How to Find God's Will and Guidance

This article explains God's sovereign will and commanded will. It covers three meanings to God's guidance and four ways God guides indirectly.

How to Find God's Will and Guidance
Photo by Aaron Burden / Unsplash

The Christian Basics series covers the basics of Christianity. This article summarizes the basic truths of God’s will and His guidance.

Article Content

  1. God's Sovereign and Commanded Will
  2. Three Meanings to God's Guidance
  3. God's Direct Guidance
  4. God's Four Means of Indirect Guidance

1. God’s Will

A. God’s sovereign will

God’s sovereign will involves His ultimate, complete control over everything. Nothing happens that was not in God’s plan. History unfolds God’s purposes, which happen exactly as He planned.

  • Secret; known only to God except as revealed through history or revelation.
  • Cannot be resisted or thwarted.
  • Encompasses both good and evil.
  • Comprehensive; controls all aspects of life, time, and history.
  • The believer is not commanded to know or discover what God has not revealed.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

“The LORD of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand,” (Isaiah 14:24)

“Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’” (Isaiah 46:9–10)

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,” (Ephesians 1:11)

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

“For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

B. God’s commanded will

God’s commanded will is revealed throughout the Bible as laws and principles. God holds men accountable for his commanded will.

  • Revealed in the Bible.
  • Can be resisted or disobeyed.
  • Involves only that which is good; holy.
  • Specific; provides principles for living.
  • Believers are exhorted to know, understand, and obey all that God has revealed.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37–39)

“Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:20)

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;” (1 Thessalonians 4:3)

C. Our response to God’s sovereign will

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5–6)

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:19)

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”” (James 4:13–15)

D. Our response to God’s commanded will

“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:17)

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)

“You shall therefore love the LORD your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always.” (Deuteronomy 11:1)

“Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.” (Psalms 25:8–10)

2. Meaning of God’s Guidance

Guidance is God’s active role in our lives, accomplishing His purposes.

A. Lead (to shepherd; to bear or carry)

“Then he led out his people like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.” (Psalms 78:52)

“And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalms 139:24)

B. Guide (to show; to help understand)

“He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Psalms 23:3)

“You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.” (Psalms 73:24)

C. Direct (to establish or prepare; to make straight)

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5)

3. God’s Direct Guidance

Direct guidance was experienced during the Old Testament and early New Testament time periods.

  • Spoken revelation from God
  • Visions
  • Dreams
  • Prophets and Apostles speaking for God

4. God’s Indirect Guidance

Today, we see God guiding indirectly. The Holy Spirit is active in all areas of indirect guidance as part of His ministry in the believer.

A. God’s word

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalms 119:105)

B. Conscience and conviction

“Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.” (Acts 17:16)

C. God’s providence (circumstances controlled by God)

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

D. God-given wisdom and counsel

“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you,” (Proverbs 2:1–11)

“By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.” (Proverbs 13:10)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5)