God’s Will for Your Life
Did you ever wonder what God’s will for your life was? Some people spend their entire lives missing the answer to one’s of life’s most important questions.
Over 2000 years ago, the apostle Paul, one of the most prolific and brilliant writers and influencers of the ancient world, wrote a letter to a Jesus-centered community of faith living in Rome wondering the same thing. The Roman empire proclaimed competing messages with what Jesus said God’s will was.
In Romans 12:1-2, Paul wrote this: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform 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.”
In this passage, we see the key to knowing God’s will for our lives involves several important factors.
Firstly, we need to understand God’s mercy. God’s mercy is seen most clearly in the expression of God’s love for every human being lived out in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, God’s very own son. For God so loved the world, and every human being ever created, that he sent his son Jesus to die on the cross to take the punishment that we each deserve for our sin. Sin includes the attitudes and behaviors which turn us away from God and hurt ourselves or other people, like selfishness, greed, or lust. Every person who ever lived (except Jesus himself) has sinned and deserves to face the consequences, which is death eternal separation from God. But God, by his mercy, restored us into a relationship with himself through the work of Jesus. God’s mercy helps us see that God’s will for us is to be in a right relationship with him and with other people. We need to depend on God’s mercy to give us spiritual insight into his will for our lives. God’s mercy is the key to unlocking the secrets of the kingdom of God.
Secondly, in view of God’s mercy, we offer our bodies as living sacrifices. What does that mean? In the context in which Paul was writing, a sacrifice, like what Jesus did for us, was typically an animal that was killed in order to make a payment for something done wrong. A sacrifice involves death. Sacrifices are not pleasant, and they hurt. A living sacrifice of our bodies are activities we engage in with our physical bodies that help us worship God. Another phrase we could use is a spiritual discipline. Spiritual disciplines are spiritual activities that help us worship God by sacrificing what our bodies desire in order to align with what God desires – as an act of faith-filled worship.
Worship is not about fulfilling our personal desires and needs. That would be consumerism. True worship involves a sacrifice of our desires in order to please and honor God.
What spiritual disciplines do is they position us to hear, see, and experience God. And as we hear God’s voice, see him more clearly, and grow in our experiential relationship with him, we will better understand his will for our lives.
Spiritual disciplines include physical activities like worship, prayer, scripture reading and meditation, solitude, silence, and fasting. Jesus himself engaged in these practices order to maintain a strong relationship with God. And as he did, God revealed himself and his will to his son. We would be wise to do the same. Spiritual disciplines help us do what normally could not do by our own direct efforts, but they involve sacrifice: a sacrifice of our desires, time, energy, or money.
Thirdly, we need to allow our minds to be transformed and renewed. This means we need to change the way we think about life, about God, and about ourselves in view of what God says, not simply but what we think or feel. Jesus’ primary preaching message was this: “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” To repent means to think differently, to reconsider the direction that your life is headed in view of the good news that Jesus made heaven accessible for each of us.
And Jesus’ invitation to heaven is not just for the future – it is an invitation to experience God’s kingdom now. Jesus’s death on the cross was not as much about getting us into heaven as much as it was about getting heaven into us. We must allow God’s word, empowered by the Holy Spirit to change the way we think. As we do, we will understand God’s will more clearly.
Lastly, we need to be part of God’s family – the church. Paul writes his letter to his “brothers and sisters.” So many people today think they can live out God’s will on their own and their spiritual life is a personal thing. But according to Paul, and Jesus, and the entire witness of the scriptures, being connected to a loving community of believers was essential to understanding God’s will for our lives. A spirit-filled community centered on Jesus is the context in which we truly grow to know God’s will for our lives and discover who God made us to be.
So how do we know God’s will for our lives? By understanding God’s mercy in Jesus, allowing God’s Spirit to change the way we think according to his word, and engaging our bodies in spiritual disciplines. And we do this, not just by ourselves, but in the context of a loving, Christ-centered community.
The image above, referred to as the “triangle of transformation” may be helpful to help you remember these keys to understanding God’s will. (credit: Dallas Willard in his groundbreaking book The Divine Conspiracy)
Ultimately, God’s will for each of us is to make us more like his son Jesus. That’s what matters most.