Listen Series, Part 3: Listening for God’s Will


This is the third of three lessons in the “Listen Series” about listening to God that I put together for the Harvard Avenue College Ministry Fall Retreat a few weekends ago. 

God’s will. Something everybody wants to know. Where will I live when I grow up? Where will I work? Who will I marry? The list goes on and on.

Why do we want to know all of these things anyway? Probably because we want “peace” about a decision or want to have a life free of uncertainty and with minimal risk. While that’s understandable, it’s not necessarily the way God’s will works. Romans 12:2 gives a hint as to what it means to listen for God’s will:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Often when we seek God’s will, we like to wait for the “signs to line up” so that we can feel “at peace” about a decision. Taking this approach as a believer indicates a misunderstanding of how God’s will works. As RC Sproul puts it,

“Many Christians become preoccupied or even obsessed with finding the “will” of God for their lives. If the will we are seeking is His secret, hidden, or decretive will, then our quest is a fool’s errand. The secret counsel of God is His secret. He has not been pleased to make it known to us. Far from being a mark of spirituality,the quest for God’s secret will is an unwarranted invasion of God’s privacy. God’s secret counsel is none of our business.”

The “will of God” in this verse is the perceptive will that God has called all Christians to do. Sproul defines perceptive will as the “aspect of God’s will [that] is revealed in His Word as well as in our conscience, by which God has written His moral law upon our heart.”

With this in mind, how are Christians to discern God’s will?

First of all, don’t look to yourself or what you “feel peace about.” The Bible tells us that you can’t trust yourself (Jer. 17:9-10). Instead, believers need to study the Scripture. In his sermon “Modern Spirituality and Your Mind” (based on Romans 12:2), Voddie Baucham says, “How does Satan convince Christians that we need to find God’s will? By closing our Bibles, turning off our minds, and feeling our way to truth. How do Christians find God’s will? With an open Bible!”

So, when considering whether to go to Africa or Arkansas for a mission trip; examine Scripture. What does the Bible say? Well, some of Jesus’ last words were “go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt. 28:19, emphasis added) and “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Based on those two passages (and others), it doesn’t matter where you go to do missions as much as that you go on mission no matter where you are. Will God use you in Africa? Most certainly. Can He also use you to share the Gospel in Arkansas? Definitely.

When it comes to other issues like where to live, who to marry, or where go to college that Scripture doesn’t speak to specifically, the truth found in the Bible is still a guide for believers. Additionally, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that making the wrong decision/choice will throw off God’s will forever and ever: that would negate His sovereignty and He would cease being God.

The only way to discern God’s will: read, know, and pray the Word! The more time you spend in it, the more you are able to discern what God has called us to live like as transformed people. All we have to do is take the time to study and listen to God.

Learn It. Love It. Live It.

For further reading on the will of God, I recommend: 

Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung (book about being active rather than passive in the pursuit of God’s will)

The Will of God by RC Sproul (a short article outlining the three meanings of God’s will)

[image credit: Fe Ilya on Flickr]


About Lawson Hembree
Lawson is an entrepreneur, ministry leader, and outdoors enthusiast who also enjoys blogging about business, ideas, and theology. Want to continue the discussion or write a guest post? Let's Connect!

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