Finding and Doing the Will of God

This past weekend I spoke about how the will of God is not cough medicine. That if you embrace God’s will for your life, it does not suck! It is actually very good and makes you happy. Yet I think it’s important to unpack a question often posed by people of faith: “What is God’s will for my life and how do I find it?”

I think we make two mistakes when it comes to this question.

First, we often think the will of God is a big mystery. We do this a lot! We embrace much of the near-eastern philosophies and put a smoke screen between us and God. We like to think that the will of God is some secret wisdom hidden by God on purpose and when we prove ourselves worthy, whether by prayer or good works, we will arrive at some nirvana-like spirituality always knowing exactly what God wants for our lives. As if to say finding the will of God is an achievement for the super spiritual. It is not. Scripture openly shares with us God’s will.

There is one particular place where the phrase, “will of God” shows up with CLEAR directions.

1 Thessalonians 4:3–8 (ESV) For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Your body is sacred space. It is where the Holy Spirit lives and dwells! In the Old Testament, the tabernacle was made of sheep skins and ram hides. It was temporary and transitory. It moved as God directed. That tabernacle was pointing to the True tabernacle – Jesus Christ who came and “tabernacled” (John 1:14) among us and moved exactly as the Father led Him. Ultimately, by bearing our sin on the cross, He has taken away the sin and shame of all who call on His name and now, by grace through faith, you become a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Christian, nothing will corrupt clear communication with God in your body faster than sexual impurity.

Another place where the “will of God” shows up is in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV) give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Christians are to be continually thankful to God. Why? Because they realize that God in Christ, has done all the work for us to be accepted into His family. And that being accepted into His family brings the benefits of sonship that Christ Himself enjoyed (1 Corinthians 1:30). You are an adopted heir of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). You are accepted in the beloved (Ephesians 1:6). You are God’s chosen, holy people (1 Peter 2:9-10). What’s not to be thankful about? Will there be challenges? Yes. But you face them with Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:16)! Will there be sadness? Yes, but we do not mourn as those with no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Will some events seem confusing at the moment? Of course, but God still works through them (Romans 8:28). What the Bible is clearly telling us over and over is that God’s children ALWAYS have something to be thankful about.

The second mistake we make about the will of God is simply this: We do not do it. I think the reason we make the first mistake of mystifying God’s will is so that we never have to face the obligation of DOING God’s will. Christians love to spiritualize disobedience. “I’m just waiting on the Lord” or “I’ll pray about it.” But these are simply excuses. If God’s Word says it should be done, DO IT. When you DO IT, then you will be “HAPPY” because you did it!

If there’s any question as to what you should specifically do I have a simple answer: If you are a Christian, read the NEW TESTAMENT (Romans, Ephesians, and 1 John are great choices) and do what it says. As important as Leviticus is to the revelation of God’s final sacrifice in Christ, you’re not going to find much in the manner of practical application. This is WHY the New Testament exists. Jewish men (like Peter, Paul, John and others) who knew the Old Testament law, and understood Christ to be its perfect fulfillment were led by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21) to interpret how we should live morally and practically as a result of what Christ has done.

Finally I will add this: if you find a passage in the New Testament that confuses you, skip over it! Do not let what you fail to understand stop you from doing what you can understand. One passage that gives me great hope for hard to read Bible passages is 2 Peter 3:16 where EVEN PETER confesses that some of Paul’s New Testament writings are hard to understand. Yet it did not stop Peter from doing what God said! Neither should it stop you.

I will admit, obedience to the clear will of God can be painful. But this little formula has always helped me: Obedience may be painful now but it is always pleasing for a long time after. Disobedience may be pleasing now  but it is always painful for a long time after. Choose wisely.

In the end, NOTHING that God CLEARLY tells us to do is going to disappoint in the long run. This is what James means when we says:

James 1:25 (NCV) the truly happy people are those who carefully study God’s perfect law that makes people free, and they continue to study it. They do not forget what they heard, but they obey what God’s teaching says. Those who do this will be made happy.