February 28, 2024

Knowing the Will of God for Your Life

R.C. Sproul
Knowing the Will of God for Your Life

How can you know the will of God for your life? Today, R.C. Sproul reveals that learning God’s will may actually be simpler than we realize.


How do I know the will of God for my life? When people ask me that question, the first thing I tell them is if you want to know what the will of God is for your life, read the Bible. Why? How am I going to find out in the Bible why not God wants me to live in Oklahoma or in Cincinnati? How am I going to know whether He wants me to marry Sally or Mary? Surely God has some woman picked out from all eternity that I’m meant to marry in terms of His sovereign will, and I don’t want to mess that up. Well, I say to people, “No way you’re going to mess that up if that’s God’s sovereign will. And if it’s His hidden will, it’s none of your business. Why do you think it’s hidden?”

Let me tell you what I think is at the heart of God’s will, both in terms of disposition and in terms of prescription. It is God’s prescriptive will and it is God’s disposition towards you that you master His prescriptive will, and that the focal point of our concern about the will of God should be to master His commandments. Because there I know with certainty what the will of God is. I talked to a woman in California not too long ago, little old lady like Helen Hayes. Did I tell you about her?

She came to me in great distress weeping—lovely, sweet woman, gentle little woman. She started crying. She says, “Oh, Reverend Sproul,” she says, “Please pray for me. I’ve got to find out what the will of God is for my life.” I said, “What’s the matter?” She says, “I’ve been married to my husband for forty years. And for forty years I’ve been a Christian, and he’s been an unbeliever. Now, he was a good provider. He was faithful. He’s been kind and nice. But you see, in all that time, he’s never been able to really participate with me in those things that are so precious and so sweet to those of us who are Christians. And after forty years, I just can’t take it anymore.” She said, “So two weeks ago, I left him. And now for the last two weeks, every night, he calls me on the phone and he cries and he says, ‘Oh, Mabel, please come home. I need you. You have to go home.’ ” She says that, “I just don’t know what to do about it. I’ve been praying day in and day out that God would show me His will.” She says, “How can I know the will of God?” I said, “Well, the first thing you can do is to stop praying.” She looked at me, she says, “Am I going to get the answer now?” I said, “Yes, you’re going to get the answer.”

I said, “Here’s what God’s will is for your life. God’s will for you is to go back to your husband immediately.” How do you think she felt now? Her reaction changed instantly from a weeping, humble woman seeking the help of a clergyman to unbridled fury. She screamed at me. She said, “You wouldn’t say that if you had to live with somebody like that. How could you stand there and tell me that’s the will of God? I know you wouldn’t do it!” I said, “Madam, let me remind you that you did not ask me what I would do if I were in your situation. It’s very conceivable that had I had to endure the hardship of living with an unbeliever, that I would have disobeyed the will of God long before you have. But you did not ask me about my private state of sanctification. You asked me what the will of God is, and God says in Holy Writ that if the unbelieving partner wants the believing partner to stay, and there’s no other biblical grounds for divorce, it is your moral duty to stay. That’s the prescriptive will of God.”

But what she was trying to find out was that if maybe that, perchance, God might have a special will for her there was not set down as the normative basis of Christian behavior for all of the people in the body of Christ. She wanted God not to reveal His will, but to give her permission to violate His will.

After we got through the anger, this woman was a Christian woman, and she got over her hostility. She saw that that’s indeed what the Word of God required, and then she went back to her husband, relieved because she knew that there was no happiness in disobedience. But you see, she was looking outside the precepts of God for some mystical, supernatural direct will that would circumvent the revealed will of God. Now, I’m not saying, ladies and gentlemen, that God never nudges us or gives us special providence, or to use the Christian jargon, open and shut doors for us.

There are a lot of things that come up in our lives that the will of God that is revealed in Scripture does not clearly define. But in those areas, we are free. God’s will, in terms of His law, does not say that I have to marry Vesta Morris. God tells me I have to marry a Christian. He gives us precepts and legislation that controls what is righteous and what is allowable in His sight. But my heavenly Father gives me latitude that I could theoretically find fifty million women that would be eligible in terms of the precepts of God’s Word as candidates for marriage.

Now, if it’s God’s sovereign will and eternal decretive will—that sovereign will by which He brings to pass through His insurmountable providence that which He will bring to pass—that I marry Vesta Sproul, the only way I’m going to know that for sure is after the fact. And I’m not going to be paralyzed in my life, worrying about it now. That’s God’s business, not mine.

The real anguish for the Christian, though, is when we do have to choose between rival goods. And the best thing that we should do, I think, is to make a sober analysis of the situation in terms of applying as many biblical principles as we can to that situation and use the precepts on the prescriptive will of God to determine our decision and let the secret counsel up to eternity.

Remember Calvin said, “Where God closes His holy mouth, I will desist from inquiry.” Who are we to try to penetrate the secret chambers of the mind of God? Sometimes this hysterical pursuit for immediate confirmation of what God wants me to do minute by minute is simply a spiritual cop-out from poring over His law day and night, which is the mark of the godly man. In other words, what I’m saying again and again is if you want to know the will of God, read the Bible and apply it to your situation. It’s as simple as that.