God, what is Your will for my life? Do You even have a specific will for my life? If so, how detailed is it? Do You really care if I use paper or plastic? If I drive a foreign car? Does it matter to You if I decorate my house with antiques or IKEA?
Or maybe You’re only concerned with the really big decisions. Who should I marry? What career path should I choose? How many kids should we have?
I’ve heard men and women who I respect as mature believers talk about their desire to be “in the center of God’s will.” I guess that implies that there is some latitude…that it’s possible be in God’s will but not quite in the center. Does that mean there is a menu of choices I could make and still be in Your will? Is there one specific choice in every decision that is “the center” of Your will, and all the others are merely acceptable? If so, how can I know what that is?
I recognize that there are some things about God’s will that don’t involve my choices at all. These things are decided and will occur with or without me. The creation of the universe, for example. “Let us make man in our image.” The fact that at some point “every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” That will happen. Jesus will return at whatever time God decides.
But it seems there are other things that God allows. He doesn’t cause them to happen – and maybe He doesn’t even want them to happen – but he does nothing to stop them. This is the part of God’s will that I’m interested in right now. This is the part He leaves up to me. I believe that God created us with free will so that most, if not all, of our choices are up to us. So, if that’s true, I have already decided that I want to live in such a way that Christ is honored. Someday, I want to hear God say, “Well done.” So, if God does have a plan for my life, I want to know what it is so that I can know that I’m doing exactly what God wants me to do.
I’ve learned that when we ask God a question like this, often He’ll respond with questions of His own. That’s sort of the basic thought behind the way I’m reading through scripture right now in my God Questions series.
So if I ask, “God, what is Your will for my life?” I can imagine that, instead of answering directly, He may ask me a few questions.
- What about the things I’ve already told you?
You can know a lot about God’s will for your life right from scripture.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
14Do everything without complaining or arguing…
25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
These things, and so many more, are God’s will for my life. I can know this without question. When I face tough choices, scripture will often give me the answer I need about God’s will. I’m not saying it’s always easy to do it. I’m simply saying that I don’t have to wonder about what He wants me to do.
So, when I ask God’s will for my life, He may well ask, “Are you doing the things I’ve already told you?” If I intentionally ignore the things God has already revealed about His will, why would He reveal anything else? What would be the point?
God might also ask:
- Do you really want to know?
Do I really want to see God’s whole detailed plan?
There was a time in my life when the idea of serving as a full-time member of a church staff was absolutely NOT something I saw myself doing. I had basically told God I wanted to serve Him, but not that way. Yet, that is exactly what I did for 35 years, and I can’t imagine my life any other way. The circumstances proceeded in such a way that it seemed like the natural and right thing to do. However, If God had revealed that plan to me ahead of time, I likely would have run.
God may not lay out His entire plan – I might not be ready for it. It might scare me away. It’s enough that I live in what I know to be His will…today.
And that brings me to the next question God may ask:
- Are you committed to doing My will, no matter what it is?
My preferred M.O. would generally be to have God tell me His plans and then I’ll decide if that works for me. But that’s completely backwards. Why would God give anyone a clear direction, if they haven’t already made the commitment to follow Him, wherever He may lead?
Another mistake I tend to make is trying to determine God’s will by taking a “spiritual gifts” inventory. Don’t misunderstand. These can be useful tools in some situations, but if God has something specific in mind for a person, He’ll make sure that person has all the necessary prerequisites.
Consider Moses. God wanted to use him to lead a million Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. But Moses took a hard look at himself and discovered he didn’t have the talents necessary for such a task. He couldn’t even speak in public without stammering all over himself. That didn’t seem to be a problem for God.
Introspection is not a bad thing – I find that I do a lot of that myself – but when it comes to determining God’s will for our lives, inside is not the best place to look.
One last thing: Remember, you can’t steer a parked car.
It’s so tempting to sit around and wait for God to give direction. I don’t want to screw it up by going too far down the wrong path! But the thing is, God can’t steer me if I’m not moving.
God has given intelligence. We have Godly friends who care about us. We have His own Spirit living within us. We need to use those resources to make the best decision we can make.
But here’s the most important piece. It’s a prayer that must be prayed continually and from the depths of your soul.
The prayer is this: “God, my desire is to live out Your will in my life. I want to do what You want me to do. I’ve thought it through every way I know how. I’ve gotten the advice of people who know me and know You, and this is what I think You want me to do. In fact, this is what I’m going to do starting right now. What I’m asking, God, is that if I’m wrong, please stop me.”
I can tell you from experience that He will answer that prayer. It’s not fun when He does that. But in the stopping I’ve found new directions.
He will steer. But I have to start moving.