How to Know God’s Will

Young people today are inundated with choices. I once took a graduate psychology class, and the professor talked about a new phenomena called the ‘quarter life crisis’. No longer do we have just the mid-life crisis. Oh, no. Supposedly when you hit the age of 25, you face the possibility of a “crisis of choices”. Think about it: today’s world presents young people with a plethora of options: studying abroad, internships, graduate school, working overseas, teaching English in another country,  marriage questions, dating questions, missions, etc.

Amidst all of these options, one defining question surpasses them all. Everyone wants to know: What does God want for me?  Do I major in Political Science or Business? Do I attend graduate school or do an internship? Do I marry this person or not?  Do I move to Thailand or stay in the U.S.?

Step One:

Surrender It All, Baby

I loved how Elisabeth Elliot addressed this same question in her book: Keep A Quiet Heart. In her response, she refers to Romans 12:1-2, where the apostle Paul articulates two guidelines for discerning what God wants in our lives.

The first requirement is in verse 1: “….to make a decisive dedication of your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service and spiritual worship”.

In essence, Paul is saying that we must first surrender and give ourselves completely  over to God. This means placing yourself utterly at God’s disposal. Before we go to Him and ask that He open or close the door for us to move to France, or marry this person, we have to first lay ourselves completely at His feet. Your life no longer belongs to You if you are a Christian; truly, you are His (Luke 9:23-24). Bottom line:  It’s HIS Kingdom we are to seek first, not our own desires or wishes or dreams (Matthew 6:33).

Step Two:

Change Your Definition of Success

After first coming to a place of complete surrender with the the questions/talents that we have, the second guideline arrives in verse 2: “Do not be conformed to this word, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

In other words, we must exchange our definition of happiness for His; we must be changed from the inside out by the power of His Spirit, and be willing to say ‘Yes, God’ instead of a ‘No’ or ‘Maybe….God’. After surrendering everything, and being willing to do WHATEVER God shows you, the idea is that you are presenting a blank piece of paper to the Lord. Are you prepared to do whatever He writes on that blank paper you offer Him?

Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s sometimes not what we expect. It may require us to step out in faith, and be led by God’s mercy in His refusing us the answer we want. But rest assured, God’s refusals are often his mercies. Or He may continue to provide an open path and sanctify you through learning to press on amidst fear or worry.

Or He may wait to show you His answer, and you enter a season of waiting, and learn to quietly trust Him even as the weeks, months, or years pass. But God will answer. It often comes in the form of a ‘Yes‘ or ‘No, because there is something better…

That’s great, but what do I do now?

Until then, what is the will of God in your everyday life now (which is equally as important)?  It’s quite simple really. It often translates to very practical things that are easy to overlook amidst the bigger questions of God’s call in terms of career, missions, moving, marriage, dating, etc.

I have been challenged to focus on the mundane, which ironically also tends to be hard at times. Please keep in mind that I present these ideas from my life as a work in progress. I have by no means “arrived” at any of these goals with perfection. God’s will in the mundane may include things like:

  • Praying and reading the Word first thing in the morning instead of spending 15 minutes or so on social media or my email.
  • Making a list of priorities for the day.
  • Not obsessing about what to eat or what not to eat. Glorifying God in all that I eat or drink (I Corinthians 10:31).
  • Putting the needs of my students above my own agenda for the day’s class session.
  • Being patient when a student asks the same questions over and over.
  • If something goes wrong, I try to look for something to be grateful for.
  • Keeping my thoughts on specific attributes of God in my free moments, instead of dwelling on anything that is not true, pure, or worthy of praise (Phil. 4).
  • Listening to my roommate instead of making everything always about me.
  • Not verbally rehearsing the same worries over and over to others.
  • Not expecting everything to revolve around me in the form of always getting approval, love, respect, or attention from other people.
  • Not leaving a mess everywhere I go: kitchen, living room, etc.
  • Being willing to share the Gospel as any opportunities present themselves.

In a nutshell, knowing God’s will requires that we first surrender our ALL to Him, as Paul says in Romans 12. After we offer up our lives unreservedly to Him as a living sacrifice, we should seek first His Kingdom, and ask that God shows us what He would will for us based upon the talents and desires He has given us. Then, we may need to step out in faith. Or we may simply continue on in being faithful in the everyday right now, as we wait on God and trust Him to change our plans if He wills.

For another great take on being faithful in the mundane, I would suggest an article my friend Alyssa recommended: it’s  Andre Yee’s post here at Desiring God ministries.

Also, you can check out Elisabeth Elliot’s book, Keep A Quiet Heart. She was the widow of the missionary Jim Elliot, who was martyred in reaching out to the Huaorani people in Ecuador.

A Prayer: God, Please help me to offer You my all first, as a living sacrifice, so that Your Kingdom may be furthered…..

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