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UNDERSTANDING: Discerning the Will of God

Finding God’s plan for our lives…..





For many Christians today discerning the will of God seems an impossibility. In fact, many people are not aware that God has a plan for their lives. They never think of asking Him to direct them. We may read of the journeying of the Israelites in Old Testament times and wish for such clear guidance today. The LORD went before His people as they journeyed to Canaan. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night provided them with constant direction, as Numbers 9 so clearly indicates. We may think it was easy for them, while it is difficult for us to know what to do. We all face decisions in life and want to avoid making mistakes. Does the New Testament offer us any practical help?


Many years ago I listened to Theodore Epp, the founder of Back to the Bible Broadcast,   preaching a message on Trans World Radio. I was a young person at the time with many questions, wondering what I should do. In that programme Mr. Epp offered a helpful book entitled “The Perfect Will of God” written by his colleague, G. Christian Weiss. I wrote to the radio station requesting a copy of the book. Not long afterwards it arrived in the post, and I began to read it carefully. Looking back, I have to say that this book is one of the most helpful I have ever read. Its principles have remained with me through the intervening years. Allow me to share some of its practical teaching with you.


The Bible makes it clear that God has a definite plan for every believer. Actually, He is far more desirous of making it known than we are of receiving and obeying it. While God earnestly desires to reveal that plan, it is possible for us to miss it. If we are saved through the work of our Lord Jesus Christ we must remember that we belong to Him, and our concern in life should be to please Him in all things. We therefore ought not to be indifferent and unconcerned about the will of God.


The opening verses of Romans 12 provide us with three steps which must be taken if we desire the will of God for our lives. Paul wrote: “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. 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” (Rom.12:1,2). The secret of discerning God’s will for our lives can be found in these verses. Let us consider the three necessary steps.




The first step to be taken is to surrender ourselves to the Lord. In view of God’s wonderful mercy in saving us, we ought to yield those redeemed lives to the Lord. He does not ask for a dead sacrifice but for one that is living. We must give up ourselves, our desires, our plans, and our ambitions, and yield lives that are holy to the Lord. G. Christian Weiss said: “There is no way to side-step or by-pass the altar of sacrifice if you would walk in God’s court and minister in His sanctuary in accordance to His will.”(1) We must remain yielded to His will. It is not a matter of asking the Lord to reveal His will so that I may decide whether I like what He tells me to do or not. The choice must be left with Him.


The second step is one of separation. The Scripture quoted above states plainly, “Be not conformed to this world” (Rom.12:2). Worldly Christians cannot expect to discover the will of God for their lives. We must not love the world or be conformed to it. The world’s principles and pleasures must be avoided like the plague, and neither must we make worldly possessions our goal. Unless we separate ourselves from the ways of the world we will not be in a position to discover the will of God for our lives.


The final stage is spiritual-mindedness. This can be seen in the words “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom.12:2). Our outlook must not be carnal but spiritual. We need to be filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit. We must allow Him to occupy us with Christ. The Lord Jesus must fill our vision, and we must “abide” in Him as He taught His disciples in John 15.


A helpful illustration may enable us to understand these three steps. Suppose you were visiting a friend’s house and wanted to find the washroom. The friend explains to you that the washroom is upstairs, and in order to get to it you need to climb the stairs. What would your friend say if you refused to use the staircase and started looking around the house to find some other way upstairs? He would surely think you were rather strange! If you explained that climbing the stairs required effort he would probably tell you that it was the easiest way to reach the washroom! In the same way, if we would rise to that higher plane of knowing the will of God we must take these three simple steps. We must surrender our lives completely to the Lord and to His will; we must separate ourselves for the corruption of this world; finally we must have spiritually-renewed minds. These three steps are essential in order to discern the will of God for our lives.




When those three steps have been taken, how can we expect God to guide us? There are at least three sources of guidance which help to enlighten our pathway. The first of these is the Word of God. The Psalmist wrote, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps.119:105). We must read His Word carefully and prayerfully, examining our plans in the light of its truth. It is certainly true that “There can never be any guidance contrary to the Word; there will seldom be guidance apart from the Word.” (2)


The second source of guidance is the Holy Spirit. We are informed in Romans 8:14 that He leads the children of God. The Holy Spirit indwells all true believers. He delights to direct our lives and give assurance to our hearts. But there is a third source of guidance which we must consider. God can use circumstances to direct the lives of His children. Sometimes He may open a door of opportunity in response to an earnest prayer, while at other times a door may remain firmly closed. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD” (Ps.37:23). Although circumstances in themselves are not an infallible guide, God can direct the circumstances and events of our lives.


The story is told of the time when the preacher F. B. Meyer was on a ship which was entering a harbour one very dark night. The harbour entrance was very narrow. How could the captain know he was entering the harbour safely? The captain pointed to three green lights which, when they were correctly aligned, guided the ship safely in to the port. In just the same way when the teaching of the Word of God, the inward witness of the Holy Spirit, and outward circumstances are in harmony, we can be convinced that we are acting in accordance with the will of God.


The will of God is described as good, acceptable, and perfect in Romans 12:2. We will not be disappointed if we seek it and submit to it. This is a very important subject which has been the theme of many books. Space here does not allow the subject to be explored as completely as it might have been. The steps outlined, however, can help anyone who genuinely wants to discover the will of God.


END NOTES:- (1) G.C. Weiss, The Perfect Will of God (The Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, 1950), p.49. (2) Ibid, p.80.