How do I know God’s will for my life?

Fifteen years ago, mega-church pastor Rick Warren wrote a book entited The Purpose Driven Life, and soon every church book study and small group seemed to be reading it. The book purported to guide readers into finding God’s purpose for their lives. In the years that have followed many have discovered that, though containing some helpful ideas, the book never did solve the question of what God’s will is for their lives. Part of the problem may be in the question itself, as it assumes there is one set path for each of us to follow for all time. A good analogy to God’s will for us might be in considering the great American road trip. If we are seeking the quickest and most efficient route we would take this country’s system of large interstate highways, with the customary profusion of fast food and chain store options at each exit. An experienced road-tripper, however, will tell you the best means is to take the old highways and byways, stretches of Route 66 and of course California’s Highway 1 among countless others. We would be instructed to turn off the GPS and reach for a road atlas and stack of old-school maps instead. While the final destination is important, the journey contributes to the value of the trip, with its detours and road-side attractions providing us with a wealth of knowledge, experience, and fullness of life.

The journey of life is no different. For us, as Christians, the best “atlas” for our journey is scripture, which becomes a useful tool to making sense of the journey, especially when used in concert with other study texts. We can quickly gain some general trajectories of God’s will for us from passages such as 1 Timothy 2:3-4 which insists that God desires “all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” Of course that may lead us to wonder what it is to be saved and how we obtain such knowledge, to which Deuteronomy 6 may give us a clue “These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds.” If we are having any doubts as to what might be meant on that, the verses that follow could not be more plain: we are to recite them to our children; talking about them while sitting at home, when we are out running our errands or attending an event, when we are lying down, when we are getting up.

We should tie them onto our hands and attach them to our foreheads. The words of God should be written on our doorways and on the entrances to our cities.” (Deuteronomy 6:7-14).  When we make the word of God absolutely central to our lives then we are able to apply its instructions to our lives. We are called not to worship the Bible but to take it to heart and live it out. This becomes clear in reading 1 Thessalonians 5 which describes God’s will for us as participating in the activities of the church which include: rejoicing always, praying continually, comfort the discouraged, pursuing good for one another and being open to Spirit-inspired messages (see 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24). Of course, even the most experienced travelers sometimes need help “making sense of the map”; that’s when our church’s Bible Study classes and your friendly local pastor are there to help! Blessings on the journey!

Got Questions” is a monthly column written by the pastor which seeks to answer various questions church members may have about the Bible, church history, and church/spiritual practices.