Words by Adam Brewer | Image by Al Blanton
A question I am asked regularly—often accompanied with a sincere but puzzled expression—is “What is God’s will for my life?” Sometimes, it is phrased, “How do I know God’s will for my life?” Occasionally, the question is asked specifically about a future spouse or job, while others ask in seeking general guidance for purpose in life. Perhaps this is a question with which you have wrestled from time to time. Not wanting to dishonor Christ, you’ve been trained to seek a sign in the sky or an “open door” of opportunity to determine God’s will in a situation. Would you get irritated with me if I told you that God’s will for our lives isn’t as difficult to determine as we often make it?
God’s Clear, Revealed Will
One night a couple of weeks ago, my wife and I told the boys it was time for bed. Lindsay reminded them, “Take your vitamins, put up your clothes I’ve folded, brush your teeth, and get in the bed.” I won’t say which son it was, but one of them stood up, got a drink of water, and promptly asked, “Mom, what do you want us to do?” Lindsay looked at me in frustration and said, “Didn’t I just tell them what to do?”
I fear that many of us respond the same way when it comes to God’s will for our lives. God’s Word gives us clear directions regarding his will for many aspects of our lives, and yet we ask, “God, will you please show me your will for my life?” In 1 Thessalonians chapters 4 – 5, Paul twice reminds us of God’s will for our lives. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3, he states, “This is the will of God,” and then unpacks it one aspect at a time. In 1Thessalonians 5:18, Paul writes, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” and gives several attitudes and actions. Here’s a sampling:
- To live in sexual purity.
- Learn self-control.
- Demonstrate love for other people.
- Pursue a drama-free life.
- Mind our own business.
- Work hard.
- Respect others.
- Live at peace with others.
- Encourage others.
- Seek to do good to others.
- Rejoice always.
- Pray continually.
- Give thanks.
- Abstain from every form of evil.
That’s a plate full for us to consider and obey, and it’s only two chapters! Perhaps before attempting to discern God’s will in deeper, murkier waters, we would be wise to first ask, “Am I currently obeying what God has clearly shown to be his will in my life?” Only then are we better positioned to seek answers to the not-so-obvious questions about God’s will for our lives.
What About the Not So Obvious?
There are decisions we encounter regularly for which we don’t possess an obvious answer. Should I take this new job? Should I marry this individual? With which local church should my family worship and serve? These are important questions that can cause inner tension. (Tension is usually perceived as negative, but healthy tension is good for growth.) God hasn’t specified the name and age of the person you should marry, but the Scriptures do build defined boundaries for the type of spouse you should seek. God didn’t list the name of the local church where you and your family should worship, but the Scriptures do guide us away from the churches and pastors who would cause harm or spiritual decay. In these areas where we possess boundaries without specific answers, we must practice wise discernment. It requires time, reflection, and dependence upon God’s Spirit. Here’s a quick checklist that may help in reaching a decision in these not-so-obvious matters of life:
1. Deal with the Obvious.
Is there an area in our lives that’s out-of-step with God’s will clearly spelled-out in Scripture? If so, repent and deal with that area first. If we obey what God has plainly told us, He will provide discernment for those things in our lives which aren’t as clear. Why would God entrust to us greater light when we refuse to follow the light he has already provided?
2. Pray and Fast.
Before running to hear everyone else’s opinion, seek the counsel of God. Remember, God may leave us in a state of tension to mature us. God is more concerned with our growth in godliness than giving immediate answers. Spend a season praying and fasting for God’s guidance.
3. Listen to Wise Counsel.
God places people in our lives who can listen and provide Godly wisdom for navigating life’s roads. Rather than polling the TikTok crowd or seeking the opinions of undisciplined, immature “friends,” we should seek the counsel of one or two people who are giving us worthy examples to imitate. It’s likely they won’t provide the specific answer, but they will provide insight of greater value.
4. Pay Attention to the Spirit’s Promptings.
Lastly, we should never “follow our heart” because the heart is deceitful above all things. However, a soul that is regularly repenting, living obediently to God’s revealed will, praying, fasting, and seeking out wise counsel has healthy ear drums with which to listen to the Spirit’s promptings. We shouldn’t ignore the Spirit’s conviction and promptings. It’s normally the stirrings of an unquenched Spirit, not the “signs in the sky” that God provides for the not-so-obvious matters of life.
Just One More,