What is God’s will for your life?
Some of the high school bunch were crowded around a table at Subway. “I wish I had a computer to figure out my problems for me,” moaned Sue.
The others munched on their chips and waited for her to continue.
“I mean, they give you all those tests to figure out what your abilities are and what you’re interested in. Then you’re expected to look through a lot of college catalogs, compare and think about curriculum and quality and faculty-student ratio and dozens of other things.” She paused for a sip of her Coke. “After all that, my head swims, and I still don’t know what to do. If I only had a computer, I could just give it all the facts and let it come up with some answers!”
“But what if you didn’t like the answer your computer gave you?” asked Pete.
“Well”, sighed Sue, “I’m not getting any answers I like on my own either.”
Dave, swirling his Coke, said, “You know gang, we all have that problem. Making decisions is never easy. I don’t know if a computer would really help. After all, it only knows what you tell it. But I’ve been thinking about what that youth leader said a couple of weeks ago at our Campus Christians’ meeting.”
“You mean about praying and asking God to show you what to do?” asked Joe.
“Yeah… maybe he’s got something there.”
No wonder Sue wants a computer to help her out! Finding the right college, choosing a career or life partner, all the big decisions in life are hard to make. But Dave was right – the computer only knows what you tell it. And in this confusing world, we need something better than that.
And there is something better! Many teens have discovered that God Himself has a personal interest in their lives and will give that guidance they need.
God says, “I will instruct you… and guide you along the best pathway for your life; I will advise you and watch your progress” (Psalm 32:8, Living Psalms).
Have you ever driven down a country road in the dark? You can’t see very far ahead, and beyond the reach of the headlights there’s only darkness. God’s guidance is like that. He doesn’t give a preview of your future. He does give enough light on the road to keep you moving, but you don’t get to see the whole trip at a glance.
Another important thing: you have to really want His guidance, and you have to accept it ahead of time, sight unseen, in order to get it. Some people think they want to find God’s plan for their life, but they don’t realize that they’ve put some qualifiers on their acceptance, little things like “I’ll go anywhere but Africa” or “I’ll do anything as long as I get married first.” But God doesn’t work that way. He wants us to say. “I delight to do YOUR will … show me where to walk” (Psalms 40:8; 143:8, Living Psalms).
Some young people think that the minute they say that, they’ve abandoned all hope for happiness. But God’s love is so big, that He wants to give you a wonderful life.
It’s true, there are some people for whom God’s will means doing without luxuries or being far from home, or working long hours with little reward. But these people will tell you they have an inner satisfaction that makes it all worthwhile.
But, how do you find the course He has charted for you? Here are five steps that will help:
1. ANALYZE THE CIRCUMSTANCES.
Start with yourself. What are your interests and abilities? What possibilities are open to you? Say you’re considering college. One school offers just what you need, but it’s too expensive. Another one isn’t quite as good, but it offers you a scholarship. Take all the facts into consideration. If something looks impossible, it just might be. But on the other hand, nothing is too hard for God. Sometimes He takes over “impossible” situations and works them out in demonstration of His power.
Maybe you have an opportunity to be taught and trained by an experienced, spiritual leader or Christian group who specializes in equipping Christians to do God’s will of evangelism, of building up other Christian’s lives spiritually, and of growing into Christ-like character yourself. It’s hard to find doctrinally-sound individuals or groups who specialize in such training programs. So you may want to take advantage of such a program while the opportunity is there.
Remember that God’s will is that we do things excellently (2 Pet. 1:5; 1 Pet. 1:14-16; 1 Thes. 4:1, 10; 1 Cor. 12:31; Phil. 1:9-10). Don’t settle for something that is just merely a good thing to do, but realize that God’s will is that we be and do that which is best/excellent.
2. STUDY THE BIBLE.
The better you know God’s Book, the clearer the channels for God’s communication to you. In your regular times of Bible reading, be alert to anything that really relates to the decision you’re facing. But be careful not to wrench verses out of context.
The Bible has general guidelines that express God’s revealed will for every Christian. Are you obeying these? If not, you can’t expect God to give you special guidance in other matters. For example, if you’re not evangelizing (seeking to save the spiritually lost, Matt. 28:19-20; Lk. 19:10; 2 Tim. 4:5), or helping to spiritually build up other Christians (Rom. 14:19; 1 Thes. 5:11; Gal. 4:19), or growing into Christ-like character yourself (1 Pet. 1:14-16; 2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Thes. 4:7; Matt. 5:48), then you can’t expect God to show you anything more of His will (Lk. 8:18 and the last part of Lk. 12:48).
But if you feel you’re living by the revealed guidelines, then you’re ready to ask for specific guidance. Set aside a time to study what the Bible says about God’s will and how to find it. Here are some passages to look up as a starter: Eph. 5:17; Prov. 3:5-6; Matt. 28:19-20; 2 Tim. 4:5; Eph. 4:11-13; 1 Pet. 1:14-16; 1 Thes. 5:11.
You also need to discover as much as you can in the Bible that applies to your particular situation. It won’t say to you whom to marry, if you should even get married (1 Cor. 7:32-35; Matt. 19:10-12), but it tells a lot about marriage (2 Cor. 6:14; Heb. 13:4). It won’t say what college you should attend, if any, but it talks about not living for ourselves, but for God; not pursuing wealth for ourselves; being content materially; denying worldly desires; loving God the most; avoiding worldly wisdom and knowledge; seeking heavenly/spiritual things; and setting our minds on true, right, and honorable things rather than on worldly, foolish thinking (Rom. 14:7-8; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; 2 Cor. 5:15; Prov. 23:4; 1 Tim. 6:6-10; Matt. 6:19-21; 22:36-38; 1 Jn. 5:3; Titus 2:12; 1 Cor. 3:19; 1 Tim. 6:20-21; Col. 3:1-2; Phil. 4:8; Psa. 119:160; Jn. 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 4:3-4; Eph. 6:14; Prov. 23:7a). The Bible gives you the principles, and it’s up to you to apply them.
Of course, if there’s a question of something that is clearly against a biblical principle, you’ll see that you’ll have to pass it up. For instance, you wouldn’t go to a college or accept a job that would require you to be dishonest or compromise your faith.
3. PRAY ABOUT IT.
You should be praying throughout the whole process of looking for guidance.
Talk to God about everything, just as you talk to a friend. Tell Him all the circumstances and how you feel about them. Let Him know you’re trusting Him to guide you (Prov. 3:5-6; James 1:5).
4. ASK FOR ADVICE.
Talk to someone you can trust who knows the Bible very well, has been a Christian for a number of years, has been and is an obedient-to-the-Bible Christian, is Spirit-controlled, and is an experienced, mature, godly person. This person’s experience, obedience, and understanding can help you avoid booby traps.
You can generally figure that if the person you are seeking advice from is not obeying the clear commands of the Bible regarding evangelism, building up believers spiritually, and living a Christ-like in character life, then you can’t expect that person to advise you correctly because in doing so, he/she would condemn himself/herself and be a hypocrite for not doing and being what the Bible teaches. So whom you ask advice from is very important.
5. USE YOUR HEAD.
What do you think of the situation? The Lord expects you to use the brains He gave you. A helpful device you might want to use involves a piece of paper and a pencil. Draw columns on the paper to represent the choices open to you – say, three different colleges. Then list underneath the heading all the reasons for that choice. Also, add a section for the reasons against each choice.
Analyze this list in light of the question, “How can I be most effective for God, doing and being what He wants (what His Word teaches/commands)?” Common sense and the process of deduction should reveal the best choice. But remember that God might overrule this choice for reasons only He knows. If He has something else in mind, He’ll let you know.
Now, after you’ve followed these five steps, try to forget the whole thing for awhile. Give your unconscious thoughts and the Lord a chance to work on it together. You may find that the next time you think about it, the answer is surprisingly clear.
But in other cases, the answer may not come that way. Maybe God wants you to make up your own mind. Pray that you’ll make that right decision, then go ahead and decide. After you make the choice, then trust your heavenly Father that He has guided you in the right way. Later on you may clearly see that it was the right decision.
What’s the next step after you know what to do? DO IT!! Then you’ll be ready for the next hundred yards of light on the road ahead.
Whatever you do, do not go by your feelings or emotions as to whether or not something is God’s will. Do not go by whether or not you have peace about the decision. Do not go by whether or not you have peace about something being God’s will. Use your brain, not your feelings. Let’s take a look at some biblical examples of God’s will and whether the people who were told God’s will had either peace of mind or peace of circumstances about God’s will.
First, there’s Jeremiah. In Jer. 1:4-5, God tells Jeremiah that it’s His will for Jeremiah to be His prophet. But in Jer. 1:6; 15:10, 18; 20:7, we find that Jeremiah does not have peace of mind about doing God’s will. And in Jer. 15:10, 18; 18:18, 20; 20:2, 7-8; 26:8; 32:2; 37:14-16; 38:6, Jeremiah does not have peace of circumstances when he does God’s will. So just because you do not have peace of mind or circumstances when either deciding to do or actually doing God’s will as God has recorded in His Word, the Bible, does not mean that it is not God’s will for you. Go by what God says in the Bible, not by peace or lack of it.
Second, there’s Jonah. In Jonah 1:1-2, Jonah is told by God what His will is, but Jonah does not have peace of mind about it (Jonah 1:3).
Third, there’s Moses. In Exodus 3:1, 4, 10 – 4:17, God tells Moses His will, but Moses does not have peace of mind about it (Ex. 3:11, 13; 4:1, 10, 13-14; 6:30), nor peace of circumstances (Ex. 5:2, 4-23; 6:9, 12).
Fourth, Stephen didn’t have peace of circumstances when he chose to do God’s will (Acts 6:8-12; 7:54-60).
Fifth, Paul didn’t always have peace of mind when he chose to do God’s will (1 Cor. 2:3; 2 Cor. 7:5), nor did he always have peace of circumstances when he chose to do God’s will (Acts 26:12-26; 2 Cor. 4:8-11; 11:23-28; 1 Cor. 4:9-13).
Sixth, Jesus tells His disciples that when they do God’s will, they won’t have peaceful circumstances (Matt. 10:16-23). And when Jesus’ disciples were doing God’s will, they did not have peaceful circumstances (Acts 1:8; 4:1-3, 17, 21; 5:17-18, 40). Jesus said that He did not come to bring peace on earth, but a sword or division, even among family members, because some family members choose to do God’s will while other family members from the same families choose not to do God’s will (Matt. 10:34-36; Lk. 12:51-53). In Matt. 6:31-34 and Lk. 12:29-32, Jesus tells His audience to not live by their feelings/emotions of anxiousness/worry, but to do God’s will of seeking first God’s kingdom (rule over their lives) and God’s righteousness (having godly character).
Seventh, Proverbs 28:26 states that the person who trusts in his own heart/feelings is a fool. So don’t trust in feelings of peace as to whether something is God’s will. Rather, go by the commands and principles of Scripture, God’s Word, in determining God’s will, for Christians should walk/live by faith (in God’s Word, the Bible) and not by sight (i.e., circumstances or feelings), 2 Cor. 5:7.
Eighth, it was God’s will that the men of Judah (Israel) go to war against the men of Benjamin (Judges 20:18). But in spite of the fact that it was God’s will, the men of Benjamin killed 22,000 men of Israel/Judah (Judges 20:21). Not having a peace of mind, Israel inquires of the Lord whether it’s really His will to fight the men of Benjamin. Again, God tells Israel that it’s His will that they fight against the Benjaminites, who were their relatives (Judges 20:23). But in spite of it being God’s will for Israel to go and fight Benjamin, Israel loses 18,000 more men in battle (Judges 20:25). Doing God’s will does not always mean having peace of circumstances. Often times, doing God’s will brings opposition, even from relatives or family members, as it did here. So don’t let lack of peace of mind or circumstances keep you from doing God’s will.