I love the certainty of 1 John 5:14-15.
John, one of Jesus’ closest friends, writes to fellow Christians to assure them of the confidence they can have in prayer. John writes:
“Now this is the confidence we have before him: Whenever we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked him for.” 1 John 5:14-15 (HCSB).
Whenever we ask anything according to his will. Sometimes I struggle with knowing what God’s will is. Do you?
You may be trying to determine if it’s God’s will for you to go on a mission trip. Or you may be considering your future and which path to pursue after graduation. Perhaps you’re discerning about whether to start dating that now-really-close friend. With so many options and voices influencing us, it can be hard to know what God wants and to be certain which path is the “best” one. It can be difficult to discern: is this just what I selfishly want, or is this what God is asking me to do? John says that we can be confident that when we ask God according to his will, he hears us and answers us!
The key is figuring out what God’s will is––then praying accordingly and with expectation that he will answer!
Here are 6 considerations when trying to figure out what God’s will is:
1. Ask yourself: do I have a growing relationship with God?
Before you can discern what God’s will is, it’s imperative that you are growing in your walk with God. Are you consistently spending time with him? Do you read the Bible? Are you praying regularly? Are you finding God is changing your desires to be more like his? Are you aware of sin that you need to confess and turn away from?
Jesus said the most important thing in life is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37, HCSB). It’s also known as the Great Commandment. Until we pursue the Great Commandment, it is going to be hard to hear accurately what God is saying to us, or understand what his instructions and commands are in the Bible.
Real talk: I’m never going to love God perfectly with all my heart, soul, and mind. God knows this and doesn’t require perfection from me in order for me to understand his will for me! As long as I am taking steps towards God in loving him and pursue a growing relationship with him, he supplies the rest. The same is true for you as well!
2. Do I filter my decisions through the Bible?
First and foremost, we need to constantly turn back to what the Bible clearly says, and then we need to walk in obedience. For example, we know with certainty that God’s will is for us is to share our faith with others because Jesus commands, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18, ESV).
We can know with certainty that God’s explicit will for us is to remain sexually pure when Paul writes, “For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, so that each of you knows how to control his own body in sanctification and honor” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, ESV). Hmm, no confusion there! Although it can be incredibly hard to live out.
The authority of Scripture is what we need to compare our thoughts, words, and actions against to make sure they align and match. It is the lens through which we must look when making decisions.
3. Do I pay attention to what God is doing in my life?
If God’s word gives you assurance to move forward, ask yourself if God has arranged certain circumstances in your life to direct you toward a certain path. Sometimes, situations occur in such a way, that can help bring clarity to what God may be guiding you toward.
I experienced this in my third year of university while studying abroad in South Asia. I sensed God’s leading to go on a mission trip with P2C-S the following summer but I felt unsure about which location to go to. After prayer and talking with some trusted mentors, I eventually realized that God had just granted me a semester of missions prep being overseas and I needed to return to South Asia with P2C. My personal experience with the location and culture would help immensely in building new friends and sharing my faith.
When I took a look at my circumstances, God showed me that he had been preparing me. I needed to simply pay attention to what he was doing in my life. That following summer while on the P2C-S missions trip to South Asia, I found that my previous experience in that cultural context helped me adjust quickly to the culture. I was able to build authentic trust with the students in a short time, share the gospel, and even saw one student pray to receive Christ!
If you focus on Jesus’ command to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33, ESV), then providential circumstances can bring alignment to your options and God’s will. If you are pursuing God, then there should be no concern that he will speak and guide you, as you obey him and spend time with him.
4. Do I know that the Holy Spirit gives me a sound mind?
If you want to know God’s will, you need to understand the role of the Holy Spirit in your life. The Apostle Paul wrote to his disciple Timothy: “For God has not given us the Spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment” (2 Timothy 1:7, HCSB). It isn’t the Holy Spirit stirring up fear in your heart. The Holy Spirit provides the power, the strength, and the ability for you to serve God boldly. He fills you with love: the ability to love God and others.
He also provides sound judgment: clarity with regard to the truth of God. If you are walking in step with the Spirit, you will be able to discern God’s will for your life through using the brain that God has given you! I know, crazy right? While God can speak to us supernaturally, God most often speaks to us through the straightforward and logically obvious, using our reason to discern a good direction.
It’s important that we take our logic and reasoning back to the authority of the Bible to compare. If our reasoning aligns with what’s written in the Bible, then we can know that the Holy Spirit is aligning our thoughts to his. If they don’t, then we can know that we shouldn’t proceed with that decision.
5. Who are wise friends and mentors I could consult?
Seeking wise counsel is critical when discerning God’s will. God created you to live in community and you need the collective wisdom of those who know you best in order to make your decision. Personally, God often speaks to me through the voices of trusted Christians in my life, so seeking wise counsel is a must.
Proverbs 12:15 states: “A fool’s way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise” (HCSB). Why is this? We all have blind spots. We are blind to our own sin, our spiritual giftings, and it can be hard to understand Scripture correctly. On your own, you are prone to make foolish decisions and misunderstand God’s will.
While the Holy Spirit is there to help fight against this, so is the built-in safeguard of community. Wise counsel can give us another perspective on our strengths, weaknesses, and gifts, thereby helping guide us into a greater awareness of who God has made us to be. This can help us determine whether one option may be a better fit than another. It can also help you discern whether the path you are going down is a good fit.
6. Ask yourself: ‘What do I want to do?’
Often, God’s will for our lives is more flexible than we think. There may be several good options. In many situations, God just grants us freedom, allowing us to pursue the concerns and passions that he has placed on our hearts.
Psalm 37:4 states: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires” (HCSB). As we delight in God, our hearts will change to look more like God’s heart. As a result we develop desires in our hearts that align with God’s desires for us: when he gives us those things it brings him glory.
If you are: growing in your relationship with God, obeying the Bible’s commands, paying attention to what God is doing in your life, walking in the Spirit, and listening to wise counsel, then you can trust that God is aligning your heart to his. There is freedom to just make your decision with confidence.
Knowing and being confident of God’s will is both possible and achievable. If you feel easily confused, afraid, or freeze up when it comes to decision making, I hope you will experience greater peace and confidence as you apply these principles and pursue God’s will for your life. Remember that God is sovereign, and that he will never abandon you nor reject you!