The idea of “God’s will” comes from Jesus himself in the Lord’s Prayer recorded in Matthew 6:10: “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven,” and again in Matthew 26:42: “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.” For a fantastic explanation of God’s will for mankind, read Ephesians 1:3-14.
Anytime an important decision comes up you can expect the classic response: “Pray about it. Seek God’s Will. The Lord will make it clear.”
We all have heard that at some point in our lives. This is usually my response: “But come on, I’m a Christian. I have been praying about it. I do want God’s will. So, have I completed the checklist now?”
If you pray in faith, “God, please show me if this is your will,” what will happen? Do you pray for His will then turn over a sand timer and wait? You would wait…and wait…and wait. Oh, and eventually die. What’s up with that? So God just leaves you hanging there to do nothing? If you follow this traditional approach, you will miss opportunities to do God’s will of showing Christ to the world while you wait on your idea of God’s will.
We need to first follow the commands of Scripture. For example, abstain from fornication, love one another, and walk in the Spirit. If we did the things we know to do, the thing we don’t know which we often concern ourselves over and “seek God’s will” about will just happen. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you can find God’s will for a job, ministry, or spouse without first doing God’s will. Actually doing all of what God already specifically asks will acts as a bridge to the things to come.
When you are certain you are following God’s will in all the areas of Scripture and are faced with questions, it’s still a time to seek God’s wisdom and Holy Spirit direction. Just remember though, if the Holy Spirit moves you in one direction, take it, even if it’s one step. Don’t expect God to show you all ten steps before you even start moving.
How can we find God’s will? One method is to try the peace trick, but I’ll warn you that it’s flawed. We can simply ask God to give us peace if something or someone is right for us. Then, we feel peace.
It is very easy to convince ourselves that something is God’s will. Think about it, if you have an attraction for someone and pray about it for months or even years, it wouldn’t be hard to convince yourself that it is God’s will. You like the person a lot. Everything seems right about it. It’s perfect. You’ve been praying about it. Therefore, it is God’s will?
It works the opposite way too. If you don’t like someone, would you pray for months and years about whether he or she is God’s will for you? No, because God might say yes and we wouldn’t like that. So do we really want God’s will, or do we want our will?
God’s will is that all of the world would be saved. It is his will that we obey the Bible and His Spirit. When we do this, you are following God’s will. Anything else, such as job, marriage, or ministry opportunity may be part of God’s will for saving the world. The who and what become part of God’s bigger picture, and are not a primary focus of God. God didn’t say in I Timothy 2:4 that his will is that Johnny marries Sally; he said that all the world would be saved. If Johnny and Sally are focused on God and have the goal in mind that their relationship would honor God, then don’t worry about it – God will smile on them. It’s a very serious thing, but let’s not make it quite so difficult.
So how can you find God’s will all by yourself and still love Jesus?
Oh. I was waiting for the knock on the head, a wet fleece, or a thundering voice from Heaven.
I don’t want to insinuate that it’s easy. Rest assured though, below you will find some relief – God already gave all of us a head start on finding His blessing for an occupation, ministry, and spouse. To help, here are some freeing thoughts about a few common areas of seeking God’s will. They will encourage you to look beyond making the single right choice, but rather to look at a choice as a potential to honor God.
So, you’ve graduated high school. Now what? What is God’s will for your life? Should you do volunteer work? Should you get a job? What job should you get?
Don’t expect to kneel beside your bed, pray for God’s will, then suddenly look up to see handwriting on the wall beside your bed. God isn’t going to spoon feed you. Sure, God cares very much about you. He loves you like crazy. Which is exactly why His will is for you and all the world to be saved. The rest of life probably seems a little trivial to Him. I don’t believe God sat there at Creation and though, “Ok, hmm, should I make Nelson be a veterinarian or a garbage man?” I don’t believe He chooses. He just wants to be honored, whether you are a cashier, babysitter, landscaper, farmer, or drafter.
Is it God’s will that I am a blogger? Yes, it is. Did God specifically tell me to be a blogger? No, of course not. But he did tell me to honor Him in whatever I do, spread the gospel, and encourage others. I like to write; therefore it is God’s will that I honor Him in my writing. The same could be said when choosing a minister or elder at church, God already gave us his requirements in Titus 1:5-9. He allows us freedom to take it from there. This could also apply when voting for a church trustee.
More than likely you have certain skills or abilities. Okay, maybe you think you don’t but I’m sure there is something that you are good at. Perhaps it is God’s will that you pursue a career that would allow you to use those skills, even if it is something simple. Remember, it is God’s will that you do that – as long as you honor Him at this job.
An amazing attribute of God is His sovereignty. God’s makes circumstances and happenings as a kind of directional propulsion. Here are some ways God already helped us narrow it down:
- Christianity. Hopefully as a Christian you too automatically narrow your search to a Christian.
- Gender. This simple Biblical criterion cuts the question in half.
- Geography. You live somewhere. Most likely you’ll find someone relatively near you. Modern technology makes more options possible, but in general both of your physical locations are a factor.
- Age. You weren’t born in 1178. If you were, you would have probably found someone else born in that century. If you are 23, you probably will not be interested in someone who is 68. Age is a factor God planned.
- Church association. Denomination for example.
- Church. You may both attend the same church, or maybe your churches associate with each other.
- School. You may both have attended the same school.
- Personality. Some people just clash. Others work together great. It’s hard to change a personality, so this is already a factor.
- Spiritual Gifts. Opposites tend to attract. For example, a boy with prophet tendencies tends to be attracted to a girl with mercy tendencies.
- Interests. This could be trivial, but yet it often is a factor. You both might like the outdoors, or maybe you both are involved in some sort of service or work of the church.
These are things that God already set in order, but of course there are always exceptions. As Christians, God also gave us principles in Scripture, as well as parents, friends, and church leaders.
In the dating/courting phase, any relationship can work out if both individuals are striving to serve and honor God, communicate well, have similar attitudes toward life, and try their best to understand each other. On the other hand, even those relationships that honor God may end. This often happens to those who previously said/thought it was God’s will for them to be together. So were they wrong? No, I believe as long as God was honored in the relationship, then God’s will was followed.
Rather than say things that presume on “God’s will,” I like to think of it differently and very simply — God does bless relationships that honor Him.
Perhaps you feel like your life is kind of bland. You thought about doing some mission service. I have too. Actually, I used to feel strongly about it. Then God showed me that I need to be a Christian example to my coworkers. If you face each day with a prayer for them specifically and for opportunities to exalt God at work, it will happen.
Don’t use mission work as a crutch. By all means, please don’t break up with your boyfriend to go on mission service. It looks bad. It looks like you totally misunderstand the great commission. Jesus didn’t mention anything about going to Africa to convert the heathen to escape emotional hurt, because you are guilty for not honoring God as a single person, or out of fear of getting stuck and tied down. Actually He wants us to honor Him, and spread the love and salvation plan of God. And yes, to go the heathen of Africa would certainly be one way of bringing glory to God.
Who knows, I might do some mission work. But it will be for the same reason I go to work every day – to honor God in whatever I do and spread the Gospel message.
Desiring God’s will requires action now, not just when God throws it at you.
If you like spotting for deer or other wildlife (not to be confused with dear spotting), you know that you don’t just sit on your cabin porch and shine a flashlight around. No, you get in your truck and drive all over the county with huge bright spotlight. Even then though it can be discouraging if all you see is a skunk or opossum, just keep trying. Your chances of seeing that big buck are probably better than on the porch.
Suppose a young man is sitting on a chair on one side of a large building. On the other side of the building is a girl, also sitting on a chair. Both of them are praying for God to show them His will for a spouse. Guess what…someone has to move. Someone has to peak around the corner and initiate a conversation. Now I don’t want to insinuate that nobody is doing anything productive. The illustration is used strictly with the prayer for God’s will in mind. Lots of times the girl and boy are both actively involved in things. From a guy’s perspective, if I looked around the corner and saw a girl sitting in a chair with her back to me, I wouldn’t be attracted to her. (I’d be scared she would turn around and heave a rock at me.) But if she was planting a flower bed, merrily whistling and smiling when I looked around, I’d be on that. And a nice peak around the corner would help me out too. You know, give me a nice smile and then pull back. If that doesn’t work, well, heave the rock at me.
Suppose you want a dog. First you ask your parents. Ok, they say it’s your decision. It will help you grow and gain responsibility. So you must decide which type. But think about this…you most likely already have preconceived ideas of what type you would get. That’s fine. It narrows it down quite a lot. For me, it would be a German Shepherd. So now to find one. You check the SPCA. You check craigslist. You check the pet stores. You check the local classifieds and Merchandiser. Finally, you are not getting anywhere, so you ask friends who own one where they got theirs. Before long you have a new puppy. Oh but, what if God wanted you to have a Collie instead? Or what if you should have gotten one from the SPCA instead? Or maybe you should have picked the other one with more brown on its nose. No, stop it. Now you sound like how we sound when we pray for God’s will and then when something happens we second guess it. Do we truly mean it when we ask for God to show us?
Maybe God doesn’t care as much as we think, as long as we are obedient to His Word and the Holy Spirit. I think I have a long way to go with that. Too often I ignore the Spirit, thus I do not follow His will. If I do that, even in little things, I cannot expect Him to show me “his will” for other things.
Maybe God isn’t specific. Suppose I told you come over to my house tonight at 7:00 pm. To be honest, I don’t care if you walk, drive, ride bike, fly in a helicopter, or hop on one leg. If you show up at my house at 7:00 like I ask, then go ahead and get creative with your method of transportation. Too often we sit around at home flipping coins and praying about transportation methods all the while disregarding the fact that it’s almost midnight and we still haven’t moved.
I just make the assumption that God is going to show me when I take steps. Probably though, God then wants to hear me cry out, “Is this it? Look, I’m moving. Are you good with it? Stop me somehow if you don’t want me here.” This is in contrast to the prayer we normally say. “God, show me where to go.” God is like, “Okay, this sounds fun. Go!” Then he looks at Jesus…”Uhhmm…this guy isn’t moving.”
When Jesus came walking across the sea, Peter’s eyes gazed on Him. Peter was so overwhelmed that he asked Jesus to call him to come. Then Peter stepped out of the boat. This was an insane move. Sometimes we forget how ridiculous this step was for Peter to take. He would have had every right to demand that Jesus tell him what would happen or exactly where he should step on the waves. Instead, he obeyed. He stepped into the great unknown. Everything was fine though, as long as his focus remained on Jesus and the calling He gave.
My main point is to encourage you to be careful about claiming to know God’s will. Instead of saying something is “God’s will,” substitute thinking like, “I believe this would honor God,” or “God seems to be blessing this.”
When trying to find “God’s will,” ask yourself some simple questions: Am I already following the specific will of God mentioned in Scripture? Would this allow for the practices of Scripture? Would I be able to be a witness by this? Is it only selfish? Would it make God smile?
I Corinthians 10:31b – “…whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
Special thanks to Caleb Martin for discussion these thoughts with me.