Knowing God’s Will

There are many plans in a man’s heart …” (Prov. 19:21).

- Proverbs 16:4; 19:21; 20:24

Anytime you bring up the subject of work, Christians inevitably ask themselves, “How do I know what God’s will is for my life?” We become frustrated and even depressed because we are confused about what God’s will is and how we can understand it. Proverbs 20:24 exposes the conflict: “A man’s steps are of the Lord; how then can a man understand his own way?” The problem is God has not revealed His overall plan to us. He has not given us a word of knowledge about the jobs and projects we are supposed to do. He has given us general principles (and some specific ones) by which we are to govern our lives—this is called God’s preceptive or revealed will. For example, if we are offered a position that will cause us to compromise our profession of Christ, we know we cannot take that position—it would be contrary to God’s revealed will.

The problem is that many of our decisions are not that clear-cut. The answer, however, cannot be found in trying to pry into God’s unrevealed, or decretive will. Remember, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us … that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29). We must weigh the circumstances according to what God has revealed to us. This includes a thorough understanding of the principles He has established in His Word, and a careful analysis of our gifts and experiences, the circumstances in which He has placed us, the responsibilities we have to people around us, as well as our own personal desires (as long as they are not contrary to biblical principles).

Seeking to do God’s will by what He has revealed will narrow our scope a great deal. But there is more that must be done. We must trust in God’s plans for our lives. If you are discontent and frustrated in a situation, instead of being perplexed and anxious about it, rely on the Lord to direct your plans. If you are obedient to His revealed will, do not fret about whether you are “in God’s will” or not. The overall plan for your life is not for you to know. Trust God, obey His commands, be diligent in your current work, and trust that He will direct your steps. That trust is perhaps best strengthened by considering the past. Has He not always directed your steps? He has shown Himself trustworthy.

Coram Deo

If you have significant decisions to make, but do not know God’s will, make a checklist—what biblical principles relate to your choices, what are your gifts, experiences, circumstances, needs, personal desires, and responsibilities to others. Review your list. Narrow your decision based on what God has revealed. Commit it to prayer.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 40; 143
Matthew 12:46–50
James 4:13–17

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