Once you become a Christ follower, you begin what seems like the never-ending search for God’s will. “Now that I know I’m going to heaven,” you might say to yourself, “I have to find out if I’m in God’s will.” Sermons have been preached on finding God’s will for your life. Books have been written about it. It’s the golden unicorn, the Bigfoot of the Christian walk. Why is it so hard to find for so many people?
Maybe we’re looking in the wrong places. Or maybe we’re missing it because our idea of God’s will is all wrong. Maybe it’s been staring us in the face all along. Let’s examine some often unspoken assumptions about God’s will that might help us find it.
It isn’t always something unpleasant
The often-cited cartoonish Christian cliché is the sacred calling to be a missionary to Africa. This is where my mind goes when I think about the thing I’d least want to do for God but that He might call me to do. The truth is that if God wants you to be a missionary to Africa He will give you a heart for it. He will give you a desire for it. Imagine that! That God’s will would be something you desire! That it would sync up with your will!
In “Experiencing God”, Henry Blackaby likens this to a birthday gift. Months before his son’s birthday, he purchased a blue Schwinn bicycle and hid it in the garage. His son had not asked for or shown any interest in bicycles before. As his son’s birthday approached, Blackaby says he talked up the joys of riding a bicycle, the freedom it brings and the adventures his son would have riding it. By the time his birthday came around, a new bicycle was all he could talk about. It was at the top of his wish list. And at the party, there is was! His son was elated by the gift! Sometimes God plants a desire in our hearts so that we end up praying for the very thing He is already about to give us!
The confusion is when we mix up “God’s will” with “sacrifice”. Both are necessary but not the same thing. Obedience to God will cost you something. But just as buying an expensive gift for your sweetheart doesn’t hurt because it is done out of love, sacrifice for God doesn’t hurt because it is done out of joyful service. When it is your will to make the sacrifice, it isn’t unpleasant. It is actually joyful!
It isn’t always a surprise
Fortunetellers and palm readers make their money by giving people what they believe to be a preview of what is to come. We like to be prepared for the future. But we religious folk often turn up our noses at the notion of foreknowledge of the future. The truth is God has often let His people in on His plans beforehand. He makes no secret of what He is doing. Its just that we often don’t or refuse to see it.
God told the Israelites He would deliver them out of Egypt to the Promised Land. But time after time they forgot this promise and grumbled to Moses that they would have been better off as slaves back in Egypt. God made good on several Old Testament promises of victory on the battlefield. Even Jesus foretold of his death several times to His disciples. Just take a look at Isaiah 42:9 “Behold the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.”
We fear the future. We fear it unless there is hope. We like to have hope. The Bible speaks of hope. God has a will for you. And he is preparing you for it. It probably won’t be a pop quiz. So if you’re paying attention, you can probably see the path He has taken you down, and thus the direction in which He is leading you.
It isn’t just God’s will
We often assume God’s will and our own will are different and opposed to one another. This doesn’t have to be true. The longer you walk with someone, the more aligned you will be.
When we become new believers, our relationship most resembles that of a mother and baby. We are very dependent on God for guidance and discipline. A mother has to tell her child not to touch the hot stove, or not to stick a penny in the power outlet. As our relationship matures, that guidance and discipline starts to resemble more of a back-and-forth conversation than rules and admonishment. Parents give their teenager dating advice, or help them choose a college. The former is more of a dictatorship. The latter is a relationship.
God knows us better than we know ourselves. After all, He knit us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139). So He knows what decisions we will face and ultimately make decades before the circumstances come to be. He has prepared us for them by placing His values and priorities in our hearts. God doesn’t want to be, nor should be a dictator in our lives. That isn’t a relationship. He wants us to do life with Him. Our lives are to be lived in partnership with Him. This is why we take all things to Him in prayer and petition.
God hears our prayers and takes them into account. He knows our heart. Take Hannah (1 Samuel 1). It seemed it was God’s will that she remain childless. But her will, her desire was to be a mother. So she took that to God. And God listened to his beloved daughter and blessed her with not only one child (Samuel who became a judge of Israel) but with three more sons and two daughters!
God’s will for your life might scare you because you think it is undesirable, invisible or unspecialized. But if you consider that God truly loves you, wants to have a relationship with you, and wants to be involved in your life, you will come to realize that His will might be as bright as a neon sign. And it might be better than you expected!
Phil Baker is a writer and a creative living in Nashville.