Many years ago, well over a decade, I met a girl. I really liked this girl. We hit it right off immediately. The first time we met we ended up talking for three hours. The second day we talked for another three hours. The third night she was game to do something she had never done before. Watch a Star Wars movie. Only thing better than a woman who is willing to watch Star Wars for the first time is a woman who wants to watch Star Wars again like my wife, the always beautiful, Mrs. Lundy, but this story doesn’t involve her. Suffice it to say I really liked this girl a lot and wanted to date her.
Being the good Christian man that I was with latent insecurities and fear of rejection, I prayed about it first. I wanted to make sure that I was living in God’s will and not stepping outside of it. I took relationships very seriously and wanted to make sure it was the right thing with the right person and that most of all, that God willed it. I wanted a sign. I wanted some assurance. I didn’t want to be rejected. I wanted to please God, and I wanted to be her man. I laid myself bare before the Lord opening up my heart but ready and willing to submit to his will. My petition was simple; do I pursue her or do I just be her friend (At this point my non-Christian friends are probably wondering, “is this how Christians really think and make decisions?” Not all but enough that I feel inclined to write this).
I’m not claiming that I audibly heard God speak to me while I sought his will in my prayer regarding whether or not to pursue this girl. I am claiming while practicing the discipline of quieting myself over the years coupled with discerning and learning the heart of God according to the scriptures, a very clear thought or word became profound in my mind that I believe was God speaking to me. “What do you want to do? It’s up to you. Do you trust me? I’m less concerned with what you do and more concerned with how you do it. I’m less concerned with what you do and more concerned with who you are and whether or not you trust me regardless of what you choose to do.”
I had my answer and it wasn’t quite the answer I was expecting but it was an answer nonetheless. I chose to pursue her and her response was favorable but after a month of “talking” she decided that she just wanted to be friends. I learned a lot from that experience. It’s likely not a stretch to guess that many Christians trying to honor and submit their life to God have also spent much time seeking God’s will about all manner of decisions and choices that lay before them. What college to attend, what classes to take, what job to pursue, whether or not to marry the person you’ve been dating for four years. We are often faced with pretty big life decisions to make and Christians should want to submit to and live within God’s will for their life.
The problem is that we obsess over it and miss what God is trying to do in our lives and what the bible actually says about God’s will for our lives. If we’re not careful we live lives that are paralyzed by fear of stepping outside God’s will and having to deal with the consequences of not staying within the boundaries of the path he has laid before us. In America with a culture driven by performance busyness, goal setting, accomplishments and the next thing, we mistakenly adapt and adjust God’s values to American values. When we do this God’s will for our lives is no longer about being with God himself, and the path to God being to abide in Jesus who made the way for us to God. Instead God’s will becomes personal achievement and success, personal development, personal happiness and avoiding pain, difficulty and suffering, and the path to it is prayer spiritual disciplines and good moral behavior—aka sin avoidance. If we see God and his will this way then the instant our lives come off the tracks and we experience major setbacks, disappointments, pain and suffering although we’ve adhered morally then our faith will unravel just as quickly as we do.
With all that in mind here are five things that I’ve learned about God’s will that I believe are supported by scripture (even though I haven’t gone to the effort of citing a bunch of scripture for you, feel free to do so yourself and see if God’s word agrees).
- You Are Not A Patriarch: In other words God’s will for your life is probably not as specific as you think or would like it to be. Christians often take verses or narratives involving the patriarchs and prophets that tells of God’s plan for their life, and claim them for their own life. Abraham Isaac and Jacob, King David, and a number of the prophets God chose for very specific purposes because they were all leading and pointing to the one in who God’s plan for all of our lives ultimately rest—the Messiah, the Great Shepherd, the Suffering Servant, Christ Jesus our Lord. We live in the time between the ascension and the Christ’s return. In multiple places throughout the New Testament, in particular Revelation, we’ve been told exactly what God’s will and plan for our lives is—continued obedience, faithfulness, long suffering, and yielding to the power of the Holy Spirit to sanctify us making us more like Jesus through whom we are justified.
- Becoming v. Doing: I’ve become convinced that God’s will for our lives has less to do with what we doing and more to do with who we are becoming. Certainly we are to do right but as far as scripture is concerned what we are to do is not a mystery and has not been withheld from us. God’s will is not about being at the right destinations. God’s will is about being who he destined us to be in Christ. Regardless of what job you take, person you marry, school you put your kids in, college you choose God’s plan for you is to be like Christ whenever, wherever, whatever, and with whomever you find yourself.
- Wisdom: I’ve come to realize that scripture spends way more time talking about and teaching wisdom than it talks about or teaching us to ask God for specifics, yes or no answers to choices. The reason why many Christians may find themselves in turmoil or trouble is not because they’ve made choices and decisions that have taken them off the track of God’s will for their lives. We find ourselves in trouble and turmoil because either circumstances outside of our control, the effects of individual and corporate sin, or because we lack wisdom. There’s not a whole lot we can do about the first two but we can ask for and seek wisdom. In fact asking for and seeking wisdom is one of the specifics that God has made known he desires for our lives. God wants us to learn wisdom so that we can navigate all the grey areas of life.
- Trust: Wisdom is good but it doesn’t guarantee we will avoid trouble and hardship. In fact we are told numerous places in scripture that we should actually expect to encounter trouble and that trouble and evil will increase as the time draws near for Christ to return and God to put the world to rights. When bad and terrible things happen people will often try to incorporate it into God’s plan as to suggest that he is using that specific situation to build something us in you. The reality is that this world is broken enough that more times than not stuff just happens. Not to say that God won’t bring or allow something very specific into your life to accomplish his work in you, but who are we to know? When we come out the other side of trials and tests is it because we knew we were being tested or because we trusted God? When we fully trust God we become less concerned with whether or not something is a test and more concerned with trusting God no matter what comes our way.
- Who Brings The Glory: When I was obsessed with discovering God’s will and plan for my life it came from a good place. I wanted my life to glorify God. I believed that if I didn’t make the right choices and my path was somehow altered then God would either have to intervene or my life wouldn’t bring God as much glory as it would have otherwise done if I had made another choice. There were two mistakes with that thinking. First mistake, I don’t bring God the glory, God glorifies himself through me. Secondly, it places higher value on position and accomplishments as though God’s glory is dependent on what we achieve and our lofty endeavors instead of depending on God himself. God can glorify himself just as much through a janitor as he can through a professional athlete.
Summary: Maybe you’ve seen those Fidelity Investments commercials where someone has just met with an advisor and upon departing is directed to stay on track. On the ground there appears a green line with arrow icon streaming down it directing their path down the plan to a secure future. In a western culture with so many things, so many options, so many choices I believe many of us are like the people in those commercials—we want some guidance. God has given us all the guidance he intends to give in his word and the presence of his Holy Spirit residing in us. Learning to just trust God and know that I have the freedom to choose while remaining faithful and obedient to what he’s made known has kept me from being paralyzed by all the options that I am fortunate to even be able to consider.