Every child of God has struggled at one time or another to answer the question, what is my Father’s will for me? Whether this is asked when it comes to deciding on a career path, whom to marry, or even whether or not we ought to purchase a certain thing, this question is of utmost importance, and it is good when God’s children seek the answer to it. However, God does not come to us in visions or address us by name on the pages of scripture in order to reveal his will to us in these matters. In fact, there are many situations in our everyday lives that require godly decisions, yet God does not specifically address them in his word. How then may God’s children know his will concerning such important matters? Although God does not give us a personal revelation regarding every situation we face, we may still discern what he would have us to do by studying the principles of his word, praying for wisdom to apply these principles, and by considering the earthly circumstances in which he sovereignly places us.
God’s word gives us principles for our lives. Some of the most basic of these principles are found in God’s law. In one way or another, everything we do, say, or think relates to the law of God. If we are perplexed about a certain choice or decision we have to make, looking at this in the light of God’s law may clear things up. Especially will this be true if we view it through the lens of the summary of the law given by our Lord himself. In that summary, Jesus teaches us that God’s law has two parts. The first deals with our relationship between ourselves and God. The second has to do with the duties we owe to our neighbor. Love for God and the neighbor are all-encompassing. If we are faced with a momentous decision, one thing we ought to consider is whether choosing one way over another might demonstrate hatred against God or the neighbor. If so, we can know with certainty what we are called to do. With David we must pray, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” (Ps. 19:14).
Nevertheless, God’s law does not give specific instructions for everything. It certainly lays the groundwork, but it does not tell us whom to marry, what career path to choose, or how to manage our money. Yet there are other places in scripture that give principles on these matters. Concerning marriage, for example, we read that it is honorable (Heb. 13:4), and that it should be between a God-fearing man and woman (1 Cor. 1:10; 2 Cor. 6:14). This means that when the young people of the church earnestly seek a godly spouse, they are doing a very noble thing and are living in obedience to the command of God. With respect to finances, we are told that we should not love (worship) money (2 Tim. 6:10), and that we are to be faithful stewards of all that God gives us. In other words, we should not labor to be rich, but we must work in order to support our families and the church. With respect to careers, we are called to serve God according to the gifts that he has given us (1 Cor. 7:7). Therefore we must see ourselves as servants of the Most High and use what he gives us for his glory, not for self-promotion.
It is not enough, however, that we merely are able to find these principles in God’s word. We must also be able to apply these principles to our own lives and circumstances. We are utterly incapable of doing this by ourselves. Therefore we must ask God for wisdom to apply these principles. This is all-important. We do not come into this world fully equipped with the wisdom needed for every situation we face. Indeed, we come into this world worse than fools, for we are born dead in trespasses and sins. Apart from Jesus Christ, who is wisdom personified (Prov. 8), our noblest efforts at knowing anything at all are the worst kind of folly, for then we rely upon ourselves instead of God. It is simply a must that we pray for wisdom. When we do, we acknowledge that we are utterly helpless apart from God, that he is the source of all wisdom, and that he alone can supply our needs. We may be confident that God will give us this wisdom when we ask it of him: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).
What is this wisdom that we are to pray for? Quite simply, to have wisdom is to have the mind of Christ. To have the mind of Christ is to be humble and to seek the glory of God in all things. It is to desire to do the will of God rather than our own. When this is our goal and attitude, then we can combine this with the principles of God’s word in order to address some of the practical choices and decisions that we face in our own lives. We may begin to answer questions for ourselves such as, “Will this entertainment I am seeking promote the glory of God, or is it designed to satisfy my carnal lusts?” “Will purchasing this item help me serve God better, or will it take away from the time I spend studying his word?” “Would this person make a godly spouse, or do I only want to marry him or her for money and good looks?” These are just a few of the many situations we will be able to address better by following the way of wisdom.
Being familiar with our earthly circumstances is also important. We must be able to use the wisdom God gives us to analyze these circumstances, for God speaks to us through them. God puts us in certain places and situations. He makes some things possible for us, but other things he withholds. This is an important factor for a young person to consider when he is pondering a vocation or career path. To every one of us God gives gifts, and the gifts we have or don’t have will serve as an indicator of what God would have us to do. If, for example, a young man aspires to the ministry of the gospel, but lacks the ability to master the original languages of scripture, he may be sure that the Lord is not calling him to be a minister. Yet, if the same young man enjoys working with his hands and is good at putting things together, he will be wise to pursue a career that involves such things.
This principle applies to other parts of our lives as well. One of the most obvious is the activity of seeking a husband or wife. There are many godly young people in the church, so how can one be sure which person to marry? The Lord will make his will plain to us through circumstances. If in the process of dating someone we find that we enjoy their company and that we are able to discuss many subjects of common interest, then we may know that this person will be a suitable spouse. But if we find that there is nothing to talk about with that person, no matter how godly they may be, then we may know that this is not someone that the Lord would have us to be with. This is the practical side of knowing God’s will for us. If something is working for us and is not causing us to sin against God’s law, in all likelihood we are following the way God wants us to go.
In all these things we should not neglect to hear the wisdom of others (especially older members) in the body of Christ. We must be open to their advice, admonishments, and encouragements. The Lord is often pleased to lead his children in a certain way through the influence of fellow believers. For example, the young men of the church should listen when their parents, teachers, and elders tell them to consider the ministry. Usually these encouragements are given because a young man displays certain gifts requisite for preaching and teaching. When others point these gifts out, let young men consider the call all the more seriously, for it may be the means that the Lord is using to impress the call upon him. The Lord may also use rebukes to turn his children from one path and to choose another. Perhaps a young person of the church wants to pursue a certain career because it pays well. His pastor may warn him not to pursue a career for money, for the love of it is the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10). The Lord may use such circumstances to turn his children from ways of selfishness to ways of service in his kingdom. Again, this requires much humility, but the same God who gives wisdom to those who ask it of him will also give his children the grace to be humble, even in the face of rebuke.
Whether it is the call to the ministry, a question of whom to date, or something of seemingly much less importance, let the youths not be afraid to ask the older and wiser members of the church for advice. All the advice found in magazines and on the internet cannot compare to the godly wisdom of the saints of the church, especially those who are at the end of their earthly pilgrimage. They are qualified above all others to give advice concerning everyday choices and decisions, for they have walked the same pilgrim way and have faced many of the same challenges throughout their lives. They will be glad to help, and will rejoice that the youths even come to ask them about these things. Anyone who goes to an older saint for advice and comes away with godly wisdom will not be sorry.
The life of the Christian is a pilgrimage, that is, a long journey to our heavenly home that is filled with obstacles. Many of these obstacles take the form of choices and decisions that we face every day, but which God’s word does not specifically address. In his sovereignty God has ordained that it should be so. He wants us to work hard in our efforts to learn his will, because in this way we are sanctified and made ready for our eternal home. The Lord uses means to bring us there. He makes us pray for wisdom, he causes us study his word for the principles to follow, and he even leads us to consider our earthly circumstances and talk to our fellow pilgrims about it. Through it all we confess his absolute sovereignty, as well as our love for him, “For this God is our God forever and ever; he will be our guide, even unto death” (Ps. 48:14).
Dykstra, Russell. “Getting the Principal Thing,” sermon on Proverbs 4:7, September 1,
Hanko, Cornelius. Leaving Father and Mother: Biblical Courtship and Marriage.
Grandville, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2001.
The Holy Bible, King James Version.
 I am indebted for these insights to Prof. Russell Dykstra, who addressed them in a sermon: “Getting the Principal Thing” based on Proverbs 4:7, preached on September 1, 2013, and accessed from prca.org on May 27, 2014.
 Cornelius Hanko, Leaving Father and Mother: Biblical Courtship and Marriage (Grandville, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2001), 12.