Discerning God’s Will.

Throughout life we face a constant barrage of decisions. From life-altering choices like where we work, who we marry, and where we live, to ongoing ones like how to discipline our children, how to invest our time, and where to spend our money, decisions are an integral part of life. Significant choices like these – unlike minor day-to-day decisions we make with little thought – often spur us to solicit God’s counsel in hopes of learning His will before moving forward.

And while the desire to learn and follow God’s design on major decisions is always a good idea, waiting until we confront such inflection points before seeking His will is not ideal. That practice suffers a serious flaw in its foundation. It incorrectly assumes God’s will is a series of unrelated binary decisions we navigate throughout life. Absent the presence of a metaphorical fork in the road, we can cruise through life with little focus on God’s plan for us.

That thinking often leads to a dangerous habit: choosing when to seek (and follow) God’s plan and when to go it alone. For choices deemed manageable, we may decide to move forward on our own strength, reserving God’s guidance for those situations we find overwhelming or daunting.

What that perspective fails to recognize, however, is that God’s plan exists in the midst of the mundane, not just in milestone moments. Further, God’s will involves much more than making right decisions; it includes the adoption of behaviors, attributes, and habits that reflect Christ at work in our lives. Let’s examine a couple verses that crystallize this point.

The apostle Paul encourages us to: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NKJV). These verses demonstrate that the will of God is a lifestyle that envelops us, not a collection of isolated decisions made over the course of one’ life.

Notice that all three activities ought to be done incessantly. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in everything. In essence, Paul instructs us to cultivate a lifestyle that radiates joy, prayer, and gratitude. In doing so we fulfill God’s purpose.

If your life does not reflect sustained emphasis on these attributes, is it reasonable to expect God to reveal His will on monumental decisions? Shouldn’t we obey Him in ways He has explicitly labeled His will if we want His revelation in situations unique to our lives?

Paul also reminds us, “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3, NKJV). Sanctification is not a one-time decision that occurs in a brief moment. It is the ongoing lifelong process of becoming more like Christ. Sanctification produces the growing presence of Christ in our lives until He eventually permeates every aspect of who we are.

God’s will, then, involves placing our identity in Jesus, pursuing His presence regularly, and modeling ourselves after Him. If we’re unwilling to live like Christ on a daily basis then any attempt to understand His will on consequential matters seems a bit paradoxical. If our actions, thoughts, and lifestyle do not reveal a growing familiarity with Jesus we ought to ask God for that desire.

That is of critical importance. When we limit God’s will to a handful of big decisions we never develop an intimacy with God that sharpens our ability to hear His small, still voice – which is a product of sanctification. Consequently, we’re easily distracted by worldly influences and voices, making it difficult to discern God’s plan when confronting critical choices.

Paul describes it like this, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you” (Romans 12:2, NLT). We must resist the temptation to conform to this world, choosing instead to allow God to transform us by changing how we think. As that transformation occurs, our ability to discern God’s will improves dramatically.

So what can we say about God’s will? First, it extends beyond making the right decisions at crucial crossroads in life – which is a limited and insufficient definition. A proper understanding of God’s will embraces the idea that it impacts every area of life. It yields a spirit of joy, produces a posture of prayer, and fuels a passion for our sanctification. Most of all, it transforms us into passionate followers of His Son so we reflect His love and truth.

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