Multiple times in our lives we will be faced with making a decision. It could be as simple as where to go out to eat after church on Sunday, or as important as who we should marry and what career to pursue. While going to the wrong restaurant may simply mean a temporary irritation over second-rate food, some decisions leave a lasting mark—sometimes for the rest of our lives.
As Christians, we should all want to make decisions within the will of God, but sometimes we may struggle in knowing what the will of God really is. Some decisions, like where to eat out or what paint color to choose, have nothing to do with morality or God’s fore-ordained plan for our lives. God leaves these decisions up to us and are based on our personal preferences. But we should want the life-altering decisions to be in God’s perfect will. In a world full of options and voices, how do we find out His perfect will?
Ways to Know God’s Will
Knowing His Will in His Word
The first and most important communication of God’s will is found in His Word. Even though some things aren’t so specific, God’s Word upholds principles that never change and will always stand (Matthew 24:35). We won’t find what car we’re supposed to buy, what apartment we’re supposed to live in, or what church we’re supposed to attend. But we will find the foundational principles to help lead the way. All other forms of direction must line up with what the Bible is saying. If it does not, these forms are simply from someone’s mind. But if it can be backed by God’s Word, then we can trust its accuracy.
Knowing His Will Through Our Spirits
When we received Jesus as Lord and Savior, God’s perfect nature came to live on the inside of us. It replaced the sinful spirit we were born with (2 Corinthians 5:17). That “new creation” can communicate with Him and know His will. As we grow spiritually through prayer and reading His Word, we’ll be able to hear our spirit’s voice—our conscience. We’ll sense what is right and what is wrong. If we’re about to make wrong decision, our conscience will speak up. We may not hear an audible voice, but we will sense that uneasiness like something isn’t God’s will. The same is true of a right decision. Our spirit will be at peace as we consider the correct option that aligns with God’s will.
Knowing His Will Through the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit—the third person of the Trinity—also gives direction and reveals God’s will. He still speaks to our spirits on the inside, but it is often stronger and with more authority. Rather than an inner sense as when our conscience is talking, the Holy Spirit will speak with words. His voice may even seem like someone else talking live and in person to us, though no one else may be able to hear (i.e. young Samuel in 1 Samuel 3).
Knowing His Will Through Prophecy
Prophecy is a word from God spoken through people, providing direction, warning, and foretelling of things to happen in the future (1 Corinthians 12:7-10). It may even tell of things that have already occurred. Whatever the case, God may use other people to speak direction into our lives through the inspiration of His Spirit. But it’s not to take the place of His Word or the Holy Spirit’s direct communication with our spirits. It can, however, bring clarity to moments of indecision or challenging times. If it is legitimate, it will match up, or “bear witness,” with what our spirits is saying.
Like everything we do in life, the decisions we’re looking to make should be surrendered to God for His approval. The key is being able to hear His voice on the subject—whether it’s through prophecy, an inner witness, or His unchanging Word.
To hear God’s voice clearly, we need to have the confidence that we can hear (John 10:27). This confidence should be based on our position as children of God (Romans 8:16-17). When we are faced with a challenging decision, we can have confidence—or faith—that our Shepherd-Father will lead us, regardless of how we feel or what we see around us (Psalm 23). Doubt in our ability and the fear of making the wrong decision will only hinder our ears from hearing and knowing our Father’s direction clearly. But when we know and trust His love for us, there will be no room for fear and doubt.
To hear His voice, we must be completely yielded to Him. If we’re not willing to hear a no from God, then we won’t be able to receive direction. We must be completely open and submissive to whatever He says, even if it might be disappointing. With that right attitude, our heart will be soft and ready to receive instruction. Anything less is hardness of heart, which will result in hardness of ears that can’t hear clearly (Hebrews 3:7-11). We need to be like Jesus, praying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
When we are so busy that we don’t have time to rest in God’s presence, we will forego the chance to hear His voice. Remember Martha in Luke 10? She was so busy that Jesus’ powerful words didn’t even get a chance to reach her ears. The solution is for us to slow down. It’s hard to do in our culture, but it is possible. Resting quietly in God’s presence on a regular basis creates an atmosphere where He can easily communicate with us rather than fighting for our attention. The result is clear direction from Him.
In addition to a busy schedule, there are busybodies that want to have their say. Sometimes they talk so loudly that they overwhelm God’s voice. It can be confusing because God’s voice blends in with the others with no distinction between them. Tragically, these voices may come in the form of our own emotions and mental reasoning. They may also manifest through others’ opinions and ideas. Regardless of whether it’s our voice or other people’s, they can be a distraction from the One voice we want to hear most. If any of these voices are shouting louder than God’s, it’s time to tune them out. It may require extra time in worship and prayer to get the emotions quiet. It may take gently saying to our friends, “Thank you for your insight, but I need to hear from God.” Once those voices are stilled, our spirits will be able to discern God’s voice from all the others.
It brings God joy when we desire to discover His will. It declares that we value His Word. And when we delight to do His will, it affirms our submission to His Lordship (Psalm 40:8). As we align our wills with His, He will reward us with success. Our role is to simply and humbly say, “Speak, for Your servant hears.”
“I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8).