Readers send me notes about their struggles to discern God’s will for their lives. “If I only knew what he wants me to do,” is a frequent plaint.
That’s no surprise. Christian bookstores are packed with books and DVDs on how to know, how to overcome, how to accomplish, how to love, how to succeed, how to pray, how to organize, how to lose weight, how to reconcile, how to heal….
It is always tempting to the religious to think our virtue and our zeal provides us with the answer–God’s answer–for someone else. Jesus warned that asserting our religious standards as the rule for others blinds us to our own sinful condition. “Why do you see the speck of sawdust in your neighbor’s eye, but ignore the log in your own eye?” (Matt 7:3). “Excellent sermon,” said the church member, as she pumped the hand of the preacher. “Everything you said applies to someone or other I know.”
There is money to be made and power to be gained in sawdust removal. The books and DVDs have a big market because so many people have questions and are looking for answers. Why not do good by providing those answers and do well for ourselves at the same time? Worse yet, we self-appointed Jesus deputies often assert our pious answers for someone else to keep them in line; i.e. “God wants you to know that you should. . . .”
Several years ago, wishing to know more about God’s will for my life I spent a great deal of time reflecting on my experience in light of what Scripture says about God’s will. My conclusion was there isn’t some disembodied solution out there known as “God’s will.” Scripture teaches our lives are God’s will. He works his will in us and through us.
The Apostle Paul said when we surrender to God we become his will: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God–what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:1-2).
Becoming God’s will involves no half-measures. God demands everything from us. He breaks our hard shell of pride and ambition, melts the pieces down, and recreates us in his likeness.
Scripture details the steps. “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Is 64:8). “He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself ” (Phil 3:21). “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit” (1 Cor 3:18).
In uncomfortable anxiety we ask, “Does this mean that God does whatever he pleases with those who trust him?” It means exactly that! We, who have formed our perceptions of authority from flawed parents and arbitrary teachers, balk at the idea of turning over everything to someone who does what he pleases. We crave security and comfort causing us to turn back from risking everything with a God whose plan for us is undisclosed.
It is no risk to hand ourselves over to God whose love is complete and eternal? This is what the Apostle Peter came to realize near the end of his life. Jesus called him “The Rock,” but the moniker seemed like a joke for a long time as Peter thrashed around between his desire to take everything into his own two hands, guided by his pride and prejudices, or to accept the contrary will of Christ to make Peter his chosen instrument for introducing the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10).
In a letter to the believers throughout the Roman Empire shortly before he was crucified by the Emperor Nero, Peter said we need to trust God with every concern whether large or small in the face of the devil who stalks us like a hunting lion.
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen (1 Pet 5:5-11).
We seek our own solutions and our own pain-relievers only to become “lion-bait” in the process. God is what we need and God is what we get if we give him those things that make us anxious. We are never going to receive more than God, though. To come to grips with this truth is to know God’s will. This is what David was saying in Psalm 62.
For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor,
my mighty rock,
my refuge is in God
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.
Looking at others, trying to give them answers–trying to be their answer is not God’s way or will. Seeking to know his will without first submitting to him is futile also. If we want to know God’s will we will worship him alone and let him be our life. When only God is there in us, with us, and for us, we are at the source spring of his will. Drink deeply of him.
“O taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy are those who take refuge of him” (Ps 34:8).
Under the mercy of Christ,
Please note that the content and viewpoints of Mr. Hansen are his own and are not necessarily those of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. We have not edited his writing in any substantial way and have permission from him to post his content.
Kent Hansen is a Christian attorney, author and speaker. He practices corporate law and is the managing attorney of the firm of Clayson, Mann, Yaeger & Hansen in Corona, California. Kent also serves as the general counsel of Loma Linda University and Medical Center in Loma Linda, California.
Finding God’s grace revealed in the ordinary experiences of life, spiritual renewal in Christ and prayer are Kent’s passions. He has written two books, Grace at 30,000 Feet and Other Unexpected Places published by Review & Herald in 2002 and Cleansing Fire, Healing Streams: Experiencing God’s Love Through Prayer, published by Pacific Press in spring 2007. Many of his stories and essays about God’s encompassing love have been published in magazines and journals. Kent is often found on the hiking trails of the southern California mountains, following major league baseball, playing the piano or writing his weekly email devotional, “A Word of Grace for Your Monday” that is read by men and women from Alaska to Zimbabwe.