Understanding the Will of God for Your Life
One of the questions I get the most is: How do I know what God’s will is for my life? For many of us, this is a question we have been wrestling with since we started following Jesus. If we could find out what God wants us to do, then maybe our lives would have a purpose or feel more satisfying as we do His will. There is no easy answer because all of us are different so all of us will get different answers. The Bible does show us how to get that answer in Ephesians 5:15.
Look carefully then how you walk—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
If you want to know where you are going, pay attention to where you are walking right now. The direction you are headed is where you will end up one day. If you see signs along the road saying how far it is to Grand Rapids, don’t be surprised when you end up in Grand Rapids. If you see signs that your life is headed for disaster, stop going in that direction. If we want to know God’s will, we have to pay attention to where our lives are headed first.
We should also make the most of every opportunity. In other words, seize the day. Don’t waste time or try to pass the time, but make the best use of your time because if we don’t, the days will be evil. We will look back on the time we had when we were single with fewer responsibilities and say, “I was such a fool!” I could have used that time to pay down my debt, go to school, help the poor, or use my talents.
Be wise and take advantage of every opportunity you get if you have the time and ability, but learn to say no if your plate gets too full. I have seen a lot of people burn out because they couldn’t say no, but I have seen a lot of people pass on great opportunities because they didn’t think they were good enough or didn’t want to give up something else.
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
God is not going to give you a five year plan and tell you to get started on it. Believe me I tried. I was praying and fasting when I was 12, “Tell me what college I should go to!” and God was like, “Dude, you’re 12, chill. Now go watch The A Team where they shoot at people but no one ever gets shot.” No, God will guide you step-by-step, day-by-day towards where He wants you to go.
If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. Nothing ever goes according to plan does it? And even when things finally seem to be going your way, sometimes it doesn’t happen the way you thought it would.
A month ago I applied for a job. It seemed like the job description fit me perfectly. And I thought God was behind the scenes orchestrating things. I found out about it because I happened to see it posted on my alma mater’s wall on Facebook. It was only up for one hour before it was taken down. Then they called me two hours after I sent my resume to h.r. They really sounded interested in me and set up an interview. There were very few candidates because it was never posted on any job search engines. I did well in the interview, asked good questions, and made him laugh. All good signs. But I didn’t get the job. I don’t know why God had me go through all that to end in such disappointment. Maybe it was to get my references in order. Maybe it was to sharpen my interview skills. Maybe it was so He could see how good I look in a suit. But He led me step-by-step and eventually He will lead me to the job for me if I continue to trust in Him.
God has a plan for your life. Satan has a plan for your life. And we all have plans for our lives. But if we truly want to know what God’s will is, we must trust Him even when we cannot see more than two steps in front of us.
So how do we hear Him every step of the way?
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to dissipation. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,
Notice it does not say, “Do not drink wine.” Jesus Himself turned water into wine at a wedding. He didn’t say, “Look everybody! I made wine, but nobody gets to drink it ‘cause that would be a sin!” And don’t tell me it was grape juice or “unfermented wine.” I can do that. Here’s some water. Here’s some grapes. (squeezing the grapes) Ta da! Ghetto grape juice! Who wants some? I also make ghetto lemonade.
Picture this: the wedding reception is starting to get fun, but, even though the waiters have been diluting the wine with three times the water, they have already run out. If Jesus got up and said, “Who wants grape juice?” the crowd would have thrown Him out of the party rather than consider the wine to be the first sign that He was indeed God. Alexander Pope said, “The conscious water saw its Master and blushed.” Jesus turned water into wine.
If you come from a tradition that tells you not to drink any alcohol, I’m not here to convince you to start drinking it. It is certainly not wrong to NOT drink alcohol. The Bible clearly says multiple times, “do not get drunk.” Some of you might be saying, “It says don’t get drunk on WINE, but it doesn’t say anything about tequila!” It is the same principle. The Bible doesn’t say anything about not doing cocaine, but that doesn’t mean we are free to do so. Don’t get drunk – doesn’t matter if it is wine, green beer, or Nyquil.
God is not trying to ruin your fun. If you can drink without getting drunk, you are free to do so. But getting drunk is notorious for being foolish. The Bible says it leads to dissipation. You know what dissipation is. Like when a fog comes in and starts to dissipate, in other words, “to cause to spread thin or scatter and gradually vanish.” That’s what happens you get drunk. Your focus starts to spread thin, you become scattered, and your identity and purpose in life starts to vanish.
I’m not saying if you get drunk one time then you are going to become an alcoholic and die choking on your own vomit. What I am asking you to do is pay attention to where you are walking and maybe more importantly, why you are walking that way. Does getting drunk solve any of your problems? No, in fact, it probably creates more problems for you. Are you trying to fill a hole in your life by filling it with alcohol? Pascal said there is a God-shaped hole in all of us, but it can only be filled with God.
What the Bible is basically saying is, “Don’t fill yourself with spirits, but be filled with the Holy Spirit.” When we are filled with the Spirit, we are better able to hear His voice. But we don’t get filled one time and then we are good to go. Just like we don’t eat one big meal a week and then expect that to last for the whole week. We are continually filled daily with the Spirit. So how do our lives become filled with the Spirit? What does being filled with the Holy Spirit look like?
speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,
These are not freestyling songs made up on the spot. Most people can’t do that. And most people can’t sing well either. A Spirit-filled life doesn’t suddenly become a musical or karaoke night. In the Ephesian church, they would sing different types of songs every time they met together. There is some overlap in the definitions, but basically here is what they mean.
A Psalm is a Bible verse or chapter set to music. The book of Psalms were originally songs, many of them sung on road trips to the Temple.
A hymn is a song of praise to God. It usually talks about how great God is or what great things He has done. It is usually characterized by a lot of “you”s not “I”s. You are holy, You are worthy, How Great Thou Art
A Spiritual Song usually has a lot of “I”s because you are singing about what God means to you, what he did specifically for you, or how He showed that He loves you personally so I love you, I worship you, I lift my hands but only this high because I don’t want other people to think I’m crazy.
Most singing in New Testament times occurred when they met together, (and no, they weren’t all Chris Tomlin songs) but we have more options now. We speak to each other (literally express ourselves) on the radio, on ipods, on youtube, on cds, maybe some of you are still even rocking walkman cassette players. If we are filled with the Spirit, our lives will be filled with music that reveals more of God to us. I’m not saying every preset in your car has to be set to a Christian radio station or you have to listen to certain radio stations that play more commercials in our hour than the Super Bowl, but if you want to be filled with the knowledge and fullness of God so you can determine what God’s will is for you today, your music is a great place to start.
Music tends to bypass your mind and go straight to your heart. When you start singing after hearing it, you know it has touched your soul because you can’t help but keep singing. When I was a chaplain, one of my patients was a devout atheist. She would get angry if you even mentioned God or the church. Her passion in life was singing and when she sang, you could tell it was coming from her heart and soul even though she believed that she had no soul. Psalm 108:1 says, My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul. Notice it doesn’t say “I will sing and make music with my mind or my brain.” Singing and making music comes from your heart and your soul. And sometimes when we are confused about what the will of God is for us, we need to turn off our brains and engage our souls.
I’m not going to put a label on it. Just because it says “Christian music” doesn’t make it good for your soul. What I am saying is be wise in what you choose to listen to. If you get angry at God when you hear Phil Collins like “where’s my groovy kind of love?!” then don’t listen to Phil Collins. If One Direction makes you feel like God loves you, then listen to them. If Call Me Maybe gives you hope, you may have a problem.
always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If you are filled with the Spirit, you will be thankful to God constantly for everything – so full of thanks that you cannot help but express that thanks in word or action. We probably see this most around Christmas time. Sure there are plenty of grinches, but many people express their gratitude by holding the door for people or saying, “Merry Christmas!” or donating their time and money to charities. Most of us don’t look at people like that as weird. We even have a phrase to describe them. They “have the Christmas Spirit.”
What if we had the Christmas Spirit all year around? Isn’t the Christmas Spirit the Holy Spirit anyway? We even have two radio stations in our area that play Christmas music 24/7 beginning in November. But that is very much like what being filled with the Holy Spirit is like. Talking to each other about God, listening to music about God’s character or how He brought us through difficulties, having your days filled with the fullness of the knowledge of God whether in word, in song, in deed, or in thankfulness. And when our lives are filled with the Spirit, it becomes easier to understand what His will is for us because we are constantly listening for Him. We don’t just hear His voice when we pray or when someone is preaching; we hear it in songs and see it in actions and thankful attitudes. God’s will is not just doing something (although that is part of it); it is becoming someone more and more like Jesus every day. He will give us the steps to take along the way if we stay filled with His spirit.
Notice we should be always thankful for everything. I’m always thankful for ghetto cars. My 1984 Pontiac 6000 couldn’t spray windshield wiper fluid so when I needed to clear the windshield, I had to roll down (yes manually) the window and throw a snowball at it (I had no heat in the car anyways) and turn on the wipers once because the wipers only worked some of the time. Or my next car where the driver’s side door was held closed by twine so you had to slide in from the other side. So, long story short, I’m always thankful for a car with a rear view mirror, windshield wiper fluid, and a door, but also thankful that God gave me a car so I could go where he tells me to go.
I know it sounds weird, but someone filled with the Spirit is SUPPOSED to stand out. It might look strange to be thankful for the little things or to only have one green beer on St. Patrick’s Day, but if we want to understand what God’s will is in our lives, we have to live a life full of Him rather than full of ourselves. I don’t know what your life will look like when it is filled with the Spirit. Maybe if you start singing random songs to people, they will think that is normal for you. Or maybe no one has ever heard you say “thank you” before. Being filled is a gradual process. Try to thank God once a day to start off with. Or flip over to Christian station for a few minutes instead of automatically putting on sports talk radio. Make the most of your time because most of us can’t listen to music all day anyway. You will see a change in perspective and hear God’s voice in different ways than you ever did before. Then you will know what God’s will is for you today.