We are two Sundays into the new year, and I have heard two sermons related to accomplishing God’s will for your life. The first Sunday my brother Andy was the guest preacher at our church. His sermon focused on not allowing sin to creep into our lives. He used Samson as an example of someone who allowed the ministry God had given him to be destroyed by sin. Sin separates us from God and prevents us from hearing from God and accomplishing God’s will for us.
The focus of Pastor Jackson’s sermon this week was that God does have a purpose and plan for each of our lives. He used Jesus as an example. Jesus followed the will of His father and perfectly accomplished all that the Father planned for him in only three short years of ministry.
So, it seems more than a coincidence that while organizing our home office that I should come across notes I took 5 years ago on finding God’s will. God had my attention. So I’ve been giving a lot of thought to doing the will of God so far this year.
Here are some of the steps I go through to discern God’s will for me.
1) Maintain regular contact with God through prayer, reading the Bible, worship, and listening. I cannot know God’s will for me if I am not spending time with Him each day. I usually begin my time with the Lord with a few minutes of worship and a quick prayer asking Him to open my heart to what He wants to say to me. Then I spend some time reading the Word. Generally some portion of what I read will stand out and I write it in my journal. I end with prayer, asking that God will guide me through the day and help me to honor Him in all I do. During the day, I catch myself whispering quick prayers and listening for what God is saying to me.
2) Hold everything up to the light. When I believe God has spoken to me, I consider if what I believe I heard is in accordance with God’s word. God will NEVER ask me to do anything that goes against the instructions He has given us in the Bible.
I recall a story on a major evening news show many years ago in which a woman was interviewed for making an ‘unusual’ life change. The woman claimed God told her to leave her husband and children to become a stripper; she said she was sharing God’s love with those who patronized the night club in which she worked. WRONG! This woman was clearly acting in opposition to God’s will for her and her family, yet she seemed to firmly believe in what she was doing. The problem was that she was following an idea that popped into her head, without spending time in prayer and reading God’s word. If she had communicated with God, He would have revealed to her that her behavior was wrong.
3) Seek input from other Christians. Share what you believe God is saying to you with your close Christians friends and/or your pastor. Ask them to pray with you for you to clearly discern God’s will. Proverbs 15: 22 tells, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Ideally, you will get godly counsel and your friends will also pray for your success and may even assist you in fulfilling the work you have been called to do.
4) Fast and pray. When the disciples wanted to hear from God, they typically spent time in prayer and fasting. An example of this is found in Acts 13:2 -3, “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.”
5) Ask God to close the doors you are not to go through. Often we are presented with multiple opportunities which seem to be equally good. Examples would include being offered jobs by two different companies or being accepted at more than one college. In these cases, there may not be a wrong choice, but often there is a best choice. When I was applying to college and when I am looking for a new job, I specifically ask God to let me only get one acceptance or job offer, so it will be absolutely clear where He wants me to be. In the case of applying for colleges for undergraduate and graduate school, God made it clear to me where I was to go and I only applied to one school each time. There was some risk to this strategy, as the colleges could have rejected me. But, I was absolutely certain that I had heard from God and was accepted into both schools. Of course, when I am job hunting, I apply to multiply companies. God has been faithful to let me be rejected by all by one possible employer. Knowing God was guiding me, I have been able to go to job interviews with confidence. God has not let me down. I have loved each job I have held and knew that God put me there.
God does have a plan for each of us. As we accomplish tasks and grow in our faith and our dependence on Him, He is able to give us bigger tasks to complete. I encourage each of you to earnestly seek God’s plan for your life. His plan will be more amazing and fulfilling that any plan you could device.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11