How to Figure out God’s Will
In his later years the frontiersmen Daniel Boone was asked, “In all you’re wilderness exploring did you ever get lost?” Boone replied, “Never lost, but I did wander around for three days.” When it comes to Christians trying to figure out what God’s will is for their life Daniel Boones reply might be apropos. They are not lost, they are just wandering around. In other words, they have faith in God, it just that they are not sure where he wants them to go next.
A couple of years ago a student in my religion course asked me if we could meet after class. She said she wanted to “pick my brain” about some concerns she had on her mind. We headed over to the student center for coffee and when we sat down she asked point blank, “How do I figure out God’s will for my life?”
I have reflected on that question and our conversation often and in this blog I would like to briefly share a few things that I have learned. If you are reading this blog and you feel the same as my student did, hopefully this will assist you in getting some direction. Or, maybe it will help you assist others to find their way.
Now, I can’t tell you what God’s will is for your life. That is something only God can reveal to you. However, I can tell you that God wants you to know his will. Ephesians 1:9 says, “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him.” You may ask then, “If it is his kind intention to reveal his will for me, how come I don’t know it?” The answer may be found in where you start your search.
I remember hearing a story once about a man who was driving around the countryside completely lost. He came upon a small town and noticed a farmer walking up the street. He pulled his car alongside the man and rolled down his window. As he leaned out the window he asked the farmer if he knew how to get to the city for which he was searching. The farmer thought for a moment, and then he said with a smile, “Well, Sir, if I were going there, I wouldn’t start from here.”
Where is our starting point to figure out God’s will? Paul said in the Ephesians verse that God’s will was “purposed in Him.” It means that God’s will was purposely placed in “Him.” The “Him” that Paul was speaking about is Jesus Christ. So, the first step in figuring out God’s will is to deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ. This happens through studying and meditating on the Bible, building a purposeful prayer life, and keeping consistent in weekly worship.
Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to make contact with someone to improve your business position, but you did know the person well enough to get an appointment with them? When I am in that situation, I usually try to find someone that knows the person well who could make the introduction or give me permission to use their name to smooth the first contact. In business it is often “who you know” that gets you what you need. In figuring out God’s will the same rule applies, it’s “who you know.” To figure out God’s will, you need to know Jesus.
Second, share your search with your friend, councilor, professor, pastor whoever you trust can give an honest assessment. They can often see the matter from a different angle; view the pros and cons dispassionately because they are not wrapped up in the emotion that often comes with having to make important decisions. Get them to lend their insight and mind to the issue, just like my student did concerning her search. They will not be able to tell you directly what God’s will is any more than I could tell my student, however God’s will can be revealed to you when their advice helps you see your search in clearer terms.
Third, consult your church. With the first two steps you will begin to get an idea of what God’s will might be for you and then get confirmation from your church. Share it in your small group, choir, men’s ministry, women’s ministry or class you attend. Often the will of God will focus into crystal clearness when a group of loving and thoughtful Christian people have been asked to discern God’s will. Be open, honest and receptive to their discernment.
How often have I experienced a student who comes into the classroom with the thought that they know everything already and there is nothing more for them to learn. Their minds are closed. They cannot be discipled. To learn something is to be open to it, to be pliable, to have a desire to know more and to say with Socrates “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” A humble attitude will bring you to the point of understanding much faster. Otherwise, you must go through the process of being broken by God so that you can be used by him. How this happens will need to be a blog for another day. For now we will deal with the fourth way, use your common sense.
Common sense is often an unspoken part of the processes but I think it needs to be reflected upon. If you consult with your church and the majority of the group believes that what you think is God’s will, is not His will, then you must use your common sense and revisit the first and second process. You may also want to do some serious soul searching to see if you are not just looking to sanction your own will. This takes time and patience. Often people become frustrated and angry, but if you remain open and willing the answer will be revealed to you. Then the question will be; Do you have the courage to do the will that is revealed?
Also keep in mind the words of Leslie Weatherhead in his book, The Will of God, “Sometimes I have made a mistake myself by trying to discern the will of God for years ahead. I have come to the conclusion that God does not encourage us to see too far ahead.” (pp. 69)
So in each stage of our lives we may need to revisit what God’s will is with openness, expectation and joy. From the younger years when we ask where do we go to college? Who we should marry? What profession should we go into? To the older years which may include; Should I make a career change? When should I retire? And how should I spend my retirement? And many more questions in between.
The fact is we may wander around a bit, but we can trust, in whatever stage we are in, that God will reveal his will to us and that it can be figured out.
John M. Scholte, M.Div.