The will of God can be simultaneously wonderful and confusing to those who seek after Him—which is why recognizing its characteristics is essential to understanding God’s will. Here’s some help.
A farmer in North Carolina lived on a beautiful farm that his family owned for many decades. When he died, his property—after being in the family for more than 200 years—was sold to one of the neighbors.
As the new owner was walking in the field, he saw a large, unusual-looking rock just barely sticking out of the dirt. He took it home, washed it and took it to a jewelry store. The jeweler confirmed what the owner already suspected: The old stone that had been in the field for thousands of years was a large, uncut emerald that has since proved to be worth several million dollars!
This gemstone was in that field all along just waiting for someone to come along and “discover” it. Undoubtedly, the emerald had been seen thousands of times before, but it was overlooked because it appeared to be nothing more than an ordinary rock.
When we “discover” something, we are finding something that already exists, though we were unaware of it previously. And while many people are desperately seeking God’s will for their lives, the reality is that often what they are looking for is right under their nose—but they continue to look for it because they don’t recognize it.
To recognize a precious stone, one would need to be familiar with its characteristics and know what it should look like. In the same way, if we desire to discover God’s will for our lives, we must learn to recognize the following characteristics of His will.
1. God has a standard will and a specific will.
As we begin the journey of discovering God’s will for our lives, it may seem like the potential options are endless. This can often feel overwhelming. The good news is that God has already gone to great lengths to reveal to us in His Word what His will is for everyone. I call this the “standard will of God.”
In addition to His standard will, God has something tailor-made for each of our lives. I call this the “specific will of God.” It is important, however, to understand that the specific will of God for your life will never go against His standard will—what He has already revealed to us in His Word. This understanding will quickly help us to sort through the plethora of options and instantly eliminate confusion.
There are, in fact, many people who have done appalling things in the name of God. Many of them sincerely believed they were doing God’s will. But there is no need for this confusion because God has clearly revealed His standard will for everyone in His Word if we would only make it our compass and our guide.
Discovering God’s specific will for your life is something that is unique to you as an individual and something that you must discover for yourself. But our quest to discover God’s will for our lives must begin with the Word of God.
By following principles from the Scriptures, we will be able to navigate the ocean of options and opportunities without a shipwreck. Whatever you do in life, it must line up with God’s Word, and He will never call you to do something that is contrary to it.
2. God has a “good will” but also a “perfect will.”
God has a wonderful plan for our lives. But since He has given us the ability to choose whether we are going to follow His will, it seems that there are actually four possibilities:
We can remain ignorant of God’s will. This is not you; if it were, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. You obviously have a deep desire in your heart to discover God’s will for your life, and you will make that discovery.
We can know what God wants but still disobey. This is disobedience, and the head-on collision of God’s will and the stubborn rebellion of human flesh.
We can know God’s will but settle for less. It would’ve been far better if we had only been willing to obey. Settling for less than God’s best is often the easy road.
We can contend for nothing less than God’s best. This is the big challenge, because impatience to get what we want is a powerful force. But if we really believe God’s will is always better than ours, we will be willing to wait for it and fight for it if necessary.
There is a perpetual conflict in the Christian life between what is “good” and what is “God.” His perfect will, and the blessings that accompany it, are reserved for those who are willing to be radically obedient and to wait when necessary.
There are moments when God’s way will seem so difficult, so prolonged and so unrewarding, while our idea seems much easier, much quicker and so much more enjoyable. But you will always find that God’s plan is better than yours. There will never be an exception to this rule, so you might as well just decide from now on to yield to God’s will, do it God’s way and wait for God’s best.
3. God calls us to do what we can’t accomplish on our own.
There are many books on the market today about self-improvement and personal success. Many of the principles they teach are actually universal spiritual truths taken from the Word of God and then adapted to fit a wide variety of applications. They are like cheerleaders standing on the sidelines, crying: “You can do it! You can do it!”
If the “You Can Do It” philosophy were true, we wouldn’t need God, would we? This mindset needs to be replaced with another, which essentially says: “I can’t do it on my own, but I can do all things through Christ. With His help and blessing, anything is possible.”
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