How can we know the will of YHWH*, the creator of the universe and father of Jesus Christ? How can we know what he wants for each of us? How can we know what he wants us to do with our lives? How can we know where he wants us at a given time and what he wants us to do in a given situation? These and other questions have troubled Christians for centuries. They troubled me for years before I'd read through the Bible several times and studied passages that address them. This lesson attempts to offer practical answers, not theology. It assumes the importance of knowing the Father's will (e.g., see Mark 3:35) and that anyone reading it is born again. Finally, it addresses only part of knowing YHWH's will for us as individuals and does not attempt to address his will for the world at large or even for the Church.
What the Bible tells us
Anyone who has read the entire Bible will have encountered numerous reports in which YHWH communicated explicitly what he wanted. Sometimes he did it directly, sometimes through an angel, sometimes through a prophet, sometimes in a dream or vision, and sometimes by means that are not explained, such as the Urim and Thummim. Paul, for example, received such instructions several times during his service (see e.g., Acts 9:5-6, 16:9-10 and 22:21). Peter was given clear instructions that resulted in telling the good news to Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:20). The Hebrew Bible, the Christian Old Testament, reports numerous times when YHWH gave clear instructions to various individuals.
What others' experience tells us
In his grace, our loving Father sometimes still communicates his will in a direct fashion. For example, Chasing the Dragon records how he instructed Jackie Pullinger to serve him in Hong Kong. Unless you choose to disbelieve it, her story confirms the Father's having guided her. Many other saints since the last record in the Bible have received such direct guidance. At times, he's used me and others to give his instruction, guidance and direction to other people, without our necessarily knowing what we were doing. When they obeyed, they confirmed that YHWH had indeed entered their lives in a tangible way. I've received guidance that I know came from the Father through another person. Instances like those make it relatively easy to know his will. But they're rare. More on the subject of hearing YHWH can be found in Hearing God: YHWH Still Speaks
When someone does tell us something or we have a dream that seems meaningful, how can we know that YHWH has communicted his will? Unfortunately, simple answers don't exist. Knowing the Bible, our openness to YHWH, how others have discerned YHWH's will, how he has revealed his will to us in the past, our faithfulness to him, our motives, our desire to know him and his will, our willingness to obey him, our intimacy with him-- all of these make a difference in discerning whether we have received a word from YHWH letting us know his will.
Reading all of the Bible
In the Bible, our Heavenly Father has given us a reliable source of guidance, direction and instruction, but all too often many of us read only those select portions that tell us what we want to hear without paying attention to the rest. For example, many people love to quote the last part of Psalm 37:4 without the first part, apparently expecting YHWH to grant any desire, no matter how worldly or carnal. That verse reads, "Delight yourself in YHWH, and he will give you the desires of your heart." Anyone tempted to misquote it should ask what kind of desires delighting in YHWH will give our hearts.
What the Bible tells us
Over the years too many people have declared to me that they read the Bible and then tell me that they can't find the Father's will for them in it. Perhaps they view it merely as an interesting historical document. While it is that, it's much more. Whatever their view of the Bible, they fail to grasp how much it applies to our daily lives, Or even worse, they reject its message. If we've been reading the Bible and still wonder about YHWH's will for us, maybe we just don't like what he's told us and we disregard what we've read until we find something we like or already want to do. That viewpoint is recognized, for example, in Rom. 1:28-32, 12:2; 2 Tim. 4:3-4; and 1 John 2:16. Consider the following verses:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in everything, because this is God's will for you who are in Christ Jesus. 1 Th. 5:16-18.  If we find it too hard to obey this, why should he tell us more? Why would we even risk his telling us something harder?
...[T]his people draw near with their words and honor me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote. Isa. 29:13  (quoted by Jesus in Matt. 15:8) (NASB). Does this describe how we live before YHWH? If so, doesn't that help us understand why it's hard to know his will?
And word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent. 1 Sam. 3:1  (NASB). Does that sound like these days as well? Read the surrounding verses. If you were the Creator, would you communicate much with such people? Should YHWH do more for us?
Open hearts and minds matter
The Bible does indeed provide a rich resource for knowing YHWH's guidance, direction and instruction-- if we read and contemplate all of it, not just bits and pieces as if it were some kind of spiritual buffet. Its wealth is available to all who read it with open, circumcised hearts and minds (Deut. 10:16), especially those who let the Holy Spirit teach them, as Jesus promised he would in John 14:26.
Guidance outside the Bible
But what about specific situations for which we do not recall a specific Biblical passage or principle? Most of the time, we have to struggle through our daily lives without the benefit of clear instruction, direction or guidance. How can we know YHWH's will in those times?
Years of study and meditation have taught me that the Father does not hide his will. He just doesn't reveal as much of it as we'd like to know or in the way we'd like to receive it. We must content ourselves with what he reveals to us in the way he reveals it and, for more, look to what he is doing around us, to the service he lays before us, and even to our own lives. He tends to reveal what he wills for each of us in what we face daily.
Learning from our own choices
We often make choices and decisions without consulting the Father or any other source of Godly wisdom, only to have events prove the choice or decision bad or even disastrous. Many have prayed for something out of an earthly desire, only to have the prayer answered in an unexpected and unpleasant way. Some get mad at YHWH for the painful consequences while others blame Satan. Neither is correct. We reap what we sow. Ignoring YHWH in our choices and decisions has consequences, according to his will for each of us. See, for example, Jer. 17:10; 1 Cor. 3:8; and Rev. 2:23
He can rescue us from the consequences of our follies and selfish choices and decisions. But he often leaves us to slog our way through them. And we can discover his will in them by faithfully accepting them, which then frees us to explore our experience until we discern his will. In fact, our willingness to live in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, our willingness to serve YHWH, no matter what our condition-- these are fundamental to knowing and living YHWH's will for each of us. They're fundamental to Jesus' word in Matt. 6:33-34 and Paul's comment about being content no matter what the circumstances (Phil. 4:11-13).
Learning from serving
Many Christians have discovered the Father's will in some choice they made or did not make without knowing his will in advance, at least not consciously. For example, as a lawyer, I've always disliked litigating. After consecrating my life to YHWH, that feeling increased. Even though I was grateful for the law practice he'd given me, I kept praying and hoping for a "real", full-time ministry that would take me out of law, at least out of lawsuits.
After many years, I matured enough to recognize the incredible wisdom he'd given me through the cases and people he'd sent to me. I also realized that he'd used me to teach, prophesy to, and provide Godly counsel and encouragement to a great many people, most of whom were not clients. Without knowing it, I'd provided pastoral care to more people than many ministers pastor in a lifetime. As the magnitude of that began to dawn on me, so did the realization that I was right where he wanted me, doing his will. I am already in full-time ministry, and the law practice provides the means for supporting that ministry, just as Paul made tents to support himself and those with him. More importantly, it provides the vast majority of my opportunities to serve him.
Faith and faithfulness matter
As we live in the kingdom of YHWH, we often have to act without knowing his will in advance, no matter how devoted we are to him and his word. Real faith goes to work in these situations. James tells us that if we lack wisdom, we must ask YHWH for it, then we must believe that he gives it, and do that without doubting (James 1:5-6). And if we make a mistake, I've discovered that he redeems our acts-- at least when we try to live in his will rather than expect him to do our will.
In discerning the Father's will, our motives matter. We need to think about why we want to know YHWH's will. Do we have our own agenda and merely want to know if he will comply with it? We must not imagine that he wants to gratify something we already desire, at least something of a carnal or worldly nature. If we're double-minded when we seek his will, the noise of our own desires will overpower our ability to discern what he wants or requires and lead us into the wrong choice or decision, with the consequences he will decree.
Our desire to know matters
How strong is our desire to know the Father's will, really know it? Is it strong enough to put the Bible first on our reading list? Is it strong enough to put YHWH first in our decision process? Is it strong enough that we question whether our desires have worldly or carnal origins (the work of ungodly spirits) rather than the work of the Holy Spirit in us? If we want to know his will, we must put away our idols and foreign gods, the lifeless things too many of us pursue even after we think we've committed our lives to Jesus. Such things include worldly power, prestige or fame, possessions and wealth, pleasure and other things that demand our attention. They distract us from YHWH and impair our ability to make choices and decisions pleasing to him. Most of the worldly things we pursue so aggressively promise to fulfill our needs. But none do (1 Sam. 12:11). They only increase our hunger, just as eating fatty foods makes us more hungry for them.
While really wanting to know the Father's will is important, wanting to do his will is even more important. We must want to please him. We must want, or at least be willing, to obey him (1 Sam.15:22-23). That's what it means to love him (John 14:15). Jesus makes clear that willingness to do YHWH's will gives insight to the truth (John 7:17).
Finally, discerning the Father's will requires a measure of intimacy with him. He's given us his Holy Spirit to help our communication with him. Whether you believe that one receives the Holy Spirit at the moment of new birth, or at salvation, or in a "second act of grace", too many of us do not really receive him in the most comprehensive sense of that word: Although he may have entered our being, too many of us keep him in the front hall or the living room or parlor of our being, as we might do with a casual visitor to our residence. We fear what might happen if we let the Holy Spirit into our mental processes and our memories. We shouldn't.
To receive the Holy Spirit in the fullest sense, we need to treat him as we would a very special and honored guest or a member of our immediate family, one to whom we would give complete freedom to go anywhere in the house. We need to give the Holy Spirit of YHWH not only access to all of our being, but complete freedom to rearrange the furniture and remove what he does not like, the spiritual trash too many of us have stored in our mental closets. We need to let him address our deepest secrets. He already knows them, so we should not deceive ourselves into trying to hide them. In fact, talking about them with him can be especially enlightening if we want to know his will and how to live in Jesus.
Our relationship with the Father should be as close and open as Jesus' relationship with him, as close and open as our relationship with a particularly close friend or our beloved spouse, a person with whom we might share all our secrets and feelings. When we disobey, ignore or neglect him, we should confess our misdeed. We should lay open our entire being and how we live and invite him to correct anything he doesn't like. When we draw near to him in that way, he draws near to us and reveals as much of his will as we really need to know.
Knowing YHWH's will is much less difficult than accepting it and living it. If you're serious about this subject, following are additional scriptures concerning YHWH's will for each of us and how to know it: Deut. 10:12-13; Mic. 6:7-8; Eph. 5:17-21; Ps. 40:6-8; John 6:67-69; 1 Th. 4:3-8; 1 Pet. 1:13-19.
*YHWH or YHVH is the English representation of the four Hebrew letters that spell the name of the God of the Bible, the one true, living God worshipped by Jews and Christians. YHWH was the name by which he identified himself to Moses in Ex. 3:14. According to references that I've read, the exact pronunciation of YHWH's name was lost in antiquity. After much study, I prefer to pronounce the name "Yahu-wah" (the "h" being aspirated as in "hay", emphasis on the last syllable), but the generally accepted pronounciation in common English is "Yah-weh" or "Yah-way". Some translations of the Bible, such as the KJV and NASB, substitute "the LORD" for his name, following a practice begun before Jesus' birth.
YHWH revealed himself in various ways to the children of Israel in the Hebrew Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament. He also revealed himself in and through his son Jesus Christ and acts, among other ways, in and through Christians by the Holy Spirit. Because the word "God" is being used today to designate all kinds of human inventions, although accepted for centuries in English as a name for YHWH, I prefer to use the name that YHWH chose for himself rather than "God" or "the LORD" as I did in early versions of my writings. Please read The Name of the One True, Living God for a fuller discussion.
|Remember who He is and whose you are|