How can a Christian know God's will in his life? Every Christian should be keenly interested in knowing God's will for his life. Unless the Lord's plan is known and obeyed, then our lives are wasted, and we will miss the Master's "Well done."
The Scriptures are emphatic in teaching that God does reveal His will to those who desire to know it.
If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. John 7:17
It is a privilege that should be the normal experience of every believer.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:2
Whether one is seeking guidance as to a momentary problem or as to a life career, there are five steps to be followed. These may be summarized as follows: Yield; Confess; Pray; Study; Wait.
1. Yield. To yield is to present oneself to the Lord. It means to lay aside personal hopes, ambitions and desires. It means to want His way supremely. Paul yielded when he asked, "What wilt thou have me to do?" Isaiah yielded when he said, "Here am I; send me." Amaziah yielded for we read that "he willingly offered himself unto the LORD" (II Chronicles 17:16).
2. Confess. If we want to be in the center of His will, we must confess and forsake any secret sins which we cherish. Remember the words of the Psalmist, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Psalm 66:18). We should also confess our own helplessness and inability, and depend on His power.
Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23,24
3. Pray. This simply means that we must come before the Lord regularly, asking for His direction. We should claim His promise for guidance, asking Him to do as He has said. Our prayers should have His glory as their chief aim.
For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Colossians 1:9
Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. Colossians 4:12
4. Study. Spend much time in the Word of God. Read it while you are on your knees, asking God to speak to you through it. Read it slowly. Read it thoughtfully. Read it expectantly.
Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee. Psalm 143:8
Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness. Psalm 143:10
5. Wait. If God does not answer immediately, wait; "My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him." (Psalm 62:5). If you have prayed for direction and no answer comes, then God's guidance is for you to stay where you are. If you are really trusting in the Lord, you will not be in a hurry. "He that believeth shall not make haste" (Isaiah 28:16). God reveals His will to us in several different ways. He may use one, or a combination, of the following methods:
1. Guidance through the Bible. The Scriptures give direction in two ways. First of all, they definitely prohibit certain courses of action. For instance, if a Christian were praying for guidance as to whether he should marry an unsaved girl, he could get God's answer in II Corinthians 6:14. On the other hand, God often uses other verses of Scripture to guide us to take a certain definite course of action. A verse that you had never noticed before may take on new meaning because it tells you what to do at the very time when you were praying for direction.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalms 119:105
2. Guidance through Christians. It is sometimes helpful to seek the advice of mature, spiritual Christians. Their experience and counsel can often save a younger person from serious pitfalls.
Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Hebrews 13:7
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. Hebrews 13:17
3. Guidance through circumstances. Since God controls the entire universe, He can and often does plan the circumstances of our lives to reveal His will. A letter, for instance, may arrive at just the right time with just the information needed to point the way.
4. Guidance through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God can influence our convictions, our desires or our inclinations in such a way as to make God's will clear. In such cases, the guidance is so obvious that to refuse it would be the same as disobedience.
And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man's house. Acts 11:12
Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. Acts 16:6-7
One further word—when God gives light, walk in it (Acts 26:19). Guidance must be obeyed to be continued. Obedience is the basis of a life of true happiness and lasting value.
Copied for WholesomeWords.org from What Christians Believe: Basic Studies in Bible Doctrine and Christian Living by Alfred P. Gibbs... [et al.]; staff members of Emmaus Bible School. Chicago: Moody Press, 1951.