Living with a purpose - Discovering God's will

Sometimes we can’t escape the sense that there is meant to be ‘direction’ in the way we go about our lives. ‘What are you up to?’ was the demanding question regularly targeted at me as a youngster from someone older who was concerned about my welfare or capacity for mischief.

‘Do you know where you going to?’ was the earworm song of my college days, posed by Diana Ross. It had a distinctive, repetitive insistence ‘Do you know where you're going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Where are you going to? Do you know?’ It chimed with my willingness to question everything and search for the ultimate direction for my life.  However, finding ‘that’ direction is another matter

In his book ‘The Contemporary Christian’ John Stott suggests if God has a purpose for the lives of his people, and if his purpose is discoverable, then nothing could be more important than for us to discern it and do it.

We read … ‘we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago’. ‘Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do’. ‘We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding’. (Ephesians 2:10, 5:17 & Colossians 1:9)

Just like my earworm, these passages and many more provide us with the encouragement to begin that quest to discover God’s purpose and will for our lives. There are two things to note about God’s will, it appears in two modes – general and particular. In the Word it’s revealed that all of us are to grow and be transformed into the likeness of Christ. This is an example of the general mode. And then we read that God has a distinct will for a particular people at a particular place and time, but while the Word provides guidelines it doesn’t disclose his particular will. How are we to ever understand it?

Here’s a five-step approach to discovering God’s particular will

Stott suggests we need to Yield; Pray; Talk; Think and Wait.

  • Yield – he won’t reveal his will to those who aren’t willing to believe it or do it
  • Pray – he won’t disclose his will unless we really want to know it and express it in sustained and expectant prayer
  • Talk – ‘Let our decisions be group decisions, taken responsibly in the rich fellowship in which God has put us’
  • Think – ‘We must not expect him to guide us by force or by irrational hunches, but by using our minds’
  • Wait – If we have to make a decision by a deadline we must make it but if the way forward is uncertain it is wiser to wait … ‘more mistakes are made by precipitate action than by procrastinating’

Two points to remember

Don’t fear that God’s will is bound to be difficult – ‘good, pleasing and perfect’ Rom 12:2

Don’t fear that we will never discover it. He has ways of showing us. The main condition is that we ourselves really want to know it so that we might do it.

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