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This is a common utterance throughout the Middle East. It means, “If it is God’s will.” You hear it all the time. “I’ll leave on my business trip tomorrow, Insha’Allah.” “I’ll make it safely home, Insha’Allah.” “I’m getting married next week, Insha’Allah.” “My child will get well, Insha’Allah.” Seems that in the minds of many Arabs, most if not all events are connected to God’s will.

This Calvinistic-type thinking also permeates the thoughts of countless Christians worldwide. “God led me to this job (or this person, or this lifestyle).” “Everything happens for a reason.” “There are no accidents.” “God has a special someone waiting just for me.”

One devoutly spiritual woman told me that when she opens her refrigerator door each morning, she asks God what she should fix her husband for breakfast. And apparently He tells her. He also instructs her on what to wear and what projects to include in her busy schedule. Following that line of thinking, it’s easy to believe that everything that happens is God’s will.

Years ago my nephew’s son slipped and hit his head on the edge of a table while playing at a fast-food restaurant. The injury caused dangerous swelling inside his skull, and within hours, he was at a children’s hospital having part of his brain removed in order to save his life. Well-meaning church members assured the child’s terrified parents that “God’s ways are mysterious. Right now we don’t understand why this happened, but someday we will. It’s all part of His plan.”

Part of God’s plan? Really?

Truth is, God had nothing to do with the tragedy. That precious little boy was the victim of slippery surfaces and gravity. Inferring that God orchestrated the accident was, in my estimation, a spiritual felony. (The child survived and recently graduated from college.)

When a loved one lies at death’s door, friends and family often plead for healing but leave the door open. “Thy will be done,” they pray through their tears. Then, if the person lives, it’s a “miracle.” If he or she dies, God “laid him to rest,” or “took her home to be with Him” (depending on their view of what happens after death).

A God thing

So is God really that involved in our lives—in the nitty-gritty of our day-to-day existence? Is there some divine plan we need to be following, and if we don’t, we pay a terrible price? The answer is, yes. But how this plan is revealed and accomplished isn’t exactly Calvinist in nature. It’s a God thing, and we’d do well to understand its full configuration and potential. Your thoughts on how to know God’s will for your life may differ from mine, and that’s OK. Here I’ll just share my understanding.

As with all things that have to do with our heavenly Father, it’s best to search the Bible for answers. The apostle Paul addressed this issue three times, helping to clarify for the early Christian church exactly what “God’s will” was.

His first mention reveals what it isn’t: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

God’s will isn’t discovered through human, sin-clouded thinking. Why? Because we’re so impaired that we’re often tempted to bend what we believe is God’s will to our own desires. If we can convince ourselves that what we want to do is ordained by God, we can feel free to “step out in faith,” often to our own disappointment or even destruction. When the marriage, the job, or the journey fails miserably, we begin to question our heavenly Father’s leading. God steered us wrong, we think. Bitterness and loss of faith often follow.

In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul shines a bright light on what God’s will actually is—and his revelation may shock some people. “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Just a few verses later, he adds: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

So God’s will, as identified by the apostle Paul, is that we stop sinning, live moral lives, and be thankful for our blessings.

Other New Testament writers provide further insights. Peter reveals that God wants us to do good so that we can silence ignorant or foolish people (1 Peter 2:15). John reminds us that when we build our lives within the framework of God’s will, we will outlast the world (1 John 2:17).

Where’s the grand plan?

What we don’t find in the Bible is the concept that God’s will is anything more than an overarching desire expressed by our heavenly Father that we live victorious lives. Where’s the nitty-gritty? Where’s the day-to-day guidance? Where’s the grand plan? Oh, they’re all there, but they’re beautifully encased in something very practical and easy to understand. God’s will—His roadmap, His to-do list, His detailed outline for our lives—is fully revealed in His words.

“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Instead of asking for God’s guidance in choosing what to fix for breakfast, we can examine the Bible and discover His amazing and detailed health plan, including dietary standards, as revealed in the Garden of Eden and other places in the Bible. This will guide our choices at the grocery store.

Instead of praying for “the right one” to come along—the one God has “chosen” for us—we’d do well to make all of our decisions based on the kind of person God wants us to be. Then we’ll attract and be attracted to the kind of life partner who will minimize potential conflicts down the road.

Instead of trying to determine God’s will in our career choices, why don’t we first commit ourselves to a life of service to the One who loves us most, then make decisions based on the level of service each potential job provides.

Instead of trying to connect God to the bad things that happen to us or our families, why don’t we turn to God for comfort and the power to rebuild when sin does its damage? The devil is thrilled when God gets blamed for the terrible things sin does.

One word

God’s will can be summed up with one word: salvation. Everything that happens may or may not be directly connected to that concept, but our reaction to everything that happens certainly is. We should ask, “Are my responses, my decisions, my choices supporting my journey to heaven?” If we can answer yes to those questions, we can rest assured that we are faithfully following God’s will and can look forward to a future world where sin and sinners are no more.

Jesus said, “I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:38–40).

In the earth made new we can finally rest from our labors and know that we’re there because not only did God will it—but so did we.

Want to know God’s will for your life? Study His Word, then act accordingly.

How Can You Know God’s Will for Your Life?

by Charles Mills
From the October 2018 Signs