Will God's will be obvious or hidden?
When people talk about God's will, they are often referring to a variety of different things. The disciples once asked Christ: "What must we do to do the works God requires?" In response, Jesus said, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent" (John 6:28-29).
Sometimes, God makes His will very obvious. It is clearly God's will that we need to work at loving and serving others, becoming more like Christ, telling others about God, and valuing the things that God values. Jesus said in Mark 3:35, "Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother." In John 7:17, Jesus reiterated: "If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own."
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 and 5:16-18 give specific examples of behavior that are God's will and fall into this basic definition of God's obvious will. "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God…Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
We all know that sometimes God's will isn't always as clear. In these instances, God commands us to seek His wisdom regarding the direction He would have us to go. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."
When we seek the Lord, the Holy Spirit will guide us and show us God's will for us. Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform any longer 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."
Is it really possible, to know the will of God in more specific situations? Who should I marry? Which occupation should I pursue? Which college should I choose? The Bible gives very clear guidelines regarding core values and guidelines for life. For example, God gives this guideline for marriage: 2 Corinthians 6:14 says, "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?"
Seeking God's will for specific situations and decisions may require practicing spiritual disciplines like daily prayer and meditation, fasting, worship, and dedicated Bible study. This is not always easy or clear because God reveals Himself in many different ways using His Word, other people or circumstances and sometimes an inner prompting or voice for direction. It takes practice and some discernment to hear God's voice.
Sometimes our own timetable, will, worries, and the lack of intimacy in our relationship with God can stand in the way of hearing from Him. When we seek God's direction for specific answers to particular situations, we need to ask ourselves if we are surrendered to God's will and if the answer lines up with His Word or if it seems more in line with our own desires.
God desires that we know His will and plan for our lives. As we earnestly seek Him, we find truth in Ephesians 1:9: "And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ."
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