In the Emphasis: Asking the right question about God’s will for your life

  • What is God’s will for my life?
  • What does God want me to do about my problems?
  • Does God think I should have pizza or salad?

In the Emphasis. . . . . . . . . . . . .

We would like the will of God to bring us answers. But so often the will of God just raises more questions.

  • What does God want me to do for a career?
  • Is it even possible to go against God’s will? 
  • Should I marry? Or should I tarry to marry? — Should Harry marry Carrie? Or Should Harry tarry to Marry Carrie? I mean, these are serious questions everyone! God’s will isn’t always clear to us. Maybe Harry should marry Sherri? It’s Very Scary!– (Come on, Dr. Seuss made millions off of stuff like this.)
  • Is anybody reading this post anymore? — Sorry, this was a question that I asked in my head. Sorry. That wasn’t meant to make it to the public. Sorry.
  • It is 2:30am. Should I keep watching this Full House marathon? — Certainly it must be in God’s will to continue on the binge-athon that is every season of Full House. Yes you have life-changing activities tomorrow but, seriously, what mess will Danny have to clean up next?

You get my point, right? If God’s will keeps placing questions before us, then why do we treat God’s will like it’s supposed to just dispense answers? Perhaps God’s will is actually more about the questions, because perhaps the questions spur our desire to know God.

In our anxiety, in our nervous quest to discover what God’s will is for my life or what will happen to me or what decision should I make, we tend to emphasize the “What” or the “My Life” portion of the question: What is God’s will for my life?

The emphasis to this question, however, shouldn’t be on “what” or “my life”. The emphasis should be on “God’s will”. Knowing the will of God is more about knowing God than knowing what action to take or what benefit should befall my life.

So I guess the question I’m asking would be: who is focus of our motivation to know God’s will?

In deciphering what God’s will is for our lives we are put in a place where we actually have to pursue God. God’s will is less about answers and more about the pursuit of Jesus, the nearness of relationship with him, the desire to live in step his Spirit, the thirst for his Word, alive and living and active. God’s will is not so much about finding the answer to our questions as it is about finding God himself and being in relationship with him.

I like this analogy: When a parent offers a child some dessert, that child doesn’t wrestle with the parent’s will the way we often wrestle with the will of God. That child, in innocent relationship, doesn’t worry or whine. That child doesn’t get anxious. “Oh, what is your will for me, Father? Should I have dessert? Should it be ice cream or cake? I don’t want to make the wrong decision? Maybe you are testing me? Maybe you want me to eat more broccoli? Maybe if I choose ice cream I shouldn’t choose very much? Or maybe I should say ‘no’? But what if I miss an open door of opportunity and I fail to cross the threshold of dessert? Oh, Father, what is your will for me?”

When you walk closely with someone, you stop worrying so much about yourself and you begin to step in rhythm. Your steps match their steps. Your breathing matches their breathing. Your conversation matches their conversation. God’s will working itself in your life is like that. And I think sometimes God offers you a choice not to mess you up psychologically but because he actually wants to walk in relationship with you. God’s will is for you to be close to him.

Dr. Bill Kuhn, Chaplain at Crown College in Minnesota, said recently in a chapel service to the students, that God’s will is not about finding the answer to “this vs that”. Finding God’s will is a much more elastic and dynamic experience, he said. In fact, God’s will for you is wrapped up entirely in God’s desire to have an intimate, vibrant, and raw relationship with you.

David was a man who at many times in life experienced extreme stress related to God’s will. David prayed many times the same prayer that Jesus prayed in the Garden, “Father, if it be your will, please take this suffering away from me” (Luke 22:42). There are times when we are to wrestle deeply with the will of God… to lay our souls bare before him. But how can you wrestle with him without being willing to get close to him? Our search for God’s will is not so much to discover the what, but the who. (not the band… you understand. God. We discover God.) In the question of “what is God’s will for my life?”  = God’s will is in the emphasis.

In Psalm 27, David finds himself feeling all kinds of things about God’s will. He is sure, unsure, and massively worried about it. Look at verses 1-3:

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
so why should I tremble?
Even if I am attacked,
I will remain confident.

In these verses, David is certain that God’s will includes the biblical promise that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). He is sure that God means for his life to be spared, for evil to be defeated, and for his heart to be encouraged. (A lot of times I think we know God’s general will for our lives. He’s given us direction through his Word on how to stand tall in this world, how to live vibrantly on a daily basis. He has empowered us to persevere through hardship, to grow character and to give hope. He’s wired us with unique skills and passions that can be used for his Good News in this world. In his Word and by his actions there is basic blueprint for doing justice and loving mercy when the world around us struggles. We know that Jesus lives for us and we are to live for Jesus.)

But now look at the end of David’s thoughts – v 14:

14 Wait patiently for the Lord.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

David had to write this note to himself. Enemies are surrounding him. Things could go really badly at any moment. There was a lot to worry about.  So he put sticky notes all over his mirror or on his steering wheel, with these words on them. David is a bit unsure of how the overall sovereign will of God is supposed to work itself out. He’s a little confused, uncertain as to how to go forward. He’s not sure what to do. So he waits. He stirs himself to be brave and to wait.

This is where many of us find ourselves in the walk with God as we try to determine the specifics of God’s will. Perhaps you want an answer about something, and you know the overall scheme, but you don’t know exactly how it is supposed to work out. It’s certainly proper, with an emphasis on relationship with God, to proactively wait. If I love a girl — and I do! I’ve been married to her for 22+ years!!— , I will wait for her, and even if I’m getting antsy, I will place her at the forefront of my priorities and passions.

But courage in discovering God’s will can be difficult sometimes. Like David prays in Psalm 27:9-10:

Do not turn your back on me.
Do not reject your servant in anger.
You have always been my helper.
Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me,
O God of my salvation!
10 Even if my father and mother abandon me,
the Lord will hold me close.

David knows things should be okay. He knows God is directing him in his life. But even David became overwhelmed by the fear of not knowing God’s will completely. He felt as if God might actually step away. In his insecurity he wondered if God was angry at him and giving up on him? He begged God not to leave him when it seemed like everyone else was. This reminds me of Jesus praying in the Garden with drops of sweat that broke like blood while the disciples slumbered and stored themselves away for treasures on earth. “Lord, I don’t want your will to be like this? Is this how it is? Please can’t it be different?”

This is a good place to be. Philippians 4 urges us in everything with prayer and petition to present our requests to God. There is something dynamic about pursuing Who God is by giving him all Who we are. The Emphasis is on a living raw real relationship with God. “I love you, God, I trust you, and I am going to work this out with you right now because I need you.”

David in the midst of his questions about God’s will, chose to walk, patiently, yes, and passionately with God. The walk with God may not have always been the pace or even the direction that he wanted, but walking in God’s desire became his desire. Like Jesus in the Garden, “But not my will, but yours be done.” Look at Psalm 27:4:

The one thing I ask of the Lord—
the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
delighting in the Lord’s perfections
and meditating in his Temple.

God’s will is to draw you close in relationship.

When Martha struggled with God’s will in Luke 10 (certainly it was prepare dinner for everyone, right, I mean people needed to eat), she saw her sister at the feet of Jesus and got angry. “There is only one thing worth being concerned about,” Jesus told her. “Mary has discovered it.”

Jesus taught us to pray like this: “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name. May your Kingdom come. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10). We are to seek our daily bread, but we are to seek first the Kingdom of God. Then all these things will be given you as you need. (Matthew 6:33)

The answer to the question, “What is God’s will for my life?” is found in the emphasis of relationship with God.

Do you emphasize “what”? Do you worry about the details, the decisions, the directions, the, the dilemmas? If so, your worry could actually inhibit you from finding & focusing on God’s will.

Do you emphasize “my life”? Is your primary concern for knowing God’s will for your life because your life is your primary concern? In his chapel address, Dr. Kuhn mentioned that much of our anxiety about God’s will stems from our individualistic tendencies in a Western consumeristic here’s-a-ribbon-for-participation culture. (Well, he didn’t say it quite like that, but that was the idea). When you make your life the primary reason for discovering God’s will, you are starting the walk at a different stride and location and direction than God is.

When you ask “WHAT IS GOD’S WILL FOR MY LIFE?” do you emphasize “God’s will”? Proverbs 3:5-6 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” If we seek to walk with Jesus, we will walk the right path.

God’s will is not so much about God responding to you but about you responding to him.

So how do you place emphasis in God’s will?

  1. SEEK RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD CONSTANTLY. Walk with Jesus daily. Center your life around him. Filter your actions and steps through him.
  2. FIND AFFIRMATION IN WALKING WITH JESUS. The specific WHAT of our steps and even the destination of our steps grow strangely dim when we are in step with Jesus. As we walk with him, we can be sure that he will redirect us if we step away. We can be sure that he will call to us if we get ourselves lost. Lean into him and trust him… and then confidently take your next steps.
  3. INVITE THE COUNSEL OF OTHERS AS YOU WALK. Jesus loves company. So as you walk, ask others to join. He treasures moments where 2 or 3 or more are gathered in step with him. Like a Cure for Cancer march, when you partner your walk with others it gives you a radical rallying movement – a strong current that compels you in God’s will. When you face an open door, and a threshold to cross, what you can have is an Acts 15 moment: “It seemed right to the Holy Spirit and to us”.
  4. LET GOD DRAW YOU CLOSER TO HIM. God’s will is to bring you close to him. Those things that lead you to pursue God and his presence are those things that are in his will. I’m honestly not sure how all of this works, the sufferings, the joys, the freedoms, the struggles. I’m not sure how everything fits into his will. So I could get worked up by the WHAT or I could get anxious about by MY LIFE… but there is something freeing in simply drawing close to the Lord.

Psalm 27:4

The one thing I ask of the Lord—
the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life…

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

*This post was originally a Crown College chapel message that I gave on April 6, 2016.
Ken Castor

Ken Castor is a husband, dad, pastor, writer and teacher. He serves as a professor at Crown College, Minnesota, where he equips students to pursue Jesus-Centered Faith and Next Generation Ministry. For 20+ years he's focused on equipping the next generations in places like the U.S., Canada, and Northern Ireland. He's the author of Grow Down (Simply Youth Ministry, 2014), Make a Difference (Broadstreet, 2016), the Blue-Letters Editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible (Group, 2015) and numerous other articles and Bible Study guides. But, whenever possible, he gets down on the floor and builds Lego with his kids. Connect with him @kencastor.

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