The Great Discovery

Is God’s will an incomprehensible mystery, or is it something we can know?

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?

 

Reflect

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.”

 

Pray

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.

 

Meditate

  • Romans 6:12-19
  • Ephesians 4:22-24
  • Ephesians 5:7-17
  • 1 Peter 1:13-16
  • 1 John 2:15-17
 

Practice

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.

 
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1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers,

19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

8 But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?" says the LORD of hosts.

1 Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret;

2 and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets.

3 And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat.

4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch."

5 Simon answered and said, Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets."

6 When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break;

7 so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink.

8 But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!"

9 For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken;

10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men."

11 When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.

10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men."

16 For 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.

4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,

13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!

16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?

17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed,

18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,

23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,

24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

7 Therefore do not be partakers with them;

8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light

9 (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth),

10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;

12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.

13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.

14 For this reason it says, Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you."

15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,

16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance,

15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;

16 because it is written, YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY."

15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16 For 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.

17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

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