By Elias Ayala (M.A.T. & Mdiv)
The simple answer to this question would be to read the Bible and believe it. This deceptively simple answer strikes at the core of how we know anything concerning God and His will. If we are to know anything about God, we will get nowhere by guessing. It is only through God’s own self disclosure that we can know anything about Him and His intentions. For the Christian, when asked the question, “How do you know what God wants”, our answer should be, “He told me in His Word”. Now of course, the Bible does not mention me specifically, nor does it mention the specific thing God wants me “Eli” to do in situation A and B. But God has revealed in His Word universal principles of wisdom, as well as specific things He desires His people to do. In that sense we can know what God’s will is for our lives.
It is important to recognize that God’s will for our lives can be multi-faceted. There is not just one thing God desires for us, but many things. Furthermore, God’s will for our lives may not be to simply accomplish something in me, but to accomplish things in others as well. Hence, His will and purposes for us as individuals may go beyond ourselves and spill over into His will and purposes for others, in a corporate sense. While it is true that God is concerned for us as individuals, it is to have an incomplete picture of God to think of Him as not concerned for the larger context of humanity. We exist within a community called the human race. This community is also comprised of individuals who play a role in this larger community. God’s will and purposes for the individual should not be taken in isolation to His will and purposes for the wider context of humanity.
Now I want to be careful here. While God is concerned with both individuals and the corporate aspect of the human race, His will and purposes are not identical for all people, at all times. For instance, God may will one person to live a life of substantial ease, while at the same time, it may be God’s will for another to live a life involving great difficulty. God may will these two different scenarios because He intends to accomplish and overriding goal or desire grounded in His purposes and goodness. The apostle Paul writes, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Notice what this scripture is saying and not saying:
- God works “ALL” things (As sovereign creator and sustainer of all things, He is moving human history to His ends, goals, and purposes, which are all in accordance with His will).
- God works all things for the good (Not necessarily for every single person, but rather, only to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose).
- This seems to imply, that for those who do not love Him, and are not called according to His purpose, all things do not work together for their good.
Hence, we must have a balanced view of “God’s will”. While it is possible for God to speak to someone audibly, and hence declare in no uncertain terms, what He would have them do; God has given us His Word by which we are to live our lives and apply its wisdom to all of life’s situations. How do I know what God’s will is for my life? Unless He audibly tells me, I will read God’s Word in regards to what He would have me do, and believe it. Walk in wisdom, not merely in the expectation that God will always give us the answers to all of our questions, but rather, in the expectation that God’s wisdom is wiser than my own, and I can trust Him in all of life’s unexpected twists and turns. As a follower of Christ and as one who is called according to His purpose, I know that all things will work out for the good.