One of the core teachings in Christianity is that we must live in accordance with God’s will. We are taught to follow God’s plan for our lives.
This leaves many with a conundrum: knowing what God’s will is for our lives.
Ever asked yourself what it is God wants you to do? I have. Many, many times.
For me the biggest problem was differentiating between God’s will and my own will. While the two may be the same, it’s also possible that they don’t mesh. So, how do I know what to do?
The other day God used 1 Timothy to remind me about knowing his will for my life. As you read this (or watch the video), hopefully what God showed me will help you determine his will for your life.
So, here’s the passage:
6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
11 Command and teach these things. 12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them,so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
– 1 Timothy 4:6-16 (ESV)
After reading this, God gave me some reminders about things I’d heard and learned before, but had forgotten over time.
God Isn’t Google Maps
When going home after work, I use Google Maps to determine the best route based on traffic (it’s about a 40 minute drive across Dallas-Fort Worth to get home). So far it’s been pretty reliable.
Google Maps will give me detailed, turn-by-turn directions and, if an accident or heavy traffic shows up, it’ll recommend a detour.
God rarely works that way. He doesn’t sit down with a detailed, decision-by-decision road map of our life and say, “marry this person, then have this many kids, and work at this company doing this job.” It’d be nice if he did, but he doesn’t.
He can. Maybe he has for some. Don’t think I’m dismissing that as a possibility. However, he’s never done that for me or anyone I know. Instead, he guides me, helping me see if what I’m doing is right or wrong.
Oh, it’d be nice to have that detailed life plan. I’ve even asked for it before — even begged for it. But, alas, no detailed plan.
I’ve sought the advice of others, and often I hear “pray about it,” “do what God has put on your heart,” or “do what you think is right.”
Yeah, that last bit of advice is bad. Don’t do that. What we think is right can sometimes be outright wrong.
While the advice is genuine and even good, I’m left with a problem: is what I want to do the same thing God wants me to do?
I don’t want to operate based on my own desires, my emotions, my logic, or my intellect. I want to know that it’s God’s will, not my will. The two may sometimes be in line with each other, but sometimes they’re not. So, what do I do?
Many say, “Jesus said his people know his voice,” (based on John 10:27), so you should know when God is talking to you. Again, that’s good advice; it’s even biblical. But I’m still left wondering: is it my emotions, my mind, or God’s voice using my emotions and my mind. I want to know for sure.
I’m sure some of you have wrestled with these same issues and these same questions. Now you want answers.
Good news and bad news. First, the bad news: I don’t have specific answers. Now, the good news: God has provided me help in that passage above that may help you, too.
Just Do Something
In this passage, God reminded me that I have certain abilities that I can use. Many people have told me I have the ability to make the Bible easier to understand (I hope so for the sake of my audience and customers). I have an education in the Bible. I have experience in preaching and teaching. So, I need to use it.
In this passage, Paul is telling Timothy to take what he has learned and use his abilities and skills to teach others. That’s what God wants me to do.
While meditating on this passage, God reminded me of two things: a book by Kevin DeYoung and some advice of my wife.
A few years ago, DeYoung released a book whose title is quite long, but very funny (at least to me) and very relevant to this passage and discovering God’s will. The book is called Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will, or, How to Make a Decision without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc.
“Liver shivers.” Yeah, now that’s funny!
The premise of the book is fairly simple: while waiting (or rather than waiting) for some sign from God, just do something. Just do something to serve God and help others.
This takes me to something my wife said. Many months ago, Olivia said I should consider doing sermons or Bible lessons on YouTube. Of course, I thought she was crazy.
So, in my highly logical mind colored by depression, I looked into it. I came back and told her the idea wasn’t viable because unless the teacher is a famous pastor, nobody watches those videos. I even showed her the number of views for multiple videos.
Well, months later, after reading this passage, God showed me the wisdom of my wife. Although I’d already uploaded my sermon videos (you can get the audio for only $1.99 each), I decided to use my daily Bible reading to create my new YouTube Devotionals series (get the audio for only $0.99 each).
God Will Show the Way
You’ve read this far — congratulations (and thank you)!
But you’re still wondering, “how do I know what God’s will is for my life?” What I’ve learned from this passage is that while just doing something, God will bless what I do or he’ll close that door. I don’t need to wait for open doors, he’ll either bless my work or not.
When God blesses what we do for him and for others, that means you’re doing his will. When God closes the door of what you’re doing, he’s showing you that he has other plans.
The reality of life is that sometimes God doesn’t give the specifics ahead of time; he guides us in our life. I remember preaching on Philip, and how God told him to go south past Jerusalem. He didn’t tell him his destination or his mission. He simply said go. As Philip went, he happened to run across an Ethiopian with whom he shared the gospel. Although he didn’t know it beforehand, that was God’s will. Philip merely went and just helped people.
The same thing happened to Abraham. God didn’t tell him, which path to take, which river to follow, at what precise point to stop. Rather, he said, “Go to the land I will show you.” In other words, Abraham was to just go and God would tell him when to stop.
That’s been my experience, too. God doesn’t give me specifics (though he can and sometimes might). He does, though, guide me.
Bringing it Home
When trying to discover God’s will, sometimes we need to just go and just do. As we’re going and doing, God will show us through blessing or closed doors his will for us. He’ll use what we do–and those we impact–to make more details known to us. He may speak to us directly (the passage in Timothy related directly to my education, background, and online Bible teaching). However he shows us, he will show us.
So, as you try to discover God’s will for your life, maybe it’s time to just start serving others. Find ways to help others and serve God, even if it seems insignificant or meaningless to you (have you seen my video views lately?).
It’s not about how big our activity, it’s about how faithful our service.