Growing up I thought of the will of God in terms of job and occupation, or to sound a bit more Christian, “calling,” whatever that means. The fact that I did not know exactly what God wanted me to do for the rest of my life troubled me. “Are you calling me to be a pastor?” I often asked. “Am I called to full-time ministry?” If so, then when or how or where should I be a pastor? These are the questions that I have wrestled with over the years, leaving me with even more questions than answers.
I was in class the other day and the professor briefly brought up the topic of the will of God for the Christian. He mentioned how Christians, more often than not, think of the will of God as this warm, fuzzy, opening-of-the-clouds moment where God will “reveal” His will for their lives, whether it be becoming a nurse, getting married, applying for a particular job, living overseas, or buying a house, etc.
Please, do not get me wrong. These decisions are important; we need not to take them lightly. What we do with the rest of our lives is important to God and others, so we should definitely seek counsel from the Word of God and the community of God in order to make wise decisions that will bring about the greatest impact for the kingdom of God during our brief time on this earth.
But the more I think about the will of God for my life, and the more I read and study Scripture, the more I realized that it is not this warm, fuzzy, opening-of-the-clouds moment where God tells me in a thunderous voice: “Jonnathan, you are to become a pastor at this church and at this time and in this city.” I have realized that, for the most part, God does not work that way (even though I am open to working that way). I am no Saul about to have a Damascus-like encounter with God and His will for my life, and, perhaps, neither are you. And that is okay.
Looking back at some of the decisions I have made, I have always (if I am honest) wanted God to give me some kind of sign or clue, letting me know if I was making the right decision or not. “Lord, just tell me what you want me to do, please.” I often worried that my decisions would take me this way or that way or put me on the wrong path; or worse, prevent me from what I believed God was really “calling” me to do. Can you relate?
When it comes to knowing and doing the will of God, the clear teaching of Scripture is actually more refreshing, more liberating, more empowering, and more encouraging than we think. In his first letter to the Thessalonian church, the Apostle Paul wrote:
Finally then, brothers, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus, that as you have received from us how you must walk and please God — as you are doing — do so even more. For you know what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, so that each of you knows how to control his own body in sanctification and honor, not with lustful desires, like the Gentiles who don’t know God. This means one must not transgress against and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger of all these offenses, as we also previously told and warned you. For God has not called us to impurity but to sanctification. Therefore, the person who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who also gives you His Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, HCSB; emphasis added).
God’s will for our lives is, after coming to a saving faith in Jesus, our sanctification. In other words, God wants you and me, after responding to the gospel by putting our faith in Jesus Christ, to be holy, which means both to be set apart from evil and sin, and to be set apart for God and His purposes.
I am called to live a holy life before God and others. I am called to actively participate in my sanctification by living in step with the Spirit as He guides me in all truth through His Word. I am called to, as Paul says in Colossians, “put off the old self” and “put on the new self” (3:5-11), and “put to death the deeds of the flesh” (Rom. 8:13).
God’s will for us Christians is our holiness. That is great, “but how exactly does God want me to use my gifts and talents for His glory and the good of others?” you may be wondering. I do not know, but I have confidence in the faithfulness of God to instruct me and you in all matters of life and faith through His Word and through His Spirit.
In this regard, I have found that God does not leave us in the dark. In His perfect timing, and in His perfect ways, God is gracious and kind to let us know how He wants us to spend our time, our money, and our energy to further His kingdom purposes on earth.
Truth be told, we may not like His answers, but we can rest assured that God will lead us and guide us through His Holy Spirit. And that is good news! Good news for all of us restless, anxious, and troubled souls who are often thinking about what God wants us to do next.
Here is where I think the local church comes in handy—by playing a vital role in the spiritual formation of our lives. The local church is not just a place for socializing and fellowship, but a place where we can grow, serve and live on mission with like-minded individuals who want to make much of Jesus, grow in grace, and love one another.
It is in the context of the local church that you and I will grow
At the end of his first letter to the Christian Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul says: “Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (5:16-18; emphasis added).
Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks. This is, along with our sanctification, God’s daily will for us as Christians. We do not need for God to “reveal” this to us, right? Or do we?
As we continue to grow in grace and in wisdom to make biblically-faithful, Christ-exalting, kingdom-advancing decisions in life, let’s not forget to live out these explicit, “this is God’s will for you” statements in the power of the Spirit.
May the Lord help us to know and practice His desires for our lives.