Identifying God's willGod does have a plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11).
“So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). Many believers desire to do God's will, but they struggle because they don't know what God's will is for their lives.
God's will can be divided into His general will and His specific will. His general will is always clear. We find His general will clearly revealed in Scripture.
It is the determining of God's specific will that is most stressful for the majority of believers.
God's specific will
One thing is absolutely assured: no one has perfect insight into God's will. The soundest, most mature believers can and do make mistakes about God's will.
In determining God's specific will there are some absolutes that never change:
God's specific will is that we have a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
God promises to give us wisdom if we ask Him and believe that He will give it (James 1:5). Romans 12:1-2 gives prerequisites that we must honor before God's will is revealed.
God doesn't use burning bushes much any more to communicate with His people, but He does communicate through burning hearts—hearts that are in tune to His Word and hearts that love and worship their Lord Jesus Christ.
How to know God's will
Because Psalm 32:8 promises God's guidance while seeking His will, we must immerse ourselves in prayer and in the study of God's Word, first and foremost, in order to make decisions that are compatible with God's specific will.
However, every decision must meet at least two criteria: First, it must be compatible with God's Word (see Psalm 119:105). Second, it must be compatible with personal convictions.
Some decisions are objective enough to be eliminated on the basis of direct contradiction to God's Word (see Proverbs 8:10).
God will not lead in a direction that will violate His principles. For example, He would not lead you into a situation where you would incur a large debt through borrowing (see Psalm 37:21; Romans 13:8). So many times people believe God is leading them into an area, and He may be, but they lunge forward without getting His specific direction.
Each decision also must be compatible with personal convictions. Paul wrote, “The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves” (Romans 14:22).
Christians are held to the highest standard, which requires constant input from the Holy Spirit (John 16:13) in order to keep their direction straight. This means that Christians are accountable if they defile their consciences by doing something they believe is wrong. This belief must be based on a firm conviction from God.
Even with the best discernment, it is possible to do things that are out of God's will. The key is not to let pride get in the way but rather, admit wrong and then submit to God's new directive. God has given each of us gifts, abilities, and talents to use in His service.
If a believer isn't gifted in a certain area, chances are God will probably not call him or her to serve in that area (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; Ephesians 4:11-13).
When deciding between alternatives about which earnest prayer has been made, many times the option that best fits into God's will and direction will be confirmed by an inner peace (Isaiah 32:17).
Many Christians make decisions on major issues based on what is called the “open door” philosophy. In other words, God would never let anyone do something wrong and therefore, if the door is open, I should go through it.
This is often called the “open mine shaft” philosophy because a lot of Christians stumble down open shafts thinking God wouldn't let them fail.
Too many Christians make decisions based on the “open door” philosophy: If God does not block it, it must be okay. Unfortunately, Satan can also open doors, many of which lead to destruction.
Finally, believers seeking God's specific will must be accountable to and listen to the advice of a few trusted men and women who are godly, who are wise in the operations of God's directives, and who are filled with God's Holy Spirit, that He has placed in their lives (Proverbs 12:15; 15:22).
Believers must constantly ask God to evaluate their motives (Psalm 139:23,24) and be willing to change direction as He leads.
Even with the best discernment it's possible, and even probable, that Christians will do things at times that are out of God's will. In such cases, their attitudes should be to thank God for showing them what doesn't work and then get back to the task of discovering what does.
On the other hand, a sure way to step out of God's path is to compromise His Word or His will and then justify the action by looking at an obvious benefit the action brings. Satan is quite willing and able to bless any plan that serves his purpose rather than God's.
Only by staying in God's Word, seeking strong godly counsel, and maintaining inner peace can a Christian avoid traps regarding His will.
If a believer finds himself or herself outside of God's will and is experiencing a lack of peace, he or she must be willing to abandon everything and seek God's path again. “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13).