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5. The Right Direction:

 

Knowing God’s Will

Psalm 40:8 'I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.'

'Whatever you say, Lord'

When you became a Christian, the Holy Spirit put within you a desire to please the Lord—to do his will in everything. The question is: how can you know what his will is? In other words, how can you receive his guidance?

First, get to know HIM better

A businessman was boasting to a colleague about his secretary. 'Of course, she's been with me a lot of years now,' he said. 'She's got to know me and the way I like things done. So half the time I don't have Boss and secretaryto tell her what to do; she knows, and just gets on with it—a tremendous asset.'

The secretary knew his will because she knew him. And that's how it needs to be with you and God. Get to know him and most of the time you won't need to ask what his will is; you'll just know.

Remember, being a Christian isn't primarily subscribing to a body of doctrine (important though that is). It's a relationship with the living Lord, one that keeps on growing. The apostle Paul was a mature Christian leader but he could still say, 'I want to know Christ…' (Philippians 3:10).

So foster your relationship with him. As you get to know him better you'll also know his ways and his will for you.

Use sanctified common senseThe target: God's will for you

Many of life's minor decisions don't need you to enter into deep prayer to discover God's will.

If you're going from England to France on holiday, for instance, you don't need to pray about whether to take the ferry, the plane or the train via the Channel tunnel. Simply look at the comparative timings and prices, and make a sensible decision accordingly.

Learn God's will through his Word

You can also discover God's will through the Bible, which is his Word. There are some guidelines to follow in this:

a. Learn the general before the particular

Before focusing on the details, like 'Which of these two job-offers does the Lord want me to accept?', get a grasp of those statements of his will that are always true, regardless of circumstances. Here are four examples:

 

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by heart

Psalm 40:8  'I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.'

Heart

GiG5: Knowing God's Will
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Reference

Text

Meaning

1 Thessalonians 4:3-4

'It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honourable.'

God wants you to steer clear of sexual immorality and exercise bodily self-control.

Ephesians 6:5-6

'Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.'

God wants you to be a hard and loyal worker, whether at school/college, at work or running a home.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

'Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.'

God wants you always to be joyful, prayerful and thankful.

1 Peter 2:15

'It is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.'

God wants you to live such a good life that no non-Christian's accusations can stand up to scrutiny.

b. Learn the principles; apply them to the particulars

The Bible is a source-book where you can discover divine principles—God's ways of doing things. You can then apply the principles to a variety of different situations.

As we saw in Lesson 3, this is a matter of the mind. It means 'unlearning' the principles of the world andThe Bible shows us how to live our lives learning God's principles. The more skilled you become in this, the clearer God's will for you will become:

Romans 12:2 'Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.'

For example, the Bible doesn't mention smoking. It does, however, teach the principle that your body is holy—a temple of the Holy Spirit, in fact. So you rightly conclude from this that God's 'good, pleasing and perfect will' for you is to steer clear of smoking.

c. Treat the Bible with respect

God can speak to you by these means, especially when you're young in the faith and use them because you don't know any better, but he wants you to grow up in the way you handle his Word.

Learn his will through the indwelling Holy Spirit

God has put his Holy Spirit inside you to direct you in his ways. Listen to his inner voice. In the lesson on prayer in the Beginning with God course we noted that prayer is two-way conversation. Are you still practising listening to the Spirit's voice? See Romans 8:26-27.

He may speak in quite a sudden way, so that you suddenly know deep inside yourself exactly what he wants you to do. Or he might make his voice heard over a period of time in the form of a growing conviction.

Remember also Colossians 3:15, which tells you to let 'the peace of Christ' act as referee in your heart. As you contemplate different options, go for the one that brings a feeling of deep inner peace to your spirit.

Learn his will through other people

Areas for caution

There are three areas where God certainly can speak to you, but you need to handle them with caution if you're to avoid confusion.

a. Circumstantial guidance

Suppose you become convinced that God wants you to move to another town. You share the idea with fellow-Christians and church leaders, all of whom believe it to be right. On the strength of that conviction you put your house on the market, but three years later you still don't have a buyer. Do these circumstances mean that you were mistaken about the move being God's will?

God's voice to guide usProbably not. Act on the basis of conviction, not on the basis of circumstances. The difficult circumstances may well be God's way of testing your faith, to discover whether you really believe the move is his will.

b. 'God has given me a word for you'

Personal prophecies of this kind must be handled with care. The Bible insists that all prophecy must be 'weighed' or assessed (1 Corinthians 14:29), so be sure to have some mature Christian with you to help you assess the word.

c. Putting out a fleece

Gideon was a young Jew. He lived in Israel in difficult times, when Israel's enemies, the Midianites, had conquered the land.

Judges 6 tells how God sent an angel to him to call him to military leadership against the Midianites, and how Gideon, being just an ordinary farmer, could hardly believe it.

To discover God's will, Gideon put out a fleece (sheepskin) on the ground overnight. He said to God, 'If, in the morning, the fleece is wet and the earth around it is dry, I'll know you really do want me to lead Israel against her enemies.' In the morning, the fleece was wet and the earth dry. But he still doubted, probably thinking, 'It was a foregone conclusion, because the fibres of the fleece hold the dew, whereas the earth quickly soaks it up.'

So he swapped it round: 'If, in the morning, the fleece is dry and the earth around it is wet, then I'll know you have called me.' And so it was. He became Israel's deliverer.

You also may face crucial decisions, but in virtually every case you'll be able to discover God's will without resorting to this type of approach. Use it only in the most serious of circumstances, and only when every other means of discovering God's will has been tried and exhausted. In Gideon's day the Holy Spirit didn't live in all God's people the way he does now in you. Today, fleeces are rarely necessary.

The soldier's ordersThe soldier receives two kinds of orders

In military circles there are two kinds of orders issued to the soldiers: standing orders and daily orders.

Try to distinguish the two. If you're wondering, for instance, whether you should visit Aunty Mary, don't look for a Bible verse to tell you. Listen instead to the voice of the Holy Spirit within you—and use your common sense.

 

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