How can I know God’s will for my life?

Question: “How can I know God’s will for my life? What does the Bible say about knowing God’s will?”

Answer: Knowing the will of God is important. Jesus said that those who know and do the will of the Father are His true relationships: “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35). Jesus reproaches the chief priests and elders in the parable of the two sons for failing to do the Father’s will; specifically, they “did not repent and believe” (Matthew 21:32). At the most basic level, God’s will is to repent of our sin and trust in Christ. If we didn’t take that first step then we didn’t accept the will of God.

Once we receive Christ through faith, we become children of God (John 1:12), and He will lead us in His way (Psalm 143:10). God does not attempt to hide from us His will; He wants to reveal it. Actually, in His Word, He has already given us many, many directions. In all circumstances we are to “give thanks; for this is the will of God for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Good works are to be done (1 Peter 2:15). And “God wants you to be sanctified: to avoid sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

The will of God can be known and proved. Romans 12:2 says, “No longer conform to this world’s pattern, but be transformed by your mind’s renewal. Then you will be able to test and approve what the will of God is— His good, pleasing, and perfect will. “This passage gives us an important sequence: God’s child refuses to conform to the world and allows himself to be transformed by the Spirit instead. As his mind is renewed in accordance with God, he can then know the perfect will of God.

As we seek the will of God, we should ensure that what we consider is not forbidden by the Bible. The Bible forbids stealing, for example; since God has spoken clearly on the issue, we know that it is not His will for us to be bank robbers— we don’t even need to pray about it. We should also ensure that what we consider glorifies God and helps us and others to grow spiritually.

Sometimes it is difficult to know the will of God because it requires patience. Wanting to know all the will of God at once is natural, but that’s not usually how He works. He reveals a step at a time— every single step of faith— enables us to continue to trust Him. The important thing is that we are busy doing the good we know to do as we wait for further direction (James 4:17).

We often want God to give us specifics— where to work, where to live, who we should marry, what to buy, etc. God allows us to make choices, and if we are given to Him, He has ways to avoid wrong choices (see Acts 16:6-7).

The better we get to know a person, the more we get to know him or her. A child may look at the ball that bounced away across a busy street, for example, but he doesn’t run after it because he knows “my dad wouldn’t want me to do that.” He doesn’t have to ask his dad for advice on every particular situation; he knows what his dad would say because he knows his dad. In our relationship with God, the same is true. As we walk with the Lord and obey His Word and rely on His Spirit, we find that Christ’s mind is given to us (1 Corinthians 2:16). We know Him, and His will helps us to know. We find readily available guidance from God. “The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight, / but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness” (Proverbs 11:5).

If we walk closely with the Lord and truly desire His will for our lives, God will place His desires into our hearts. The key is to want the will of God, not our own. “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).