What did you love to do as a child? Did you like to play with friends? Go fishing? Write poems? Tell jokes? Build things? Use your imagination? Draw pictures? Win games? Make new friends? Read? Help mom and dad landscape the yard? Talk to squirrels?
The point of all this questioning is this: God placed certain interests inside of you. It was his idea. It wasn’t a mistake. The psalmist declares to God: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:14-16).
The desires in the hearts of kindergarteners is no accident. God formed each and every one of us in his or her mother’s womb. It’s the same with you. He formed you and knows you. He has a specific plan for you, and he’s been preparing you to fulfill this plan. You were created by God’s hands for God’s glory. After coming to know Jesus, he now has good works planned for you to do on his divine calendar. The awesome thing is those good works are often in line with your heart’s desires—maybe even the same desires you had back in kindergarten. That’s how God designed you.
You’ve probably wondered: What am I going to do with the rest of my life? What’s God’s purpose for me? These questions about God’s will for your life are very important. But I think we sometimes feel paralyzed by them. We’re afraid of missing out on God’s plan for us. We’re rolling along on the highway of life, and we’re afraid the path to God’s will for us is a single, tiny dirt road marked by a single, weather-beaten sign. We’re afraid we might miss our exit and never find our way to the purpose God has in mind for us!
It’s very important to keep our eyes and hearts open for the signs that can point us toward God’s hopes and dreams for us. We’ll talk more about that later.
But I don’t believe God’s will for each one of us is only found along a single path that’s easy to miss. I think God’s will for us is more like a buffet at the nicest restaurant in town. Can you picture it? It’s like a huge table stretching as far you can see, with every possible appetizer, main course and dessert available. It doesn’t get any better than this! It’s all God’s will and he’s saying, “Come eat. Start where you would like and eat till your heart’s content.” Is this the way you picture the will of God for your life? Or do you see it more like a cheap, fast-food meal with little freedom to choose (two options: with ketchup or without)?
I used to think God’s will for me was very specific. I was supposed to be a teacher at a Christian school (I’m not), coach soccer (I don’t), live in Michigan (no again), get married (I did!), have two children (add one more), adopt a dog (check) and live in a house with a white-picket fence (a house, yes, but no fence). I thought if I were anything else, I would be out of the will of God. Do you know what I mean? Maybe you’ve felt the same way—living in fear of missing God’s will instead of feeling the freedom to live in it. I’ve since changed my mind. The more I get to know the heart of the Father by studying the Scripture and daily experiencing his goodness, the more I’m convinced his will is a buffet. God is saying, “Eat till your stomach is satisfied, and then enjoy some more of me.” I hope I’m creating freedom in your heart. God knows the plans he has for you. For God, that plan may be very specific, but for us it should seem like a buffet of options (Ephesians 2:10). We’re simply to live in obedience to all he asks us to do based on the Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s direction. God has prepared a wonderful meal for you. So go get your buffet on!
Do you still have questions? Maybe I’m not being specific enough. You might wonder where to start eating off the buffet. Do you start with the appetizer, main course or desert? Maybe you’re afraid you’re eating out of the dumpster behind the restaurant without realizing it. Let me give you some guidelines to calm your fears and give you confidence. Let’s walk together through several scriptural principles that address God’s will for your life. Pray and meditate on them as you read.
It all starts with our desire to do the will of God. Some of those heading off to college don’t have a heart’s desire to live for God. The psalmist declared, “I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8). We need to humbly open ourselves up to learning like the psalmist did when he wrote, “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground” (Psalm 143:10). We need to ask God to help us know where his buffet is located and where the boundaries between good food and spoiled food lie. This is a heart check for us: Do we really desire to do God’s will, to eat from the buffet by following Jesus for the long haul?
With this desire to eat from God’s buffet and an understanding that God will guide us to where the “good food” is located, we can now live in his will. Living in the center of God’s will is about becoming holy, or “set apart” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). This means becoming more like Jesus and actively seeking to set yourself apart for God in your choices and relationships.
God wants us to identify with Jesus in every area of our lives. This will certainly involve bringing others to the buffet and serving them along the way. When we see a need, we’re to jump in and serve. This is what loving God and loving others is all about (Mark 10:43, John 13). This is being in the center of God’s will.
Following Jesus for the long haul means taking God’s words to heart. It means needing God like our bodies need air and water. The writer of Proverbs echoes this sentiment: “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:1-5).
Another Proverb that gives us insight into God’s desire for us reads, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). In other words, live your life for Jesus by obeying his teachings and living a life of service to him. Do this and he’ll give you clear direction for your journey.
Sticking close to Jesus isn’t always easy as you head into the unknown after high school. Difficulty is ahead of you. There may be times when you feel alone, but that’s when you most need to lean on God’s promises tucked away in Scripture.
In Romans Paul writes that we’re to offer ourselves as “living sacrifices.” Even when it gets hot and uncomfortable, we need to die to ourselves and live for God. If we do this, we’re worshipping. And in doing this, Paul promises that we’ll know God’s will for our lives.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2).
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