Have you prayed for God to send the angel Gabriel to tell you what to do next? Is discovering God’s will for you a frequent struggle? Perhaps, like Gideon, you’ve put a fleece before God, and pray for a clear sign to guide your next steps (Judges 6:36-40). Maybe you rely on impressions, circumstances, or open your Bible to a random text in search of God’s voice.
Searching for God’s Will
For eight years, my family and I were on a journey to buy a new home. We sold our little home on a small lot in the suburbs, impressed that God had directed us to move to a more rural setting, where we could retreat from the fast-paced life and constant hiss of traffic to a simpler and quieter lifestyle.
After selling our home, we prayed for God to guide our next steps. We found that God doesn’t share our priorities or follow our timelines. While we set our goals to fit within our self-centered perspective and the narrow focus of our mortal life, God makes His plans with eternity in mind.
In the months and years that followed the sale of our suburban home, we endured a small apartment with neighbors who kept us awake at night (with R-rated noises), rented a new home in the suburbs with the constant anticipation of eventual eviction (the landlord was in foreclosure), and camped out for more than a year in my in-laws’ home (we’d only planned to stay a few months). Over time, we learned that God’s will is focused first on transforming our hearts and minds–fulfilling our temporal desires is somewhere else on the list (Matthew 6:33).
God’s interest in the condition of our heart comes through in a letter written by Jesus’ friend Paul to the young church in Thessalonica:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)
My spiritual status puts everything else in my life in perspective: my health, the well-being of my family, my job, and where I live. If I’m in a state of spiritual confusion, my life will be poorly managed. I and others will suffer for it. Above all things, God wants me to be in a right relationship with Him.
Let’s unpack Paul’s counsel about God’s will:
1) Rejoice always.
Rejoice is a word that doesn’t frequently find its way into my daily conversations. Synonymous with rejoice, I’m more likely to say, “be glad.”
To “rejoice” or “be glad” is to be cheerful, to have a sense of calm happiness or well-being.
The wise King Solomon lived as one of the wealthiest people of his time. If money could buy it, Solomon could own it. But, he found in the vanity of satisfying his appetite for possessions and pleasure a futility that could only be remedied by surrendering his self to God. In the final words of Ecclesiastes, Solomon summed up his lessons learned by concluding that humanity’s whole purpose is to fear God and obey His commands (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
Solomon wrote that God’s commands could be summed up in this one phrase: “Rejoice and do good as long as we live” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13).
But how Is it possible to be glad always? To have a life-long sense of well-being?
Jesus provided a formula:
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:9-11 ESV)
In the Greek language of the New Testament, the word for joy is the root for rejoice. To rejoice is to express joy. Joy for the follower of Jesus comes from the fruit of keeping his commandments, which is to abide–live–in His love.
2) Pray continually.
The necessity of prayer is often underestimated. It connects us to the atmosphere of heaven. Without prayer, we will spiritually suffocate.
There’s a mystery to prayer. I don’t understand how my thoughts and words get delivered to God’s throne, understood and answered, only moments after my brain puts them in any meaningful order. But I believe it happens.
It happened to Daniel, who got tossed in the lions’ den because he broke the king’s law by persisting in prayer three times a day (Daniel 6). Daniel knew how to pray continually, and did it in spite of the inconveniences that stood in his way. And God answered Daniel’s prayer, delivering him alive from the lions’ den the morning after the king’s men thought they had sealed his fate.
Prayer can change our fate, and the fate of others. We can pray to God as we would talk with a friend. We can pray any time of the day, anywhere. While it’s customary, and a sign of humility and respect, to pray on ones knees–or standing with our hands reaching toward heaven–our prayers can be sent and effectively reach God no matter what position our body takes. What matters to God is the attitude of the heart.
For more on praying, read my series How to Pray: 8 Keys to Answered Prayer.
3) Give thanks in everything.
Recent scientific studies demonstrate the power of thankfulness.
Daily expressions of gratitude logged in a personal journal can produce long-term improvements in your sense of happiness, and reduce depression.
Reflecting on things for which we are thankful increases our sense of joy, elevates our engagement in exercise, and produces better health.
Grateful people tend to be more generous than those who aren’t, more content with their lives and less materialistic.
God designed you to thrive on thankfulness.
Living in God’s Will
Our journey has changed our perspective to one less focused on where we live, and more focused on how we live in our relationship to God. While we have arrived at the next stop on our journey, our rural home is something different than what we had planned–a temporary resting place in our walk with God. We’ve learned much along the way, and we have much more to learn as we pursue the abundant life.
What biblical lessons have you learned in your efforts to discover God’s will? Please share your comments below.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.