One of the most moving Gospel scenes portrays Jesus agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane. He begs his Father to spare him the suffering that is slowly closing in. In the end he says, “Nevertheless, Father, not as I will but do in me and through me whatever you will for me.”
It is clear to me that the same loving God has chosen you and me for a very special purpose. God sent each of us into this world to do something that only we can. We have a special and highly personal message to deliver and a unique act of love to bestow.
Does this mean God has a specific will for each and every one of our choices? For many reasons I am sure that this is not the case. Our loving Father God knows that we have to learn how to think for ourselves and make our own choices. He knows that this is the only way we can grow into the free and fully alive persons he wants us to be.
I believe that God has a general will for us which perhaps could be expressed this way: “Make your life an act of love!” God wants us to make love the guiding force of all our decisions and the motive behind all our actions. This general will of God is clearly a part of the teachings of Jesus: “By this shall others know that you are my disciples, by the fact that you love one another.”
Still, there are times in our lives when God has a specific will for us. Most of us go through life making our own plans and then asking God to make them come true instead of asking God what his plans are and asking him to enlighten us about our part in those plans. But God has sent you and me into this world to do something that only we can. To remind myself, I have a sign in my office which reads: “Thank you for loving me, Jesus. What have you got going today? I’d like to be a part of it.” That prayer represents my ideal.
When God has something specific for us, he tries to direct us by the impulse of his grace. I imagine it this way: I see myself going through a long corridor, trying to be a loving person. There are a lot of doors along this corridor but they are all closed. Then suddenly I arrive at one which is open and God nudges me with his grace. He gently points out the door and gently asks me to go through it.
To know these times and to know the specific will of God presumes a real desire and eagerness to be and do whatever he wills. All of us experience some deep fear of this surrender to God. We are afraid of what he will ask of us, like signing a blank cheque and worrying about whether we will be overdrawn, whether we will have enough time, strength, and courage. We are like Jesus in the Garden, and God assures us, “I will be your enough.”
To God’s will is also possible only if it is built on two other convictions. I have to believe that God loves me more than I love myself and that he wants my happiness more than I want it. And I have to believe that God knows more than I do about what will make me truly happy.
I have a feeling that if God had given me everything I ever asked for, I would now be seriously unhappy. I think that one basis of my desire to find and do God’s will should be this: his will is my only chance to be truly and lastingly happy.
Yes, our lives are in God’s hands. And when those special moments arrive when we are to deliver our message and bestow our special act of love, God will speak to our hearts. The important thing is to cultivate listening hearts.
It is important to know God’s will. Jesus said that His true relations are those who know and do the Father’s will: “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35). In the parable of the two sons, Jesus rebukes the chief priests and elders for failing to do the will of the Father; specifically, they “did not repent and believe” (Matthew 21:32). At its most basic, the will of God is to repent of our sin and trust in Christ. If we have not taken that first step, then we have not yet accepted God’s will.
Once we receive Christ by faith, we are made God’s children (John 1:12), and He desires to lead us in His way (Psalm 143:10). God is not trying to hide His will from us; He wants to reveal it. In fact, He has already given us many, many directions in His Word. We are to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). We are to do good works (1 Peter 2:15). And “it is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
God’s will is knowable and provable. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” This passage gives us an important sequence: the child of God refuses to be conformed to the world and instead allows himself to be transformed by the Spirit. As his mind is renewedaccording to the things of God, then he can know God’s perfect will.
As we seek God’s will, we should make sure what we are considering is not something the Bible forbids. For example, the Bible forbids stealing; since God has clearly spoken on the issue, we know it is not His will for us to be bank robbers—we don’t even need to pray about it. Also, we should make sure what we are considering will glorify God and help us and others grow spiritually.
Knowing God’s will is sometimes difficult because it requires patience. It’s natural to want to know all of God’s will at once, but that’s not how He usually works. He reveals to us a step at a time—each move a step of faith—and allows us to continue to trust Him. The important thing is that, as we wait for further direction, we are busy doing the good that we know to do (James 4:17).
Often, we want God to give us specifics—where to work, where to live, whom to marry, what car to buy, etc. God allows us to make choices, and, if we are yielded to Him, He has ways of preventing wrong choices (see Acts 16:6–7).
The better we get to know a person, the more acquainted we become with his or her desires. For example, a child may look across a busy street at the ball that bounced away, but he doesn’t run after it, because he knows “my dad wouldn’t want me to do that.” He doesn’t have to ask his father for advice on every particular situation; he knows what his father would say because he knows his father. The same is true in our relationship to God. As we walk with the Lord, obeying His Word and relying on His Spirit, we find that we are given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). We know Him, and that helps us to know His will. We find God’s guidance readily available. “The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight, / but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness” (Proverbs 11:5).
If we are walking closely with the Lord and truly desiring His will for our lives, God will place His desires in our hearts. The key is wanting God’s will, not our own. “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
By Rev. Eric D. Maefonea