Some people think the will of God for their lives must be dreary, boring, or too difficult. I used to think like that before I knew the Lord. Others think that if they do God’s will, then it will require them to do something they don’t want to do. Some question God’s will, saying things like, “If God were a God of love, why would He allow this to happen.” Still many don’t even know what the expression “God’s will” even means!
So let’s look at the truth about God’s will, so that we can properly understand it and know it.
The Nature and Meaning of God’s Will
First of all, let’s consider the very nature of God’s will and what it means when we refer to the will of God.
God’s will is that Jesus would lose none of those whom He has given to Jesus. "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. (Joh 6:39)
It’s God’s will to give eternal life to those who believe in Jesus. "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." (Joh 6:40)
God is a Mighty Savior, and it’s His will or desire for all men to be saved. “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1Ti 2:3-4)
It’s not God’s will that anyone perish in hell. "So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish. (Mat 18:14)
His will is for everyone to come to repentance. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2Pe 3:9)
Since God cannot repent for you or force you to repent, sometimes it is God’s will for us to be made sorrowful for a season, in order to bring us to repentance. “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.” (2Co 7:9)
For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2Co 7:10)
Will (Greek, thelema)
When speaking of the will of God, the word for “will” is thelema, which means “A determination (properly the thing), that is, (actively) choice (specifically purpose, decree; abstractly volition) or (passively) inclination: - desire, pleasure, will.” – Strong. The will of God is what He has determined should happen. It’s His desire or pleasure.
Another word that is used much less often for God’s will is boulomai, which is a verb that means “1) to will deliberately, have a purpose, be minded; 2) of willing as an affection, to desire.” – Thayers. Some examples in the New Testament, where this is used for God’s will are 2 Peter 3:9 (where it is used in the negative sense about what God does not desire), Matthew 11:27, 1 Corinthians 12:11 and James 1:18.
It was God’s will to beget us and give us new life by the Word of Truth. “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.” (Jas 1:18)
If you have given your life to Jesus, then you were born again by the will of God. “Who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (Joh 1:13)
Certainly it’s God’s will for you to give yourself to the Lord and to the brethren. “and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.” (2Co 8:5)
It’s God’s will for you to be made pure and holy. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;” (1Th 4:3)
It’s God’s will for you to give thanks in everything. “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1Th 5:18)
It’s God’s will for you to silence the ignorance of foolish men by doing what is right. “For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.” (1Pe 2:15)
Doing what is right usually involves some kind of suffering by the will of God, which requires you to trust God. “Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” (1Pe 4:19)
It’s God’s will for elders to shepherd His flock voluntarily, not because they have to, or because they are being forced to, or for the money. “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; (1Pe 5:2)
Now that we have established the true meaning of God’s will and its benevolent nature, let’s see why it’s so important.
The Importance of God’s Will
The reason Jesus came was to do God’s will. "THEN I SAID, 'BEHOLD, I HAVE COME (IN THE SCROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME) TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.'" (Heb 10:7)
The only person Jesus considers part of His family is the one who does the will of God. "For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother." (Mar 3:35)
The apostle Paul lived according to God’s will. “But taking leave of them and saying, ‘I will return to you again if God wills,’ he set sail from Ephesus.” (Act 18:21)
Paul prayed that he would visit the Christians in Rome by the will of God. “Always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.” (Rom 1:10) As we know from Luke’s account in the book of Acts, when Paul was on trial for his faith, he appealed to Caesar. This required that he be sent to Rome for the emperor’s decision. Therefore, he did go to Rome, but it was as a prisoner. There he lived in his own rented house, where he welcomed all who came to see him, and preached the kingdom of God to them.
The Spirit intercedes according to the will of God. “And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom 8:27)
That’s why the Spirit’s intercession is so vital, because the only prayer God hears is the prayer according to God’s will. “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1Jn 5:14)
We must know and confirm the will of God. “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.” (Rom 12:2)
You need to be fully assured as to what God’s will is, and this comes through prayer. “Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.” (Col 4:12)
The prayer and declaration that Jesus taught us to pray is “Heavenly Father, Your will be done.” When His disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray, he said to pray to the Father in heaven: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” (Mat 6:10). There is no resistance to God’s will being done in heaven, but there is resistance to it on earth. That’s why we need to be praying that it will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And when the saints around the world are praying that way continually, then the will of God will be accomplished.
That’s the way He Himself prayed in the midst of His suffering. “He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.’" (Mat 26:42)
Now that we see so many reasons why the will of God is so important, let’s move on to how that applies to our lives from a practical perspective.
The Necessity of Doing God’s Will
Not only is God’s will benevolent and very important to us, it is absolutely necessary for us to do the will of God.
We must live our lives only for the will of God. “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” (1Pe 4:1-2).
You only receive what was promised when you have done the will of God. “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” (Heb 10:36)
We must do the will of God from the heart. Paul taught slaves to obey their earthly masters “not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” (Eph 6:6)
To avoid passing away and perishing with the world, you must to the will of God. “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1Jn 2:17)
Only the one who does the will of God will make heaven. "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. (Mat 7:21)
Doing God’s will is not the same as saying you will do it or having sincere intentions. It must be evidenced by action. "Which of the two did the will of his father?" They *said, "The first." Jesus *said to them, "Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. (Mat 21:31)
Anyone who knows God’s will, and does not act according to it, will be punished severely in hell. "And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, (Luk 12:47). So there is a great responsibility to live in the perfect will of God once you know it.
And those who don’t act upon it, because they don’t know it will be punished, too, although less severely. (Lk 12:48)
For Jesus it was as nourishing as eating food to do God’s will. “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.’” (Joh 4:34)
Jesus only sought to do God’s will. "I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (Joh 5:30)
Jesus only came to do God’s will. "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (Joh 6:38)
You come to know the will of God experientially by doing it. It’s not just an intellectual head knowledge that you need. "If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. (Joh 7:17).
God knew that King David would do all His will, and He called him a man after His heart. "After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, 'I HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.' (Act 13:22). We need to be men and women and children after God’s heart, who will do all his will.
“So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Eph 5:17). We need to understand what the Lord’s will is, in order to avoid being foolish.
“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,” (Col 1:9). Paul prayed that the Colossians would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. That’s the kind of wisdom we need.
Once you know God’s will, He will give you all you need to do it. “Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Heb 13:20-21)
Putting it All Together
As we’ve discovered in God’s Word today, the will of God is not something to be dreaded. It’s nothing to run away from or resist. His will is always good, perfect and pleasing.
Before I gave my life to Jesus, I was considering the claims of the gospel that a friend had shared with me. I was considering giving my life to Jesus, and I thought that if I gave my life to the Lord, I would no longer have those hilariously fun times I had enjoyed in the world. But after I gave my life to Jesus, I realized how wrong I was. I have experienced greater highs of joy and excitement and fun in the kingdom of God while serving the Lord Jesus that I ever experienced from any of the many worldly pleasures I indulged in while I was in the world. He knows what is best, and wants the best for us.
He desires all men to be saved. It’s not His will that any perish, but that all come to repentance. Yet you must repent and give your life to Jesus, or else you will perish. But since He cannot make you repent, He sometimes allows godly sorrow into your life to bring you to repentance, which leads to salvation.
The will of God is for you to be sanctified, holy, righteous, and living according to the truth, doing what is right, and giving thanks to Him in everything. God’s will is very important to us. It affects every aspect of your life -- including where you live, work, go to school, what you do for work and recreation, who you marry, how you dress, how you treat your parents, spouse, children, and neighbor, and how you spend your money.
The only ones who are punished are the ones who don’t do the will of God, either because they don't know His will or because they know His will and make a choice not to do it. Yet the ones who know His will and don’t do it will be punished more severely. It’s important to know and understand what His will is!
However, we don’t seek to know the will of God for informational purposes only. We seek to know it, so that we can do it. It’s not enough to simply call Jesus your Lord. It’s absolutely necessary for you to do the will of God, in order to become part of Jesus’ family, to enter heaven and live forever.
Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. The "Thy Will Be Done" paintings © 2012 are by Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist.
Author's note: I invite you to visit these related articles of mine: "Is Obedience Optional?", "Obedience by the Spirit," "Righteous Deeds and White Robes," "Faith Works!," and "Doing What is Right," and Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth? You can access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." I also recommend the booklet by brother Sadiq Ibraham, called Walking in God's Perfect Will.
Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus. Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15). He preached that we must repent and believe.
Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International. He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.