Summary: Discovering the will of God
“Finding the Path”
A minister was asked to conduct a service at a mental institution. Things went well until the sermon. He began his message with a rhetorical question: “Why are we here?” A patient responded, “Because we’re not all there!”
Purpose in life is a challenge for most of us. Whatever we do, we’re tempted to ask “So what? What does it all really mean? Is this what I’m really supposed to be doing with my life?” I recently had to fill out one of those military surveys. One of the questions asked why I joined the Army, and listed at least a dozen reasons, yet not mine. Travel, education, medical benefits, and pay were among the reasons. But there was nothing about a sense of calling, a sense that this was the will of God.
In Louis Carrol’s book Alice in Wonderland, Alice comes to a fork in the road and doesn’t know which way to turn. She sees the grinning Cheshire Cat and asks which direction she should take. The cat replies, “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” My aim is to assure us that those who walk with God always reach their destination.
Paul urges us in Ephesians to “walk worthy of the calling we’ve received” (4:1). Have you been called? A friend of mine understood that we’re all subject to a divine call. He called himself an “ordained plumber.” This self-concept reveals some faulty thinking by some Christians, who figure that God calls pastors, teachers, and doctors, leaving the rest of us free to choose whatever pleases us. Someone even wrote a book about this phenomenon. On the cover is a cartoon of a little guy standing next to a church with a smile on his face. The title says it all: “Thank God—I Don’t Feel Called”.
All of us come face-to-face with some pretty significant decisions in life: our education, vocation, marriage, and (most importantly) salvation. The greatest peace is being able to say, “I know this is God’s will for me.” Yet like Alice, we’ve all been in the unpleasant place of indecision, with no assurance of which way to turn; frustrated and worried. What’s worse is when we just plow ahead, going our own way with no thought of consulting God. We end up making hasty decisions that include God only as an afterthought. We “acknowledge” God “in all our ways” by seeking Him first. When we trust Him, He makes our paths straight.
When we’re struggling with indecision, we need to realize that God knows us better than we know ourselves; He knows everything about us, even things we’ll never understand. And He is in control of our lives, our “circumstances”. He wants to help us and He will provide all we need for this life and the life to come.
Too often we foolishly think we’re competent enough to make choices without God’s help. As one who does a fair amount of pre-marital counseling (“preventive maintenance”), I’ve seen a lot of soldiers jump into marriage. A guy called my office on a Monday asking if I could conduct his wedding that Friday. I told him I require 2 months notice and he said, “I couldn’t have done that—we just met 2 weeks ago.” People marry in haste and repent at leisure. Some seem to have spent more time selecting their car than their lifetime companion.
There are two aspects of God’s will:
That which applies to every believer; things we don’t need to even pray about—we already know that it’s God’s will that we all share our faith, that we should forgive others, that we should have fellowship with other believers, that we should tell the truth, and so on.
Then there are decisions for which God has not given specific guidance: what school we should attend, how we should invest our money, where we should go on vacation. Yet God can lead us even in these “grey areas”.
So how do we determine God’s will?
>There are 3 sources of light: from within, without, and above.
Light from within is our reason, common sense, and experience.
Light from without is the help and counsel we receive from others. The person who refuses advice refuses to be helped. Light from without includes what we read and who we go to for advice. Guidance can come from parents, teachers, pastors, friends, even our chain-of-command! For example, if you feel led to teach, and everyone is telling you you’d make a lousy teacher, this may be God’s way of telling you to consider other options! Or let’s put it another way: If you think you’d be a lousy teacher and everyone says you’d be a good one, this may be God telling you to reconsider. It is important that we verify our impressions by insuring that that other believers concur. We’re not “lone rangers” in life—we need to be spiritually accountable to others, who in turn offer guidance as we struggle with the path ahead.