Knowing God’s Will


The purpose of this study is to give insight into knowing what God’s will (purpose) is for your life. We will examine the Holy scriptures for clues, instruction, and examples for knowing God’s will and living by God’s will. After completing this study, you should have more insight into knowing how to know God’s will and thus apply that to your life to know what His will is for you.


First, we must define what we mean by God’s will. There are two basic categories of God’s will:

  1. God’s universal will
  2. God’s individual will

God’s universal will involves the purpose that God has for mankind. This involves God’s overall plan for humans and/or His plan for getting humans where he wants them.

God’s individual will involves His purpose for each individual and or group of individuals. Therefore, we can say that we have a part to play in the total and universal will of God.

There is also the concept of God’s will for the individual person. This is different from the individual will of God described above in that it pertains to God’s purpose for an individual apart from His universal will. That is, some believe that God has a purpose or desire for each individual exclusively. For example, some believe that it is God’s will that we all be prosperous in material goods, without sickness, and successful in all that we do.

There are also concepts of God’s will for a family, a business, a church, and other entities of people. Some even hold that there are specific purposes for wars, famine, disease and other such things that we deem as undesirable or accursed.

In general, we can say that God’s will is simply His purpose for an object. This object can be humans, animals, organizations, nations, events, etc. However, we must conclude that all purposes fall under the overall will of God. That is, God has a purpose for the universe and we are all subsets of that purpose. In the end, God’s purpose will be dome.

We, therefore, cannot speak of God’s will as exclusive to an object (humans, events, organizations, etc). However, we must speak of God’s will in the context of His greater purpose for all of the universe.

This brings us to a more precise classification of God’s will in terms of the universe and those things contained within it. The classification of God’s will can be described as:

  1. Universal Will – God’s overall will or the purpose for creating the universe
  2. Cosmic Will – God’s will or the purpose for the individual or groups of heavenly bodies within the universe
  3. Will for humans – God’s will for the human race
  4. Planetary Will – God’s will for objects specific to a particular heavenly body. In the case of the earth, this could be His will for the animals, tornadoes, various chemicals, etc.
  5. Historical Will – God’s will for events that occur
  6. Social Will – The purpose of the various cultures, languages, nationalities, etc.

I cannot say that every single event, circumstance, or object has a specific purpose from God. For example, If I roll the dice, does God’s will influence the outcome of the final position of the dice. There is nothing Biblical that would suggest this for all situations.

It is rather easy at this point to digress into a discussion on God’s purpose for creating the universe but that is well beyond the context of this study and my knowledge of the subject. Therefore, let’s assume that God does have a purpose for the universe and that this purpose is never compromised for the benefit of the various objects (humans, organizations, etc.).

The Scope of God’s Will

How far down does the specific will of God reach? For example, does God purpose, someone, to get a certain job? Does the purpose that a person takes a certain way home from work? There are two ways of looking at the answer to this question. On the one hand, we can view these in light of God’s universal will. In that case, it becomes silly to discuss God’s purpose at such a low level. However, one can argue the exact level at which the purpose of an object becomes significant. There are some things that we may declare as being insignificant relative to God’s universal will though we can never be certain. However, we have to assume that God has a particular will for us as individuals (even if that means we are a part of a whole). Not assuming this would imply a non-personal God. We know that God has a will for individuals simply by looking at the characters in the Bible and our own history.

Individual Scope

Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Paul, Martin Luther King, and many others had a profound impact on all humans, events, and society. Think of the impact that Martin Luther King had and has on all humans today in the area of civil rights. Consider the impact that Moses had on the Hebrew people and thus Christianity today. These men had God-given purposes from God, which they carried out to affect all of humanity and more.

Historical Scope

We must also assume that God does direct some of the events in history. Things happen on this Earth between cultures, cities, nationalities, and nature to fulfill the will of God. This purpose is not the overall purpose and it also may only apply to the operation of things on this planet.

(Prov 16:33 NIV) The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

The above scripture denotes the belief that God controls the outcome of all events. In this case, the outcome of a lot has been cast (used to determine God’s will). See also, Acts 1:26.

Universal Scope

We can’t say much about the universal scope of God’s will because that is not known completely, and probably never will be. Who can say absolutely what part an event, circumstance, decision, or scientific discovery has to do with the overall universal plan of God?

Our Scope

We can try to analyze events and circumstance to try to specify what our individual part is in the universal will of God. This is impossible if only for the fact that we don’t know what God’s universal will is. Therefore, our scope of God’s will is limited to ourselves and the influence that we perceive that we have or can have on the society around us. This includes our impact in the church we belong to, the ministry we are involved with or the occupation that we have.

It is therefore unnecessary for any individual to know what their impact on the world will be or has been. It is insignificant because it is the will or purpose of God that is being accomplished, of which we have no control, and not our own will. The Bible declares,

(Prov 21:30-31 NIV) There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD. {31} The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.

(Prov 19:21 NIV) Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Effective Scope

The effective scope of God’s will, as it pertains to us, can be seen in the writings of Ecclesiastes. Read Ecclesiastes 6:10-11:6. The theme here is that humans do not know what the future holds and are totally under the control of What God wants. Therefore, we cannot with any confidence declare what the will of God is as it pertains to our own life or those around us. That is, we cannot say that God wants us to have a 10,000-member church, a successful business or anything like that. We can only move on what is in us and simply do what God says. Ecclesiastes 12:13 summarizes this fact very well.

(Eccl 12:13 KJV) Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

Knowing God’s Will

If we cannot say for sure what the outcome of an event will be, then how can we determine what the will of God is? The following scriptures give us some clues as to our own purpose and what we do in our own lives.

  • Isaiah 49:1-7
  • Galatians 1:15
  • Jeremiah 1:5
  • Luke 1:13-16
  • Acts 13:2-4

In each of the scriptures above, we can see how God does call individuals for a specific purpose.

The will of God in your life is tightly associated with your obedience of God. It is futile to analyze and conclude what your purpose in life is because you never will know. The only thing that we can to with assurance is to obey God. Only by obedience can we be assured of accomplishing God’s will.

Therefore, knowing God’s will at any one moment only means to know what he wants you to do at that moment. This involves recognizing God’s voice to you for direction. See the study “Knowing God’s Voice” for more information on that topic.

Knowing Doesn’t Constitute Action

Knowing the will of God in a certain area does not mean that we are to run and do something to carry out His will. For example, God desires for all to be saved. However, that doesn’t mean that we should all spend our time on street corners, in bars, in houses, and the like preaching the Gospel to people. We have to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit to accomplish what God’s will is.

We cannot accomplish God’s will. We don’t have the power to fulfill what God wants on our own. It is through God’s power that we are used for his purpose to accomplish his will. Therefore, accomplishing God’s will on a personal scope involves simply doing what He says.


Knowing the Will of God
Insight into knowing your God-given purpose
By William R. Cunningham



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