How Do We Know What God Wants Us to Do?

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2, ESV).

“So, how do you determine which things God wants you to do each day?” This was a question asked in response to a recent post about doing the things God has called us to do.

Since reading that question, I have unsuccessfully tried to address it from several different angles. Surely there’s a nice, neat formula for us to follow when deciding how to invest our time each day – a list of questions that will help us eliminate the peripheral? A flow chart (if this happens, do this, and if this happens, do this)? A list of things we should definitely not do? A list of duties for wives and mothers? etc., etc. Kind of a “Do This, Don’t Do That” chart to help mothers zero in God’s will for the day?


Instead of sending us away to work through a checklist, God calls us to come and get to know Him. He loves us. He wants to talk to us (through His Word). He wants to listen to us (in our prayers). He wants us to know Him so well, that His thoughts become our thoughts. He wants us to love Him so much that we love what He loves and hate what He hates.

He says things like:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38, ESV).

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, ESV).

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2, ESV).

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42, ESV).

There’s no short-cut to knowing if we’re doing what God wants us to do. Jesus knew He was doing His Father’s will because He knew His Father. He talked to Him. He listened to Him. He desired to please Him.

I knew what pleased my earthly father because I loved him, I spent time with him,  I listened to him, and I talked to him. I was committed to pleasing him. I usually had a pretty good idea what he would want me to do in any particular situation, so that’s what I did (most of the time :-), and when I didn’t, I wished I had).

Kevin DeYoung, in Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will, says,

“The way of wisdom is a way of life. And when it’s a way of life, you are freer than you realize. If you are drinking deeply of godliness in the Word and from others and in your prayer life, then you’ll probably make God-honoring decisions. In fact, if you are a person of prayer, full of regular good counsel from others, and steeped in the truth of the Word, you should begin to make many important decisions instinctively, and some of them even quickly.”

So – how do we determine which things God wants us to do in a day?

We get to know Him.

We learn what pleases Him.

We grow wise by listening to Him speak through His Word and by obeying what we hear.

We fellowship with His children and listen to the godly counsel of others who love and obey Him.

And then we do what we know He would want us to do.


(For ideas on prioritizing and making the best use of your time, I heartily recommend Shopping for Time, by Carolyn Mahaney and her daughters. Read our review of this book!)

(For a fuller discussion of discerning God’s will as it applies to the specific decisions of our lives, Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something is a refreshing, easy read on the subject. An even fuller discussion is provided in James Petty’s Step by Step: Divine Guidance for Ordinary Christians, a book that God used several years ago to help me better understand how He guides our decision-making.)

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