[I began writing this post several months ago, but life happened (literally, haha), so I haven’t been writing much lately. It may seem a bit outdated now, but I think it’s a good post and worthy of publishing.]
When we announced that we would be housing a homeless woman and her newborn twins, many people said to us: “Wow, that is so amazing you were called by God to do this.” While we found the support encouraging, those words also struck us a bit funny. It seemed like people thought we had either a) received a very specific, unique leading from God to do that, and/or b) that God had given us certain gifts/strengths to be involved in this type of ministry. In actuality, neither are true.
Many Christians desire to know God’s will for their lives and spend a great deal of time attempting to discover it. We pray and wait for that moment when God reveals his mysterious and secret “plan” for our lives. We hope it will be obvious and perfectly clear, like a billboard on the freeway, an angel appearing in the night, or an audible voice that tells us specifically what to do. In the absence of such spectacular works of God, we find subtler methods of grabbing at any available glimpse of that step-by-step road map He seems to be keeping just out of our reach. However, in our case with this woman, and in most cases, there was no supernatural guidance directing our path. The way we sensed “our calling” was simply this – we read in the Bible we are to love and serve those in need, and we have extra rooms in our house. Period. The End. There was no billboard, no angel, and no voice. Just doing what Jesus said to do.
A couple months ago at church, my pastor, Steve Madsen, put it this way – “Each of us has already been given a big portion of our life assignment. It’s in the scriptures. 90% of your life assignment has already been given to you…You’re only waiting for the local application of what God said to do.” Too often, we over complicate the assignment God has given us. Sadly, all the time we spend searching for God’s specific plan for our lives could be used to accomplish the aspects of His plan that have already been very clearly communicated in the Bible.
In his book Forgotten God, Francis Chan has the following to say about searching for “God’s will”:
There are very few people in the Scriptures who received their life plan from God in advance (or even their five-year plan, for that matter!). Consider Abraham, who was told to pack up his family and all his possessions and start walking. He didn’t know where he was going. He didn’t know if he would ever be back. He didn’t know any of the details we consider vital (e.g., his destination, how long the venture would take, what the cost/rewards would be, whether he’d receive a 401(k) or health insurance). God said to go and he went, and that’s pretty much all he knew.
I think a lot of us need to forget about God’s will for my life. God cares more about our response to His Spirit’s leading today, in this moment, than about what we intend to do next year. In fact, the decisions we make next year will be profoundly affected by the degree to which we submit to the Spirit right now, in today’s decisions.
It is easy to use the phrase “God’s will for my life” as an excuse for inaction or even disobedience. It’s much less demanding to think about God’s will for your future than it is to ask Him what He wants you to do in the next ten minutes. It’s safer to commit to following Him someday instead of this day.
I believe there are two central barriers that have blinded us from the obvious – fear and pride. It is scary to take the commands of Christ seriously, and it is costly to live as He lived. We are afraid of losing the things we have worked so hard for in this life, so we rationalize our avoidance of obedience by convincing ourselves that the simple (yet difficult) commands must be “somebody else’s calling.” In our pride, we would like to believe that God’s plan for our life is more advanced than what He has already laid out in His word. In essence, we are thinking: “Why would God waste such an awesome and gifted individual, like myself, by calling me to the same stuff as everyone else?” The real question is: “Why would God entrust us with special, specific tasks, if we are not obedient to the basic commands we already know?”
Now before you start thinking: “But I’m sure you must have certain giftings and strengths that equipped you to take this woman in” – let me assure you, my strength finders score says otherwise 🙂 I’m a planner, and in this situation, plans were changing more rapidly than I could have imagined. Prior to this experience, we knew little to nothing about drug addiction. I am an introvert, and highly value my personal space and alone time. Hospitality is not one of our strengths and it typically stresses me out. You get the picture…this was one of those times when we were way outside our comfort zones and definitely operating out of our weaknesses. Honestly, it was a painfully stretching and difficult experience for me, and I was literally forced to rely on God every few minutes for wisdom and strength. At the same time, it was a wonderful experience because we knew we were living out what God called Christians to do by loving those in need. God gives each of us unique strengths that he expects us to use, but that does not mean we will always be operating in those strengths in following His call to love Him and others.
Lest you are now under the impression we are so great at following God’s will as laid out in His Word, I assure you, we are not. I often miss the mark and even deliberately choose to ignore His will, but I am trying, and I think I’m moving in the right direction. It is a continual process of growth as I choose to submit to Him.
To wrap this post up, here are my thoughts for those who want to discover what God’s will for your life is:
- Read the Bible. Makes sense, right? We can’t know what God’s heart or will is without going directly to the source and reading what His heart and will is.
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to give you the will and ability to follow through on what Jesus calls us to do in the Bible.
- Consider the resources God has graciously given you, for example: money, time, a home with vacancies, your spiritual gifts, general strengths, etc., and ask Him how you can use them to glorify Him now.
- Act! You don’t have to take on all the world’s problems at once, but simply begin by tackling one thing that God has put before you.