Discerning God’s will plays an important role in the Christian life. This is because we want to live obediently, not in our own self-determined way. If we trust God and if we are called to participate in his sovereign plan in this world, then it’s important that we don’t mess it all up by missing out on “God’s will.” Right?
But here’s the thing… we make this way too complicated and mysterious. In many ways, discerning God’s will is pretty simple. Read Scripture, and obey it. Don’t steal things (even if they’re little things, like someone else’ login to get free Spotify). Don’t cheat on your boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife… be faithful. Keep your word. Work hard. Be the same person when you’re at home, work, church, with your friends, and when you’re alone. This isn’t rocket science. Most things in life don’t require deep introspection to discover God’s will… just obey what God has plainly given in Scripture.
But what about the other stuff? What if you’re trying to decide a new major in college, or whether or not to look for a new job, or if you’re supposed to marry that guy/girl you’ve been dating? Here are three “simple” steps to living out God’s will in your life.
What do we mean by “God’s Will?”
Think about a will that someone leaves behind when they die. It reveals to others what they want to be done with their stuff. Technically, “will” and “desire” are the same word in biblical Greek. So “God’s will” is the same as “God’s desire.” Asking, “What is God’s will?” is the same as asking “What does God want?” (it’s simply a more Christianese and spiritual-sounding way to ask the question).
Step 1: Let the Bible Make You Wise
Ultimately, wisdom begins when we respond to the gospel with faith, receive a new heart and a new desire to honor God, and pursue faithfulness in order to glorify our Father in Heaven. Pray for a new heart that desires the things of God.
God isn’t hiding, and his will isn’t meant to be a mystery. God has given us the Bible in order to reveal his will and his desires. The Bible is more than a book of wisdom, so don’t think of it as a list of do’s and don’ts… but there are definitely commands to be followed. If you want to know what kind of person God wants you to be, that is clearly available for you in Scripture. Read through the Gospels and see how Jesus lived, how he treated people, and what he taught. Read through the Old Testament and see the examples of people who walked with God (they had their flaws, and sometimes they made stupidly terrible decisions). If you don’t anchor yourself in Scripture, you’ll never live with confidence that you are doing God’s will.
Step 2: Make the Wisest Choice You Can
You won’t find the answer to “What college should I attend?” or “Should I ask that girl on a date?” But if you have followed step one and if you are living out of your new identity in Christ and consistently seeking God’s wisdom, then that should steer you towards making wise choices (and away from making stupid and foolish ones). There are many things God simply leaves up for us to decide: what to wear, what to eat, etc. If we stressed over ruining God’s grand plan by messing up one of the hundreds of decisions we make every day, then we’d be overwhelmed and paralyzed. We’d never do anything out of fear of messing up God’s will.
Growing in wisdom means we are living in Christian fellowship with others who are pursuing Christ. Seek wise counsel. Pray with others about the decision. Become Bible-wise (step 1), seek wise counsel, and then make the best decision you can about the situation.
Step 3: Trust God With Every Step
God is more sovereign that you are. That means your foolish decisions will not destroy his good and almighty will. Trust that God is big enough and powerful enough to use your good choices and your bad ones too. He is honored and pleased by your wise choices, and he uses the bad ones for his glory too. Just look at how many times in the Bible people made really really bad choices but God’s will was totally fulfilled anyway (Here’s looking at you Joseph).