Of all the issues related to Christian living, few receive greater attention than knowing God’s will for our lives.
Many believers, and especially younger ones, agonize over knowing what God means for them to do and how he means for them to live out their days. Many end up leaning toward a low-grade form of mysticism, longing to receive some kind of a sign from the skies or some kind of a word in their hearts. Many live with hesitation, wondering if they have missed their divine direction and are now experiencing God’s second best. Some end up doing nearly nothing for fear of doing the wrong thing.
But it’s my conviction that many people think wrongly about this matter of knowing God’s will. It’s not that God has no plan for you. It’s not that he means for you to go without any kind of confidence that you are living a life that honors and pleases him. Rather, it’s that God does not mean for you to pry back the curtain of his hidden will. Instead, God means for you to respond to the leading of his revealed will. Generally speaking, where Scripture, providence, and desire converge you can move forward confident that you are doing God’s will. If there are multiple options that exist at that point of convergence, you can confidently choose any of them and trust that God will bless you.
There is another key to knowing and doing the will of God and it’s this: your greatest focus should always be on whatever is plainly his will right now. Better than focusing on what God may have for you a year or a decade in the future is doing what God has provided for you today. For while God’s will for the future may be difficult or impossible to determine, his will for the present is usually not.
• Though you may labor in prayer over whether God means for you to marry, what’s clear right now is that he means for you to take full advantage of the opportunities and responsibilities that come with singleness.
• Though you may be praying earnestly to know what career God has in mind for you, what’s clear right now is that he means for you to apply yourself to your studies.
• Though you may be grappling with whether you should go to seminary, what’s clear right now is that God means for you to grow in godly character and to express it within the local church.
We dishonor God when we focus on tomorrow’s faithfulness at the expense of today’s.
We can get more granular still. You’ve heard it said, I’m sure, that everybody wants to change the world but no one wants to wash the dishes. We tend to focus on the big matters to the neglect of the small. Yet life is lived in the moment and in the minutiae. God’s will is as granular as expressing love by telling your mother “Let me do the dishes tonight” or expressing humility by approaching a friend to say, “I need to apologize to you.” It’s in going the extra mile to serve a cranky customer, in approaching that person who is alone at the end of the church service, in sharing the gospel with a stranger in that moment when you absolutely know it’s the right thing to do. It’s as you learn to embrace God’s will in the small stuff that you are preparing yourself to do it in the big.
If you are faithful to do God’s will in each moment you’ll eventually do God’s will in a lifetime.
The fact is that life is a succession of days and days are a succession of moments. While you may not have utter clarity about what God means for you to do in a month, year, or decade, it’s rarely difficult to discern what God means for you to do right now. The man who is faithful to honor God in each moment cannot possibly be said to have wasted his life and the woman who seeks to do what God has made plain in a day will never be said to have lived without meaning. If you live each moment in obedience you will live each day in obedience, and if you live each day in obedience you will in time live your entire life in obedience. If you are faithful to do God’s will in each moment you’ll eventually do God’s will in a lifetime. And God will be well pleased.
Tim Challies is a pastor, author, blogger and book reviewer.