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Knowing God's Will

The Question:

How do we really know what God's will is? After reading the Bible and spending countless hours praying, How do we really know that something is coming from God or just our minds. I know if it is good. that doesn't help me any. and when people say let the Holy Spirit guide you how do I know that the spirit is guiding me????

The Answer:

This is a good question, and an important one for us all. The fact that you are asking it is a step in the RIGHT direction - recognizing that God has a claim on your life and trying to understand what that means. You are also taking steps in the right direction by praying and reading the Word.

It seems to me that the next step should be to look up God's will, or the will of   God in a Bible search, and see what the Word says about God's will. Here are a few passages I've found:

John 6:38-40 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

This is Jesus speaking . and He reveals what part of God's will is for us . that people should be brought into a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. So part of God's will for any believer's life is to witness, in word and deed of Jesus.

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.

This passage tells us that we CANNOT find out what God's will is by conforming to the pattern of this world, but we are transformed as we renew our minds by the Word. And the Word is our measure to test God's will in our lives. How does this work? If you believe that God is telling you something, then test whether it lines up with the Word.

Believe it or not, I have had several people, including a pastor, confidently tell me that it was God's will for them to commit adultery for some reason or another. Well this definitely is NOT God's will as both Old Testament and New Testament condemn this behavior.

In a positive sense, say you feel impressed to give a large sum of money into God's work. This is certainly a good thing IF it passes several tests:

1) The test of submission - if you are married, you need to be in agreement with your spouse about what to give and who to give it to.
2) The test of need - does this ministry really NEED the money and will it be used for God's work?
3) The test of debt -. the Bible says to owe no man anything but love. You need to take care of your debts in a responsible manner. This does NOT mean that you can't ever give until all your debts are paid off . if so, who would give? But you certainly should make an effort at paying your debt, especially before giving a large sum away. (Of course a better path would be to try to NOT get in debt, especially for nonessentials, in the first place).
4) The test of motive - WHY am I giving this $$$? Is it because I expect recognition or want to brag about my giving? Or am I truly giving in a spirit of love without expectation of praise or even thanks?

Ephesians chapter 5 is all about God's will . I won't quote it all here because it is so long . but here are a few verses and thoughts:

Ephesians 5 1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Like children imitate their parents, we should imitate God by living a life of love and sacrifice. However Paul warns us in Ephesians 5: 15-17 Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.

Then he goes on to say what we should NOT do in the next verses:
3-5 Do not get involved in sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, or idolatry
6-7 Watch out for deceptive, empty words, disobedience and do not be partners with evil doers
11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
18 Do not get drunk on wine

On a positive note, we are to:
4 Be thankful
9 Bring forth the fruit of the light in all goodness, righteousness and truth
18-19 Be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
21, 25, 28 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. .Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her .In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

Paul also repeats the warning against sexual immorality in I Thessalonians 4:3-7: 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 honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.

Hebrews 13 :1-9 is another listing of items that help us know God's will:
Keep on loving each other as brothers.
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them.

Hebrews 13:15-17 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name.
And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

And the writer of Hebrews concludes with this prayer and the thought that God equips you to do His will:

Hebrews 13:20-21 May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing HIS WILL, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

I Peter 2 also has some suggestions for living according to God's will, as is stated in verse 15: For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. There may be other passages concerning this that you will
discover as you carefully study the Word.

So a large part of knowing God's will and doing it is simply obeying God's will as stated in the Bible. But what about matters that aren't directly addressed in the Word? Such as, who will I marry, where should I live, what is my calling and ministry? And things such as this.

Well God has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth, and to lead us on the correct path. Learning to hear HIS voice and distinguish it from the others is a matter of getting into the Word and praying in the Spirit.

As for "putting out fleeces" as Gideon did in the Old Testament, or asking for some physical sign: this is a dangerous practice as we can easily be deceived. This is why God has given us the Spirit on the INSIDE to detect deception on the OUTSIDE. "Laying out a fleece" or asking for a physical sign of some kind is asking for trouble.

Often when we are doing God's will, we meet great resistance from the enemy. because the devil is trying to discourage us. So resistance and obstacles are often proof that you ARE doing God's will, provided it lines up with God's Word. So if you expect an "easy path" to be a sign that it IS God's will,  you can open yourself to deception.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. 

Isaiah 30:21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."

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