Understanding God’s Will for Your Life
Our Struggle with the Will of God
The title of this series: Why have I called this series “Understanding God’s will for your
life”? Most of us have asked the question, “What is God’s will for my life?” The question
itself implies something grand and exciting in our futures. Sometimes in the evangelical
world we hear radio preachers challenge you to fulfill “God’s will for your life.” Or you
might have been part of a college ministry where you were challenged to step out in faith
and change the world for Jesus Christ. If you are a really committed Christian, you will
launch out into the world and, with God’s help, do great things. If your life doesn’t pan
out that way, the implication is that somehow you are missing out on God’s will. You
may have something good and fine going on in your life, but God could be doing better
things with your life if only you could get out of this rut.
Notice how, when the will of God is spoken of in this way, we are defining God’s will in
a certain way. It is defined in terms of success, excitement, doing something important,
and having an impact upon the kingdom of God. Notice too that all of these ideas are
spiritually defined. They are within the realm of the church, ministry and the advancing
the kingdom of God.
The young adult crisis: Now let’s shift gears and talk about our life as women who are
in our 20’s and 30’s. Many of us had parents who emphasized getting a good education.
If it wasn’t our parents urging us to excel, it was our teachers, or counselors, or mentors.
We got an education, maybe we went on to college, maybe even to grad school. Maybe
our parents made tremendous sacrifices so that we could get an education. Some of us
may still be finishing our education. Some of you have done internships or traveled.
Others are getting married, or getting that career opportunity, buying a house or even
having children. In other words, there is a frenzy of activity that goes on during our 20’s
and 30’s that is largely driven by a push toward the dreams and goals we’ve had for
ourselves, or maybe our parents have had for us, since we were young.
To be sure, everything that you have is a gift from God. Every opportunity, every
fulfilled goal, the love and sacrifice of parents—all these are good gifts from your
The problem, however, is not with these good gifts, but it is a problem of our own
making. In pushing to move forward in this direction in our lives, we set ourselves up for
a spiritual and psychological crisis. Because once we launch out into the adult world of
daily living and daily responsibilities, it doesn’t match up to our grand expectations, does
it? It is not as exciting, not as fulfilling, not as world-changing as we had hoped it would
be. After about five or ten years of this, we began to wonder what happened. Why does it
seem like my life is going nowhere?
Then after about 15 or 20 years, you have what is called a “mid-life crisis.” A mid-life
crisis, of course, is getting to that point where you’ve put nearly twenty years into
pursuing a dream that didn’t pan out quite as you’d expected. You panic, and now you’re
tearing up your life from the roots to attempt a last ditch effort at righting your course.
To make things even worse, we often take these goals and ambitions and import them
into our spiritual lives. Instead of recognizing them as merely a part of the American
culture and the futility of earthly promise, we have spiritualized these things as if God
himself is obligated to help us get there. When someone asks you, “Are you pursuing
God’s will for your life?” when put in those terms, the question subconsciously taps into
all the pressures you felt during childhood, all the dreams our parents had for us, all the
pep talks given by teachers and principles and counselors, and we define “God’s will” as
being somehow related to those things. The result is that we can feel depressed about our
lives and unsettled about the future. We ask, “Is this all there is?” or “What am I
I think this is particularly hard for women, a group like this, in our 20’s and 30’s. If
you’re married, much of your life depends upon your husband’s job or what direction he
wants to take, and a wife will often take a supporting role. If you have children your life
is consumed with caring for them and you have even less time for yourself than before.
And if you’re single, even though you are in the best position to do whatever you want,
oddly enough, other people look at you as if everything you are doing now is just a
prelude to the real life that awaits you when you get married and have kids. In other
words, as women we don’t always feel that we are in control of our lives. Our lives are
very much intertwined with the lives of others, and our needs often take a back seat to the
needs of the people around us. There are so many reasons to feel discontent with the
circumstances we find ourselves in, and doubtful about where our own lives are headed.
Putting off childish things: This study is called “Understanding God’s will for your life”
because we’re going to talk about a view of God’s will for your life that will require, I
suppose, some growing up. God’s will for our lives, and how we ought to live in our
daily lives, is quite different from the dreams many of us embraced when we were young.
It is tougher and more trying. It is not about pining after the future, but living in the
present. It is about hoping for the best, yet without any guarantee that your life will turn
out as you would like. It is about seeking God himself, not seeking what he can give you
or do for you. As difficult as it is to put away childish dreams and face the reality of life
as an adult, in the end it is worth it. Because embracing God himself, and his will for
your life, is in the end more satisfying and leads to greater happiness and confidence in
What do we mean by “God’s will”?
The hidden will of God: God’s will is spoken of in two ways in the Bible. The first has
to do with God’s hidden will for your life. This is not what we will be focusing on in this
series. God’s hidden will is simply talking about the fact that God knows what will
happen in your life already from beginning to end. As Psalm 139 says, he has all the days
of your life written in a book already. All this is hidden from your knowledge, and this is
the will of God you seek when you have to make important decisions in your life.
Should I get married?
What job should I take?
Where should I move?
Where should I go to church?
God makes no promises about what he has decreed for your life. He only promises that if
you seek his face, he will be with you and lead you through each step of the way.
Examples of people seeking God’s hidden will
Rom. 1:10: “Always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of
God I may succeed in coming to you.”
James 4:15: “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or
The doctrine of the hidden will of God is what is abused by many Christian leaders. They
sort of run with it and claim that God can do great things in your life. In fact, there is no
such promise in the Bible. As you can see from the above examples, God’s hidden will is
merely about his guidance, yet we know nothing of the circumstances that God may be
guiding us into.
The revealed will of God: This is what we will be focusing on, and what the New
Testament is usually talking about when it speaks of “God’s will.” While God’s hidden
will is a mystery and we must seek his guidance in making key decisions in our lives,
God’s revealed will is spelled out for us plainly in Scripture. This is the will of God that
he asks us to walk in daily, and this is the one we will be talking about.
In my second and third lectures when I speak of God’s will, I will be referring to his
revealed will. The one that is laid out plainly for us in the instruction of the Scriptures.
John 7:17: “If any man is willing to do [God’s] will, he shall know of the teaching,
whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself.”
With God’s revealed will, the issue is not figuring out what it is, the issue is being willing
to embrace it, obey it, and persevere in it.
Contentment with the revealed will: Doesn’t it seem like a more interesting topic to
talk about how to find God’s hidden will for your life? To be perfectly frank, I’m not too
concerned about whether you ladies know how to discern God’s providential will your
life. Because as much as we stress out about those kinds of decisions, time and again I
see Christians coming through just fine. In fact, I’ve noticed that Christians seem to be
pretty good as discerning God’s will during decision-making time. It is more the
emotional anxiety that makes it so intense, but not so much that we need instruction on
how to know when God is leading you when the time comes.
The problem we have is not decision-making, but finding contentment with our lives
once the decisions are all made. We tend to put so much stock in finding God’s hidden
will for our lives, all because this goes back to the frenzy we are caught up in as women
in our 20’s and 30’s. It is as if we are expecting to arrive at new heights of success with
each new decision, and eventually we hope everything will fall into place and our lives
will be set. Yet, how many times, after God has revealed to you what decision you ought
to make, do you merely encounter new trials, new stretches of boredom, new situations
where faith and patience are required, and more people you have trouble loving and
getting along with?
It’s disappointing, isn’t it? Finding God’s hidden will and moving forward in faith is like
launching a grand ship amidst all sorts of fanfare, then two hours after the confetti and
the band and the popping of champagne corks have been left behind, you hit dead water,
or run into a storm. You say, “I’m following God’s will for my life. God led me on this
path. Why is everything going awry?”
I would submit to you that God’s will is not accomplished so much in following the right
decision-making path. It is accomplished in the seemingly dead water of your
circumstances, or amidst the great storm that unexpectedly hit. That’s what this study is
all about. I plan to make the case that God’s will is really accomplished in your daily
circumstances, amidst the daily grind, as you labor away in the obscurity of your life that
is going apparently nowhere. The trick is believing that God is really working in your life.
The trick is understanding how God is working in your life. Then you can find strength
and perseverance in moving forward in your daily living.
Two quick proofs: A couple of quick proofs that God’s will is really accomplished in the
stuff of everyday living, and not in some fantastic plan that lies vaguely in your future.
Using the Bible to seek God’s will: Have you ever tried to use the Bible to seek God’s
will for your life? Maybe you had to make an important decision, and someone quoted
that verse to you: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” So you
picked up the word of God and started reading. What did you find? Instructions on
fleeing immorality, loving your neighbor, being patient when wronged, forgiving people,
etc. Nothing that had anything to do with whether or not you should apply for grad school.
So you figured the Bible must be totally useless for finding God’s will.
Little did you know that the problem doesn’t lie with the Bible. The real problem is that
we think our questions about the future are so important. The Bible simply views fleeing
immorality, loving your neighbor, being patient when wronged, and forgiving people as
much more central to fulfilling God’s will than making the right decision about your
circumstances. Circumstances are random and change constantly. How you treat people,
how you conduct yourself under trying circumstances, how you deal with temptation—
those things are what don’t change with circumstances.
God may lead you to different life situations and you think “Now I’ve arrived at God’s
will for my life.” But chances are, all he’s really doing is asking you to be patient with a
different set of co-workers, labor under someone else’s ingratitude, say no to a different
set of temptations. That is where the will of God for your life is really being fulfilled.
The Second Coming of Christ: The second proof that God’s will is something that you
labor to do daily is the teachings about Christ’s second coming. Consider this question:
Jesus often talks about his surprise return at the Second Coming. He compares himself to
a master returning home without advance notice, hoping to find his slaves carrying out
his will. What is this will that he wants to find you doing?
Matthew 24:45-51 (Luke 12:41-48)
The version of this parable in Luke says, “And that slave who knew his master’s will and
did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes.”
When Christ comes back he wants to find us carrying out his will. This implies
something about what it means to do God’s will. It is something you live daily. Your
heart is set upon it as you go about the mundane business of your life. Christ will not
come back and ask, “I see you got my message about making that career choice. Well
done!” He’s not going to sit down with you and evaluate whether you got married while
your biological clock was still ticking, or whether you bought that house when the market
was still favorable. He’s not going to ask us about any of the things that we think are so
important to finding “God’s will.” He will want to find us serving others, carrying out our
duties, being diligent, not seeking our own personal gain. It is about stewardship with
what he has given you, and faithfulness in the day-in and day-out.
How this applies to us as women: Sometimes we think that as women we are at a great
disadvantage. We don’t hold important positions in the world or in the church like the
men. We don’t get the recognition that we feel we deserve. We have to put up with a lot,
sometimes from husbands, from children, from parents, from in-laws, from people on the
job who think they can belittle us and order us around. All this contributes to the sinking
feeling that our lives, for which we had once hoped so much, are not fulfilling their
potential. We feel boxed in by our circumstances, and by the people who demand so
much of us and give so little acknowledgement or gratitude in return.
I hope you will see this weekend that it is under these very circumstances that God’s will
is most beautifully fulfilled. Under circumstances that are humble and unrecognized and
overlooked. The language of the Bible is never addressed to the self-important, the hot
shots, or the so-called movers and shakers of the world. Its secrets are revealed to us, the
ones who are forgotten and even despised. Women often find themselves in such
circumstances, and it is exactly these kinds of trying and humbling circumstances that the
Spirit uses to make our hearts receptive to the mysteries he reveals to us in his Word.