“What is God’s will for my life?” This is a good question for us to ask as Christians. It’s the right question for us to ask.
When we ask this question, we are acknowledging several things to be true about God as well as about ourselves. We are acknowledging at a base level that God is present and active in the world, and that He actually has a specific design for our lives. We are further acknowledging that the best way to live – the way to live that brings the most joy, the most meaning, the most satisfaction – is through denying our own will and instead seeking to live according to God’s. We are also acknowledging that many times, in our flesh, we might have a different idea about the way our lives should go than God does. But in asking this question, if indeed we follow through with it, we are acknowledging the authority God has over us.
These are all good and right things. And yet we might well be making some mistakes when we claim to be seeking the will of God. I write this from personal experience, for as many times as I’ve asked the question, it’s that many times that I’ve erred in either my understanding of God’s will or in my motivation behind asking the question to begin with.
I wanted, then, to write today a little bit about some of the mistakes I’ve observed in my own life when seeking the will of God. Perhaps these three will resonate with you as well:
1. We only seek God’s will when confronted with a big decision.
Generally this question comes at the crossroad of some important decision. Maybe it’s about choosing what to study in college. Perhaps it’s about choosing between this job or that one in this city or that one. Maybe it’s about whether to marry the person you are currently dating. It could even be about whether or not to retire. So we have this crossroad before us, and we want to know if God’s will is for us to choose to the right or to the left. We look to the sky when faced with this big decision and ask.
But God’s will should not only be sought at these crossroads. That’s because God’s will isn’t meant to only be sought; it’s meant to be walked in.
It’s ironic when you consider just how much of life we actually already know the will of God concerning. The Bible is full of direct statements of God’s will. We know it’s God’s will that we refrain from sexual immorality; we know it’s God’s will that we give ourselves wholly to the ministry of the church; we know it’s God’s will that none perish but all come to repentance and therefore we know it’s God’s will for us to share the gospel in all our spheres of influence.
We don’t have to ask questions about things like this; we know what God’s will is. When you stack up the specific situations of life in which we might not exactly what God’s will is, they are paltry in comparison to those we do. Or to put it another way – we know more than enough of God’s will to always be walking in it.
When when you are walking in the will of God you know you are going to find the will of God you don’t.
2. We claim to seek God’s will when we are really seeking God’s affirmation.
Rarely, if ever, do my own kids ask me a question without some kind of agenda behind it. For example, when they ask me, “What’s for breakfast?” what they really mean is “Would you please agree with me that we should have Pop-Tarts for breakfast?” We do the same thing.
Though we might posit the question under the guise of innocence, the vast majority of the time we’ve already made up our minds as to what we want to do. We aren’t really asking God what His will is, then – we are really asking God to agree with the decision we’ve already made. Sadly, we are so good at stuff like this – asking an innocuous question with some definite hope behind it – that we can even deceive ourselves into thinking we are purely asking for what God wills.
In the end, though, there is no middle ground here. In order for us to pray, as Jesus did, that “your will be done” we must also be laying our own will on the altar.
3. We seek signs of certainty rather than making a decision in faith.
There have been moments in my life when asking God for His will about some decision that I would lay out the fleece, so to speak.
“God, if it’s your will that I do this or that, please have a bird land on this branch in the next three minutes.”
“God, if it’s your will that I do this or that, please let the phone ring right…now.”
That kind of thing. What I was really looking for was a sense of certainty. That’s understandable I think. Especially when we are faced with a decision of some magnitude. But if we seek God’s will like this, we are neglecting that part of our lives which is essential to please God:
And by its very nature, faith is being sure and certain of what we do not see. In the end, most of our decisions will be just that – decisions. We pray, we ask for council, we use our wisdom, and then we make a choice in faith. We trust, and as a display of that trust, we walk forward.
It’s a good and right thing for us to seek the will of God. As we do so, let’s make sure we are living in God’s revealed will, that we are laying our own will on the altar, and that we are moving forward in faith.