How do I know that I love God’s will? Or, to put it in a Puritan way, How do I know I am affected by God’s will? You can look here for a finer look at affections. However, I am sure that most Christians have asked this question at one point in their life.
How do you know that you love God’s will? Certainly, there are some relatively easy ways to see this. Do you love waking up with anticipation of reading God’s Word? Do you long for time away from others to pray and commune with your Heavenly Father? Do you thrive in serving others?
Think about a job you have had. I was blessed to work at Walmart for seven years. I enjoyed certain people at work. I liked certain tasks. But I would never say I enjoyed job, or that I loved my job. Now, when it comes to lifting weights, I love lifting weights. As you read this, you, no doubt, know the difference between the two. This is an excellent example of how we should feel about God’s will and how we often truly feel.
These are ways in which we can see that we love God and His will for our lives. Thomas Manton, however, offers three ways that I think will be beneficial for us.
“WHEN GOD’S WILL IS REASON ENOUGH FOR WHAT HE HATH REQUIRED OF US; WHEN A MAN IS SO SENSIBLE OF GOD’S WILL THAT THIS IS INSTEAD OF ALL REASONS.” (Manton, Works, 137)
Manton writes, “Obedience is never right but when it is done upon the mere sight of God’s will.” (Manton, Works, 137) That is, we obey because of Who’s will we are following. When we are children, our parents ask us to do something, and we do it. Likewise, I expect my own children to listen and obey when I instruct them to complete a task. Additionally, the supervisor at work expects her employees to follow through with her instructions. These are God-ordained roles for human beings to follow. (See Ephesians 5:22-6:9 for a biblical treatment of this.)
These roles (husband-wife, parents-child, supervisor-worker, government-citizens) serve to illustrate the ultimate role: God-human beings. God is our Creator, and it is our duty and privilege to obey and execute His will. When we follow God’s commands because it is God who commanded, we are cultivating affections for His will.
“WHEN A MAN IS VERY INQUISITIVE TO KNOW WHAT IS THE WILL OF HS HEAVENLY FATHER.” (Manton, Works, 137)
This is one evidence that we are becoming more affectionate of God’s will. Do we have an eagerness to know what God’s will is? When the thought of personal finances comes into our heads, do we seek to know what God expects of us in relation to our money? Do parents seek to raise their children in accordance with God’s will?
Manton notes, “When he doth not only practise what he knows, but searcheth that he may know more: Rom. xii. 2, ‘That ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Manton, Works, 137) He further clarifies, “When a man is desirous to know the whole will of God, not for curiosity but for practice, that he might do it.” (Manton, Works, 37)
I find myself guilty of seeking to know about God rather than to know God truly. The same danger lies hidden in the tall grass of God’s will. We are apt to what to know God’s will, not to actually practice it, but to use it as a tool of judgment on others. Or, we use it to make ourselves feel better. “Oh, I am doing _______, and they are violating God’s will by doing that” we remark to ourselves. But when we are truly affectionate towards our Heavenly Father’s will, we will be eager to know God’s will for every area of our lives.
“HEREBY MAY YOU KNOW YOUR AFFECTION TO GOD’S WILL, BY KEEPING YOURSELVES FROM YOUR SINS.” (Manton, Works, 138)
This is where the proverbial rubber hits the road. This, in my estimation, is the greatest tool in diagnosing our affections toward the will of God. This is also, in my experience, the most painful tool.
Think about the dentist. His patient comes in to his office. After the exam, the dentist fills in two cavities. A few months pass, and the patient returns. The dentist performs the examinations, finds two more cavities, and fills them. About six months pass, and the same routine occurs. Now, the dentist may simply continue to fill the cavities. Or, the dentist may seek to address the root cause (no pun intended). Through a series of questions, the dentist discovers that his patient has never learned the proper routine for dental health (this illustration is only for visual purposes. You may take great care of your teeth and still routinely get cavities. If so, I am sorry! I am in the same boat). The dentist’s treatment plan now includes the ways to care for the teeth and gums.
Unfortunately, we are often like the patient. We attempt to fill in the cavities of sins in our lives without devoting the necessary time, and often intense pain, to the root cause. Manton paints a marvelous picture,
“There is an iniquity that we may call ours, upon which the will is most passionately addicted; be it worldliness, sensuality, inordinate desire of reputation and respect with men. Now, when we are plucking out our right eye, and cutting off our right hand, Mat. v. 29–when we are mortifying and subduing our lusts–when we can deny ourselves in those things to which the heart is most wedded, that is a sign of compliance with the will of God.” (Manton, Works, 138)
Upon reading those statements, you may immediately call to mind a specific sin. Perhaps that sin spreads into other areas of your life. And to this point you have addressed the peripheral sins without attacking the heart. You may have never thought about this. With this understanding, ask God to open your eyes to the root cause. Then, at the exhortation of our Lord Jesus Christ, cut off the right hand and pluck out the right eye (this is graphic language to describe the seriousness and viciousness with which we must attack sin, not a direct command to physically remove body parts). When we wage war on our sins, we are showing affection for God. We are showing God that we love His will more than the pleasures that come from our sin.
So, how affectionate to God’s will are you? Are you strong in some areas and weaker in others? Has God revealed a certain sin that is stealing away your affections?
Brothers and sisters, we must pray that God change our affections. He has the power and authority. His Word and Spirit are sufficient to help us grow more affectionate to His will!
I highly recommend you purchase Thomas Manton’s works from the Banner of Truth Trust.
Check out Manton’s other works: