How do we know God’s will? That discussion came up again this week as Julie and I talked over their options in the continuing saga of their house-hunt.
They’ve found a house – they think. It’s a lovely house in a beautiful setting with a long list of everything that is right about it and only two things that are strikes against it. One is that it is smaller in square footage than they had hoped for, and the other is the price. The smaller size they think they can work with. As long as they can make it work for their family’s needs (adding two or three more children to the family when the adoption goes through, homeschooling, etc.) they have said all along that they willing to accept less than their ideal, if that is what the Lord wants for them. The price they can handle if this is the right house, but they want to be sure that when they resell in a few years that they will be able to recoup their money. They discovered when they sold their house in Shreveport that they had overpaid for it to begin with, and it almost hurt them in the end. They don’t want that to happen again.
And still, they hesitate. They are not feeling peace about this house yet. “How do I know if we are not feeling that peace because it is not God’s will for us to buy this house,” Julie pondered, “or if this house is God’s will for us, but own human desires, after all, are getting in the way because it doesn’t meet our criteria in these two basic areas?”
“I don’t know what to tell you, Julie,” I said. “You and David will have to work that out between you and the Lord.”
“I read Joshua 1:9 in my devotions this morning,” she shared. “You know, that’s the one that says, ‘Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.’ I don’t know if that is the Lord telling us not to be afraid to accept this house, or not to be afraid to go on with the house-hunting!”
The next day, I was talking to her again and put the phone on “speaker-phone” when Bob joined our conversation. Out of the clear blue sky he suddenly quoted, “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” He didn’t talk long, but what he had said stuck in my mind.
Later that evening when Julie and I were talking again (gotta love that unlimited long-distance calling!) she was feeling rather down, and uncertain. “Be not dismayed!” I reminded her. “The Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest!” It almost felt like a new revelation as I said the words. We started laughing and suddenly our spirits were lifted.
I decided to look up Joshua 1:9 in its context. In this passage Moses had died and the children of Israel were still in the wilderness after forty years of wandering. The Lord had chosen Joshua to be their new leader. He told him that He would lead them now into the Promised Land and encouraged him with these words, “Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” Joshua 1:7-9
These words almost seem like a road map to me – guidance in knowing and following God’s will for our lives; not just in certain instances in life, but all the way through our life’s journey. Joshua’s and the children of Israel’s end of the journey was in sight. After forty years of wandering, they would soon cross over the river Jordan and into the Promised Land. Someday we, too, will cross the river Jordan, figuratively speaking, and enter our Promised Land, but in the meantime God has some words of encouragement and a map for us to follow through the journey.
There are no road signs along the way; no neon arrows pointing us in the right direction. There are basic principles, though, that will help us to ascertain God’s will for our lives and make the decisions along the way that are not so clearly laid out in Scripture. We won’t get into a lengthy discussion today on how to know God’s will for your life, but rather look at a few aspects of it that we see in this passage.
First of all, we must know God’s Word in order to know God’s Will. His Will will never be contrary to what His Word tells us. God told Joshua to meditate on the law He had given Moses. Some things are written in black and white in His Word and there can be no confusion over them. When we know what the Bible says it helps us to know the direction for our lives – and the paths not to take. The young girl, for example, who says, “Well, he’s not a Christian yet, but I know it’s God’s will for me to marry him.” is deluding herself. The Bible very clearly tells us not to be yoked together with unbelievers and God’s will can never be something that He has already said is wrong. Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” His Word leads us on His path.
Knowing God’s Word does us no good however if we do not choose to obey it. The Lord told Joshua that they were not only to meditate on His law, but also to “observe to do according to all that is written therein.” We must be willing to do His will and “turn not from it to the right hand or to the left.” When we choose to obey He has promised prosperity and success—“for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success..” This is not a promise for pie-in-the-sky riches, necessarily, but rather the rewards that God has planned for our good. In the case of the children of Israel, if they obeyed they would enter the Promised Land, defeat the giants who occupied it and find a home and new life. The Lord will help us defeat the giants in our lives, as well, and live the life He that is His best for us when we seek to do His Will.
The third thing I see here is simply to place our trust in God. “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” He leads. We follow. When we do not know the way, we begin by taking that first small step of faith and trust that He will then show us the next step, and the one after that, and the one after that.. There will be times when we must stand still and wait on the Lord and that, too takes faith, but to hesitate because we are afraid of where He might lead us, or what He might ask of us, or that we may not have what it takes, shows a lack of faith on our part. He has said “withersoever,” or wherever, we go, He is with us. He guides. He provides. He led the children of Israel and took care of the obstacles in their way, and He will do the same for us. Boldly make a decision and implement it, trusting God.
Knowing God’s Word, obeying His Word and trusting Him are the keys to finding God’s will in this passage of scripture. There are other things involved in finding and understanding God’s will for our lives, as well:
Pray fervently and in faith“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. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.” (James 1:5,6)
Consider which option brings the most glory to God“…let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ…” (I Peter 4:11)
Seek Christian counsel, being careful of your counselor – “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels” (Proverbs 1:5)
Listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice“And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21)
Wait on the Lord“Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him…” (Psalm 37:4,5,7)
Watch for opened and closed doors“and a door was opened unto me of the Lord,” (II Corinthians 2:12) An open door does not always mean this is God’s will, however, and sometimes a closed door simply means “not now.” The Providence of God in circumstances, though, is often an indicator to us whether we are on the right path or not, when we combine it with these other keys to determining His Will for our lives.
Jesus is our example of being obedient in following the will of our Heavenly Father. He said, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John 6:38) and “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Joshua 1:9 will always hold a special place in my heart. We were moving back to Colorado after two years of being on deputation to raise support as home missionaries. We were finally about to embark on our church-planting ministry after many years of preparation. The trip back to Colorado began roughly with a breakdown of the trailer we were pulling. After two days of delays trying to make the repairs and spending all the money we had set aside for setting up our new home on the repairs, we finally got back on the road late in the day and tried to make up a little of the lost time by driving through the night. Right around midnight the weather got very bad and we began hearing tornado warnings on the radio. They were tracking the tornado, and announcing where it was, but our problem was, we had no idea where we were in relationship to it. It was pitch black outside, pouring rain and then hailing and we couldn’t see a thing. When we finally realized the tornado was upon us, it was too late. We pulled over and tried to get out of the car to run for a ditch, but we couldn’t get the doors open. The kids were afraid and crying; we were afraid and praying out loud as we held on to one another; and the car and overloaded trailer were shaking and bouncing all over the place.

It was finally over a few minutes later and we were alive and unhurt, but by that time we were so physically and mentally drained that we couldn’t go any further. We got off at the next exit and found a motel. We walked into our room and the first thing I saw was an open Bible on the nightstand. Someone had opened it to Joshua 1 and underlined verse 9. “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” It was just the confirmation and balm to our weary souls that we needed. Though the Enemy might assail us and try to prevent us from serving the Lord, God Himself went before us and with us. That was 23 years ago and I have never forgotten the peace and exhilaration I felt that God had left that verse for us just when we needed it most. The wonder that we had walked into the exact motel, the exact room where that opened Bible awaited us. God is so good!

I have no doubt that Julie and David will figure out what the Lord’s will is in this matter before them. They are strong prayer warriors and their number one desire is to be obedient to God wherever and however He leads them. We shall see how it all works out, and may God be glorified. The best is yet to come!

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