What is God’s will for me?
Oh, if I only had a penny for every time I’ve said or heard some form of those words. Every time we face a major decision, an uncertainty, a hardship, a closed door, or a failure, we begin to ask the question again. Even when we are settled and things are going well, many of us stop to contemplate whether or not we are truly walking in the will of God and what we need to do to stay there.
I think the problem is that we get a little confused. We feel as if God’s will is a road map for our lives, and if we don’t have specific direction from Him, we’ll miss our next turn. And, most of the time we’re sure that He’s waiting too long to reveal that road map to us.
The reality is that God’s will is something very different from a specific plan or road map for our lives. And, the further reality is that if we understand God’s will, we don’t need that road map. But, that still brings us back to the original question: What is God’s will?
And, of course, the answer can only be found in His Word. My favorite passage about God’s will is found in Paul’s letter to the Colossians.
For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. Colossians 1:9-12
Allow me, if you will, to share with you what I understand about God’s will according to these verses.
“…that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding…”
This portion of the passage is the first clue that we just might have a skewed understanding of God’s will – that it might not be synonymous with “the plan” that we so long to figure out. Contrary to what we would like, we begin to suspect in these words that God’s will has nothing to do with a road map that He lays in front of us giving us the exact next step we are to take. Instead, it has to do with surrendering our need to grasp “the plan” and learning instead to grasp spiritual wisdom and understanding. It’s not about choosing the right job or spouse or making the right decision in any uncertainty. Instead, it is about God’s eternal kingdom. Yes, He does use every step of our lives to accomplish His will. But, we must be willing to have our eyes opened to spiritual depths and truths that take us far beyond this material world. So, how does that play out specifically? Well, look with me at the next few phrases.
“…so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects…”
There may be a right or wrong answer to the specific question we’re asking Him. But, the reality is that the answer all comes down to whether or not we are walking worthy. Whether or not we are pleasing Him. What is our main goal in seeking His will? Is it to figure out what our next step is, or is it to please Him in every action we take, every word we speak, and every thought that runs through our minds? If our hunger is to please Him, then He will guide us! He will open and close doors and our choices will be clear. But, our focus has to be off the choice and on Him, fully centered on a desire to please Him.
“…bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…”
What is bearing fruit? Discipleship. Growth. Learning. Or, as Paul so perfectly puts it, “increasing in the knowledge of God.” Yes, it also involves sharing the truth with others, but if we are growing ourselves, then the “good work” that we put our hands to will produce fruit. It’s a natural thing. So, back to knowing God’s will…are we focused on figuring out what it is we’re supposed to do, or are we focused on growing and learning? On bearing fruit in every good work?
“…strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience…”
Yep, there it is. The patience thing. God’s will is that we patiently wait for Him to open the next step of His plan before us. Let me make one thing crystal clear. We cannot be patient in our own strength. That’s why we have to be strengthened by His power and might. Often the next step in His plan is not made clear to us until we’re practically in the middle of it! Halfway through we wake up and see how He’s been working all along. But, even if we don’t know the next step of the plan, we still know His will. His will is for us to be strengthened in patience and steadfastness by the power that can only come from Him. And in the process, He guides us through His plan.
“…joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.”
Do you see it reiterated? Just in case you’ve missed the point thus far, it’s not really about the next step in His plan! It’s about something bigger – an eternal inheritance. But, it can be hard to see that eternity when our hearts and minds are overshadowed by a concern for the immediate next step. Even if we’re walking in obedience, growing, seeing fruit, and living in patience by His strength, the uncertainty can still be overwhelming, discouraging, and disheartening. That’s where the thanksgiving comes in. If we determine to joyfully walk in thanksgiving for the eternal inheritance, we’ll keep our eyes on that goal of His perfect will. And the immediate questions won’t seem so pressing. The patience will be more natural. The fruit will readily flow. Our walk will be pleasing to the Lord. And our hearts and minds will grasp His will.
So, the question comes down to this: What are you truly seeking? Do you really want to know His will, or are you just looking for the road map? If we continually seek to figure out the plan – to read that road map – we’ll continually find ourselves frustrated, anxious, and full of fear. But, if we adjust our mentality a bit, acknowledge that His will is so much bigger, and then set out to know His will in spiritual wisdom and understanding, then the plan will fall into place. And as we know His true will, whether we see the plan or not, we can say with the Psalmist, “For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name.” (Psalm 33:21)