The Lord Jesus Christ teaches us to pray that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Mt 6:10). He reigns as king in heaven, for His will has been fulfilled. Whenever His will is done on earth, His kingdom is realized in our hearts (Lk 17:21).
The kingdom of God is the main theme of Jesus’ ministry. He proclaimed that the kingdom of God is at hand (Mt 4:17) and advised the world to seek His kingdom and to seek righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17). For those who abide in His kingdom, the blessings of this life shall be provided (Mt 6:33) as well as the eventual glory of eternal life in heaven (Mt 13:43).
The Will of God: Good, Acceptable, and Perfect
The will of God is derived from God's divine nature. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, and His deity is full of righteousness, holiness, and compassion (Ps 103:8; Eph 4:24). No one is good but God alone (Lk 18:19); thus, His will is good, acceptable, and perfect (Rom 12:2).
God's Good Will. In obedience to his father, Joseph went to look for his brothers who were grazing the flock. When Joseph found them, his brothers sold him to Egypt as a slave because of their jealousy (Acts 7:9). In Egypt, Joseph resisted sin with his master's wife out of godly fear, but because of his refusal, the woman framed him and he was imprisoned (Gen 39). Joseph's faith was tested as he suffered in the Egyptian prison (Ps 105:17-19), which seemed to contradict God's revelation to him that he would be great among his household (Gen 37:5-11). Eventually, according to God's timing and will, Joseph was promoted to prime minister of Egypt. He then realized that although his brothers meant evil against him, God meant good for him; and not only for Joseph alone but also for many others whose lives would be saved through Joseph's actions (Gen 50:19-20).
God's Acceptable Will. God allowed Job to undergo trial by the hand of Satan, who deprived him of all his possessions, his children, and his health. Even his wife told him to abandon his integrity, to curse God, and die (Job 2:9). The comfort offered by his friends only deepened his indescribable suffering. Although Job cursed the day he was born and debated with his friends about his afflictions, he did not sin by charging God with wrong, and instead praised His name (Job 1:21-22). In the end, he accepted God's will for him and declared that his faith had been elevated from only hearing of God to seeing Him (Job 42:5). Job received even more abundant blessings from God after his trials.
God's Perfect Will. The Lord Jesus Christ came to the world to save sinners. Although Jesus was sinless, the Pharisees and scribes persecuted Him out of jealousy and covetousness, working together with Judas Iscariot, His betrayer, to crucify Him on the cross. In the last of the seven utterances of Jesus on the cross, He said, "It is finished." God's perfect plan of salvation was accomplished through the hands of the lawless. Indeed, God works in everything for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28).
God's Universal Will and God's Individual Will
God's will consists of His universal will as well as His individual will for each of us. His universal will is the same for everyone: that no one should perish, but that everyone will come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9); that we should rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks (1 Thess 5:16-18); that we should be sanctified, avoid sexual immorality, and keep our bodies holy and honorable (1 Thess 4:3-5); that all our deeds be edifying to ourselves, beneficial to others, and glorifying to the name of God (1 Cor 10:23-31).
At the same time, God's will for each individual is unique. He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and His plan for each of them was different. His will for Abraham was for him to leave his hometown, Ur. However, God's will for Isaac was for him to stay in Canaan even during a famine. His plan was for Abraham to have one son but for Jacob to have twelve sons, whose descendants would become the twelve tribes of Israel. God has tailored a perfect plan for each of us regarding our education, career, marriage, place of residence, health, and all other aspects of life. We need to stand firm in His will, fully assured that He has planned for us a fruitful and meaningful life (Col 4:12).
God's thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are God's ways our ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so God's ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Is 55:8-9). Those who are spiritual search all things, even the deep things of God and His profound will, for they have the mind of the Lord to instruct them (1 Cor 2:10-16). When Jesus was twelve years old, He had wisdom and stature. He understood God's will and cared for his Father's business, even though His mother could not understand His ways (Lk 2:40-52). In order to understand God's will, we need to grow in maturity in the Lord Jesus Christ.
How to Know God's Will
In order to prove God's will, we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Rom 12:2). The nature of the world is lust and pride, which is contrary to the nature of God (1 Jn 2:16; Gal 5:17). Those who conform to the world cannot understand the will of God. As they wandered in the wilderness, the Israelites could not perceive God's will because they were overcome by fleshly desires (Ps 106:12-26). Most of them displeased God and perished in the wilderness (1 Cor 10:5).
The key to understanding His will lies in pursuing spiritual renewal in Jesus Christ (Rom 12:2). Spiritual renewal can be achieved through the process of pursuing the likeness of Jesus Christ through His words, His Spirit, and His love. The more we become like Jesus, the deeper we can comprehend the heart of God, for the mystery of God is Christ Jesus (Col 2:2).
Knowing God's Word. We can understand God's will by increasing our knowledge of His word (Rom 2:18), the will of God is in accordance with His word. Whenever we abide in His word, we do according to His will, in such things as marrying in the same faith (1 Cor 7:39), bringing up children in the Lord (Eph 6:4), and building a God-centered family (Josh 24:15). His word is spirit and life. We can understand His will by studying His word spiritually in depth. By searching the word of God daily and living accordingly, we can abide in God's will.
The Pharisees were well versed in the literal interpretations of the Law of Moses, but they failed to understand that Jesus was the Savior prophesied in the Old Testament. Before his conversion, the apostle Paul served God with zeal but without true knowledge (Rom 10:2). After Paul was converted, however, God revealed to Paul His will regarding justification by faith (Hab 2:4).
Being Filled with the Spirit. We can understand God's will by being filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God will bestow on us His wisdom (Eph l:17) so that we can fully understand His will.
The Holy Spirit clearly guided the apostles to make important breakthroughs in God’s ministry. He directed Philip to approach the Ethiopian eunuch and preach to him (Acts 8:26-39). He worked miraculously to convert the gentile Cornelius to Christ (Acts 10). He repeatedly moved Paul to amend his plans and eventually bring the gospel to Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10). Today, the same Spirit of God will move us to walk according to His will even when there are no clear answers from the Bible (Phil 2:13).
Loving Others with Divine Love. We can understand God's will by loving others with the divine love of the Lord Jesus, which comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (1 Tim 1:5). Only when we love with the love of Jesus Christ can our love please God and edify others. The Bible encourages us to love with knowledge and discernment (Phil 1:9).
After Jesus revealed that He would be crucified, Peter rebuked Him and said, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to you!"(Mt 16:21-22). Peter was minding the things of men, not the things of God; thus Jesus considered his love and concern to be the work of Satan (Mt 16:23). After the resurrection of Christ Jesus, Peter loved Jesus and eventually died for Him according to God's will (Jn 21:15-19).
Unlike the Pharisees, the Lord Jesus approached sinners with compassion (Lk 15:2, 19:7). If we can elevate our earthly love to be like the divine love of Jesus, our understanding of God’s will in our daily lives will be more apparent.
Walking in God's Will
Jesus Christ has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to His kingdom (Col 1:13). He is our Lord and has authority over us, and we need to abide in His will to please Him fully.
God chose Saul to be the first king of the Israelites. However, Saul did not understand that obedience to God was more important than sacrifice, and so he ignored God's command to eliminate all the Amalekites and their property. His disobedience grieved the Lord, and so He chose David, a man after His own heart, to replace Saul (1 Sam 15).
In contrast, the Lord Jesus did not speak on His own authority but according to the Father's commands (Jn 12:49); He did nothing of His own accord but only in like manner of His Father (Jn 5:19). He did not seek His own will, but the will of the Father who sent Him (Jn 5:30). Thus, God declared that Jesus Christ was His only beloved Son, with whom He was well pleased (Mt 17:5). Jesus Christ is like a grain of wheat that produces much grain after it falls into the earth and dies. He commanded us to deny ourselves and follow His footsteps to be fruitful in every good work (Jn 12:26).
The nobility and value of man rested in the image of God, which was given in the beginning of God's creation. Once Adam defied God’s will, he sinned and God's image in him diminished. The ultimate goal in fulfilling God's will is to manifest the image of God for the glory of His name and to lead a life worthy of the Lord (Col 1:10). We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Eph 2:10).
The wisdom of Solomon surpassed all generations, yet he led life according to his own pleasures. He had enjoyed everything under the sun, but he concluded that life was nothing but vanity. Paul, in contrast, followed the pattern of Jesus' life to fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith. He concluded his life with the hope that a crown of righteousness was ready for him (2 Tim 4:7-8). Therefore, a successful and meaningful life results from understanding and abiding in God's will.
Our understanding of God now is like seeing in a mirror dimly. We must continuously renew ourselves to be like Christ Jesus while pursuing God’s will. Jesus declared that the Father is in Him, He is in the Father, and He and the Father are one (Jn 10:30). As we grow spiritually and become more like Jesus, we will become more intimate with God, and our knowledge of Him can increase beyond measure. May all of us be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that we can lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Col 1:9-10).
I delight to do thy will, O my God. (Ps 40:8)