We are taking a few weeks to look at how a person can know what God's will for their life is. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to this question; there are, however, some general guidelines that have proven helpful in my own life. Last week I shared one of those with you, namely that we have a tendency to look to God for some special revelation when we really don't need one. Our first stop in determining God's will for our lives should be to look at what His revealed will (that is the Word of God) has to say about it. If He has already told us in Scripture, then we don't need any further revelation.
Scripture does not give us every answer to every question though. Last week I used the example of who you're supposed to marry. The Bible won't tell you your future spouse's name, or which college to attend, or which job to take. When you find yourself in one of these situations - where Scripture really doesn't give you a clear answer - there are a few principles that can be helpful in determining the Lord's will. We'll spend the next few weeks looking at these. Today I want to focus in on just one that I believe is the most important, and I want to start by telling you a story.
Last year at youth camp some of the counselors were giving the kids mohawks. A few of the boys in my group wanted to get them, and I told them it was between them and their parents. It wasn't until I was on my way home with two teenage boys with less than perfectly straight mohawks that one of the teenagers, Phil, told me that he hadn't actually called his mom and asked permission. He and I talked about what his mom's response might be when she came to pick her son up from youth camp and he had a mohawk. We both agreed that his mom was different than most moms and would probably think it was pretty cool. If I remember correctly her exact words were, "That's pretty rad!"
Obviously, Phil should have asked his mom for permission and he shouldn't have lied to me about it. But forget all of that for minute and focus in on the fact that he didn't need to ask his mom for permission because he knew her well enough to know what she would say. My mom and dad would have been furious, but not Phil's. And in the same way that I wouldn't have bothered to ask my mom for permission to get a mohawk (because I know what her answer would have been), so too Phil didn't bother because he knew what his mom's answer would be.
I believe that the same is true of God... to a certain extent. The more you know Him, the more you get a sense of what His will is. This doesn't mean that you are always right or that you don't need to ask God. Sometimes, our Lord will flat out surprise you, but it is a good starting place. The more you know God, the more you can get a general feel for what His will might be, and that's a good place to start asking for more specific guidance.
So how do you go about getting to know a God who at one and the same time both desires to be known by you (Jer 9:23-24) and is so far beyond you (Is 55:8-9) that you could never know Him perfectly? By attentively seeking knowledge at the hands of the only One who has it and is capable of giving it away: the Lord Himself. Seek this knowledge wherever God offers it: in the Bible, in His creation, in prayer.
I know that this probably isn't what you wanted to hear. If you are like me you want to know how to get immediate answers to your problems and questions because that is what is important to you. But God isn't a big Coke machine in the sky. You can't just insert a certain number of "prayer quarters" and push the desired request button and expect an answer to pop out all cool and refreshing everytime. People wouldn't allow themselves to be used that way and neither does God.
You see God has different priorities than you do. You may be completely focused on getting the answer to your question, but God isn't. What is most important to God - what has always been most important to Him- is not quick and definite answers but relationship. Yes, I believe God does want us to know His will, but He is most concerned with giving us His answers in a way and in a time that maximizes growth in our relationship with Him. In other words, if you want to know His will on these more difficult questions, the best place to start is by getting to know Him.