I want to focus on that little phrase: “that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Discovering the will of God can seem like such an enigma! There’s nothing worse than making a decision that leads to chaos and trouble. The great thing about the will of God: it’s good, acceptable and perfect. By design, the will of God won’t lead you into something bad. Sure, it is inevitable bad things will happen while in the will of God, but the difference is Romans 8, verse 28:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
When living in the will of God even a bad situation comes together for good. The end may not be the expected, but doing God’s will guarantees the perfect outcome.
Very often great things begin with one small desire. There’s an aspiration to do something. Commit it to the Lord and trust Him.¹ Even before making a decision, express to God that if He doesn’t want that desire, neither do you! Tell Him, “Lord, if you don’t like the idea, then I don’t like it.” And afterwards, be flexible to change.
Now you’re ready to conduct the test. For discerning God’s will, I’d like to suggest testing your will with His by asking 3 questions.
Test #1: Does the decision contradict God’s Word?
This is a key! What does God say in His Word about the desire you have? I had a friend who became convinced God called her to minister in Africa. She had promises galore! She had an incredible love for the people of Africa. But, she also had just one problem—she was married and her husband didn’t share the same burden. He was a youth pastor and together God called them both to serve in this specific pastoral ministry.
It was a most difficult decision for her! She really wanted to go help others in Africa. Emotionally, it was killing her. That is, until she discovered the Bible said her desire was in contradiction to what God says about marriage and leadership. She told me she’d found out God’s order was that the man is the head of the wife and that wives were to submit to their husbands. It was then she decided that if her husband didn’t want to go to Africa, neither did she. Point being, the will of God never contradicts the Word of God. Plus, it helped save their marriage!
Test #2: Does the decision dishonor God’s Character?
Sometimes we desire to do things that are not so black and white in God’s Word. What school do I go to? Where should I live? Should I take this job? What career choice is the best for me? These are personal questions that we want to make sure sync with God’s will.
The test: If the desire dishonors God’s character, than it’s not the will of God. Here is where we can ask that age-old question, “What would Jesus do?” Does the decision dishonor God’s character? If we’ll end up compromised in holiness, then it’s not the good, acceptable and perfect will of God. The romance of doing something unique and new sometimes sways our judgment. The question of dishonoring God’s character is great to have answered before acting upon an option. There are consequences to actions that need to be thought about—find answers reaching beyond immediate gratifications.
Test #3: Does the decision discredit God’s Witness?
God has a witness in this world! Our choices reflect on that witness. There are resources that can help get us make good decisions in light of what the will of God is. The last great thing to ask is, “What do others think?” I’m not saying you’re bound to do what others say about a thing. I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one to decide on what a person should do or not do. I don’t want the responsibility for an errant plan.
However, I will offer the good and bad about a choice. Proverbs 15, verse 22 reads:
Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.
Again, Proverbs 20, verse 18 says:
Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war.
The church is a great resource for figuring out God’s will before actually doing something. We get so worried of people telling us what to do that we forget God can actually use others to help make decisions. Without counsel plans fail! Success comes with many advisers.
Knowing and discovering the will of God is important for all believers. The goal is that His will becomes our will—this is how the will was won!
J. Robert Hanson
¹ Psalm 37:5, ESV: Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.