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.
I doubt there has ever been a true Christian that has not struggled frequently with discerning God’s Will for their life, whether it’s a simple decision facing them, or the general course of their entire life. Knowing God’s Will is not only possible, I believe that it does not have to be the mysterious frustration that it is for most.
Bible study, prayer and meditation are the hard work of knowing God’s Will. And therein lies the problem: it’s hard work. That’s why it seems so elusive to many Christians. Let’s review what we have learned so far. When trying to determine God’s will:
First off, does God’s Word contain a plain and direct answer to your question or circumstance?
- You have to diligently and regularly search God’s Word and do the hard work of finding out God’s revealed, written Word (2Tim 2.15; Acts 17.11)
- If you find a direct and clear answer, then it simply boils down to a matter of obedience; simple to understand, frequently not simple to actually do. (1 John 5.2; James 1.22)
A few examples of this might be:
- 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)
- 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)
If there is no direct answer in the Bible, how do you know God’s Will for the “gray areas” (those things the Scriptures don’t address plainly or directly)
- This is the idea of “working out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2.12)
- Working hard to know God’s Word, praying for understanding, asking the Spirit for guidance
Ask yourself “is this really necessary?”
- Meditate on Hebrews 12.1; is there “extra weight” involved that could be thrown off?
- Based on your decision, will it matter in 2 weeks or two months or in eternity? Will you still be suffering consequences in 2 years or 20 years?
As you can already guess, this is not an “easy” process. We have to work hard and diligently to discern God’s Will. What’s more… the answer is not always a simple “yes” or “no”, “black” or “white” answer. Sometimes both answers can be correct, or both incorrect. We might even be asking the wrong question.
God may have uses for either answer. or you may get NO answer. Or a delayed answer., Or an answer you don’t understand.
But don’t let that frustrate you. It’s all a part of learning the mind of Christ and “drawing near” to God. Let’s look at today’s question… when trying to discover God’s Will about a question or circumstance, ask yourself:
How would Christ respond?
It is regretful that this idea has been hijacked by such a commercial fad. The “what would Jesus do” craze is dying out now but for a time was all the rage. Like most fads it probably started from a sincere and well-meaning effort, but in the end, like most popular trends, there was very little authenticity on a large-scale. For a time everyone you saw from the common guy on the street, to the world-famous sports star was wearing something that had W. W. J. D. plastered on it.
Regardless of the world’s abuse of the phrase, it is still very applicable when trying to discern God’s Will. What would Jesus do? How can I respond or decide in a way that is Christ-like?
Any time, and in any way, that we act like Christ, speak like Christ or make decisions that Jesus would make, then of course it is the right thing to do. But the trick here is knowing Christ well enough to be able to discern which decision He would make and of course that brings us back to the foundation of knowing God’s Will: Bible study, prayer and meditation.
When we respond as Christ would respond, then we are walking the “worthy walk” (Col 1.10; 1Thess 2.12). Consider this:
1 John 2:5-6 – But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
We know we truly belong to Christ when we keep his Word and anyone who is in Christ should walk as Christ walked. In other words we should choose as Jesus would choose, speak the words that Jesus would speak, and act the way Jesus would act. In doing so, we will of course know, and be, in the Will of God.
But none of that is possible if we don’t know Jesus intimately. And how do you accomplish that? Like a broken record I keep coming back to the same answer: Bible study, prayer, time with God and meditation.
I wish that I had some exciting new 10 step method, or seven secrets to success or three-day seminar that would magically replace the hard work of Bible study and prayer with an easy, fun and entertaining process but it just doesn’t work that way (and in all seriousness I’m glad it does not).
Do you really want to know God’s Will? First, search the Bible for a clear and direct answer. If there is none, then ask yourself “is this really necessary?” and ” how can I respond like Christ?”. Hard work … but worth the effort.
Contemplation: Did you get caught up in the W. W. J. D. fad? When you wore the T-shirts or bracelet did you really mean it? And when you determined what Jesus would do, did you actually do it? Do you know Christ well enough to know what He would do? Are you committed to doing what He would do when you determine what that is?
Application: Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing inherently bad about the W. W. J. D. concept. Like all things that we sinners get our hands on, we have soiled a decent enough idea with hypocrisy and trendy shallowness. But getting pass that, it is both profitable and necessary to genuinely ask ourselves “how would Jesus respond?” when trying to determine the will of God. But you have to work hard to know that answer, and even harder to always obey it.
Lord, help us to understand that asking “what would Jesus do” is not a fad, nor is it easy. We ask you to give us the wisdom and the discipline to truly be able to determine “what would Jesus do”. In His name we ask, Amen.