Being in college ministry, I hear a lot about God’s will. “I’m praying about it, but I just want to be sure that it’s God’s will.” “Finances have me worried, so I don’t believe it’s God’s will.” “I’m willing to do whatever: I really just want to know God’s will for my life first.”
Most of the time, God’s will is something young people see as unknown and future. Who will I marry? What will I do for a career? Will this decision lead to ‘success’? However, the Bible presents God’s will in a very different framework: God’s will is present and knowable because it is contained in His Word.
The phrase “God’s will” is really another way of saying what God wants. Thankfully, God has let us know what He wants in the Bible. His will is revealed in the Bible by plain statements about His will, by commands, and by implications.
- Plain Statements in the Bible
Sometimes a decision or behavior is plainly stated as God’s will. For example, 2 Peter 3:9 says that “God is not willing [does not want] for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance [i.e., to be saved].” Again, 1 Timothy 2:4 states that God “will have [wants] all men to be saved.” So, God’s will (i.e., what He wants) is for people to be saved. It is also God’s will for Christians to live holy lives: “This is the will of God [what God wants], even your sanctification [i.e., holy living]” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). These plain statements tell us what God wants for us.
- Commands in the Bible
God also communicates what He wants for us through commands. In Exodus 20 God says “Thou shalt not kill” (v. 13), “Thou shalt not steal” (v. 15), and “Thou shalt not bear false witness [i.e., lie]” (v. 16). Obviously, God does not want us to do these things: it is not His will for us to do them. Therefore, when we lie, steal, or kill, we can know that we are not in God’s will. God’s commands of what to do or not have made His will plain to us.
- Implications (and Patterns) in the Bible
God’s will is also implied by statements or patterns in the Bible. Implying is like hinting. For example, the Bible says for believers to not be “unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14). In other words, believers should not enter into binding cooperation with unbelievers. Thought it is not directly stated, we conclude that it is not God’s will for a believer to marry an unbeliever since marriage is entering into binding cooperation. That application is implied by what is stated. There are also implied directions in the Bible regarding polygamy, alcohol consumption, slavery, education, et. al.
So, God’s will is simply what He wants which has been revealed to us in the Bible. Too often when we are wondering about God’s will, we are focused on the future, the unknown. When we are wondering what God’s will is from that perspective, we are (in a sense) wanting to know what God knows since He knows everything. However, it is okay that God knows things that we don’t, and we should rest in that fact. The most important facts for us are the ones that God has revealed in His Word: that is His will for you today.
If we will live in the light of His revealed will today, we will have light for tomorrow.