What is the will of God for your life? Just that question alone can open up a Pandora’s Box of trouble. Religions are filled with the idea of man serving a deity according to that deity’s will. The mainline Muslim believes in Allah’s will to destroy the unbeliever in Islam. Some Christian movements teach it is God’s will that His servants have no material want or be materially successful. Even the non-religious may subscribe to a kind of destiny, where impersonal fate prescribes a role in life, instead of a knowable Creator.
I once knew a woman who claimed that God told her during her first pregnancy that she would have a boy. It was God’s will. Delivery time came and she had a boy. During her second pregnancy she said God told her she would have girl. Delivery time came and she had another boy. She felt quite foolish, as her assumptions about God’s will lead her to say some silly things. It made her look bad, but not as bad as some take the will of God.
Famed American TV preacher Oral Roberts once taught it was God’s will for him to raise $8 million from his TV audience. He claimed that if the money didn’t come in that God would kill him. Oral said some pretty stupid things that made not only himself and his organization look bad, it made a lot of people look at the Church of Jesus Christ and perceive it as mythological foolishness.
Many Christians have given up their homes, livelihoods, even their liberties and lives believing that God has spoken to them about a direction their lives should take. They say things like, “It is God’s will for me to _________.” You fill in the blank. Many go on to do noble works—missionaries, pastors, mercy ministries, and so on. Others seem to stumble along, even making strange pronouncements about what God’s will is for them or their associates.
What is the “Will of God?”
There is more than one answer to this question. Bible study teachers sometimes divide this subject between what they call the “perfect” will of God, and the “permissive” will of God. Theologians define the subject more sharply. John M. Frame, a professor of Systematic Theology defines God’s will in three parts:
- Decretive Will (Genesis 50:20, Matthew 11:25-26, Acts 2:23, Romans 9:18-19, Ephesians 1:11). This is simply defined as God’s decrees. God’s Decretive Will always comes to pass.
- Preceptive Will (Matthew 7:21, Ephesians 5:17, 6:6). This is defined as God’s precepts, preferences, values, and commands for our lives. His Preceptive Will is sometimes violated by man, and requires we submit in obedience for His Preceptive Will to be fulfilled.
- Divine Vocation (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 5:10). This is that part of God’s will that through the circumstances He places us, we find ourselves with the ability to fulfill His Preceptive Will. This can mean full-time Christian ministry service, or nothing more than serving the needs of others in our neighborhood, workplaces, etc.
The most common-day use of the “God’s will” concept is when a Christian says, “It is God’s will for me to do this or that today.” Such declarations fall under the third category: Divine Vocation. This is also true of the more mistaken, or heretical pronouncements often made about God’s will, such as, “God will kill me if I don’t raise $8 million dollars,” or “God wants his children to always be healthy and wealthy,” or “God will heal you and give you a miracle,” “God never wants His children to suffer.” These statements, common with teachers in the Word of Faith movement, may be classified under the category of the Divine Vocation of God’s will except for one thing: They are contrary to God’s already revealed will in the Bible.
What Is God’s Will For YOUR Life?
The purpose of the Divine Vocation aspect to God’s will is the fulfillment of God’s Preceptive Will for our lives. This means that whatever God wants us to do with our lives is designed by God to enable us to fulfill the character goals He has for us. In fact, there are five things that the Bible says are “God’s will” for every Christian. Each of the five may be classified as God’s Preceptive Will. Furthermore, we can say with confidence that if we are not applying these five things in God’s will for us, then we will not likely see God working out other areas of His will (Divine Vocation) in us.
How often have you wondered what God’s will is for your life? How many times have you wondered if God will ever speak to you about His will for you? Have you struggled to know what God’s specific plan is for your life? The good news is that you can know, right now, God’s general plan for your life, and through that discovery become open to hearing from God about his more specific will for you (Divine Vocation).
There are five things the Bible says are God’s will for every Christian. All of these are Preceptive, meaning that we must bring ourselves into agreement with God about them. It is God’s will that you…
“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” (Romans 12:2). By first agreeing with God about what is true, and right, we prepare our minds to hear what God might have to say to us.
- Set yourself apart to be holy
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor” (I Thessalonians 4:3-4). When we have come into a true agreement with God about what is true and right, our behavior—how we express ourselves with our bodies—must also follow suit. Sexual immorality destroys a Christian’s ability to serve God with a dedicated heart, because sexual immorality demonstrates that the heart of the believer is not in full agreement with God about what is true and right.
“For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people” (I Peter 2:15). When we conform our minds to God’s values, and set our bodies (physical expression) apart to God for His service, then we are prepared to do that which is right. Some people view the idea of “doing the right thing” as avoiding sin, or refraining from doing wrong. But the scripture speaks very differently. “Doing the right thing,” means to proactively seek to do right. It is much more than avoiding wrong, it is the idea that by filling our lives with doing right, wrong has no opportunity for entrance.
- Suffer for doing right—if necessary
“For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (I Peter 3:17). Some religions and worldviews believe that suffering is always evil, or is must always be avoided. However, the scripture makes clear that suffering is often used by God in and through our lives to bring about a greater result than might have taken place without it. As an ultimate example, in verse 18 Peter mentions “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.”
- In all things, give thanks—even for suffering
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thessalonians 5:18). Even when we are made to suffer for doing the right thing, even when we are mistreated or persecuted wrongly, God’s injunction is for us to thank Him. This does not mean to thank Him in the midst of the suffering, but to thank Him even for the suffering itself, as well as the good that comes to our lives. The Apostles gave us an example of this in Acts 5:41 when they went away “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ’s name.”
The idea that God always wants us to be healthy or wealthy, or not suffer, or always heal or do miracles is contradicted by these foundational passages about His will for every Christian. In fact, the Bible also teaches that the Holy Spirit “intercedes for us according to God’s will” (Romans 8:27). This means that when the Holy Spirit is seeking God’s will for us, He is seeking God’s will for us according to God’s Preceptive Will—the five things listed above, and more. Sometimes He seeks for our suffering that we might learn endurance. “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
From Knowing God’s Will to Applying God’s Will
When we know God’s Preceptive Will for our lives we can then understand how God responds to us when we pray, how we respond to God’s answers to our prayers, and most importantly, what He is doing in our lives.
- God answers all of our prayers according to His will—not ours
- We must check to see if we are in God’s will (Psalm 66:18)
- When we are living according to God’s Preceptive Will, we will become like Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).
God’s Decretive Will (his decrees) are always performed and cannot be frustrated by man. When God decrees something it always happens. But when God’s Preceptive Will, that is, His desire for the outcome of our character is proactively applied in our lives, then God will, in His time, reveal to the Christian His will for Divine Vocation. If you are seeking God’s will for your life, but are not yet in agreement with God about basic moral issues, or you have not set your life apart for His service, or you are engaged in behaviors that are contrary to the word of God, then do not expect that God will speak to you about your Divine Vocation.
He will not.
God’s Preceptive Will is prerequisite to knowing your Divine Vocation. Another way of putting this is: If you are not listening to what God has already said in the Bible, why would He speak to you about anything further?