Identifying the Will of God

By Danny Saavedra

What does “the will of God” mean to you? 

In Colossians 1:9–10 (NIV), the apostle Paul prays over believers: “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way.”

Often, when we use this expression of the will of God, we’re speaking very specifically about guidance regarding what God wants from us in our day-to-day life or in a specific moment or situation, about a certain decision we have to make.

We usually associate God’s will with what we do, right? And of course, we know that it’s both vital and proper for us as Christians to lean on God—our loving, wise Father—for His direction in both life-changing and everyday decisions. It’s necessary to press in and seek His guidance on things like work, marriage, which school to put our kids in, whether we should move to a new city, buy a house, or change majors.

But what if it goes beyond that? What if Paul’s prayer here points to something different and even more significant? What if what he’s pointing us to as it pertains to the will of God is less about what we do and more about WHO WE ARE?

In his letters, Paul tends to write about the will of God for believers in being terms rather than doing terms, in who we become rather than what we do. In Romans 12:2 (NIV), he writes, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” That word for mind in the Greek means “the faculties of perceiving and understanding and those of feeling, judging, determining.”

He’s talking about being transformed in your innermost being, in the way you think and view the world. One Bible translator said it this way: For the believer, mind is the organ of receiving God's thoughts, through faith.

And look at what happens when you receive God’s thoughts and are transformed by them. The rest of Romans 12:2 says, “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

1 Thessalonians 4:3 (NKJV) says it this way: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.”

So, you could say that to know God’s will is to understand God’s heart and mind and character on a deep, intimate level. It’s not about doing more good, but becoming more godly, more like Jesus. And if we want to become more like Jesus, we have to spend time with Jesus! Because the more time you spend with Jesus, the more intimately you will know Jesus; and the more intimately you know Jesus, the more you will become like Jesus. And the more like Jesus you become, the easier it will be for you to know and walk in God’s will for your life.

Think of it this way: My wife and I have been married for 10 years. We’ve known each other for 12. Today, I can tell you that my wife basically always knows exactly what I’m thinking, how I’m feeling, what I want, what I’m going to do, how I would handle a certain situation. A lot of the times, she knows what I’m going to say before I say it, and vice versa.

We’ve spent 12 years getting to know everything about one another, walking through good times, bad times, and everything in between. We’ve spent 12 years growing together; we’ve spoken every day for over 12 years, we’ve developed deep physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual intimacy, we’ve become one.

More so than any other person, my wife understands me at my very core and knows my heart and my mind. 

This is exactly what our relationship with Jesus is meant to be like! Day after day, we should be growing in intimacy with Him, drawing deeper into relationship with Him, getting to know Him and understanding His character, heart, mind through prayer and the study of His Word. 

And the more you do that, the more you develop that closeness and intimacy with Him, the easier it will be to identify His voice and will.

How do you know you’re hearing his voice? How can you recognize His voice? 

It comes through deep intimacy with Him and knowledge of His Word. In John 10:14–15, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” 

That word for know in the Greek literally translates to “contact-knowledge.” It’s an intimate, deep knowledge gained through first-hand relationship. Another translator said it this way: It’s “full discernment, the true knowledge of Christ's nature, dignity, benefits.”

You will never learn to recognize his voice or experience the fullness of His promises if you’re not walking in intimacy with Him. Imagine if my wife and I had met 12 years ago, gotten married, but never truly gotten to know each other or grown in intimacy? Today, we’d be two strangers sharing a bed. Can you imagine that? It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But, this is exactly the kind of relationship that so many Christians have with Jesus.

Many believers can say they’ve had a relationship with Jesus for 5, 15, or 50 years and in reality, He’s still a stranger to them. So many of us end up settling for knowledge of Jesus and missing out on true intimacy with Him. He speaks, and we don’t recognize His voice. He directs, but we don’t know His heart or understand His character, and so we struggle to walk in His will for our lives.

Here’s my takeaway for you: Don’t settle for this kind of relationship with Jesus. Get to know your Savior and your One and only true SOULMATE.

And as you do, as you spend time with Him, as you study His Word consistently, as you spend time in prayer, as you spend time in worship, as you seek Him, you will see Him clearly and know Him deeply and understand His heart and mind and will as He fills you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.

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