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How Can I Better Understand God's Will for My Life?

Oct 21, 2016 2:41:54 PM

How Can I Better Understand God's Will for My Life?

Like most 20-somethings, I was trying to figure out what was next for my life. I had done a YWAM Discipleship Training School (DTS) and a YWAM secondary training school. I had spent a collective 6 months of living in Southeast Asia. I was ready to take the next step; I just had no idea what that next step was. I was passionate about communications. I was passionate about missions. I was passionate about social justice. But if I was honest with myself, I wasn’t sure my passion was enough. I wanted my passion to lead me to a paying job.

I remember praying about what was next and asking God what his will for my life was. Guess what? He didn’t tell me. That’s right. While I know that God does tell us to do specific things at specific times in our lives, I also know that in other seasons He leaves big life decisions up to us. He allows us to choose. How can we live in His will if he leaves major life decisions up to us? While I can’t fully unpack what God’s will for our lives is, I’ve learned from my own experiences that God's will is something different than I expected.

God’s will begins with understanding where our hearts are.

I used to think that God will for my life was something linear, a line with a bunch points on it. I thought if I missed one point, I would be off track and wouldn’t be living in His will. When we think of God’s will along the lines of this hidden plan that we can never fully know, every decision seems agonizing. I’ve learned that sometimes we ask God the wrong questions. "God, should I take this job, go to this school, move to this city, join that church, date this person?” When really, we need to take a look at our hearts. Sometimes it would be nice if God was a “magic 8 ball”, to know his will for our lives only required asking a question, closing our eyes, and shaking the magic 8 ball to get a “yes”, “no”, or “not this time” answer in return. There are times where I wish God would download me a clear and thought out plan for my life. However when I really think about it, I don’t want a magic 8 ball. I want God.

Often, how deeply I desire God determines how I’m understanding what His will is for me. I’m not the shining example of a perfect Christian. So often I have wanted God on my time. I have wanted him when it’s convenient for me. I have wanted him in a way where I don’t have to put in the work. When I ask God should I do this thing or that thing instead, what I’m really saying is, “God, tell me what to do with my life so that I don’t have to figure it out for myself” and “God, make sure what you tell me is good and easy because if something goes wrong I’m going to blame you, because you’re telling me what to do.” When I treat God this way, it’s because deep down I already know that my priorities are wrong. It points to something deeper in my heart: that I’ve been neglecting my relationship with God.

It’s a hard truth to swallow, but when I’m neglecting God I am not living in His will. Spending time with God and reading the Scripture seem like basic disciplines to our faith, but still many of us (including myself) struggle with them. Sometimes, we need to put our need for “answers” aside and truly examine are hearts. God is always more concerned about what He’s doing inside of us than what we are doing on the outside. If God dwells in us, we will find him as we search our hearts.

Turn to Scripture

In Ephesians 5:15-21, Paul addresses the topic of God’s will as he encourages the church to stay away from sin and to be spirit-filled. Take a moment to examine your heart. Do you see evidence of the Holy Spirit working in your life? Can you see the fruits of the Spirit in your life? God’s will isn’t about your job, the house you want to live in, the school you should go to. He's concerned about you, you at your core. These spiritual practices like spending time in the Scriptures and taking time to meet with God aren’t homework or areas that we need stress about our performance. It’s in these times where we invite the very presence of the Lord into our hearts, and in doing so it changes us. Doing this day after day leaves a mark on us, and transforms us more and more into living vessels that carry the likeness of Christ. When we hold more and more of Jesus, we can see our brokenness healed, our sinful patterns changed into patterns of holiness, and the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. This is what we were created for! This is the will of God! Can you see it? Can you feel it? Is it possible that behind that longing to know what God wants you to do with your life, there’s a deeper longing? A longing that no job, no school, no house, no spouse could fill? God’s will is to fill our longing with true belonging.

Look to Jesus

As we study Scripture, there is always one perfect example that can show us a path forward. It’s Jesus. The life he led on earth can show us a thing or two about God’s will. Jesus’s ministry on earth began in “identity” as the Father proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17) after Jesus’ baptism. Knowing who we are in the Lord is an essential part of carrying out his will because our belonging is founded in love. Love is the root of Jesus’s work on earth. Jesus told the Pharisees this: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22: 37-39). Jesus modeled the essence of God’s will to us. While it may seem incredibly simple: loving the Lord with our whole selves and pouring that love back out on others is evidence of living in God’s will. Finally, the night before his crucifixion, Jesus asked "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Jesus was obedient to the Father and what the Father asked of him, even to death on the cross. Living out God’s will is going to be uncomfortable sometimes; it will take us to painful seasons. The Apostle Peter wrote “therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4:19). The road that God calls us to walk down won’t always be sunshine and roses, but we can trust Him to take care of us. Jesus was called Emmanuel, “God with us”; living out God’s will promises that we won’t do it alone.

So where does this leave us?

It probably feels like I’m trying to pull a fast one on you because I didn’t answer those burning questions. In fact the questions may feel even more burning now. I know that I am living in God’s will, not because I’m a missionary, but because I am allowing the Holy Spirit to draw me back to the Lord. When I decided to join YWAM full-time four years ago, God didn’t audibly tell me exactly what to do. I spent a few months praying. As I did so, the Holy Spirit brought the dreams and desires of my heart to the surface. I saw that missions was the best avenue to pursue the things God had put on my heart. It’s what I wanted. When we shift our focus from "what should I do" to “what kind of person should I be while doing it”, God’s will can begin to open up to us. After this shift, those big life decisions like “what job should I take?” or "what school should I attend?” can be put into proper perspective. If we are living in a way that honors God, we can trust that we can in fact make those decisions well.

Interested in Jesus, adventure, and growing in your faith?

Do a Discipleship Training School, YWAM’s flagship missionary training course. It's a great gap year option. It's also perfect for anyone looking to step out of the ordinary and grow in your faith.

How does it work?

First, you’ll spend 3 months getting to know God amongst a vibrant Christian community and the inspiring beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Then you’ll embark on a life-changing 2-month overseas missions trip, focused on making God known. A new DTS starts every September, January, April, and June! Submit your info below to learn more. 

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