How to Discover God’s Will for Your Life

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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 wasnt 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 mothers womb. Its the same with you. He formed you and knows you. He has a specific plan for you, and hes been preparing you to fulfill this plan. You were created by Gods hands for Gods 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 hearts desiresmaybe even the same desires you had back in kindergarten. Thats how God designed you.

Youve probably wondered: What am I going to do with the rest of my life? Whats Gods purpose for me? These questions about Gods will for your life are very important. But I think we sometimes feel paralyzed by them. Were afraid of missing out on Gods plan for us. Were rolling along on the highway of life, and were afraid the path to Gods will for us is a single, tiny dirt road marked by a single, weather-beaten sign. Were afraid we might miss our exit and never find our way to the purpose God has in mind for us!

Its very important to keep our eyes and hearts open for the signs that can point us toward Gods hopes and dreams for us. Well talk more about that later.

But I dont believe Gods will for each one of us is only found along a single path thats easy to miss. I think Gods will for us is more like a buffet at the nicest restaurant in town. Can you picture it? Its like a huge table stretching as far you can see, with every possible appetizer, main course and dessert available. It doesnt get any better than this! Its all Gods will and hes saying, Come eat. Start where you would like and eat till your hearts 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 Gods will for me was very specific. I was supposed to be a teacher at a Christian school (Im not), coach soccer (I dont), 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 youve felt the same wayliving in fear of missing Gods will instead of feeling the freedom to live in it. Ive 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 Im convinced his will is a buffet. God is saying, Eat till your stomach is satisfied, and then enjoy some more of me.I hope Im 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). Were simply to live in obedience to all he asks us to do based on the Scripture and the Holy Spirits direction. God has prepared a wonderful meal for you. So go get your buffet on!

Do you still have questions? Maybe Im 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 youre afraid youre 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. Lets walk together through several scriptural principles that address Gods 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 dont have a hearts 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 Gods will, to eat from the buffet by following Jesus for the long haul?

With this desire to eat from Gods buffet and an understanding that God will guide us to where the good foodis located, we can now live in his will. Living in the center of Gods 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, were 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 Gods will.

Following Jesus for the long haul means taking Gods 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 Gods 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 hell give you clear direction for your journey.

Sticking close to Jesus isnt 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 thats when you most need to lean on Gods promises tucked away in Scripture.

In Romans Paul writes that were 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, were worshipping. And in doing this, Paul promises that well know Gods will for our lives.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of Gods mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to Godthis 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 Gods will ishis good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2).


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Jeff Baxter has a doctorate in Youth and Family Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary and more than twenty years of experience on staff in local churches. He’s written The Ultimate Guide to Being Christian in College and Together: Adults and Teenagers Transforming the Church, and he’s a frequent speaker and consultant with Ministry Architects. He is currently the Lead Pastor at Light & Life Church in Lakewood, CO.