God’s will (everything He wishes to happen in heaven and on earth) encompasses the commands and principles of Scripture that reflect His character and overall desire while guidance is specific direction within the perimeters of His will. Within Christianity the term, ‘seeking God’s will’ is often used to discern personal direction, however it is more accurate to say ‘seeking God’s guidance’ in how to interpret or outwork the clearly defined standards of His ‘will’ as stated in the Bible. As God’s rule book for life it will be our judge, with the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount and these verses (among others) encapsulating some of the key guidelines by which we are to live (Ex 20:3-17; Mic 6:8; Mt 5:1-7:27; Mk 12:30,31; Lk 6:20-49; Jn 12:47,48). “Your Word is hid in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Ps 119:11).
In areas of morality (decency and righteousness), we must strictly obey and hold to God’s standards, as there is no leeway for personal preference; however in amoral issues (those free of moral consideration) God gives us freewill within certain boundaries. We are to surrender ourselves as living, holy sacrifices to God and not be conformed to this world, understanding anything that contributes to our growth in holiness is an aspect of His will for us, while what hinders growth in holiness is not (Rom 12:1,2). Nothing is the will of God that is contrary to the Word of God, while disobedience to His revealed will is rebellion and so is being captive to the devil’s will (2 Tim 2:26).
God desires for everyone to be saved and have the character qualities of Jesus, carrying out His directives under the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit yet, exercising their freewill, most refuse to turn to Him for salvation (Jn 3:16, 5:40; Rom 8:29; 1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9). We are to pray, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” expecting heavenly values to be reflected in our world (Mt 6:10, 18:18; 2 Cor 10:4,5). In our own lives this is outworked by obeying His commands and ‘crucifying’ the sinful, fleshly nature within, not yielding to its ungodly demands (1 Sam 15:22; Jn 14:15,21,23; Rom 8:13; Col 3:5; 1 Jn 2:3, 5:3; 2 Jn 1:6). As we co-operate by repenting of sinful ways in our lives, acting and reacting in a Godly manner, developing the fruit of the Spirit and spending time with Him, we are in the process of being transformed into His likeness (2 Cor 3:18; Phil 1:6).
Recognizing and responding to God’s intentions
God’s will is first of all to redeem a people for Himself. We are “adopted as sons of Him who works out all things in accordance with His
will” (Eph 1:5,11). But God has a grander plan than our present comfort. His will is we be made holy, and by our good lives silence those
who ridicule the gospel (1 Thes 4:3;
1 Pet 1:16, 2:15). It is not just sufficient to know what God’s will is, there must be determination and obedience in carrying it out – “Doing it from your heart” so you can be blessed (Num 9:23; Eph 6:6; Jas 1:22-25). Carrying out His directives will result in being rewarded, often on earth but certainly in heaven, while if we refuse to respond we will forfeit what could be credited to our account (Mt 25:14-30; Jn 9:31; Phil 4:17). God can only bless if we do what He says as, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 7:21, 12:50; 1 Jn 2:17).
The highest calling is to know and do God’s will
of it (Ex 9:16; Est 4:13,14, 6:1; Act 4:28; Rev 17:17). We are to be “joyful always, pray continually and give thanks in all situations
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes 5:16-18). Like Jesus we should look beyond the present trials to what will be
achieved as we remain faithful to Him (Isa 53:10-12; Heb 12:2; 1 Pet 1:3-9). To miss God's will is to miss the purpose for which we
When His will is known
In many instances, God's will is clearly revealed to us. This requires our obedient response, either in our direct action or relating to a prayer matter asking God to intervene. The more we know Scripture, the more we can be sure of God's will. The promises of God are always the will of God, for that’s the inherent nature of a promise. The only variable is whether we are in the right condition and position to receive the promise. The Bible does not have the phrase, “if it be the will of God” connected in any way to any of the statements on faith or prayer, but records proclamations such as “be it unto you according to your faith, or, “your faith has made you whole” (xx).
The only ‘if’ is in our believing – Jesus said, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (Jn 11:40). The only issue is faith. “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mk 9:23, 11:24). Basically, God has said, “If you can believe, I will do it.” Yes, the Bible teaches us to pray specifically and without doubting when we know God's will. God won't answer prayer contrary to His will.
Ending our prayers with ‘If it be your will’
Many times we don’t know how His purposes will be outworked and although “We don’t know what we ought to pray for” the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will and we should leave the results in His hands (Rom 8:26,27). God is sovereign and will always do what is best, yet He has invited us to present our desires to Him, praying “in the Spirit…with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Isa 46:10; Act 4:28; Eph 6:18; Phil 4:6). We are told to ask, seek and knock, in faith believing we will receive the good gifts He promises, yet our relationship with Him should be robust enough to withstand His loving ‘No’ if there is a conflict of viewpoint between His and ours (2 Sam 12:15-23; Mt 7:7-11, 21:22; Lk 18:1-8; 2 Cor 12:8-9; Jas 1:6). We can pray, ‘Lord this is what I desire, yet what I truly want is your will in this situation’ or ‘I am uncertain of your will, Lord, but I trust you will do what is best. If there is a discrepancy between my way and yours God, I choose yours for it is always ultimately much better than mine’. In good conscience we can ask for what is on our heart, if it is in agreement with Bible principles, as He hears our prayers when they are in agreement to His will (1 Jn 5:14). Hence, we should be conversant with the Bible’s stance on various issues so we can boldly pray in alignment with His heart, without the disclaimer ‘If it is your will’.
Praying in tongues bypasses our human reasoning, which can often be contrary to God's ways (Isa 55:8). Through this gift of the Holy Spirit we can express the cry or burden in our heart without our minds formulating a view which may be not in agreement with God's and because it is not in alignment won't be answered – our prayers are the method He uses to bring about much of what He has decreed. "We don't know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us" (Rom 8:26,27).
1/. Getting our priorities right. When Jesus prayed, “If you are willing, take this cup [of suffering] from Me; yet not my will, but yours be done” He was honestly expressing His dread of the coming agony of taking our sin. He reconfirmed His commitment by saying, in effect, ‘if there is no other way to bring this about I’ll do it’ (Mk 14:36). Jesus made doing God’s business His delight – “I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me” and it should be ours too, as we are not our own, having been redeemed by Jesus who gave His life for ours (Jn 4:34, 5:30, 6:38-40; Rom 14:7,8; 1 Cor 6:19,20; 1 Pet 4:1,2). Praying this way for His will to prevail over ours indicates trust in God’s plans, and requires ongoing obedience to what He says.
2/. Partnering with God. Jesus commissioned us to make disciples, and use His name to continue the work He did of bringing liberty to those in bondage to Satan (Mt 28:19,20; Mk 16:17,18; Lk 4:18,19; Jn 13:15; Act 10:38). We can pray “Teach me to do your will...may your Spirit lead me” as we give ourselves fully to Him, for it is by living in vital connection to the source of spiritual life, we become instrumental in getting others connected to Him too (Ps 143:10; Jn 15:4-7; Rom 12:2; Eph 5:17, 6:6).
3/. Purposeful Prayers. When we know His will, we can pray specifically and with power. He has commanded us to pray for numerous things such as our enemies, that we won’t give in to temptation, for God to raise up missionaries, for preachers, for government authorities, for relief from affliction and healing of fellow believers (Mt 5:44, 26:41; Lk 10:2; Col 4:3; 1 Tim 2:1-3; Jas 5:13,16). We should pray for wisdom so we can live aright and bring glory to God (1 Cor 10:13; Jas 1:5).
Instead of arrogantly and with presumption saying ‘we’ll do this and that’ say “If it is the Lord’s will we will...” (Act 18:21; Jas 4:13-15). This is sometimes signified by ‘DV’ (Latin = Deo Volente) meaning God willing, for although in good faith we think issues through, plan and seek to implement what we believe is His will yet it is up to God if it eventuates (1 Cor 4:19).
4/. Persistence. With a consistent, steadfast, loyal motivation of heart “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised” (Heb 10:36; Rev 2:26).
Doing God’s will doesn’t mean life will be easy, yet our hardship has meaning in God’s plan – He “intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done…what has happened has served to advance the gospel”, said Paul (Gen 50:20; Rom 5:3-5, 8:28; Phil 1:12; Jas 1:2-4; 1 Pet 1:6,7).
The ultimate guide
Invest time in discovering His will for you in this world
clear (even if not according to our timetable). “Even the simple will not stray from it if they walk humbly with God” yet if rebellious mankind refuses to walk in His ways He will allow their unrighteous desires to control them and ending in their destruction (Isa 35:8; Mic 6:8 Rom 1:18-32). To the tentative request of the leper “Lord, if you are willing” the positive response by Jesus was “I am willing” (Mt 8:1-3). Provided I am sensitive to His voice and obey Him, God will fulfill His purpose for me (Ps 138:8; Phil 1:6; 2 Thes 1:11). When impotent people and God are in agreement a transformation takes place.
Paul expressed his love and concern for others saying “...we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:9,10).
See also: ambiguous, discernment, call/calling, comfort zone, faith, guidance (divine), hearing God’s voice, obedience, prayer, sovereignty of God, super spiritual, submission, tongues.