How do I make good decisions? What does God really want from me? Does God care about every little choice I make? The big question behind all of these questions, of course, is this: What's God's will for my life?
Do my decisions really matter to God?
God cares about what's going on in our hearts. In any decision we have the opportunity to choose who we will worship. Will we worship God or will we worship ourselves? God desires to be the highest priority in every part of our lives.
In some areas of life it's clear that there are right decisions and wrong decisions—like the choice of whether to cheat on an exam. In other areas, we need to make choices between two good things—like making a decision between two great colleges. It's quite possible God would be present in and honored by either decision. Other times the choice may have to do with a gray area—something that's not necessarily right or wrong. These are opportunities to practice wisdom. For example, spending a lot of time talking on the phone or texting friends may be a good thing. But if there's never any time when we are just quiet and still, it can be harder for us to be aware of God's presence. Being wise might mean turning the phone off from time to time to quiet your heart so you can be more attentive to the presence of God in everyday life.
Sometimes when we make decisions, it can seem like we're trying to work God into our life story. But really, we are part of God's story and God is delighted by our desire to live with that focus in mind.
—Dr. Jamie Noling, Associate Campus Pastor at Azusa Pacific University (California)
How do I discover God's will?
First, you have to make sure you're seeking to obey what God has already revealed in Scripture. This includes things like obeying your parents. That's a clear instruction from God. It doesn't really work to ignore God's revealed will but yet expect God to answer specific questions like where you should go to college.
As you study God's Word and spend time in prayer, your relationship with God grows and you begin to understand God's character. You will then be in the right place to hear God's instruction for other areas of your life. In addition to Bible study and prayer, be willing to seek godly counsel from a mentor, pastor, or your parents.
If we're serious about following God's will, we have to recognize that it's not about getting what we want, but doing what God asks. We must trust that he is faithful and good, and that his will is what's best for us.
—Dr. Jeff Gangel, Director of Spiritual Formation at Toccoa Falls College (Georgia)
Will God ask me to do stuff I don't want to do?
God may call us to do things that don't feel natural to us at first. But as we listen and respond to the call of God, we get connected to our deeper desires. After all, the things God calls us to do are things that he created us to do.
Many of us have habits that we find comfortable or that we enjoy. In the long run, though, those things may not meet our deeper spiritual needs. For example, we may have a habit of seeking acceptance by conforming, following the crowd. This is easy and can make us feel like we are accepted, but actually this habit can prevent us from being who we really are meant to be. It's scary to take the risk of letting your true self be known, but God calls us to do that.
This process makes me think of a cross-country runner. Getting to the point where it's enjoyable to run requires the runner to work and do things that may not be easy. But when the runner is in great shape, it is a true joy to run. Likewise, once we start down the path of doing the work God calls us to do, we find great joy in doing it.
—Dr. Greg Carmer, Dean of Chapel at Gordon College (Massachusetts)
What if I miss God's will?
Making a poor decision doesn't mean we're forever out of God's will. That's part of the beauty of Scripture: It has story after story of people who make bad decisions, but God still uses them mightily. Just look at Abraham and David. They both did some things that were clearly wrong, but God worked through them to accomplish great things. God can use all of our decisions, whether they're right, wrong, or neutral.
Also, we need to remember God is our Father. God is not here to condemn us, but to help us become more like Christ. If we are focused on Jesus, and on holiness, some of those other things will fall into place. God is not a cosmic trickster who only gives us one shot to get things right.
—Dr. Shawn Holtgren, Dean of Leadership and Spiritual Development at Bethel College (Indiana)
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