Confidently Living in the Will of God:
Five Key Considerations
By Dr. Ron Woodworth
Question: What is the “will of God” and how do I know that I am really doing it? Is there a way I can become more confident that I am living the way God wants me to?
Answer: This was the question recently posed to me from a good friend while we were watching a basketball game at his home. [Our team won!] By the way: Isn’t it interesting what people can talk about regardless of the conversational context? That’s why it’s so important that we are prepared to make the most of “teachable moments” with our kids, family, friends, and associates. After all, you never know how long the “window of interest” will be open. Selah…
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord–always being prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. And always be sure to share with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)
The will of God is such a huge topic that I think highlighting some major considerations may serve the purpose of this article better than an exhaustive treatment of the subject. As a result, I have decided to list Five (5) Key Considerations about the will of God for your prayerful review:
1. Doing the will of God should be our highest priority in life.
Here’s a jolting thought: The will of God is so important that the Apostle John insists that without doing God’s will we can not inherit eternal life! The issue of faith and works aside for a moment just let the Word of God speak to your hearts…
“Do not love the world or anything in the word. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life is not from the Father but from the world. And the world is passing away with all its lusts, but the one who does the will of God will live forever.”(1 John 2:15-17)
These few verses tell a lot about the priority of doing God’s will in the Scriptures. First notice that the will of God is juxtaposed to loving the world–which essentially constitutes what John indicates is a life of carnality, materialism, and egoism.i Notice also that the will of God is joined with the idea of loving the Father. In other words, the key to doing the will of God, thus inheriting eternal life, is to cultivate a life of a love for God. Are you really trying to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5)? Then, my friend, you can be confident that you are doing God’s will.
2. Learn the balance between doing and being the will of God.
“I don’t do the will;
I am the will of God”
Amazed at the saintliness of Mother Theresaii, a reporter asked her what her secret was regarding doing the will of God—to which she replied, “I don’t do the will of God; I am the will of God.” This frankly shocked me the first time I heard it over 20 years ago now. After all, how could anyone be so arrogant as to assert that they were the will of God?! As I reflected on the “apparent error” of her statement the Holy Spirit convicted me that it was I, not Theresa, who was in need of adjustment. For in my ignorance, I had presumed that the will of God was primarily something that I must do—to work hard at to assure that it was accomplished in my life. Little did I realize how this kind of thinking can tyrannize one’s life with an obsession to perform—resulting in legalism, burnout, and brokenness,iii Now I am not saying that there is no place for works, but what I amsaying is that all working must first find a place of rest in Christ.
“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Mother Theresa was simply observing/asserting that resting in Christ is rooted in a revelation of being—not in doing. The truth is that we could never be strong enough in our own strength to do the will of God. This is what the Apostle Paul meant when he discovered that in acknowledging his own weaknesses he became strong.
“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
(2 Corinthians 12:10b)
It is this revelation of being in Christ that becomes the foundation of all doing. In fact, I will go so far as to say that “If you are in Christ you are automatically in the will of God.” There is no need to strive for Christ in you, the hope of glory, will give you strength to do all things! (Philippians 4:13)
3. Receive God’s grace to accomplish his will.
One of my early mentorsiv has defined grace as “God’s desire and power to do his will.”
“Work out your salvation with reverence toward God; for it is God who is working in you the will and the strength to act according to his purpose.” (Philippians 2:12-13)
In other words, on our own, you and I lack both the desire and the strength/power to do God’s will. However, in Christ, God grants us a supernatural willingness, and even eagerness, to serve the Lord—along with the spiritual strength to comply with God’s purposes as we perceive them. Said another way: Without God’s grace we will never be able to discern or fulfill God’s will. But as we live and grow in the grace of God, we will not fail to accomplish his divine intentions. Grace is the key that unlocks the will of God in our lives! Furthermore, ponder this proverb in your heart:
The qualification for grace is humility
The appropriation of grace is faith
The growth in grace is practice
The practical growth I am speaking of here is synonymous with walking in the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit implies learning to live from one’s human spirit, which has been infused with the life of God’s Holy Spirit, thus causing us to be regenerated—or literally “born again” as new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). As we learn to discern the impressions of the Holy Spirit deep within our human spirit, we grow in grace and spiritual maturity—thus able to recognize and comply with the daily direction and/or will of God.
This is why Paul encourages believers to daily “prove with practice what is pleasing to–or the will of–the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10 and see Hebrews 5:14). In other words, once we are in Christ (by grace through faith) we then need to apply ourselves to becoming a spiritually-centered person rather than (as in our pre-Christian days) a carnally/physically or even soulish/psychologically centered individual. We are new creations in Christ learning to live a new life in a new way!
4. Embrace the cross in doing the will of God.
“Then he [Jesus] said to them all: ‘If anyone desires to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23)
Make no mistake about it: The cross is where your will and God’s cross. Selah.
Jesus’ words here mean at least two things. The first meaning is that there will be times when our personal desires or intentions are directly contradictory to God’s will, word, or way. At such times we must “take up our cross” and die to our own contrary desires in order that the will of God might be obeyed instead. Related to this is a further meaning that every disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ must view their life from the eyes of a servant. As a result, we must always be on guard against lapsing back into a self-centered lifestyle whereby we only do those things that please us—as if we were the master rather than the servant.
“The cross is
where your will
and God’s will cross.”
The point is: Without being neurotically driven or excessively self-debasing, we need to be willing to step out of the comfort zone and perhaps even security of our own individualism to be his servant–whenever, wherever, however, and with whom ever, he might require. After all: It is a privilege of the highest order and calling to serve Christ by assisting others in need.
Questions: How much of our time is occupied with our own affairs alone? How much of our time, talents, and treasures are truly available to be used by God? Are we so caught up in our own lives that we cannot “dismount the donkey of our own concerns” to alleviate the plight of another? If not, then are we truly servants of the Lord?
“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him in to an inn and took care of him.” (Luke 10:33-34)
Personal encouragement: As I’ve sought to be a faithful servant of the Lord over the years, I am careful to guard against an entitlement mentality—whereby because of my service God must really owe me something now. Instead, I often remind myself of Jesus’ own words: “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants: we have only done our duty.’” (Luke 17:10)
5. The will of God and our choice.
When it comes to the will of God, many people are afflicted by the “paralysis of analysis.” This is a spiritual dysfunction whereby we are frozen with a number of options and unable to clearly discern which one is God’s will. The reason why many of us find ourselves in this predicament can be because we have failed to realize that within the overarching sovereignty of God there can be equally permissible alternatives for man. In other words, you have a choice in the matter!
Theologically speaking, God’s will does NOT imply that he predetermines every last detail of our lives—thereby making us paranoid puppets who must select the perfect option every time or else fear being punished for our ignorance and/or disobedience. [Don’t ask me to say that againJ]
Personal testimony: I will never forget when I was fervently seeking God about what I considered to be a fairly serious decision in my life. As I sought the Lord in prayer, fasting, and extensive time in his word–I seemed to get the impression that he was asking me what I wanted. Believing that what I wanted was irrelevant–if not dangerous!–I kept inquiring what God’s will was for me in this regard…to which he kept answering (louder and louder) I want what you want. So I said, “Lord, I only want to doyour will.” To which he replied, “Okay then, my will is to let you do what you want.” In near disbelief I argued, “You’ve got to show me a Bible verse about that!” He smiled and showed me two…
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
“What the wicked fears will come upon him but the desire of the righteous will be granted.” (Proverbs 10:24)
I left that time of prayer a changed man and grateful to a God, who, (if I am permitted to say) in his humanity [the incarnation], could be such a teaseJ So if you wonder why I always smile when I preach and why I often use humor—blame it on my Father!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Grateful to be a servant-son,
[ii] Mother Theresa was a devoted Catholic nun who gave her life tending to the needs of the leprous poor in Calcutta India.
[iii] Brokenness is what results when we come to the end of ourselves. But someone has rightly said that “Man’s extremity [the end of himself] is God’s opportunity.”
[iv] Bill Gothard