by: Phillip D. Murray, PhD, DMin
1 John 2:17 – And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
Perhaps one of the most often asked questions I ger from the average Christian, is… “How do I know what God’s will is?”. This is not an easy thing to answer.. and I must confess that I have in the past struggled with it as well. I have to answer this in two parts… with the first being “simple”, and the second being an exercise in “working out your salvation”.
Philippians 2:12 – Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
The rendered Greek for “work out” means to continually make an effort to bring something to pass or completion”. From other Scripture, we know this can’t be speaking of earning your salvation by “works”. It refers to a Christian diligently seeking (“working out”) God’s will and then obeying it in order to become more Christ-like (sanctification).
Let me be perfectly honest with you… knowing God’s will in your life, work, etc. .. is very HARD work, and that presents a problem to a lot of people. You see, in our day and age of fast, easy and convenient everything… there are very few people who really want to do the hard work of knowing the mind of Christ. There are two parts of God’s will, and they are…..
(1). God’s plain, revealed Will in Scripture
Examples: Should I cheat on my taxes? Should I get divorced because I love someone else? We’re engaged, can we sleep together? Is it okay to get drunk occasionally?
(2). God’s Will for the “gray” areas NOT plainly and directly addressed in the Bible
Examples: Is it a sin to drink a glass of wine? Should kids go to public school or be home schooled? Can you ever see a Rated-R movie, or any movies at all? What clothing is appropriate? Should you celebrate Halloween or Christmas? Can a Christian be in the military and kill someone in a war?
Today, we are going to just look at the “simple” part. In the days ahead, we will look at how to determine God’s will for the “gray” areas. The “simple” part is where our questions are directly and plainly answered in Scripture. It’s only “simple” however in the sense that we can know God’s will; obedience however is frequently NOT so simple.
I’m about to impart to you some incredible, ground-shaking wisdom. When it comes to knowing God’s Will about those things that are plainly and directly addressed in Scripture…Find out what the Bible says, and do it.
Okay, that wasn’t exactly original or earth shattering, but it is beautiful in its simplicity and incredible in its effectiveness.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
While in concept “finding and doing” is simple, it is NOT simple to actually do it. You have to diligently search the Scriptures (2Tim 2.15; Acts 17.11) and when you find a plain answer, you must obey it, or you are in danger of deceiving yourself about your walk with God.
Obedience has many benefits:
- You can know you are in God’s will
- You can be assured God is pleased with you
- You don’t have to worry you’re doing the wrong thing
- It brings assurance of salvation (1 John 5.2)
- You can trust that you aren’t deceived about your faith (James 1.22)
For questions to which there is a plain answer in Scripture, we must not fall prey to “relativism” where we decide that in “some” situations, exceptions can be made to plain Scripture. Fallen and sinful humans are masters at making excuses and justifying sin. Once we open the door of “relative truth” then everything is up for grabs because we can always formulate a “reason” why we are the “exception” to God’s Word.
Let me give a few examples where the Bible gives a black and white answer to certain questions about God’s will:
- Can I lie if it is for a “good” reason? No (Colossians 3:9)
- Can we sleep together if we’re engaged and in love? No (Col 3.5; Heb 13.4)
- Is it okay to gossip for any reason? No (Matt 12.36; Prov 17.9)
- Am I supposed to read my Bible EVERY day? Yes (2Tim 2.15; Acts 17.11)
- Should we go to church? Yes (Heb 10.25)
- Should I care for widows and orphans? Yes (James 1.27)
- My employer treats me bad, do I still have to work hard? Yes (1Thess 4.11-12; Col 3.17; 1Pet 2.18-19)
- Is it okay to treat some people better than others based on their social status or income? No (James 2.2-4)
These are just a few examples of God’s will where the answer is “black and white”. But you can’t know these plain answers if you don’t diligently search the Bible for them. God has promised to reward the sincere seeker of Scriptural wisdom (James 1.5).
How can we know God’s will? First, find out if God’s Word has a plain and direct answer to your question or circumstance. If it does, then obey God regardless if you like it, agree with it or feel about it.
If there is no plain or direct answer in Scripture…. well, that’s where we will pick up next time.
Contemplation: Do you know God’s Word well enough to even know when God has given a direct answer about something? When you find a plain and clear answer in Scripture, are you prepared to obey without question?
Application: God has made the main things the plain things and vice versa. Many of our questions about “God’s Will” are plainly answered. The problem is, we either don’t know the Bible well enough, or we don’t like the answer. When you want to know God’s Will, the first step is to find out whether there is a plain, direct answer in Scripture. Assuming there is, the second step is to obey.
Lord, Thank you for making Scripture plain and clear for those things that You know we need direct answers for. We pray for wisdom, discernment and diligence as we seek to find the answers for those things that are not so simple and we ask for Your grace and power to obey. In Jesus name, Amen.