It’s a question that I find myself perennially asking, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. I come to a difficult life experience, or a season of restlessness or discontentment, and I just pray that God will show me His will.
However, I think this question is often a spiritually subtle way for asking for very different things, without being specific. One particular condition we often want when praying for the will of God to be made know to us, is for that to be manifested in an irrefutable sign. Essentially, we’re wanting to use the fleece test of Gideon from Judges 6. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had something we could point to that was undeniably from God that gave us His will? Oh, wait. We have something like that.
I know it’s the classical “Sunday school” answer, but we have the Bible. There are very clear places where God gives us His will, in those exact words. One particularly helpful place is in 1 Thessalonians 4. In verse 3, Paul writes “For this is the will of God, your sanctification:”. Did you catch that? He’s plainly saying what the will of God is. The good news doesn’t end there, either. He expands upon that in the rest of the verse, and following verses.
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. (4:3-7)
Now, this does seem somewhat limited in scope, I grant you. Thankfully, there’s a lot of Bible. What’s another name for sanctification? Godliness, or holiness. If you flip over to 2 Peter 1, we see that Peter gives us a more broad list of things, covering more topics or areas of life.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. (1:3-8)
Still not enough? What about that part in Galatians 5, where Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit and the works of the flesh?
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passion and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (5:16-26)
Now we’ve got all sorts of easy ways to judge whether or not we’re growing in sanctification! However, this is not to say that growing in godliness is an easy thing to do, because it isn’t. Difficulty aside, this is an incredible truth, because we now have the answer to our question from earlier. Now I know that commonly, we ask for what God’s will is in relation to what we are supposed to do in a particular situation, but that type of questioning can easily become shifted onto ourselves instead of onto God. We should be asking the types of questions that will lead us toward maximal Christian living. When we are faced with the type of situations which lead us to ask what God’s will is, we should be looking at it from a perspective of giving God glory. How can we better apply the verses we’ve mentioned in these scenarios to maximize His glory? That’s a much better way to look at problems, as it’s a paradigm shift from subtly forcing God to bend to our whims to seeking to get in line with His will.
Also, you know what’s great about God’s will being our sanctification? It’s universally applicable, to all life’s situations. Which means that we can be preaching to a stadium of thousands, or flipping burgers and know that we are in God’s will if we are progressing in sanctification. Yes, this is easier said than done, but hopefully this is an encouragement to you.