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How to know the will of God

University Relations

Dr. John HammettDr. John S. Hammett, a professor of systematic theology and associate dean of theological studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, was a guest speaker for The Staley Distinguished Scholar Series at Charleston Southern University.

Hammett engaged the audience of students, faculty, staff and community leaders with his easy and creative delivery. His topic was entitled, Three Views of Knowing God’s Will. Hammett walked with the group to increase understanding of What is the will of God?

He spoke of God’s sovereign or permissive will as God either allows things to happen or He causes them to happen and referenced Ephesians 1:11 “In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will.”

“There are some things that God allows to happen that He doesn’t desire, but He allows them because he desires us to be free creatures,” Hammett said.

The moral or perfect will of God is stopped by things in the world like injustice, cruelty, greed, materialism, racism, sexism. Hammett states that we can know this because we see God reflected in scripture, and we can see what He desires.

Some believe that God has an individual will for their life and that He desires certain specific things for them to do; that He has a plan for their life and wants to make that plan known to them. This is called God’s individual will. On issues where scripture does not give you a specific command, God knows what is best and desires the best for you. This is where we get guidance from God.

The doctrine of God

The doctrine of God lays a foundation for understanding who God is. “God’s providence guides us,” Hammett explained. “God is guiding us without us knowing it; arranging circumstances; opening doors and closing doors and making connections.”

God is a good God and father, and good fathers actively guide their children. “Trust the Father to give you direction. Expect it. Learn to listen for it, and you will receive God’s individual will for those decisions you must make,” he said.

God’s immutability comforts. God does not change. He is faithful, constant, and his nature and character never change.

“Look at these three areas and do a mental checklist in your mind to make sure all three square with your particular question or circumstance,” Hammett suggested.

The doctrine of scripture

What God gives in scripture is not error-prone; this is the sufficiency of God. In 2 Timothy 3: 16-17, the Bible says, “All scripture is inspired by God and[a] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (RSV) The Spirit illumines what God inspired.

The Specific Will of God

View The core idea is that God does have a specific will out there for your life – the person you marry, the career you choose; the big decisions of life.

Foundational truths

“Scripture is the starting point because God will never lead you contrary to scripture,” said Hammett. The key to receiving guidance through scripture is getting to know God better. “This is one reason why I encourage you to maintain a daily personal relationship with God. Look for and be involved in God’s redemptive purposes. Trust Him as the guide of your life,” he said.

How to hear God’s voice

If you spend time in scripture and listen, you will find the Spirit speaking. The Holy Spirit speaks as we listen in prayer; this is the still small voice. Interpreting circumstances can be difficult. Because God is providentially active in all circumstances of life, we should expect those circumstances to provide guidance as the Spirit helps us understand. Hebrews 5:14 – “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (NIV) This speaks of mature people, and it happens with constant use. If you practice walking with God, you get good at it.


Join a local church. “Get tied in with those you respect in your church so that when decision times come, you will have wise counsel,” Hammett encouraged. God likes to confirm corporately guidance He gives personally - personal guidance, corporate confirmation.

The Relationship/Blended View

  • Wisdom and the Spirit bring together the best of both worlds for principles, priorities and values.
  • Try to quiet your voice to hear the still, small voice.
  • As we walk with God, hopefully, we will get better and will improve in decision making.
  • Engage in hard-headed thinking also called proverbial wisdom. “The facts are your friends. God’s home field is always truth,” said Hammett. “Use your mind as much as you can and look at all the facts. Romans 8:16 – “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (NIV) There is a spirit to spirit connection with God. The Spirit is something within us that is oriented to God and connects us to God. That Spirit came alive when we accepted Christ as Savior and Lord.

The Staley Distinguished Scholar Series is a project of the Thomas F. Staley Foundation of Florida. The lectureship was established in the fall of 1969 by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas F. Staley of Rye, New York, in memory of their parents. The Foundation seeks to bring to the college and university campuses of America distinguished scholars who truly believe and who can clearly communicate to students. 

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