Determining God’s Will

May 16, 2017

Christians believe that they should carefully obey God’s will. But how can we know what His will is? How should we go about making decisions that honor the Lord?

The example of Gideon is frequently cited as a model for godly decision-making. Before acting, Gideon carefully considered whether the Lord wanted him to rally an army and attack the Midianites. Twice he set out a fleece (a clump of wool) to make sure of God’s intentions (6:36–40). On this basis, some have argued that before Christians make major decisions with long-range consequences, they should “put out a fleece before the Lord,” seeking some tangible sign that indicates His will with certainty.

Is that an appropriate way to know God’s will? In considering the question, it is important to note that this is the only occasion in the Bible when God revealed His will through a fleece. It is also worth noting Gideon’s extreme hesitation, doubt, and fear. The Lord had already told him what to do through the Angel of the Lord (6:11–16). In fact, the Angel had already given Gideon a confirming sign (6:17–22).

In light of these facts, Gideon’s use of the fleece would appear to demonstrate a lack of faith more than any zeal to be certain of God’s will. Fortunately, God was very patient with him and granted his request for a confirming sign. But it seems that using a fleece to determine God’s will was the exception rather than the rule, and thus
does not serve as the best pattern for how we can depend on God for guidance.

Is there a more reliable way? Yes, God has clearly and objectively told us what He wants throughout the Bible. For example, the Ten Commandments give straightforward instructions to guide our behavior in numerous areas of life. Likewise, one of the New Testament letters to the Thessalonians says plainly, “This is the will of God” (1 Thess. 4:3). The passage then goes on to outline some of God’s will in regard to sexuality.

Thus when it comes to making choices in life, God calls us to clear thinking—thinking that is based on our relationship with Him and our allegiance to His values, which are clearly spelled out in Scripture. God has made us to be thinking, discerning, analytical persons who assume responsibility for working our way through life in accordance with His general plans and purposes. He challenges us to learn all that we can about any situation, relationship, responsibility, or opportunity that we have, weigh it in light of His precepts and principles, and then act. As we act, we can take comfort from the fact that He is at work within us, “both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

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