God’s sovereign will for our lives can be a mysterious subject.
Especially when it comes to the world shattering decisions of whom to marry, where to go to school, the call to ministry, or taking on a mortgage. On a personal level, there was no written decree or supernatural vision where God told me to marry my beautiful wife Jessica or go to school at Florida State University (even though my 12 month has learned to tomahawk chop before he can walk).
You Can’t Know God’s Will
Admittedly, the specifics seem to be a bit ambiguous concerning God’s will. I believe in many cases He meant for it to be that way (Deut. 29:29). As the book of Revelation reveals, God knows the beginning from the end, and He is under no obligation to embellish the details to us (even though He graciously has in many cases!).
We may never know this side of eternity all the purposes of disease, wars, or stillborn babies. This is called the decretive, or hidden, will of God.
But there is no life of faith when we are aware of every nook and cranny that lies before us. Faith is what pleases God (Hebrews 11:6) not our fallen educated guesses. What God decrees will ultimately come to pass. And much of what He decrees is a secret to us. We don’t know where or with whom we will be in 10 years. We don’t even know what joys or tragedies may befall us in the next 10 minutes. This may be so that we operate in trust for Him and not our own understanding (Prov. 3:5-6).
As Oswald Chambers said, “Faith doesn’t know where it is being led, but it loves and trusts the One leading.”
But there is an aspect to God’s will that is no secret. For example, look at Ephesians 5:17. It states:
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lords will is.
I do not think that this verse and others like it are talking about God’s hidden sovereign will, because there is too much we cannot know regarding it. Ephesians 5:17, in my opinion, is talking about what theologians call God’s “preceptive” will (His will revealed through Scripture). God’s sovereign will is what He mysteriously and providentially brings to pass, and within that God’s preceptive will is what He specifically reveals to us as biblical principle for living our daily lives in Him.
For example, revival would be a sovereign act of God on a community. Yet we are commanded to pray for it (Matthew 9:38, 2 Chronicles 7:14). Don’t ever stop praying. Because in a mysterious way God is using our prayers to work His sovereign plan. He sees, hears, and knows our prayers and He has factored them into His movement and mission for the world. That doesn’t mean we pray “rightly” and He will answer in the positive every time, but we must realize prayer isn’t about getting something, but really about getting to know Him. Our prayer may be the little lever that turns the great wheel of God’s plan for a nation. That is an indescribable privilege He has granted us!
So we may not know God’s will in the grand eternal or even long-term sense, but we can know God’s will for us right now in this moment. Let us break down Ephesians 5:17 in context to the rest of the chapter concerning God’s guidance of us.
You Can Know God’s Will
Ephesians 5:1 We are to imitate God since we are His children. This entails walking in love (v.2), avoiding sexual immorality (v. 4), avoiding crude talk (v. 5), not being deceived by or partnering with evil (v.6-7), seeking discernment as to what pleases God (v. 10), shedding the gospel light of God’s truth in darkness (v.13), being good stewards of our time (v. 16).
After that, Paul culminates with “Therefore(meaning given what I just told you in verses 1-16), don’t be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” In essence Paul is saying this: “If you understand what I’ve just told you up until now, then you will not be foolish and you will know God’s will for you.” Now we could spend days unpacking what each of those verses mean, but we can see that we are given general guidelines in Scripture in order to know God’s will. If you saturate your head and heart with God’s Word/Will then you will know God’s plan for your life and will be able to discern (v. 10) what is pleasing to Him in any given moment.
Romans 12:2 is similar, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what the will of God is, the good acceptable perfect will of God.”
How do we know God’s perfect will for us? According to that verse we can know His will by repenting of worldliness and renewing our mind. How do we renew our mind? By praying over, meditating on, and studying Scripture. “Testing” in that verse means putting into actual practice what God has revealed to us in His word. What God has revealed to you, you learn to flesh out.
The Proverbs are called “Wisdom” Literature. The word “wisdom” means this: The skill of Godly living. Wisdom is a skill to be practiced, nurtured and learned over a lifetime. Even wisdom is something we are commanded to ask for in prayer(James 1:5). God will not withhold good gifts from His own children, especially good spiritual gifts! (Luke 11)
So before we make any big decisions involving us or others we need to seek God’s will through His word. God’s word is more than sufficient as the light unto our path and lamp unto our feet (Ps 119). For example, we can take principles from 1 Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23-24 and ask ourselves these five big questions while seeking God’s perfect will for the major world shattering decisions in life:
The Big Five For God’s Will
1. Is what I’m choosing Scriptural?
2. Will this show I am a slave to Christ and not a slave to this world?
3. Is it truly beneficial to me in the eternal sense?
4. Will it edify my Spirit?
5. Am I seeking the good of others?
If you can say “Yes” to all these and have saturated the decision in prayer I personally do not believe you will somehow miss “God’s will” for your life when making tough choices. That doesn’t mean you will get what you thought you would, but rather you will get what God knows you need in order to fulfill your destiny (Romans 8:29, to be just like Christ!)
So in a sense you cannot know God’s will for you. And in a sense, you can. Faith like a child is what links us up to the Father’s loving ultimate will for us. He has given us more than enough through His indwelling Holy Spirit and illuminated Word to live a life pleasing to Him…and in His will (2Timothy 3:16).