Knowing God’s Will

For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3).  

- 1 Thessalonians 4:1–12

Learning how to find God’s will for things like our vocations, spouses, and so on has been important, but in the final analysis the Lord is concerned first and foremost with our holiness. Certainly, our pursuit of the right spouse or vocation cannot finally be separated from our growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, we will err if we think we are seeking our Father’s will for our lives and do not stop to ask whether the choice we think we should make will help us to become more holy.

God’s will is indeed complex, but in the final analysis it is not all that difficult to determine His primary intent for our lives. In today’s passage, Paul tells us outright that God’s will for our lives is our sanctification — our growth in holiness (1 Thess. 4:3). Dr. R.C. Sproul comments that if we focus on obeying God’s holy law then we need not worry about His will for the future.

This reminder of the Lord’s foremost concern that we be holy is necessary because it directly opposes the non-believer’s worldview. Our culture says happiness and “fulfilling one’s own potential” are the rights of all men, but Scripture affirms that God cares little for such things if they do not make us holy. No matter the cost, we are to be holy as He is holy (Lev. 11:44; Matt. 5:48). This is a tall order, and we will stumble from time to time. Yet we have the gift of repentance and the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; 1 John 1:5–10) to pick us up when we fall and conform us to the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).

Each of us faces unique challenges in his sanctification. Some might feel unfulfilled in a marriage but should remain married even if they think they would be “happier” elsewhere (Matt. 19:1–12). Others may have to befriend a difficult person because Jesus calls us to go the extra mile (5:41). Maybe a lifelong goal or dream will have to be forfeited to care for an ailing parent, engage in ministry, or otherwise remain faithful to Christ (Ex. 20:12; Luke 9:62). No price is too high to pay in order that we may, by the Lord’s grace, do God’s will and bring our personal holiness ever closer to completion in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7:1).

Coram Deo

What is God’s will for my life? The simple answer is that His will for my life is that I be holy. This is easy to affirm with our lips, but it is very difficult to have it take root in our minds and hearts. Even Christians can falsely believe the Lord wants us to be happy more than He wants us to conform to His will. Ultimately, our holiness will be joined with our happiness in eternity, but those who seek happiness at the expense of holiness will have no reward (Luke 12:13–21).

Passages for Further Study

Ex. 19:1–6
Deut. 14:2
Eph. 4:17–24
1 Thess. 3:11–13

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343