Knowing God’s Will, It’s No Mystery

Acts 16:9-10, “A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Recipes and formulas. Vast numbers of Christians love them. Can’t get enough of them. They will attend the seminar, listen to the CDs, watch the DVD series, and buy the book. Cost? It doesn’t matter. They don’t care. Their mantra? “Just give me 3 simple steps and I am there.” As long as the need is satisfied, the problem is solved, and the consequences turn out different they are generally interested in one thing and one thing only…the end result. All they want is a quick fix, a recipe, or a formula.

From both a practical and a theological standpoint there are many things that are wrong with trying to live the “recipe for success” lifestyle. Life, spiritual life in particular, cannot be defined in terms of a recipe. No matter how hard we try we cannot limit God to a formula. We cannot make God fit onto a 3″ x 5″ index card. He simply does not fit into any box, no matter how large or spacious. Don’t believe me? Remember Isaiah 55? “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” God is not simply a bigger version of us. He is beyond us. How silly (prideful as well) to think that we can reduce Him to a 3-step formula for success. Especially when it comes to something like knowing His will. Now, don’t misunderstand me. We can know His will. The Bible makes that clear. I just want to be sure that we are all on the same page today. I am going to give you some principles. This is not a formula. This is not a recipe. These are simply some guidelines that should help bring all of us a little closer to knowing His will for our lives.

Paul pressed forward. I really expanded on this thought in an earlier note (“When God Says No”) but it bears repeating. Many times the closed door is God’s means of pointing us toward the open door. In essence, it is His “no” that sets us on the path to His “yes.” But, like the apostle Paul, we need to keep moving forward.

Paul listened. Hearing and listening are not the same thing. Just ask any parent. Listening is much more involved, much more intentional. Yes, there are seasons when God is silent but for the most part He is constantly speaking. After 20 years as a Christ follower, I am convinced that I just am not listening. Knowing God’s will comes much more readily once we have developed the practice of listening both for and to His voice.

Paul shared. He entrusted what he heard to men he respected. Look at the verse a little closer, “we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding…” We. Literally, they put two and two together. Every other door has been closed. Paul has a vision of a man from Macedonia asking for help. Hey, maybe we should go to Macedonia. You think? But the key point is the “we.” Paul surrended what he believed to be the will of God to the safety of trustworthy counselors. No man is an island. Particularly when it comes to the will of God. That “word” you heard last night? Might be nothing more than the Taco bell you ate for dinner. Surrender it to His Word. Ask the opinion and advice of faithful, godly leaders.

Paul obeyed in faith. The will of God is never fully realized in our lives until we take a step of faith. Hebrews tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please Him,...” The same book also states, “the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.” What held true for Paul holds true for us as well. Paul discovered God’s will. But then he had to act on God’s will. Knowing is not enough. It’s the doing that counts. Once we have discerned His will, then we must respond in faith. We must obey.

Knowing God’s will for our lives is no great mystery. It’s no great secret. I don’t have a recipe or formula for you but the Bible does provide us with some guidelines and principles. Your experience may be completely different than Paul’s. I personally have never experienced a vision. But I have heard His voice. And I have discovered His will. Sometimes it required fasting and prayer. Other times it was simply the still, small voice of His Spirit speaking to me through His written Word. But regardless of the particulars, there was always a willingness to listen and a readiness to obey. Do you want to know His will for your life? Look to Him. Trust Him. Listen to Him. In time, according to His purposes, you will find it.