During the “Grill Bill” series at church, Pastor Bill received so many questions he couldn’t fit them all into the sermon series. As a result, he split the remaining questions up between staff and pastors at Neighborhood. This is the first of four questions I was asked to answer…
Q: I often hear people pray, "Let God's will be done and not my own." What is God's will? How do we know it IS God's will and NOT our own? Thanks for this obviously important question! I’d like to answer in 2 parts; on a ‘big picture’ level and then on a smaller scale. First, the big picture.
A few weeks back, Community Life Pastor Jim Botts preached a great message about discovering God’s will for our lives. His “big idea” for the entire sermon was this: “God’s will is for God’s people to live as God’s beloved.” What does it mean to ‘live as God’s beloved?’ Jim explained that the best picture we have of a person living as God’s beloved is the picture of the life of Jesus. If you desire to live life according to God’s will, you can bet Jesus did too! And if Jesus lived a perfect, God-pleasing life, as the Bible clearly affirms, you can bet that means Jesus lived His entire life in harmony with the will of God. So what are some big picture things we can expect to be God’s will for the life of every Christian based on the life of Jesus? Jim suggests that the way Jesus interacted with bread four times in the gospels was meant to be a summary description of God’s will for His beloved Jesus—meaning it’s also a prediction of what God’s will is for all Christians. Each time Jesus interacted with bread (Example: Matthew 14:19), He 1) Took it (chose it), 2) Blessed it, 3) Broke it, 4) Gave it. So… what is God’s will? God’s wants you to choose Him; He has already chosen you (Deuteronomy 14:2). God wants to bless you, and He has already blessed you in Jesus Christ (Luke 3:22). God wants to break you (Hebrews 12:6) so that, like a re-set bone, you can heal properly and, as a result, grow to be a source of healing and life for others (John 20:21). If you’ve ever prayed for God’s will to be done in your life, you’ve asked for these four things. If you’ve ever wondered what God’s will is for your life, it’s these four things.
Now for part 2, which I’m guessing is closer to what you’re getting at with your question. When people ask questions about “God’s will”—they’re usually wondering about God’s will for the next day. Or for their job interview. Or His will regarding a sick friend or family member. More often than not, the real, nitty-gritty questions about God’s will have to do with the way life is affecting us and those we love on a day-to-day basis. At this level, questions about God’s will are more about trying to figure out what He wants regarding specific situations than about figuring out our overall life purpose.
Before you read any further, please understand that as Christians, we obviously want to live our entire lives “in the will of God.” If we love God, we will want what He wants. However, all too often I‘ve seen and heard Christians so afraid they’re not ‘praying God’s will’ when it comes to specific situations that they neglect to pray at all! Or, if they do pray, their prayers are timid and full of emergency exits designed to give God a gracious ‘out’ to save face in case what we want isn’t what He wants. These kinds of prayers do not promote much confidence in the power of God. That being said, the following steps I’m suggesting are made with the belief that prayer is God’s gift to help us express our wills to Him with CONFIDENCE, and without fear of messing up His sovereign ends.
HOW DO I DISCOVER GOD’S WILL WITHOUT INSERTING MY OWN?
1) Ask Him! God will often guide you to an answer as you read the Bible. Is there a clear, spiritual principle set forth in the Bible that addresses your situation?
2) If there is no specific Biblical position, do YOU have a preference for the outcome? Ask for it boldly! (Hebrews 4:16)
a. Go to God with the desire of your heart (Psalm 37:4) letting Matthew 7:7 be your default attitude of prayer. The best example we have of this is Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He very clearly asked God for his own preferred outcome, to avoid the pain of the cross (Matthew 26:39).
3) If you pray the desire of your heart and your preferred outcome isn’t the result,
a. It’s helpful to use other Scriptures about prayer as a self-diagnostic tool:
i. Is your heart close to Jesus? (John 15:7)
iii. Are you ignoring or rejecting God’s Word? (Proverbs 28:9)
b. Sometimes, when one or more of these issues are dealt with, the answer comes. If you still don’t receive your preferred outcome, God is clearly “closing the door” on that desire, at least for now. Surrender the situation completely to God, letting Him know you trust Him with whatever the outcome. This is how the prayer of Jesus ended in the Garden of Gethsemane. After asking for his desire, it’s clear Jesus understood the door to that desire was firmly closed. So he ended his prayer-- “not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39).
God’s will for our lives is mainly revealed through the Bible and through prayer. Remain close to Him and He will never fail to ‘lead you in the paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake’ (Psalm 23:3).