Someone wrote me, “How do I hear from God? How do I know His will?” Interesting question and one almost all of us have. I was thinking about that again this morning when I read that the first thing, the prerequisite for finding the will of God, is to have no will of your own.
Sometimes that’s called “yieldedness” or “surrender”, not very popular terms or ideas in our modern world. That’s why, when Paul talked about this, he said “be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2) Because God’s ways are so utterly opposite from the ways of the world.
In the world, we are to never surrender to anything or anyone. But in God’s sphere, we are to surrender and yield to Him. And that means to let go of our own will. Even Jesus Himself did that. Just before He was captured, tried and crucified, He cried out to His Father, saying “…not My will but Your will be done.” (Matthew 26:41) So even before you begin to find God’s Will, the attitude of your heart needs to be one of yeildedness and surrender to Him.
But let’s say you’ve come to that place. You’re desperate, really seeking God’s Will for your life. Then what? The first way to know God’s Will is through His Word. The Bible is the first place to find the Will of God. When you read it in His Word, then you know it’s right. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
The second way to know God’s Will is called “the voice of the Word”. This is when the Lord brings to mind a certain verse or passage from the Scriptures. Or you’re reading your Bible and all of a sudden a verse seems to jump right off the page at you. The Lord brings it alive and applies it to you personally, even if it was written for someone else 3000 years ago.
The third way to know God’s Will is by a direct revelation. Sometimes God uses a dream or vision, a voice or prophetic message to show you what to do. You know it’s from God if it agrees with and doesn’t contradict His written Word. The apostle Paul was on a missionary journey and at one point he seemed to somewhat not know where he should go next. Then in the night he saw a vision of a man, saying, “come over to Macedonia and help us”. (Acts 16:9) Paul took that as a message from God, went to Macedonia and things really took off again.
The fourth way to know God’s will is through Godly council. When finding God’s Will, it’s often wise to ask others for their opinion. However, it is important to weigh the counsel you receive and to prayerfully consider the source that it comes from. How reliable are their leadings from the Lord? Do they bear good fruit themselves and produce good results from their own actions and decisions? Solomon said, “He who listens to council is wise.” (Proverbs 12:15)
The fifth way to know God’s Will is through “open and closed doors.” If something is God’s Will, He’ll usually “open the door” and make it possible. Which direction is God providing or opening the way and the means to do it? Sometimes God has certain set-ups and situations which suddenly become golden opportunities. Circumstances and conditions are not always the final criteria for finding the Will of God, but they can sometimes be an indication.
The sixth way to know God’s Will is what’s called “burdens”. Strong impressions or feelings can sometimes be an indication of God’s leading. It’s not always wise to go by feelings. But if something is really of God you’ll have an inner conviction, what many Christians call the “witness of the Spirit”. You just know that’s the Will of God and that’s what you’re supposed to do, or not do. Paul said, “It is God that works in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)
The seventh way to find God’s will is called “a fleece”. This is taken from Judges 6 where Gideon laid a fleece (sheepskin) on the ground and said, “Lord, if the fleece is wet with dew in the morning, but the ground is dry, then I’ll know it is You talking to me!” Then he wanted to be doubly sure, so the next day he said, “If the fleece is dry and the ground is wet, I’ll believe it!”, and that’s just what the Lord did each time. So it’s a little like asking God for a specific physical sign from Him.
Although they seem like an easy and supernatural way, fleeces are the least reliable of the 7 ways to discover God’s Will, only to be used in conjunction with the other more dependable points shared above. In fact, the more ways you employ in making decisions, the greater the assurance will be that your decision is right.
Once you know God, it becomes clear that we really need to do all we can to stay close to Him and His Will. Otherwise we can make some foolish mistakes and sometimes really endanger ourselves and others when we are “leaning to our own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5), running around outside the protection of His Will. I hope, in these troubling times, that you’re seeking first His kingdom and following closely His personal will for your life.