Many people are surprised to learn that God has a personal blueprint for the life of every one of His children. The Bible says, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10, NASB). This suggests that before each of us who know Christ as Savior, is a divinely prepared pathway strewn with good works made ready for our hands. Along the way prepared for us will be all the people that He expects us to impact, all the work He expects us to accomplish, and all the discipline/training necessary to fit us for that work. Along that path lies what He Who knows the end from the beginning, has concluded is best for us.
There is no doubt about it, God has a plan for each believer's life. The Bible quotes God as saying in Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans that I have for you...plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." See also Ephesians 5:17; Philippians 2:13; John 15:16.
GENERAL WILL AND SPECIFIC WILL - It is important to differentiate between God's general will and His specific will.
God's general will, among other things, includes:
- For us to be saved, i.e. born into the family of God by faith in Jesus Christ as Savior
(John 6:40; Ephesians 2:8-10; 2 Peter 3:9; Galatians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:8-9).
- For us to be sanctified, i.e. separated and set apart for pure and holy living (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
- For us to reveal or glorify God (Ephesians 1:9-14; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Isaiah 43:7).
- For us to obey God (1 Samuel 15:22-23; John 14:15-24; 1 John 5:2-3)
- For us to do right (1 Peter 2:12-20)
- For us to please God by walking worthy of the Lord and his calling in
Christ. (Colossians 1:9-14 and Ephesians 4:1-3 explain what all that will involve)
- For us to pray and give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
- For us to do good works (1 Peter 2:15; Ephesians 2:10) for which he is equipped by God's Spirit
(1 Corinthians 12:11).
How, where, when, and with whom this general will is carried out is God's specific will for us. But how is the "how, where, when, and with whom" determined? Or is it a "hit or miss" situation---pure guesswork? Or, can God's specific will be known in detail?
According to Ephesians 2:10 in the Bible, there is a specific will for each individual believer. However before revealing His plans to each person, God asks that certain "prerequisites" be met.
Prerequisites for Knowing God's Specific Will
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1).
The believer is asked (literally begged) by God to present himself to God---to place himself totally at God's disposal---to make himself totally available to God. He is to take up his place "by the side of God" ready and willing to do whatever God instructs or commands, without argument, debate, discussion, or adjustment. This is called dedication.
- Unlike the world
"Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God remold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all His demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity" (Romans 12:2, Phillips).
The world stamps an individual with its own shape or mold. "Worldly"-oriented persons talk, react, have interests, attitudes, priorities, values, habit patterns, and standards that identify them as being of the "world" (1 John 2:15). The believer is not to be pressed into the mold of the world. He is not to be like everyone else, he is to be different; he is to be like Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-29).
Romans 12:2 says the believer is to be transformed or changed. In the Greek, the word "transformed" speaks of a person changing his outward expression---the change coming from his inner self. In Matthew 17:2 this same Greek word is translated "transfigured" and refers to the change in the Lord's outward expression. In His transfiguration the Lord Jesus allowed the inner glory of God to shine through His body. The radiance caused a transfiguration; His outward expression was transformed, i.e. changed. Believers are to be transformed or transfigured individuals. They are to be different.
The believer is to be separated from the world and different not only because he does not do certain things (Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:15), but because he does glorify or reveal God in his reactions and life style (Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:15, 16; 2 Peter 1:4-8; Titus 2:12; 2 Corinthians 6:17-18).
- Controlled by God
"…be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may (ap)prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2, Phillips).
The mind is tremendously important in determining the kind of person an individual becomes. Proverbs 23:7 notes: "…as a man thinks within himself, so is he…" Until a life is given over to God, the world with its emphasis on the self, self-gratification and activity independent of God, will dominate the individual and determine the type of person he becomes. If the individual is to know and approve God's "good and perfect" will (a will/plan that is just as "good and perfect" as God is, cf. Mark 10:17; Matthew 5:48), then this "self-domination" cannot continue. God must be allowed to completely control the believer's thinking and subsequently the kind of person he becomes.
- Honest desire to know God's will
Do we have an honest desire to know God's specific will for our lives? God teaches those who sincerely want to know and obey His will. As we obey what God reveals to us, He continues to reveal more of His specific will to us (Mark 4:24-25). Jesus enunciated a principle in John 7:17: "anyone who honestly desires to know God's will, will know it." In that verse He put it this way, "If any (one) is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching…" (John 7:17).
- Willingness to wait for God to reveal His will
James 1:5 says that when we lack wisdom we are to ask God for it. Properly translated the verse reads, we are to "keep on asking" for it. Sometimes the answer does not come immediately. When it doesn't, the believer should keep on praying, and wait. But a delayed answer tends to cause doubt. James, therefore, cautions the believer not to doubt, but to keep on asking in faith (James 1:6). Psalm 37:7 adds, "Be still and rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him" (Amplified Bible).
Why would God make us wait for the answer? In the first place, God is not our servant Whose only responsibility is to give us whatever we want, when we want it. When the time comes that we truly need to have the answer and know His will, He will see to it that we know it.
In the second place, God may make us wait for the answer because it might be we are not asking the right question (Romans 8:26). God may want to deal with us about what we are asking, trying to help us perceive our problems more clearly and thus enable us to ask more intelligently.
So we have to be patient (Psalm 37:7). As we continue to struggle toward ascertaining His will we can be sure that God is doing His part toward helping us think correctly.