How Can I Know the Will of God for My Life?
Topic: Finding God's Will Passage: Acts 20:36–21:14
What was the will of God for Paul in this passage? Was God’s will for Paul to go to Jerusalem? This passage brings up a huge question for us: is there a pre-ordained, hidden plan of God for each of our lives that we are meant to try and discern before we make choices? The Christians who tried to convince Paul not to go to Jerusalem in this passage were not sinning. And Paul did not miss the will of God by going to Jerusalem, nor would he have been sinning if he had decided not to go to Jerusalem.
In Acts 20:22-23, the Holy Spirit had impressed upon Christians in town after town that Paul would face beatings and jail in Jerusalem. Then in Acts 21:4, Luke notes once again that Paul is being told through the Spirit not to go to Jerusalem. This is not a command being set forth by the Holy Spirit, but a revelation of the consequences that await Paul if he chooses to go to Jerusalem. Once again in Acts 21:10-12, the Holy Spirit reveals through Agabus what Paul should expect if he goes to Jerusalem. Paul lets them know he has made his choice to go (Acts 21:13). The big question is: does Paul have freedom to make his decision on this issue? And similarly, do you as a Christian have freedom to make decisions on issues such as who to marry, what school to go to, or whether to teach a Bible study? In both cases, the answer is yes.
God’s will for your life is to love Him, pursue Him, grow in wisdom, and make choices. The question before us is: does God have a plan for your life? Is there a will of God for your life? The answer is yes, and in another sense no. Yes, because God is in absolute, sovereign control of your life, and one day you will look back and see what His plan was for your life. But no in another sense, because you are not under the burden of figuring out God’s secret will for all the particulars of your life ahead of time. Every one of us is faced constantly with decisions to make about life and finances and church and the future. Many Christians are paralyzed by a fear of choosing wrongly. But this is not God’s will for His children to be living in that kind of fear.
To define some terms, the “will of God” in this context is not referring to God’s will of decree (which is whatever God ordains to happen in human history). The “will of God” in this context is also not referring to God’s will of command (which is the way God commands us to live). God’s will of decree can never be defied, but His will of command can be defied and disobeyed. Most of the time what we refer to when talking about the “will of God” (and what is being referred to in this passage), is God’s will of direction. This refers to wanting to know God’s specific plan for the who, what, where, and when of our choices when there are several options available that are not in and of themselves against Biblical morality or commands. God doesn’t expect us to figure out His plan before you make each decision. On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that God does not guide us in decision-making. We should love God and be free to make decisions on non-moral issues. God has laid out clearly how we are to live in moral purity and loving others. God has not called us to live in anxiety over the future (Cf. James 4:13-15, Matt. 6:25-34). Jesus does not want us to worry about the future. This does not mean that planning for the future or retirement is sin. Those plans are to be made seeking first the kingdom. Worry is a spiritual issue that must be fought with faith.
Do you want to know God’s will of direction for your life? It’s for you to seek first and foremost His rule and reign and kingdom over your life (Matt. 6:33). It’s your sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3). It’s that you rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:16-18). It’s that you be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:17-18). Simply put, love God and make choices.