. . . offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom. 12:1-2)
. . . We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing the the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. (Col. 1:9 – 12)
How do we come to know God’s will? Through the wisdom and understanding the Holy spirit gives, Paul says. This wisdom comes to us when we immerse ourselves in God’s Word, which was written down for us through direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit. That authorship and authority is confirmed by Jesus (John 10:35), Paul (2 Tim. 3:16) and Peter (2 Pet. 1:20).
We don’t have to figure out God’s Word all by ourselves. As His children, we are given His Spirit to live in us, helping us to understand it, and other believers to study it with. The Spirit also helps by prompting us, enabling us to discern the truth in every situation. (It’s good to remember that we’re to be looking for God’s will, and not validation of our own.)
God has revealed His will in the biggest things, the smallest things, and everything in between. Some things apply generally (you must not murder, you must not commit adultery) and some are particular to specific situations (how we are to love our enemies). Some are for a period of time (burnt offerings as part of worship) and some are unlimited (the call to love our neighbor as ourselves.)
Without the knowledge of God’s revealed will both generally and specifically, we’re left to our own devices. We can be doing good things, but we’re doing them according to our own ideas — or someone else’s — and not necessarily God’s. We don’t have to wonder if God wants us to save life rather than destroy it, to act honestly instead of dishonestly, to be faithful to our spouse instead of unfaithful. But we can’t assume we always know God’s will in our work, our goals, and our relationships. When it comes right down to it, it’s the ultimate arrogance to assume we know exactly what God wants in every situation without asking and seeking Him in prayer. That kind of assumption is like thinking we can do brain surgery because we know how to use a power saw. When making a significant decision — about a job change, a major move or marriage — it’s important to not only pray, but to ask mature believers to pray with us. If they have a different leading or no leading, God’s answer is likely “no” or “not now.”
We are called to measure everything against the standard of God’s Word; that it, His Word as a whole. When we immerse ourselves in Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, we come to know God’s character, to understand His nature and His overarching purpose to redeem His people for eternal relationship with Him. We come to understand ourselves better: who we are in Christ, and what that means in our everyday lives.
As we grow in our knowledge of God — not just knowledge about Him, but the knowledge that comes through our personal relationship with Him — we become stronger, more patient, and more able to endure in following His will, with or without measurable results.
Then we can be thankful because we’ll be released from needing the validation of others, from having to prove ourselves. We can find joy that God, who knows the end from the beginning, has all things in His hand — including us. We can’t do better than turning ourselves over to Him.
We can test and approve His will through His Word, prayer, and fellowship with mature believers. It takes intention, discipline and the desire to please Him in every way. It’s not His will that we try to please Him according to our own ideas, or those of others. We become holy not by our own qualifications, but because Christ has qualified us. It’s our relationship with Him, our knowledge of His will and our heart to do it that qualified us us to share in His kingdom, both here and hereafter. Our qualifications are far more than im-proved; they’re Him-proved!