As a youth minister I get the opportunity to influence young people at times in their lives when they are on the cusp of great change. For a high school senior, life is a time of change. If you can, put yourself in the shoes of a HS senior. Soon, you will accomplish the thing you have spent 12 years working on. Most likely it is the only thing you've ever worked on for years. You only have a vague sense of direction in life. You want to go to college, but you are not sure where or why.
Now put yourself in the shoes of a HS senior who is also a Christian. You are in the same predicament, but you desire to honor God with your choices. You have questions like where should I go to college? How do I pay for it? What about the military or some sort of missions work? All these questions are valid and important. In fact they are the most important questions at this stage of your life.
Currently I am reading a fascinating book called Predictably Irrational. It is about how all of us act in ways that are actually not to our benefit. Chapter 8 details the way that we want to hang on to options and not let doors of opportunity close. We always seem to think the opportunity is better somewhere else, or at least, we want to keep lots of options open in case the one we select doesn't work out as we hope. This problem plagues Christians as well, but once we hear the voice of God it is wrong to hold on to those other choices.
The question I hope to answer is; how can I know the will of God? If you'll hang on through a very long post, I'll answer it the way I would for one of my students.
The first thing to realize is that God does, in fact, have a plan for your life. I will let that statement stand on its own. God cares about everyone and how everyone spends the gifts He has given.
Sometimes determining God's will is easy. It takes nearly no effort from us. Here are a few examples of times in which knowing His will is simple.
- Go to church or go fishing
- Witness to my co-worker or keep my mouth shut
- Lose money or cheat someone for gain
- Speed or leave for work earlier
What makes these instances so easy to determine the will of God? And how dare I try to tell you what God wants for your life?
These were easy for one of 2 reasons. Either they are clearly stated in the Bible or they are based on biblical principles. We can know what is God's will because the Bible is His word to us, it teaches us His principles, and He cannot act in any way contrary to His Word.
I hope that point is simple enough. God always acts in accordance to His word.
We all know that in other situations in life it is not so easy to determine His plan for us. Changing jobs, moving, and where to go to college are all in this category. There is nothing in the Bible commanding us to go to Mid-Continent University or to go into youth ministry.
So, when you find yourself in one of these situations, how do you figure out His will?
First, have regular Bible study and prayer time. Also, have some time when you can be quiet and hear God's voice. Second, seek out godly advice. Respect the wisdom of those more mature in Christ than yourself. Weigh this advice heavily against the advice you may get from non-Christians and immature Christians. Third, examine your situation. If the circumstances prevent one choice and you honestly are seeking God's will, let that be a sign. I am not one to always look for a sign, but if a college rejects your application or a seller rejects your best offer, it is fair to say that it wasn't God's will for you to attend that school or buy that home. Finally, make sure your decision is in agreement with the Bible. God is not calling you to get divorced to go on the mission field.
What if after doing all this, you still don't know God's will? Now things are trickier, this is where learning to hear God's voice comes into play. Many Christians don't know how to hear Him, though if you follow the previous instructions most likely you can. Here is what's left. You may just feel led to one choice, in some way you cannot describe, one option seems more correct than the others. This is probably the voice of God. (That is how I would describe my call to summer missions) The other thing is this; listen for that thought that you are certain didn't come from yourself. Let's look at Matt 16:13-20. In this story, Peter speaks, and Jesus tells him that the words are not his own, but they came from the Father. This is the best way I know how to relate this experience. If the thought that comes in would have never been your own, this is likely the voice of God. (An example of this would be conviction for a sin that is hidden even from yourself.)
One final question; what happens if I go through all that and still don't know? That is why we have faith. Sometimes we just have to make a decision and live with the consequences.
Thanks for hanging in through a very long post. I hope it was helpful