What is God’s will for my life?
Part 1: Yes, you can know what God wants.
Have you ever wondered, “How can I know the will of God for my life?” To be honest, this question deeply troubled me for many years. What does God want me to do? What if I miss out on God’s will? For several difficult years I viewed God’s will as being hidden—like an encoded message on a treasure map. I thought my job was to search around while God sent little hints saying things like, “You’re getting warmer!” Other times I feared that God’s will would only be revealed to me if he took something I loved—such as basketball—away from me. While other people seemed to have a confidence about knowing God’s will, I felt no such assurance.
Knowing God’s will is no longer a problem for me—and it need not be for you. There are a few biblical principles I have learned about the will of God that have transformed how I make decisions. It is important to keep in mind that much of God’s will has already been revealed in Scripture.
Principle #1: God’s will is that people be saved
The first aspect of God’s will is that, by believing in His son, Jesus Christ, people be saved. 1 Timothy 2:4 says that God, “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” If you are stumbling through life trying to know God’s will, but have never asked God to forgive your sins, then you are not even in the beginning of God’s will. Qualification number one for God’s will is your salvation. If you have never committed your life to being a disciple of Jesus, then God has no reason to reveal anything further to you regarding the pattern of your life.
Principle #2: God’s will is that people be filled with the Holy Spirit
At the moment of salvation the God’s Spirit enters the life of every Christian. The Holy Spirit that convicts us of sin and equips us with the strength to do what is right. It is always amazing to me how few people truly realize this powerful truth. When I hear Christians say, “God, send me your Spirit”, I often wonder why they don’t realize that God is already present in their lives! The Holy Spirit is not a force that comes in doses—He is a person who lives within you. As the Apostle Paul said, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Principle #3: God’s will is that people be pure
Do you really want to know God’s will for your life? Well, here it is: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). God’s desire for every Christian is that he/she be pure. It is absurd for a young unmarried person who is sexually involved to say, “God, reveal your will to me”. When you are controlled by lust rather than the Spirit of God, you are no longer in God’s will.
Principle #4: God’s will is that people submit to the proper authorities
God’s will for your life is very simple: Obey your parents and the proper authorities. 1 Peter 2:18 says, “Be submissive to your masters [parents, teachers, coaches] with all respect…” You might be thinking, “But Sean, you don’t know my parents.” But the verse continues, “…not only for those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.” Do you have unreasonable parents? What are you to do? Submit with respect. Of course, if an authority asks you to do something that goes against God’s higher command, then obey God. But these times are few and far between.
But what should I do with my life?
God’s will is that you be saved, be filled with the Holy Spirit, be pure, and submit to the proper authorities. The Bible makes it very clear that this is God’s will for your life. Yet you might be thinking, “What about God’s specific will for my life? I thought you were going to tell me how to find out where I should go to college or how to find my spouse!”
Well, if that’s what you are looking for, then here is the final principle...
If you have truly followed the first four principles then you are free to make choices based on your wisdom.
And if you are living a godly life, God will give you the right desires. This is why the Psalmist says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” In other words, if we first give control of our lives to God, then we have the freedom to make choices because He is truly guiding our lives.
- God’s will is not so much about what you do, but about who you are.
- God’s will is not so much about where you go to college, but about the type of student you are.
- God’s will is not so much about who you date, but how you treat people of the opposite sex.
- God has dignified you with the freedom of making choices and living with the consequences.
So here’s the take-home principle: Don’t wait around for God’s special personalized directive, get involved NOW! Get involved in a youth group, missions, Bible-club or student outreach. Develop biblical convictions about what you believe and why you believe it. When you begin moving, God can steer you in the direction He wants you to go. This is why the writer of Proverbs said, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (16:9).
This article is a summary of chapter 11, “Knowing God’s Will” from Sean McDowell’s new book, Ethix: Being Bold in a Whatever World (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2006). Used with permission.