As Tommy Nelson mentioned at the Launch Retreat last week, people in their twenties and thirties often ask questions about how to know God’s will for their lives—particularly when it comes to either dating or career decisions. Who should I date? Should we get married? Should I change jobs?
It is good that you are interested in doing what God wants. However, sometimes people can fret unnecessarily about specifics or worry about somehow messing up God’s plan for their lives. (You can’t. You’re not that powerful.)
What Scripture Says
If you want to hear from God and know His will, the first place to look is in the Bible.
Did you know that the Bible does clearly say what God’s will is for our lives? As in, it literally says “God’s will is…” and then tells us what that is. Here are some examples:
In John 6:40, Jesus Himself says: “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
1 Thessalonians 4:3-6a: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable,not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
There are many other examples, but they all tend to boil down to those same things:
It is God’s will that you be saved. This is the big one that makes everything else rather trivial. God offers eternal life, and He wants you to have it so badly that He sacrificed His Son so that you could freely enter in.
It is God’s will that you avoid sin—not because that gives you eternal life (see above), but because things will go better for you and for everyone around you if you do.
It is God’s will that you live out your life in fellowship with Him and focus on what is good (and all good things come from God).
Right or Wrong vs. Right or Left
So, if you are facing a decision and one option is clearly a sin, you don’t have to think about it very long.
But what if it is not a case of right versus wrong? Choosing a career, for example, is a morally neutral decision (unless you are considering becoming a drug dealer or something). How can you discern God’s will in the grey areas?
The answer is: you don’t need to.
Part of God’s plan was to give us free will. We have the freedom to make our own choices. Beyond the guidelines that are clearly stated, and the wisdom principles in Scripture, we can do whatever we want.
It’s like when my girls go to play in the backyard. I give them two boundaries: stay within the fence, and stay away from the pool. Those boundaries are just for their safety, because I want them to have a good time, and getting hurt or lost is not fun. But they can do whatever they want within those boundaries, and they don’t need to be constantly asking their father what to do.
“Daddy, can we go down the slide?” Sure. Just stay within the fence and away from the pool.
“Daddy, should we slide or do the monkey bars?” Baby girl, I don’t care what you do. Just stay in the fence and away from the pool.
“Can we play in the street?” Of course not. That’s not within the fence and you will get hurt.
“Can we ride our tricycles around?” Absolutely. That’s why I gave them to you. Just keep them away from the pool, because you can’t swim and tricycles don’t float.
It is roughly the same with us: we have clear boundaries and warnings, which are there for our own good. As long as we observe those guidelines, God is happy to let us make our own choices.
If you are facing a big grey area decision, I would say to pray about it, and seek wise counsel from the Scriptures and community. You can check out the current Sunday series at Watermark (titled “Should I?”) for some good advice on making wise choices. But at some point you do have to choose, and trust that God knows what He is doing in giving us that freedom.
In what areas of your life are you worried about figuring out God’s will?