All true Christians want to know what God’s will is. In a given situation talking with a neighbor or co-worker we often wonder is this the right time to speak words of truth and faith? How can I tell if the Holy Spirit is leading me to speak? What if this person would not be receptive to words, but the Holy Spirit just wants me to be a silent witness by my kindness? How do I know if it’s God’s will to change jobs, to move, to buy a better car or to send my child(ren) to a specific school? The “what is God’s will?” question comes up big with young people who are trying to date or marry the right person and choose the right career. The variety of situations in which it would be helpful to know what God would have us to do seem to be unlimited. So, how are we supposed to know God’s will in anything?
1. Scripture: There was a man who was very interested in a kind, thoughtful woman, and this man expressed to a friend that he thought that God was bringing her into his life to be his life companion. The friend expressed serious reservations about that because the man was already married! The Bible already clearly reveals God’s will for such a situation in the seventh commandment. It’s amazing how many situations there are that we can already know what God’s will is because the Scriptures have a command or give a clear principle by which to decide. While there are many decisions to make in life that don’t have a direct Bible verse answer, we can know if a plan or action would violate a principle of Scripture. Such a case would never be the will or leading of God. It’s amazing how often this is ignored.
2. Providential Workings: Sometimes we refer to this as God opening or closing doors. Often this way of God leading doesn’t even seem to require a decision because it’s so obvious or even miraculous to us. A job offer in one’s chosen field after graduating from college could easily seem that way. When a person approaches you asking what you believe, it’s obvious that you need to explain something that answers their question. However, that job offer may not be God’s leading, and in the obvious situation to witness, you could share the wrong thing that quickly closes the door. The man in the above paragraph thought the woman he was getting acquainted with was God’s providential working until his friend put it to the test of Scripture. How can we avoid making a wrong assumption?
“His [God’s] voice is also revealed in His providential workings, and it will be recognized if we do not separate our souls from Him by walking in our own ways, doing according to our own wills, and following the promptings of an unsanctified heart, until the senses have become so confused that eternal things are not discerned, and the voice of Satan is so disguised that it is accepted as the voice of God” (Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5, p. 512).
3. Impressions of the Holy Spirit: “Another way in which God’s voice is heard is through the appeals of His Holy Spirit making impressions upon the heart, which will be wrought out in the character. If you are in doubt upon any subject, you must first consult the Scriptures” (5T, p. 512). Many people have shared how God impressed them through His still small voice. For example, a young lady told of knocking on a door doing outreach at a GYC convention. It appeared that no one was home, but that little voice impressed her to keep knocking. Finally, a very grumpy man came to the door. He was unreceptive, but she was impressed to pray with him anyway. After she prayed for the man, he changed and invited her and her friends into his house, where he broke down in tears. They had interrupted his attempt to commit suicide by the incessant knocking. When she prayed for him, he heard God speak to his heart. He realized that God cared for him. She was so thankful that she didn’t brush off those impressions of the Holy Spirit. Impressions from the Holy Spirit are not always so dramatic, but they are always important. Sometimes we forget that our conscience speaking is God’s still, small voice prompting us to avoid something wrong or drawing us to repent if wrong was done.
4. Willingness to Obey God’s Will: The bottom line on knowing God’s will is your willingness to obey. Without the right attitude of surrender to God, persons will confuse their feelings with impressions of the Holy Spirit, misread providential workings to suit their own desires, avoid searching the Scriptures for guidance or misunderstand Scripture. This is why Ellen White wrote, “Until you have the resolution to obey God’s will you cannot have His guidance” (5T, p. 511). Maintaining a continual surrender to God is only possible through daily heartfelt prayer and time in God’s word. Without that devotional life, we really won’t care about God’s will because we will be absorbed in our own will and desires. God’s leading in your life is bound up in the time that you spend with Him. Learning to hear His voice in your devotional life is how you learn to hear His voice in every situation in life, including following His leading in earth’s final events.