Should We Seek God’s Will For Our Lives?

[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 It may seem a bit outdated now, but I think it’s a good post and worthy of publishing.]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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

What is Gossip? Maybe Not What You Think

Gossip is a subject I’ve been meditating on for awhile now. I truly desire to please the Lord and encourage others with my tongue, but there are times I utterly fail. As I began thinking more about gossip, I realized that I couldn’t come up with a great definition for it. I want to address the sin of gossip in my life, but it’s difficult to do so without really even knowing what it is and is not. wasn’t much help in clarifying it for me, so I took the question to facebook to see how others defined it. I received a lot of interesting responses from people who really put some thought into it, and for the rest of the day I pondered their answers. By the end of the day, I was still questioning the validity of many responses I received, so I decided to do a thorough scriptural study on gossip. It was very interesting and eye-opening for me, and below are the results I came up with. I’ll begin with addressing some of the definitions that people came up with, and why they are actually NOT gossip (at least as a black and white rule):

  • Conjecture 1: It is (always) gossip if the person would not want you to talk about them in that way.
  • Conjecture 2: It is (always) gossip to speak about someone in a way that portrays them poorly.

False: If this is true, then Jesus (a sinless man), would be considered a gossiper. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matt. 23:27). I highly doubt the pharisees wanted to be spoken of in this way and Jesus was obviously not portraying them in a good light. Also, Jesus wasn’t the only one – Paul and other New Testament writers spoke like this about various people plenty of times in their writings.

  • Conjecture 3: It is (always) gossip if the person you are talking about doesn’t know you are talking about them.

False: Again, Jesus talked poorly about people when they weren’t physically present and were unaware they were being spoken of. “And he cautioned them, saying, ‘Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod'” (Mark 8:15). Paul did the same: “Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message” (2 Tim. 4:14-15).

  • Conjecture 4: It is (always) gossip if it betrays someone’s confidence.

False: For instance, a fellow Christian may tell you in confidence that she is stealing from her company. You directly confront her about it, but she refuses to acknowledge that it is wrong and continues to steal. You are then actually instructed to tell others: “If your brother sins…go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church” (Matt 18:15-17).

  • Conjecture 5: It is (always) gossip if your words are judging another.

False: In 1 Corinthians 5:1-3, Paul says: “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife…for though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.” Paul actually states that he has passed judgment on this person. This is a whole other blog topic for another time, but the scriptures tell us not to judge those who do not call themselves Christians, but actually DOES call us to judge those who do.

  • Conjecture 6: It is (always) gossip if you use specific people’s names.

False: Paul reprimanded people by name: “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord” (Phil 4:2). Moreover, whoever told Paul about the quarreling obviously used specific names. Also, Paul wrote to Timothy saying: “for Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” (2 Tim. 4:10).

  • Conjecture 7: It is (always) gossip to share negative information or news about others.

False: 1 Corinthians 1:11 says “For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.” Paul then goes on to address the quarreling and divisiveness it’s causing; he does not go on to scold Chloe and her people for gossiping. There are many other examples of people passing negative news between one another in the New Testament that are never condemned as gossip.

  • Conjecture 8: It is (always) gossip if you wouldn’t want what you are saying about another to be said about yourself.

False: See above examples about the pharisees, Alexander the coppersmith, Demas, etc. No one wants negative things said about them, but in those instances, it was not considered gossip.

To be clear, the above conjectures can be gossip, they just don’t work as a definition for it. In my study of the scriptures, the word “slander/slanderer” and “talebearer” were used much more often than the word “gossip,” which I found interesting. As I studied each verse, I came up with four categories that all the verses related to gossip/slander/talebearers fell into. Based upon the Bible, here is what I found gossip to be:

1. Viciously and intentionally using your words to hurt someone or ruin someone’s reputation, whether in public or private (Ex. 23:1, Lev. 19:16, Ps. 34:13, Ps. 101:5, Prov. 11:9, Prov. 12:6, Eph. 4:31, 1 Tim. 3:10-11, 1 Pet. 2:1, 1 Pet. 3:10, James 4:11, Titus 3:2).

2. Making up or spreading false rumors. If you hear something you are not sure is true, confirm its truth before passing it along (Ex. 20:16, Ex. 23:1, Deut. 13:12-15, Ps. 34:13, Eph. 4:25, Eph. 4:31, 1 Tim. 5:13).

3. Revealing something told to you in confidence in order to do damage to the person who told you or to gain favor with your listeners (Prov. 11:13, Prov. 20:19).

4. It is gossip if your heart delights in telling or hearing negative things about others, or in creating quarrels or division among others (Prov. 16:28, Prov. 18:8, Prov. 26:20-21, 1 Tim. 5:13).

One additional category I created consists of verses directing us on the proper use of our tongue:

5. Believers in Christ should use their words to help people move towards Christ, rather than to encourage sin and move them away from Christ. Make a conscious effort to align your speech with God’s heart and to encourage others. Be aware of how powerful your words are (Ps. 19:14, Prov. 22:11, Acts 15:32, Acts 20:2, Eph. 4:29, 1 Pet. 3:10, 1 Pet. 4:11, James 3:5-6).

This was a great study for me and here are some of my notes for practical application:

*As I originally thought, the motive/heart behind your words is ultimately what is important. Always consider if your words will be helpful/neutral/harmful for the listeners, the person being talked about, and yourself. I think Jeanette Spradley really hit it on the nose when she said: “Jesus was always concerned with the heart. One of his greatest commands is to love your neighbor as yourself. Listen to your conscience. When you speak badly to hurt someone it’s wrong, but just like every other biblical principle it’s not black and white. I can feel in my heart when my intentions are wrong.”

*I should be slower to speak, and in general more careful with my words. I’m not the stereotypical “chatter box” woman, but I think I could avoid a lot of gossip if I evaluated my heart before I spoke rather than after. Sometimes I can just blurt something out without really considering what I am saying.

*I should confront people directly more often. This conclusion is a less obvious one, but one that I think would definitely cut down on the amount of gossip I do. For example – if my friend doesn’t follow through on a commitment she made to me and I find that really irritating, I should just go to her and tell her I found it irritating and hurtful, rather than spending an hour telling my husband all about it. I like to think I’m pretty decent at speaking truth (in love) to people about ways they have hurt me/sin in their life, but I still don’t do it nearly enough.

*I should care less about what others think of me. If I did this, I wouldn’t feel the need to gain favor from people by sharing gossip.

*Pray more. Firstly, this would encourage me to talk to God about my grievances with someone rather than gossip about it. Secondly, more prayer would most likely change and soften my heart towards that person.

*Constantly strive to align my heart and mind with God. Again, I like what Jeanette said about this: “I think [gossip] hardens our hearts and makes it so we are much less forgiving and understanding.” I would add that the opposite is true as well – when our heart is hardened and less forgiving, we are more likely to gossip. It can become a vicious cycle. What comes out of my mouth is a reflection of what is in my heart – and too often it is sin and ugliness.

*Be intentional about using my words to build others up more.

*Fixate on the positive – Philippians 4:8 says “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

*It is helpful for me to have a better idea of what gossip really is, because I previously had a tendency to heap unnecessary guilt upon myself for saying things I thought might be gossip, but actually were not.

*I should hold others accountable for the gossip that comes out of their mouths. This actually sounds much more difficult than avoiding gossip myself. I need to be diligent about asking someone to stop gossiping to me if they start to do so, and to make it clear to everyone that I am not interested in listening to gossip.

*I need to take gossip and the things that come out of my mouth much more seriously. There are numerous times I have said something I immediately knew I shouldn’t have said, but just brush it aside like it wasn’t a huge deal. However, Matthew 12:36-37 says “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” James 1:26 also says “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” Ouch!!! If those verses don’t make me take the topic of gossip seriously, I don’t know what will. I don’t think I should beat myself up over it or become legalistic about it, but I DO think I need to be better in tune with the weight and potential consequences of my words. After all, since I call myself a follower of Christ, I am a representative of Him and I must take this role incredibly seriously.

Wow, guess I learned a lot and I’ll continue to meditate on these things and hopefully grow to gossip less!! I know this was long, as most my posts are, but if you made it this far, hopefully you learned something too. If there is anything in this post you disagree with or have additional thoughts on, I’d love for you to comment – it would help me grow and I welcome (friendly/loving) disagreement on my blog. In case your brain feels completely overloaded and about to explode at this point, here is a silly/fun/entertaining video on gossip to revive you:

Who’s askin’ whom?

I have to laugh at how backwards we often get things. Jesus was constantly dealing with how mixed-up many of our common assumptions are. Most people in His day thought that if you were rich, then God must favor you (and many people still believe this). So when He said that it was difficult for a rich man to enter heaven…His disciples pretty much freaked out. They were still following the “rich = favored by God” formula and thought, “Wow, if it is hard for the rich (God-favored) people to get into heaven, it is going to be impossible for us.” But Jesus said, “Nope, you have things backward…many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” Think of all the times Jesus had to correct people’s backward thinking! We think it makes sense to strive after safety, but He said, “if you try and save your life, you will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” There are tons of examples: Loving your enemies? Having joy during trials and difficulty? Not worrying when it looks like all hope is lost? Jesus just turns our perspectives upside down.

Lately if feels like I am finding more and more of these areas where Christian’s perspectives are clouded, and there is one in particular that cuts right to the heart of our faith. Most people who have been around churches or Christians for very long have probably heard about the concept of “asking Jesus into your heart.” It might surprise you (as it surprised me), that the phrase never shows up anywhere in the Bible. I am not saying that the concept is some kind of sacrilegious theology, but I do think it might (if we are not careful), perpetuate one of those backward perspectives. Again, I am not discounting each individual’s need to make an intentional decision to follow Christ, I am only questioning how we view ourselves in light of God.

If I ask Jesus into MY heart…then it is all about me. That is not how the Bible talks about those who are saved. Again, it is backward. It is not about us asking Jesus into our heart, it is more like Jesus asking us into His heart. If you remember the story where He compares the Kingdom of heaven to a banquet, you will recall that God was the One throwing the banquet, not us. We are not inviting Jesus to our banquets because our banquets are LAME compared to His. This is the reason I felt like writing about the “asking Jesus into our hearts” concept. I think we unintentionally fall into a trap when we talk that way. We can begin to think, “God is probably really excited about me right now. I have a sweet thing going on and I totally remembered to invite Him to be a part of it.” That is wrong.

God will never be content to be a PART of our lives. It doesn’t make sense to say, “Well, I have to take care of work, family, my faith in Jesus, etc. ” Even if we put Him at the top of our list, it is just not the way we are supposed to think about His invitation. Jesus said He is the way, the truth, and THE LIFE. It is HIS Kingdom we become a part of, HIS Glory we need to be concerned with, and HIS Power through which we operate. There are a few places in Scripture that talk about Christ being in us, but the vast majority emphasize a different perspective:

  • Romans 6:11 – In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
  • Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • Romans 8:1 – Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
  • 2 Cor 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
  • Gal 3:27 – for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

It is easy to notice that the pattern of Scripture points toward the fact that we are in Jesus and it is all about Him. It is frightening how many times I have read over those verses and still thought my life is about me. I am going to try and stop inviting Jesus to my banquet – a small dirty table with a few scraps of rotten food, and begin accepting His invitation to the real feast.