Wouldn’t it be great to know exactly how God wants us to serve? God’s will doesn’t have to be a mystery. Here’s how to discern God’s will.
Have you ever faced a crossroads in life and wondered, like Paul on the road to Damascus, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
We may wish we could receive a personal answer like Paul did. But the Bible shows God does not work that way with most people—nor does He generally strike people blind to get their attention! However, He does want us to know His will, His plan and specific things He wants us to do.
Let’s look at some of the ways we can discover God’s will for us individually. How does He want you and me to use the gifts He has given us?
But first we need the overview. What is the primary purpose for our lives? What is God’s great desire for all of us now and for eternity?
What is the will of God?
When you get down to it, God gave us the entire Bible to reveal His will. But let’s start by looking at a few summary scriptures that help us to get a glimpse of His awesome plan for us.
- Jesus said: “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50).
- “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).
- “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! … We know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:1-3).
As amazing as it sounds, God’s will is for us to become like Him—to become His children! We encourage you to read these passages in your own Bible, to read the surrounding scriptures and the many others like them. (Our article “Relationship With God” can help you explore this mind-boggling part of God’s will for you.)
With this awesome purpose in mind, what should we do? How do we align ourselves to God’s will? Consider these key scriptures that show what God expects and how He helps us think and act like Him.
- “What does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13; see also Micah 6:8).
- “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
The Holy Bible and God’s Holy Spirit are gifts from God to help us know and do His will so we can be transformed to become like Him.
This is vitally important, and we have a number of resources to help you explore God’s will in much greater depth. We urge you to read “7 Ways to Please God,” “Fear of the Lord: What Does It Mean?” God’s 10 Commandments: Still Relevant Today and Change Your Life!
When God’s will conflicts with your will
Jesus Christ set the ultimate example of yielding to God’s will. When He faced His impending beating and crucifixion—trials that no human being would ever want to face—He prayed: “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup [of suffering] away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
Whenever you discover that God’s plans differ from yours, can you put His will ahead of your own?
Whenever you discover that God’s plans differ from yours, can you put His will ahead of your own? Whenever you find that what you want to do is wrong, can you yield to God’s will? That’s the mind of Christ!
Of course, some aspects of life are not so much questions of right or wrong as they are questions of wisdom and making the best choices. Sometimes more than one choice can be within God’s will.
What career should you choose? What job should you pursue? Who should you marry? Where should you live? God gives principles that can help us make good choices in dealing with these types of questions. See our article on “Decision Making” for some helpful tips.
Discerning God’s will for you
We have looked at God’s overall will for humanity—the wonderful purpose for our lives. Now let’s consider: What is God’s will for you, with your unique roles, talents, interests and background?
God gives us gifts, He says, in order to build up His Church and for the “profit of all” (Ephesians 4:12, 16; 1 Corinthians 12:7). He intends for us to take them and serve others.
How can you discover how God wants you to serve and use your gifts?
1. Pray for God’s guidance.
The best one to show us God’s will is—God! He wants us to pray for His help. He was pleased when Solomon asked Him for an “understanding heart” (1 Kings 3:9). He will also be happy when we trust in Him and ask Him to direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
2. Write down your roles and study what God says about them.
We each currently have roles and responsibilities. For example, I am a son, husband, father, employee, citizen, member of the Church of God and minister. The Bible has much to say about each of these roles. By studying what God says about these responsibilities, we can put them into the right priority and take steps to fulfill God’s will in each area.
3. Write down your gifts and study what God says about them.
The Bible also talks about individual talents and spiritual gifts that God gives to each of us. Though they differ, God intends for us to use them to serve each other and build up His Church (1 Corinthians 12:4-8).
How can we know which gifts we have been given? After asking God for help to see them, we can ask ourselves: What have I done well and enjoyed doing? What needs have I filled? What needs do I have the skills and abilities to fulfill? How do others describe me? (It can be helpful to ask family members and friends how they see you serving and what they suggest you volunteer to do.)
After writing down talents, skills and interests you could use to serve, take time to study those gifts in the Bible. How does God want them to be used? How does God not want them to be used? How can they be used most effectively? And, can we stay humble in God’s eyes and avoid the pride and vanity that Satan loves to pump into human minds?
4. Look for needs.
Needs abound all around us—far more than any of us could fulfill. But as we give attention to the needs, we may come across some that our gifts, interests and resources are uniquely suited for.
Our study of how God looks at our roles and our gifts can help us put the service opportunities into proper priority. In general, God expects us to serve Him first, family second, the Church third, and the rest of the world next (Matthew 6:33; 1 Timothy 5:8; Galatians 6:10). This is always a balancing act that takes us back to our knees, as well as to the next point.
5. Seek wise counsel.
If our personal study and survey of the opportunities around us leaves us still wondering what to do, why not seek wise counsel from others who know us—parents, grandparents, friends, mentors, ministers, etc. They can help us see gifts in ourselves and opportunities around us we may have missed. They can introduce us to people and perhaps even open doors to new pursuits.
Some people seem to just keep waiting for the perfect occasion before they give of themselves. Service often requires us to move outside our comfort zone to help others, learn new skills or grow in godly character traits like humility and patience.
No matter what our gifts are, it is God’s will that we all lovingly, diligently get in there and serve (Romans 12:10-13).
7. Help others serve.
Once we have finally found our niche, we naturally take responsibility for it. We take ownership and joy in helping in that area. This is all good and right.
But even then it’s easy to become so focused on the specific job that we lose sight of one of God’s other goals for us. At some point He may want us to train others who have potential in the same area. He may want us to move on to other service opportunities or greater needs or where we can grow more. Being territorial—this is “my job and mine alone”—is not the way of God, who is continually training each of us to become more like Him.
So look for ways to help and develop others as well as yourself. Be flexible, since sometimes God reveals His will by circumstances and by what is possible (1 Corinthians 16:7; James 4:15). Be willing to stretch—to hand over opportunities to others and learn something new outside your comfort zone.
When we can’t immediately discern God’s will
There will be times, of course, when we just do not immediately know God’s will in a specific situation. But even those are growth times, where in our waiting we learn to trust Him to help us work through the challenges. They are the moments when we remember that all our Father allows is for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28).
When it is a spiritual trial, we learn to go into that test with this confidence: “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19).
Growing to become more like God is a continual process. It can be hard. But it will have amazing, eternal rewards!
And that is God’s will.