How Do You Know If You’re Following God’s Will?

Question from a reader:

How do you know if you are following God’s way? So many times I think I’m doing what He wants, but it doesn’t go well. Is it only God’s plan if it works?

Answer from Doreen Button, EPM staff:

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past, wondering the same thing, and have a few ideas to share.

Randy wrote a great article  on this topic. In it he says:

The Bible is the revealed will of God. If you want to live in his will, then “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16). Fill your heart and mind with the Word of God, trust in His empowerment to obey Him, and confess and repent when you disobey and fail. If you do this, you will be living in the will of God….the will of God is not wrapped up in the details of what we do, but the character of who we are. It is not just the large choices, but the daily small choices that cumulatively build us into who God wants (wills) us to be. God cares about the little things and His will can include details, but these are secondary. What is primary is that we choose to follow his clear direction in spiritual and moral arenas….”Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). Augustine said, “Love God and do as you please.” Because if you're really loving God, you want to do what pleases Him.

Randy also writes:

We should seek the Lord’s will through the reading and study of His Word, prayer, and the wise counsel of others. I emphasize “wise” to discourage counsel only from those who automatically agree with us and are not committed to speaking God’s truth. Scripture says in an abundance of counselors, there is wisdom and victory.

Regarding the sometimes not-so-great consequences of doing what you believed to be God’s will, keep in mind a couple of things. First, you don’t yet know the whole story. We see very little of what happens in our life; the ripple effect of each choice and reaction goes far beyond our ability to witness and sometimes even understand. What may, at this moment, seem like it didn’t turn out may, because you were obedient regardless of the consequences, have far-reaching and positive outcomes you won’t know about until you’re in Jesus’ presence. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

And second, we don’t know what God is trying to teach us through the parts of our journey that seem to go off the rails. This is one of those times when I’m happy God doesn’t ask me to be His public relations agent and make Him appear to be less than He really is in order to soothe my—or anyone else’s—ruffled sensibilities, because this truth is hard to swallow: He sometimes allows pain and suffering and broken nails and missed appointments in order to get our attention or to humble us into remembering we’re guests in His universe, not vice versa.

I truly believe Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” I’ve seen God graciously work things out in incomprehensible, stunning, and grace-filled ways too many times not to believe it.

Keep seeking Him and marinating in His Word and you’ll be able to rest and trust that what happens has been filtered through His loving hands, even when you don’t like it in the moment.

Photo: Unsplash

Doreen is part of the Eternal Perspective Ministries staff, and helps Randy with editing and answering reader questions. She is a certified biblical counselor.