Every Christian wants to follow God’s will, right? After wasting a lot of time trying to direct our lives on our own, we finally break down and come to the conclusion that we’re not fit to be in charge of our own destinies. Someone else has to do it. And there’s only one person qualified for the job: God.
This is a great place to be. Because once we’ve given up the prideful idea that we should be the ones calling the shots, we’re ready to finally and completely give in to God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will for us. There’s only one problem, though: We don’t always know exactly what God’s will is.
So what do you do when you’re ready to follow God’s plan for your life but you don’t know where to start? Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way. Maybe you’ll find them helpful, too.
Wanting to follow God’s will is the first step, and it’s a big one.
The first thing I tell anyone when they express concern over following God’s will is this: If you’re worrying about whether or not you’re following God’s will, you’re already on the right path. Believe it or not, simply wanting to do things God’s way is a big step, even for believers. Because as much as we talk about trusting the Lord and putting his will before our own ambitions, putting that into practice is not easy.
If you’ve humbled yourself before God, admitted that you’re not fit to run your own life, and chosen his path over your own idea for the way things should be, then you’re setting yourself up for success. You’re putting God first, and he’s going to honor that in time. Not only is he going to guide you, but he’s going to guide you to a life far better than anything you could have imagined on your own. Will it look the way you expected? No. But it’ll be so much better because you’ll be exactly where you’re supposed to be: in the center of God’s will.
God’s will for you starts with the short-term.
Far too often, we think that following God’s will means figuring out the big picture: career, family, vocation, and the like. And those things are very important. But they’re not where we begin. In order to understand and follow God’s will in those big things, we have to start small.
Beginning is as simple as asking God the question, “What are you calling me to do right now?” and then doing it. He uses different means to convict us (the Holy Spirit, his word, other people, and more), but if we earnestly ask him to speak to us, he will in some form. Maybe it’s adjusting your schedule to spend more time with him. Maybe it’s treating your loved ones better. Maybe it’s rethinking your priorities and putting first what God tells us to. Whatever it is, there’s always something that God is calling us to do, and if we’ll simply stop and listen, we’ll hear it.
The truth is that following God’s will in these everyday things has a far more lasting impact on our lives than simply asking for his advice on occasion when we make big decisions. Because it’s our small, daily habits that form us into who we are. And as we learn to hear and follow God’s voice in the seemingly small things on a day-by-day basis, we find that living in tune with his will becomes a part of our very selves. It’s natural.
Mind you, we always have to be intentional about choosing God’s will over our own. But over time, like any spiritual practice, it becomes less of a struggle as we allow God to shape us into who he created for us to be. And once we’ve mastered this daily practice, we’re much more prepared to make the big decisions God’s way.
Your talents and passions are hints of God’s will for you.
When it comes to those big decisions, there’s no clear-cut, one-size-fits-all way of knowing exactly what God wants us to do. It’s different for each person. But there are some things that we can do to make understanding God’s will in the midst of those decisions easier.
Getting into the habit of listening for God’s will and following it is a good start, but what then? My suggestion is to evaluate a couple of things. First of all, what gifts has God given you? What is it that you’re good at and that makes you feel the most alive? These natural talents aren’t there simply for our enjoyment or personal gain. God gives them to us so that we can use them for his purposes. They’re a part of his calling on our lives.
Which leads to the next thing to consider: How can I use my gifts to serve others? My favorite definition of vocation is “the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Because when you get down to it, that’s what we’re each called to do. We’re supposed to love others and serve God with everything we have. And in the process, we get to experience a sense of fulfillment and purpose that we can’t get anywhere else. What could possibly be better than that?
That’s why I think the best way to begin discerning God’s big-picture will for your life is to simply start serving God and others with the gifts he’s given you. God can use anyone and any gift for his glory, whether it’s music, math, muscles, or something else. And as you serve, you’ll learn what works for you and what doesn’t. Maybe you start off thinking you’ll enjoy one thing but soon find out that it isn’t for you. That’s alright; God understands, and he appreciates the effort. Try something else until you find your niche. Your place. Your calling.
At the end of the day, it comes down to this: God blesses those who earnestly seek him. Only through a daily relationship with him and a practice of serving others in his name will you be able to discern his perfect will for you. It’s a lot of work, but it’s more than worth it. Because I can tell you from personal experience that there is nothing better than living for God. There’s no better place to be than right where he wants you. He knows what’s best for us, and he wants what’s best for us if we’ll only follow him.
So if you want fulfillment, if you want peace, if you want to know that you’re doing exactly what you were made to do, follow him. In the small things and the big things, follow him. Even when it’s scary and doesn’t make a lot of sense, follow him. Even if it isn’t how you pictured your life going, follow him. Because he loves you, and he’ll never lead you astray. Follow him.
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