What thoughts come to mind when the will of God is mentioned? Your response will largely be shaped by your understanding of the Lord, His methods, and the perceived cost of obedience. God’s will is simply His purpose and plan, and its scope ranges from providential decrees worked out for His entire creation to specific plans for each individual life.
God’s Knowable Will
There are many misconceptions regarding the Lord’s will, so we need an accurate, scriptural understanding in order to make good choices. Although God’s will may seem obscure and difficult to discern, He’s not trying to hide anything from us. Furthermore, it isn’t mystical knowledge reserved for only a few, nor does it always require us to do something we’d prefer to avoid.
Scripture provides guidance about God’s will that is true for every believer, in every age, regardless of the circumstances. One such passage is Romans 12:1-2. The motivation and ability to live according to its wisdom originate not from within ourselves but from God and His kindness toward us (v. 1). Three commands call for actions that are appropriate responses to God’s mercies and, if obeyed, lead us straight into His will.
Present your body as a sacrifice of worship to God.
In reality, we already belong to the Lord—first, because we are His creatures, and second, because He has redeemed us from sin (1 Peter 1:18-19). Offering ourselves as a sacrifice means committing to live as God’s beloved possession rather than for our own pleasure and preferences. The adjectives Paul uses to describe such a sacrifice help us understand what this looks like.
Living. As long as God gives us breath, we aim to please Him in every aspect of life.
Holy. For our life to be such an all-inclusive offering, we set ourselves apart from sin and to God.
Acceptable to God. We should never ignore the Lord’s known will by making substitutions that are more satisfactory to us. God was displeased when the Israelites ignored His standards for sacrificial animals and instead offered ones they didn’t want—the blind, lame, or sick (Mal. 1:8).
When God’s will seems unreasonable to us, we must remember that we can’t see the entire picture or fully know His purposes. He rules over each circumstance in our life and has complete knowledge of every event under heaven from eternity past to eternity future. We, on the other hand, have a very limited understanding. It would be foolish to navigate our way through life based on our own wisdom when the Lord is the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-wise guide.
When God’s will seems unreasonable to us, we must remember that we can’t see the entire picture or fully know His purposes.
When Jesus asked Peter to do something that seemed unreasonable, the apostle decided to trust and obey anyhow—and his life was forever changed.
Peter’s life was set on a new trajectory because he chose to trust and obey when Jesus told him to do something that seemed unreasonable. Seated in Peter’s boat, the Lord finished teaching the crowd on shore and then told the fisherman to head into deep water and lower the nets. This made no sense to Peter because he’d spent the entire night fishing in the most promising spots but came up empty. Yet because Jesus was the one asking, he complied. And to his surprise, he caught so many fish that the net began to break (Luke 5:1-11).
Suddenly realizing this was no ordinary man, Peter fell down at Jesus’ feet; he was painfully aware of his own sin and unworthiness even to be in Christ’s presence. Then the Lord said something that changed the entire course of Peter’s life: “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10). Immediately Peter left his business, followed Jesus, and became one of the apostles who turned the world upside down with the gospel.
Peter decided to trust and obey anyhow—and his life was forever changed.
Instead of resisting God’s will when it seems unacceptable to us, we need to respond the way Peter did. We should never underestimate what the Lord can do in our life as a result of one small step of obedience.
Do not be conformed to this world.
To be conformed means to be molded by an outside force—in this case, by the world, which could be defined as any philosophy that leaves God out of the picture. John says, “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:16). James adds that friendship with the world is enmity toward God (James 4:4).
We can’t possibly follow God’s will for our life if we are governed by what feels good, looks good, or appeals to our sense of self-importance. Whenever we let manmade pleasures, values, and beliefs infiltrate our mind and heart, we’re being shaped into the world’s likeness rather than Christ’s. The way to refute and reverse this process is found in the next command.
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Although we are to be active in the process, God is the one who does the transforming and renewing through His Holy Spirit, who indwells us. As we are progressively shaped into the image of Christ, the change becomes visible via our behavior.
Although we are to be active in the process, God is the one who does the transforming and renewing through His Holy Spirit, who indwells us.
This transformation begins in the mind, which is renewed by taking in God’s Word. As we study Scripture, the Holy Spirit changes how we think so we can begin to see life from the Lord’s perspective. In the process, our decisions, lifestyle, and prayers begin to fall in step with God’s will rather than being molded by the world.
If you’ve ever thought of God’s will as something to be dreaded, endured, or avoided, Romans 12:1-2 is good news. By putting these three steps into practice, you’ll gain a new appreciation of God’s specific purposes for you. The circumstances that once caused you to grumble and complain will now be revealed for what they are—God’s perfect plan being worked out in your life.
Believers have two options. They can resist God’s will while clinging to their desires, or they can lay themselves on His altar in submission, die to the world around them, and renew their mind with His Word. The first path results in anger, fear, and frustration, but the path of God’s will is sweet, peaceful, and full of joy. The Lord alone knows how to wisely guide you through life. Will you trust Him and discover the gladness of walking in His will?
Have you ever assumed that God’s will for your life is limited to big decisions? Actually, the Lord is very interested in details because the course of your life is determined fundamentally by the small things. Do your entertainment choices, work ethic, relational interactions, spending practices, and innermost thoughts align with the world’s values or God’s will? What needs to be laid on the altar?
Often, we want to do what is acceptable to us instead of letting the Lord choose our path. And so, we make substitutions. For example, Christ tells us to forgive everyone who wrongs us, but if we think this is too big a sacrifice, we may opt for putting a larger check in the offering plate, hoping it will appease God. Or perhaps we sense that the Lord wants us to serve Him in a particular way, but since we feel inadequate, we choose a different type of service. Have you ever resisted God’s will by doing something similar?
Have you ever assumed that God’s will for your life is limited to big decisions?
Are you busy trying to find the Lord’s will for a specific situation while neglecting what He has already said to do? If so, Matthew 6:33 is a good reminder about God-pleasing priorities: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus, I ask that I may be filled with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so I can walk in a manner worthy of You, pleasing You in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God (Col. 1:9-10). Amen.
- Romans 6:12-19
- Ephesians 4:22-24
- Ephesians 5:7-17
- 1 Peter 1:13-16
- 1 John 2:15-17
Presenting yourself to the Lord as a living sacrifice is not a one-time event but a daily (and sometimes hourly) act of submission to God’s will in every area of your life. If you find yourself walking away from the altar, confess and turn back.
Transforming the mind is also a long process, but it will not happen if you don’t read your Bible. Make this a daily practice, and don’t just read words so you can check it off a to-do list. Think about the passage you are reading, and pay particular attention to any insights regarding what the Lord desires.