If you’ve ever said, “I just want to know God’s will for my life,” this book is for you. If you’ve ever gazed at the trajectory of your life and wondered if you were headed down the right path or off a cliff, keep reading. By the time you finish these pages, I hope you will never have to question what God’s will is for you again. Or, at least, not the way you may have asked it in the past.
It’s a uniquely Christian musing, this question of God’s will. Those who have never called on the name of Jesus Christ are not the least concerned with discovering its answer. It reveals a believer’s awareness that, to be a follower of Christ, not every option is open to me: whatever the way forward, it is not wide but narrow. God has a will for my life, and based on my unsuccessful history of trying to follow the way that seems right unto man, I had better do my best to discern what that will is.
THE PROBLEM WITH ALWAYS WANTING TO KNOW GOD'S WILL FOR YOUR LIFE
But that discernment piece is tricky. When we reflect on what our lives were like apart from Christ, we tend to focus on the poor decisions we made and their ensuing consequences. How we spent our time, our money, and our efforts plays before us like a blooper reel, but instead of making us laugh it forces us to whisper, “Never again.” Before we believed, we did what felt right or what seemed rational to our darkened minds. But now we know our feelings deceive us and our self-serving logic betrays us. No worries, though. Now we have a direct line to God. We’ll just ask him what we should do.
Without meaning to, we can begin to regard our relationship with God primarily as a means toward better decision-making. We can slip into a conception of God as a cosmic Dear Abby, a benevolent advice columnist who fields our toughest questions about relationships and circumstances. Because we do not trust our judgment, we ask him who we should marry or which job we should take. We ask him where to spend our money or which neighborhood to move into. “What should I do next? Keep me away from the cliff, Lord. Keep me on the narrow path.”
These are not terrible kinds of questions to ask God. To some extent, they demonstrate a desire to answer the question “What is God’s will for my life?” They show a commendable desire to honor God in our daily doings. But they don’t get to the heart of what it means to follow God’s will for our lives. If we want our lives to align with God’s will, we will need to ask a better question than “What should I do?”
A BETTER QUESTION TO HELP YOU DISCOVER GOD'S WILL
We Christians tend to pool our concern around the decisions we face. If I pick A when I should have picked B, then all is lost. If I pick B, all will be well. But if Scripture teaches us anything, it is this: God is always more concerned with the decision-maker than he is with the decision itself. Take, for example, Simon Peter. When faced with decision A (deny Christ) or decision B (acknowledge him), Peter failed famously. But it is not his poor decision-making that defines him. Rather, it is the faithfulness of God to restore him. Peter’s story serves to remind us that, no matter the quality of our choices, all is never lost.
This makes sense when we pause to consider that no decision we could ever make could separate us from the love of God in Christ. God can use the outcome of any decision for his glory and for our good. That is reassuring. Peter was faced with two choices—one of which was clearly unwise. But often we must choose between two options that appear either equally wise or equally unwise. Often the answer to the question “What should I do?” could go either way.
Which brings us to the better question. For the believer wanting to know God’s will for her life, the first question to pose is not “What should I do?” but “Who should I be?”
Perhaps you’ve tried to use the Bible to answer the question “What should I do?” Facing a difficult decision, perhaps you’ve meditated for hours on a psalm or a story in the Gospels, asking God to show you how it speaks to your current dilemma. Perhaps you’ve known the frustration of hearing silence, or worse, of acting on a hunch or “leading” only to find later that you apparently had not heard the Lord’s will. I know that process better than I’d like to admit, and I also know the shame that accompanies it—the sense that I’m tone-deaf to the Holy Spirit, that I’m terrible at discovering God’s will.
But God does not hide his will from his children. As an earthly parent, I do not tell my kids, “There is a way to please me. Let’s see if you can figure out what it is.” If I do not conceal my will from my earthly children, how much more our heavenly Father? His will does not need discovering. It is in plain sight. To see it we need to start asking the question that deals with his primary concern. We need to ask, “Who should I be?”
THE ORDER MATTERS
Of course, the questions “What should I do?” and “Who should I be?” are not unrelated. But the order in which we ask them matters. If we focus on our actions without addressing our hearts, we may end up merely as better behaved lovers of self.
Think about it. What good is it for me to choose the right job if I’m still consumed with selfishness? What good is it for me to choose the right home or spouse if I’m still eaten up with covetousness? What does it profit me to make the right choice if I’m still the wrong person? A lost person can make “good choices.” But only a person indwelt by the Holy Spirit can make a good choice for the purpose of glorifying God.
The hope of the gospel in our sanctification is not simply that we would make better choices, but that we would become better people. This is the hope that caused John Newton to pen, “I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.” It is what inspires the apostle Paul to speak of believers “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18). The gospel teaches us that the grace that is ours through Christ is, by the work of the Spirit, transforming us increasingly into someone better.
But not just anyone better. The gospel begins transforming us into who we should have been. It re-images us. Want to know what it should have been like to be human? Look to the only human who never sinned.
Content taken from In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character by Jen Wilkin, ©2018. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.
Jen Wilkin is a speaker, writer, and teacher of women’s Bible studies. During her seventeen years of teaching, she has organized and led studies for women in home, church, and parachurch contexts. Jen and her family are members of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas.