Often people speak about seeking the Lord’s will for their life and they want specific guidance regarding something such as a marriage partner or a career to follow or if they should serve the Lord in a foreign country. Of course, it is essential to ask the Lord to open and close doors, and it is important to ask the Lord to give a strong desire to do something. Yet we always have to say, ‘If the Lord wills.’
David Livingstone thought initially that he was called to serve the Lord in China and discovered eventually that his place of service was Africa. He discovered it was Africa through a series of providences and not by an assumption that he had access to God’s secret will. One of the providences was that a war broke out between Britain and China and the London Missionary Society decided to send him to the West Indies instead. While he agreed that he could not go to China at that time, he did not think that the West Indies was suitable for him because the gospel was already there. So the Society and he decided he should go to Africa or to the South Seas islands. One day, he met Robert Moffatt and that meeting convinced David it was Africa. He discovered God’s will for his life through a series of providences in which God opened and closed doors, but he did not get access to God’s secret will to help him make up his mind.
How do we discover God’s personal will for us? I would say it involves three things: the deep desires he gives, the strategic doors he opens and closes (which nobody else may see at the time), and the delights we have in obeying his commandments in connection with it even when difficulties may occur. Hudson Taylor sensed that God was calling him to China. A friend suggested to him that he would need to have medical training before he would be suitable. The course was not easy, but he did so gladly because he knew that training would make him a better servant of God.
In addition to submitting to his sovereignty, the expression ‘if the Lord wills’ is a statement of confidence in his shepherding care, that he will lead us along the path that he wants us to take. When he prevents something, it is not a sign that he is against us. Rather it is evidence that he is leading us to where he wants to take us.