The Elusive Will of God
A seventeen-year-old boy is completing his matriculation.
What, he wonders, is God’s will for his life?
Does God have any special plans for him? What are they?
A housewife now has both of her children at school, and now asks herself, does God have any special plans for her life? What is she to do?
A farmer puts in fourteen hours a day working. He loves his work, but has a feeling that God wants him to serve in a special way. What is it?
Does God have a plan? Will He make it clear?
Can it be known? If so, how?
Does God have specific purposes and plans for each of us? Plans for good, for growth, for development, for living life to the full?
In other words, how is God’s will related to the lives we live? As students, parents, children, lovers, employees, bosses and retirees.
What in turn does Scripture have to say about the will of God for our lives?
Let it be said that first we know exactly what God’s will is for 90% of our lives. His will is quite clear for us spiritually and morally.
In Roman’s 1:21, the Lord has said through Paul that he wants three things of each person:
- To know Him – that is to have a first-hand intimate relationship with Him through faith,
- To glorify Him – that is to give him first place in our life, values, leisure, spending and time, and
- To give thanks to Him.
I can remember being with a young couple who said they didn’t feel any need for going to church. They said this in the setting of a beautiful home, with their three healthy young children and their good jobs, both of them in good health, while blessed with living in this great country of Australia.
I found it hard to be patient with them, when they were clearly amongst the most privileged, blessed people on God’s earth and to whom thanks ought to be given.
So for 90% of our existence, we know what God wants of us spiritually; to know Him, to glorify Him and to give thanks to Him.
And we know His will morally too. God shows in Scripture his plans for human relationships, like for marriage and race relations and business dealings, and even in matters of taxation. Perhaps especially in times of high taxation where as someone put it, a harp is a piano after taxes.
However, even if 90% of God’s will for our life is clear, we probably spend 90% of our time thinking about the 10% that is unclear.
Should I marry this person?
Should I take this job?
Should we go on this trip?
Should I buy this house?
Should I go further with my education?
It’s probably God’s will as guidance that is most difficult to discover and to feel certain about.
Colossians 1:9 will help us and can help you today if you are seeking His will. Verse 9 says prayer is important in discovering His will.
Paul knows that through prayer, Christians praying for others and themselves, God’s will can be made clear. This knowledge is Spirit given, and is a gift of God’s grace, rather than a discovery we make through an empirical strategy.
God can fill us with the knowledge of His will so that it is as clear for us as fireworks in the night sky.
Luke tells us that the day Jesus chose His disciples, He spent many hours in prayer. Such was the guidance given that He knew He could even choose a Judas amongst the twelve and know that God could still use Him and the darkness in his soul for fulfilling God’s plans.
Guidance and strength come through persistent prayer, however stumbling, short or humble.
Of course, often answers to prayer need to be checked too, with Scripture and others. Even prayer can be made to serve our own ends or preferences.
After years of frequent visits to his local bakery, an overweight man went on a diet. He even took different routes that avoided driving past the bakery. All went well until one day he had to do a work errand in the neighbourhood of that shop. As he drove towards the old bakery he said to himself,
‘Maybe God wants me to stop by the bakery and pick up some goodies for the office staff.’
So he prayed, ‘Lord if you want me to stop at the bakery this morning, make a parking spot available right in front of the shop.’
And sure enough, he discovered one right in front of the bakery on his eighth trip around the block.
So God answers prayer, but often answers need to be checked against Scripture and the thoughts of others.
Colossians, verse 9 goes on to say the knowledge of God’s will comes through spiritual wisdom.
God’s will is revealed through the Holy Spirit. His will is not just a product of the majority vote, or even always the obvious, common-sense things to do.
God’s sending his Son into the world to die for our sins was not a rational thing to do. It was irrational love that motivated Him, as seen in the words of Jesus in John (8:40),
‘This is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day.
When I discovered that the Father was for me, and not against me, it changed my life. That was when I discovered my own call into the ministry. God showed me through the wisdom His Spirit gives that He would equip me for whatever He called me to do.
And that equipping strength, to enhance the abilities God has given us is available for you as well.
Colossians, verse 9 continues on to say that knowledge of God’s will comes through understanding. This is where we especially use our brains in applying spiritual principles to practical situations.
We discover that God’s will for our lives usually ties in with the gifts, interests and personalities He has given us.
I long ago discovered that I could never be a mechanic or a carpenter or a welder and I discovered to my embarrassment at a friend’s place that I am unable even to repair toasters or correct videos. It makes me grateful to Go for those who can do things like that. That is their gift, and we need those people so much in our church and homes.
God’s will for our lives then will include using these gifts so that he is glorified. Glorified through Christian artisans, Christian teachers, Christian scientists (that is people who work in science (ed.)), Christian accountants, Christian truck drivers, Christian printers, Christian therapists, Christian students and even the Christian unemployed.
If our life is shaped by the gifts of God, physical and spiritual, we will be creative and positive fulfilled people. And as a bonus, of course, we will avoid making fools of ourselves.
The will of God can be elusive, however we know the 90% of what is expected of us. The 10% can be trickier, but if we are earnestly desiring the will of God through prayer, through the spiritual wisdom of ourselves and other and through our gifts we can confidently move in the direction we feel God calling us to.
By George Robert Iles.