The Will of God

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

~Ephesians 5:17

I don’t know about you, but I really do want to know what the will of God is for my life. It just seems so unknowable at times. I want specifics. Is it God’s will that I stay at this job or search for a new one? Is it God’s will that I go on vacation this month or next month? Is it God’s will that I donate to this cause or this other equally good cause? Is it God’s will I say yes to this opportunity or no? I don’t want to be foolish. I want to understand what God’s will would have me do. And yet, there is no loud, booming voice from heaven, there is specific Bible verse telling me exactly what to do in this moment, there is no hand writing on the wall.

So what is the will of God. Well, the very simplest way to say it is this: those things God desires. I know. That just cleared everything right up, didn’t it? (HA!)

I think it might be helpful to first say a couple of words on the will of God is NOT. It is not God’s will that any human being experience pain and suffering. Chronic illnesses, terminal diagnosis, abuse of all sorts, famine, war, death. These things are NOT God’s will for any one. These are not things God wants to have happen. These things are the consequences of sin, the natural result of disobeying God, of living in a fallen world where Satan has influence. If it wasn’t how things worked in the Garden of Eden, it isn’t what God desires for his children. Yes, God works through these painful things to redeem them but they, in a perfect world, wouldn’t exist.

So what does God desire? What is His will?

His will is for us to fulfill that which we are called to in this life. Each of us has been created uniquely for a specific purpose and God’s desire is to see us fulfill that purpose. We don’t lack anything we need to fulfill that purpose (I Corinthians 1:5-9). That doesn’t mean you won’t feel ill-equipped at times but it does mean that, if you are called to do something, God will be sure you are able to see it through to completion.

God also desires for us to be sanctified. One of my favorite books in college was “Just Like Jesus” by Max Lucado. The tagline for the book is “God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you there. He wants you to be just like Jesus.” I still love that thought. I don’t have to do anything more to earn God’s love. I can stay just as I am in all my brokenness and sinfulness and God couldn’t love me any more or less than he already does. But God wants something better for me. He wants me, and you, to be sanctified, holy, set apart, to be just like Jesus. And because of this, we can be assured that God’s will never leads us into sin.

Another desire of God is that we would give thanks in all circumstances (I Thessalonians 5:16-18). Our prayers should not be a long list of requests and demands, but a reflection of a grateful heart for what we have been given. When I was a volunteer small group leader at a previous church, I had a task for the girls in my group each week. They had to write down one thing they were grateful for on a slip of paper. Why? Because I wanted them always remember there was something to be grateful for. Perhaps it was family who supported them or a friend who cheered them up. Maybe it was for the sunny fall day or the freshly fallen snow. It could be as simple as finding a forgotten dollar bill in a pocket or as big as the healing of a seriously sick friend or family member. It just had to be something to remind them to look for the blessings God was giving them in their daily lives.

Jesus included in his instructions to his disciples to pray for “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus wanted us to acknowledge that what God is doing is more important than our activities, plans, and preferences. Another place where Jesus notable prays for the will of the Father to be done is in the Garden of Gethsemane. It puts this instruction found in the Lord’s Prayer into practice and we can see clearly that praying for the will of God to be done is not a passive prayer of resignation. It is a prayer which calls us to lay our heart bare and examine what our ultimate desire is: our will to be done or God’s will to be done.

Someday Satan will no longer be allowed any power or influence in this world. Praying for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven is praying for that moment. And it is committing to being part of making that moment happen. It is a demonstration of our trust that God knows what is best and He is ultimately in control in this world just as he rules and reigns in heaven.

Follow Up:

  • What are you called to do? Often times we look for the big things and feel like we aren’t doing anything at all if we aren’t changing the lives of hundreds of people each day. We forget that we are called first to share the love of God to our neighbor, to those who share our daily lives. How can you share God’s love to someone you’ll see this week in a new and tangible way?

  • In what ways are you becoming more like Christ? What is that habit which you know wouldn’t please God but have a hard time kicking? Maybe it’s an addiction. Perhaps you can’t resist some juicy gossip. Maybe your temper gets the better of you. Who can you turn to for help in kicking that habit?

  • What are you thankful for today? Write down one thing each day this week you are truly grateful for. Can you keep it going for two weeks? Three? A month or more? Notice how your attitude changes as you focus on what you have been given.

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