How Can I Know the [Personal] Will of God?

Below is a letter I wrote  after hearing a sermon on “How Can I Know the Will of God?”

Dear Pastor,

Perhaps I’m too logical in my thinking or somewhat of a doubting Thomas and need to mull over new ideas for them to take root in my life.  Such is the case with your recent sermon, “How Can I Know the Will of God?”  Your message was very clear that God has a specific “plan” for each believer and that it’s the believer’s responsibility to find out what that specific plan is.

You referenced Prov 3:5-6, which in your translation says, “And He will direct your path.”  The NIV I have says, “And He will make your paths straight.”  To me, there are substantive differences in these translations and subsequent interpretations to be derived.  You said we shouldn’t depend on our own understanding and yet we also shouldn’t “deny our own smarts.”  And, more than once you said, “You’ve got to trust even when it doesn’t make sense.”  How can one ever have confidence to know they’re doing the will of God if they can’t be sure the decisions being made are what God would want done?  Specifically, you stated, “He will guide you [referring to any number of things including] career, marriage, dating, and college so long as He’s Lord of all.”  I regret that I didn’t hear how it is that we can know when it is that God is guiding us.  In addition, because I didn’t come to Christ until later in life, does that mean I might have married the wrong person, have the wrong job, bought the wrong house, am raising the wrong number of children, etc?  And that makes me wonder, does God also have a specific will for children and teenagers?

I recently found and a book in the church’s library, Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen.  He references three separate aspects of the will of God which include:

  1. The sovereign will of God
  2. The moral will of God
  3. The personal will of God.

From his definitions, it seemed evident that you were referring to the personal will of God in your sermon and to that end, I’d be interested in your take of instances where Paul appears to make decisions without any obvious indication of seeking the Lord’s will:

1 Thess 3:1

Phil 2:25

1 Cor 16:3-4

Acts 6:1-7

Acts 15:24-29

Friesen would say that Paul was exercising wisdom and that in non-moral areas where there isn’t a Biblical command or principle, we’re free (and responsible) to make decisions that we think are best.  Do you agree with this?  Are there other books you’ve found helpful in determining the personal will that God has for a believer?

Certainly throughout the Bible there are instances where God has led individuals.  However, it’s my sense that direct guidance was the exception and not the rule.  To that end, I’m asking if you think Friesen’s  conclusions regarding the “personal” will of God are correct:

  • In moral decisions, Christians are to live in obedience to the stated moral will of God.
  • And, in non-moral decisions, Christians are free and responsible to choose their own course of action.

Most Sincerely,


Author: Bob

I’m an upper Midwestern guy who has recently entered the "Buick stage" of life and decided to migrate to Florida. This blog is an attempt to rectify discordant aspects within my Christian faith ... or what often feels like my lack of Christian faith. Things which make life more enjoyable include strong black coffee, charcoal grilling anytime of the year, putz'ing at a table saw, playing chess, a good orthopedic surgeon and an occasional IPA. Please feel free to poke around and comment as you wish. I welcome discussion and the insights of others.

5 thoughts on “How Can I Know the [Personal] Will of God?”

  1. Good letter. I believe that God prefers to allow us to make most of our day to day decisions. We make decisions that are in accordance with the Word, and that leaves a great deal of freedom. That’s part of being made in his image, and being who He designed us to be. We have the freedom to make choices. Do I put the blue shirt on or the red one? Do I have black coffee, coffee with cream, or no coffee? God is not a micro manager, and he is not threatened if I drink my coffee black! At least I hope not. :)

    1. I appreciate your stopping by and the comment, Kevin. Hey, it has to be that the will of God is to drink one’s coffee black. Please don’t tell me Jesus drank tea. ;-D

      Seriously, although I’m not sure how to show it through scripture, I’ve always thought that in the same way we as human fathers want our children to grow up into independent and responsible adults, so too our heavenly father wants believers to mature and live holy lives. Whether in the human or spiritual realm, can there be growth if one is continuously “spoon feed” or otherwise never allowed to experience effects and consequences (both positive & negative) of decision making? I personally don’t think so.

  2. Like I’ve said before, I’m a big Friesen fan.

    I’m pretty sure Jonah wasn’t deeply spiritually sensitive and practiced in listening for the “still small voice.” He was clear on what he was supposed to do…that’s why he went in the opposite direction.

    You have the bible and should obey what it teaches. If God wants you to do something specific, He can make Himself heard by even the most spiritually dense…I don’t think there’s anything in the bible to suggest that His leading might be vague and uncertain.

  3. We could always obey what Romans 12:1-2 tell us to do…..

    “1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

    He has revealed His will for all His children in His Word. Exhaustively? Comprehensively? No. Deut. 29:29 has not been nullified. Spirit-led study, though, equips the believer to do the will of God – to make decisions in living one’s life. To say that we can comprehensively, exhaustively know God’s “plan” for our lives in every detail would also seem to fly in the face of James’ words about not knowing what tomorrow will bring.

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