God’s will for them in their decision-making. At this time [early 2022] I feel like we’re still just getting started. Thank you for being a part of what we’re doing!
In conclusion, I’ll leave you with one thought and two verses of Scripture to ponder. Always understand that there will be many decisions you’ll make where you are completely free to do whatever you prefer. This will be times when there’s no Scripture telling you to do something you’re considering and there’s no Scripture to prohibit it either. It is solely a matter of preference. You’re simply free to make your own decision about it. Enjoy that freedom and move forward confidently! Even if you don’t make the best decision, God can use it to aid in maturing you in wonderful ways. So never let a situation paralyze you, but patiently and prayerfully weigh the facts and then move forward with what you conclude to be the best decision.
II Timothy 2:7
7 Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things. [Emphasis added]
I Timothy 4:13
13 Till I come, give attendance [be academically disciplined] to reading [of the Scriptures], to exhortation [appeals to function a certain way], to doctrine [teaching]. [Emphasis added]