How Do We Know God’s Will for Our Lives?

As we faithfully follow the general, foundational principles of being committed to Christ, as revealed in Scripture, God faithfully reveals the specifics of His will as needed. The Hebrew word we translate into "obey" in English is the same word in Hebrew for hear. It’s a hearing that brings response. What the Lord wants is relationship. He wants us to hear Him, know Him, and respond.
April Motl
How Do We Know God’s Will for Our Lives?

Knowing and wanting to be in the Lord’s design for our lives is one of the most pivotal heart issues Christians encounter.

A woman who mentored me early in my faith journey said, “The Lord wants you in His will even more than you want to be. So don’t let figuring out His will become an idol. Pursue the Lord and trust Him to keep you in His path.”

When we seek God just for a formula, too often we miss Him and profoundly miss His best for us. Yes, He wants our obedience. But a beautiful thing about the Hebrew word we translate into obey in English is that it is the same word in Hebrew for hear. It’s a hearing that brings response. What the Lord wants is relationship. He wants us to hear Him, know Him, and respond.

As we faithfully follow the general, foundational principles of being committed to Christ, as revealed in Scripture, God faithfully reveals the specifics of His will as needed.

Understanding God’s Will

1. Pursue knowing God.

“When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.’” (Psalm 27:8)

We should never pursue the Lord’s will above pursuing Him; or we will contrive a faith where we are the guiding light – the one carrying all the burden, the source of all success and victory. Because if we separate the pursuit of God’s will from the pursuit of knowing Him, it all boils down to our efforts to stay on His narrow path.

Before we begin asking the Lord to reveal His direction for us in a certain matter, we ought to take a moment to examine the motive of our hearts. Do we want to know God, or do we just want a formula for life?

2. Trust that God is working and guiding you.

David said, “You (God) lead me in paths of righteousness for Your namesake” (Psalm 23:3). David trusted the Lord and knew that it was God who would lead him in the right way.

In the New Testament we are reminded “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it” (Philippians 1:6). As we seek to know God’s will for our lives, we cannot separate trusting the Lord for each step. Knowledge will never replace faith.

3. Ask God for His wisdom.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”(James 1:5)

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”(Matthew 7:7-8)

These verses do not reveal a major formula for understanding every mystery. But they do reveal the heart of a good God who desires that His people ask Him for things. God desires the heart of His people, and he knows how to “give good gifts to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:11).

As we seek to line up our lives with God’s design, Scripture is already full of foundational truths we can know about living rooted in God’s will.

Bible Verses about God's Will

God’s Will about How to Be

  • Be saved: “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
  • Be Loving: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34)
  • Be Transformed: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)
  • Be Sanctified (set apart): “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5a)
  • Be thankful: “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Instructions on What to Do

There are also verses that act as guard rails for us. If a certain activity or pursuit makes it impossible for us to live the way these verses describe, we are probably wise to alter or remove that part of our life.

  • Do everything as for Jesus: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:17)
  • Do everything with faith: “…Whatever is not from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23) The context of this verse has to do with the choices made about food. But it has been pivotal in how I follow the Lord. If I do something motivated by fear or any other motivator besides faith (even if it’s something seemingly wise, like saving money), it isn’t pleasing to God. This verse takes us from rote religion where we only want to know the formula to squeak by with God to a place where we are living in relationship with Him and trusting Him for everything.
  • Seek God First: Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things [the other things you need in life]will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) And: “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)

Commands to Obey

In English, the command or imperative form of a verb isn’t really something we notice. However, in other languages the tone of a statement (instruction vs statement) actually changes how the verb is conjugated.

There are verses in the New Testament that are more commands than instructions that English readers might miss.

  • Repent: “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)
  • Go: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

How to Know God’s Will in a Specific Issue

1. Search Scripture.

Color-coding Bible verses by subject matter can help when you need to know wisdom for specific issues like relationships or finances. Then you can open your Bible and quickly see verses that apply.

There’s also great study tools and books that have compiled verses on life subject matters. Search for verses that pertain to your situation or search for stories of others who faced something relatable.

2. Pray for wisdom.

Share your concerns with the Lord and ask how you ought to apply His Scriptures to your situation. The Bible is sometimes deeper than we can spiritually or emotionally get our hands around. It’s easy to find a verse and dogmatically cling to it. But the Lord calls us to large-hearted living. (That’s what Scripture calls the gift God gave Solomon. He gave him wisdom but also an “enlarged heart” to carry out that wisdom.) Ask the Lord to show you how to live out His words.

3. Fast.

Jesus fasted before He began His public ministry. Before we come up to a direction change in life, we are wise to follow His footsteps and set some time aside to pray and fast also.

4. Trust and wait.

Sometimes we can do all the things we are supposed to, and yet the Lord’s path doesn’t become automatically clear to us. These are times we practice waiting in the shadow of the Almighty until He brings light and clarity to our next step. And while we wait, the best action we can take is to do the next right thing. Go back to those foundational obedience verses.

5. Ask others to pray for you.

When Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane to ask the Father about the great task set before Him, Jesus asked His friends to pray too. If our Lord gave us this example, we are wise to do the same.

6. Watch for open or closed doors.

God called David to be king of Israel, yet his path to the throne required much patience and waiting on the Lord. He waited for God’s timing in lining up surrounding circumstances. Paul had it on his heart to go preach further in Asia when the “Holy Spirit prevented” him (Acts 16:6). The Lord must have used circumstances to close doors to Paul’s travels.

The Lord will use circumstances to communicate to us, but sometimes we misread them– sometimes we are meant to press through them. Perhaps like Elijah we look for God in the wind, fire,and earthquakes, but He is in the still small voice. Pray for wisdom to discern His hand in the circumstances that come your way.

April Motl is a pastor’s wife, mom, and women’s ministry coordinator. Her love of words led her through a BA in linguistics and her love of God’s Word through a Master’s in Religious Studies. You can find more encouragement from her and her husband at MotlMinistries.org or checkout some of her available Bible Studies and devotionals on Amazon. Face to Face is a one month devotional highlighting the names of God if you’d like to dig into this topic further!

Photo Credit: Pexels/Ambar Simpang


Originally published April 23, 2019.