I’ve been where you’ve been. A difficult, life-changing decision ahead and you have no idea of where to go. Discerning God’s will can be difficult. Though God has a unique calling on each of our lives, He does not often speak to us through burning bushes like he did with Moses. With the help of Kevin DeYoung’s book, Just Do Something, I’d like to discuss a few things to consider when trying to find God’s will. Hopefully, this will be of some assistance to you as you navigate the college decision-making process.
- “’The will of God’ is one of the most confusing phrases in the Christian vocabulary” (DeYoung 16). This confusion comes from the fact that, as DeYoung states in his book, we often talk about “all things happening according to God’s will,” “being obedient and doing the will of God,’” and “finding God’s will” (DeYoung 16). In other words, God’s will of decree, God’s will of desire, and God’s will of direction. God is sovereign and His will of decree will come to pass. Through His Word He has made His will of desire known to us. However, it’s His will of direction that leaves us confused. According to DeYoung, “Does God have a secret will of direction that He expects us to figure out before we do anything? And the answer is no. Yes, God has a specific plan for our lives. And yes, we can be assured that He works all things for our good in Christ Jesus. And yes, looking back we will often be able to trace God’s hand in bringing us to where we are. But while we are free to ask God for wisdom, He does not burden us with the task of diving His will of direction for our lives ahead of time” (DeYoung 22). Knowing that God is sovereign (will of decree) and that we can see His will of desire laid out clearly in Scripture, should free us up as we are discerning His will of direction.
- When I was in full-time youth ministry, one of my favorite quotes was “Look at the Source.” Did you catch what I did? The word “Source” is capitalized on purpose. As Believers, we are abundantly blessed that God sent His son Jesus to not only die for our sins, but to also show us how to live (1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 2:4-8). He is the “Word made flesh” (John 1:14). When discerning God’s will, it’s important for us to look to His words. One of my favorite passages for discovering God’s desire for our lives is the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus covers more in these 3 simple chapters than most pastors do in a whole sermon series. Let’s look at a passage from Matthew chapter 6 that I’m sure many of you are familiar with:
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:25-34 ESV)
Jesus could not have been any clearer: “Seek first the kingdom of God” (vs. 33). A simple statement to comprehend; a tough directive to follow. According to DeYoung, “The question God cares about the most is not ‘Where should I live?’ but ‘Do I love the Lord with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind, and do I love my neighbor as myself?’ (Luke 10:37) It’s that second question that gets to the heart of God’s will for your life” (DeYoung 55-56). Remember, God is sovereign (will of decree) and He cares for us. His desire for us has been made clear through His Word. Through faith we are to trust in Him and not worry as we discern His will of direction. This leads us to my final point.
- In discerning God’s will of direction, it’s important for us to not only trust Him but to also seek wisdom. Wisdom is such an important virtue that we have a whole book in the Old Testament dedicated to it. Wisdom, according to Proverbs, “is understanding the fear of the Lord and finding the knowledge of God” (DeYoung 87). The first way to seek wisdom has already been touched upon, and that is to study God’s Word. So often we treat God’s Word like a “How-to-Manual”, skimming over its pages looking for advice on a particular subject or help when needing to make a decision, often misinterpreting the passages we find. One of my favorite examples of this involves a man who had reached a turning point in his life and had no idea which way to go. Upon opening the scriptures he came upon the verse that read, “Judas hung himself.” Thinking this had nothing to do with his current situation He asked God for help and flipped through his Bible landing upon the passage that said “go and do likewise.” A little concerned at this point, he searched for something that would relieve him of this task and discovered the verse that says, “what thou does, do quickly.”* While this is an extreme example, we all know people who frantically flip through the pages of Scripture looking for some tidbit of advice they can use. We also know that, as powerful as God’s Word is, it does not provide specific insight into what job we should take or which college we should attend. Instead, God’s Word is used for the transformation of our heart and minds.
1I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1,2 ESV)
By feeding off of His Word and becoming more like Him, we will be able to discern what His will is for us. “Wisdom is the difference between knowing a world-class biologist who can write your papers for you and studying under a world-class biologist so you can write the kind of papers he would write” (DeYoung 91). God’s Word does not provide instructions for every decision we will ever make, but by studying it, we become more like Him and thus make the type of decisions He would make.
Secondly, we are to pray. Pray for an open and clear mind as you study His Word. “Pray for good motives in your decision making and an attitude of trust and faith and obedience” (DeYoung 94); in other words, God’s desire for us. And finally, pray for wisdom! God makes it clear that if we lack wisdom we are to “ask God who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5 ESV). “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV) for this is “the will of God (1 Thessalonians 5:18b ESV). Make prayer a way of life just as much as studying His word.
Finally, seek counsel. “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance” (Proverbs 1:5 ESV). See also Proverbs 12:15, 15:22, and 19:20. Our society today elevates those who make decisions on their own. They are the ones seen as “wise and powerful”. However, in discerning God’s will of direction, especially in those decisions that are not explicitly laid out in Scripture, it’s important for us to see the advice of Godly counsel. “We spend all this time asking God, ‘What’s Your will?’ when He’s probably thinking, ‘Make a friend, would you? Go talk to someone. There’s a reason I’ve redeemed a lot of you – because you do fewer dumb things when you talk to each other. Get some advice. You might just hear My voice.’” (DeYoung 93-94). Those who want to become wise must learn to think like He thinks by meditating on the Word and communicating with Him as well as seeking the guidance of those who are doing the same.
In conclusion, it’s easy for us to get confused as we try to figure out God’s will for our life. This is often due to the fact that we do not differentiate between His will of decree, which will be accomplished due to His sovereign nature, His will of desire, which He has made clear in His Word, and His will of direction, the most difficult one for us to uncover. The two most important things for us to remember when discerning God’s direction for our lives are to trust in Him as we “seek first His kingdom” and to seek wisdom. When faced with a decision such as “which college should I attend,” if we understand and do these things, it gives us the freedom to “Just Do Something.”
If you need to seek counsel as you navigate the college decision making process, the Admissions Office at Grove City College is here for you every step of the way.
* Matthew 27:5, Luke 10:37, John 13:27
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