May 10, 2009

Finding God's Will for Me

I had a friend in college who had their entire life planned out: first undergraduate studies; then Masters Degree, after which a great job; then marriage with two kids, a nice house and a couple of pets; after that, perhaps some doctoral studies. This Christian friend gave no consideration to the will of God in their life, and I assumed expected God to stamp the whole thing “Blessed” and to say “Have a nice life”.

Much has been written and discussed about the question of God’s will for our lives, and is sometimes made more complicated than it needs to be. I hear everything from “No one can know God’s will to “Just say it and get it”.
To the one who loves his Heavenly Father, knowledge of His will is important because we want to please HIM. However, what we usually want to know is limited t0 something like this:

“What does God have for me in my life? Where should I go to school? What kind of job will I have / which job should I take, or to whom should I, or when should I marry?” (Nobody says “whom”; I just put it in because it’s correct grammar; actually, there are usually a few “dude’s” and “like’s” sprinkled in).
As Christians, desiring to know these things is normal; and being concerned about the path God would have us take is admirable, but we should consider a few things about why we want to know God’s will for us. Motives matter.

Sometimes we want to know out of a sincere desire to have a felt need met by God; so we are wondering when or if He plans to grant our desires.

Sometimes we ask so that we can have an outline or blueprint from God as to what our lives will be so we can lie back and let it all happen without worrying about it.

Sometimes we ask God to know His will for us so we can then decide if we want to do it. In other words, we have already decided what we are going to do and want God to be our consultant. One of my favorite cartoons is from B.C., where two men are shown on a raft. The first remarks that they are pretty far out, and says they should head back to land. The second says “Shouldn’t we pray about it?” The first begins to pray “Which way is back?” When we truly desire to know and seek God’s will we are agreeing with the fact that He has the plan and the final say, not just input into the decision making process.

Our reason for seeking God’s will should not be simply out of curiosity, but it should be so that you might know it to do it.
17"If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching,
whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. (John 7:17 NASB)

We should want to know God’s will so that we can please Him in every respect; to be found always engaged in the things He has for us to do while in these bodies. This desire comes from none other that our loving relationship with Him, so we shouldn't expect to hear from God if we are not truly interested in Him and what He wants.

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2 NASB)
The scriptures are full of examples and direct statements of God’s will for our lives in general areas. In fact, all instructions to christians in general that we find in scripture may be taken to be God's will for us. So, our first goal should be to obey what we already know. Here is one example:
1Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. 2For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3For this is the will of God, your
sanctification;
that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. (I Thess 4: 1-8)
This is not to say that we must have obeyed all scripture without fault before God will reveal His will to us. Remember John 7:17. It is the attitude of the heart to want to know and obey God, believing that He hears and will answer. James puts it this way:

5But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1: 5-7 NASB)

The challenge of applying what we know His will for us to be in general, and knowing God’s will in particular circumstances, is part of the adventure of the Christian believer’s life, and is one of the reasons prayer can often be a struggle.

So, Find out what God’s word says about what He wants. There are some things that are God’s will for all believers that are found in the scriptures. You have to take the time to read the scriptures to discover them. (The key to studying the Bible: “BTB”, Bend The Binding).

God has a specific plan for your life and will guide you in it:

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 NASB)

8I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. 9Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you. 10Many are the sorrows of the wicked, But he who trusts in the LORD, loving kindness shall surround him. (Psalm 32:8-10 NASB)
We are subject to weakness and deception in our thinking, but this is no reason to leave off praying to know His will. God is pleased to give wisdom to the one who asks in faith. (James 1:5-7) In praying to know God’s will in a particular circumstance, remember that what he truly reveals to you in prayer will not conflict with scripture.

God has his own purposes and plans, and may not reveal to you all or any of the details of his plan for you in a single instant. It will more likely be a process; one which requires you to be diligent in prayer and in the scriptures, and to give attention to Him personally. (Let’s not forget the reason we want to know His will). His will for you involves your entire life, now and after you go to be with Him; not just what job you are going to take, and where you are going to go to school. Get this right and you will find that He is guiding you in the other things as well.

What happens if I fail to find or stay on the path God has for me? We have a promise from God. In Psalm 23, inspired by the Holy Spirit, David says “You lead me in paths of righteousness for Your Name’s sake.” We may bounce around a bit within the path, but God will see to it that we find and stay on the right way, and perhaps through many adventures. You can make it easier by reading and obeying the Word. "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105 (NASB).

So, be willing to know and willing to do. Trust and Obey.


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission