“God has a specific plan for our lives BUT it is not one He expects us to figure out before we make a decision.”
(or: The reason we have a hard time discovering God’s wonderful plan for our lives is because He doesn’t really intend to tell us what it is. AND we are wrong to expect Him to)
I want to share what is probably my favorite talk I’ve ever given – so that you can use it to help guide men and women to make Godly decisions.
Most Christians have an unbiblical approach to discerning the will of God and making decisions.
And many young people are paralyzed with uncertainty about what to do next with their lives (leaving them to delay real life and passively extend their adolescence).
We are waiting for a sign from God – relying on arbitrary means like open door/closed door, signs, fleeces, and feeling a peace.
What we should be looking for is not guidance but how to become a person that God can guide.
And we need to consider what our worrying about the future tells us about our underlying, root sin – we don’t trust God and WE want to control our future.
This talk is largely based on the book “Just Do Something” – a must read for everyone but especially those of you in college ministry.
The book is short (as opposed to the OG book “Decision Making and the Will of God” book that weighs in at over 2 pounds) and brilliant.
The talk also pulls some from Tim Keller’s incredible sermon “Your Plans, God’s Plans”.
I have given it in two formats:
- A two week series (two Cru talks)
- Or one 45 minute talk
Here are links to both versions of:
- My teaching notes (Some of the talk is verbatim from “Just Do Something” or Keller. I copy and paste many of my notes from the original source and then use them as jumping off points when I speak – using the ideas but putting them in my own words)
- Powerpoint slides
- Student notes I printed out for them to take notes on
The reason I post them is for you to use them. Feel free to adapt or use as is.
If you want to, you can let me know in the comments if you find them helpful.
Some condensed points from the talk:
- College is essentially one big decision after another
- There’s a statement made popular by Campus Crusade that “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”
- If God has a wonderful plan for my life, then why doesn’t He tell me what it is?
- Have you ever stopped to think about why life is like it is?
- Why did God set it up that we can’t see the future?
- I’d like for us to consider that maybe why we have a hard time discovering God’s wonderful plan for our lives because He doesn’t really intend to tell us what it is
- And maybe we’re wrong to expect Him to
- One of the things that is so confusing is that the “will of God” is used in three different ways
- When people say I want to know the “Will of God” they could mean one of three things
- Two are Biblical (but very distinct ideas)
- The third is the common view and, I’d say, is not Biblical
- And it’s really important that you understand the distinction between these three:
1) God’s Sovereign Will
- The detailed plan that God has ordained
- Everything that happens is according to God’s sovereign plan
- God micromanages our lives
- God knows all things and sovereignly plans all things
2) God’s Moral Will
- Refers to what God has commanded – what He desires from us
- If the Sovereign Will of God is how things are, His Moral Will is how things ought to be
- How life works best
- God’s Sovereign Will cannot be thwarted but His Moral Will can be disregarded
- I Thess 4:3-5
- “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God;”
- The will of God in this passage does not refer to the way God ordains things but to the way God commands us to live
3) God’s Individual Will
- This is what we are looking for in our questions: “where should I live? What job should I take? What does God want me to do with my life?”
- We seek God’s individual will
- We want to know his individual, specific plan for the who, what, where, when and how of our lives
- This is the traditional understanding of God’s will
- A secret individual will that He expects us to figure out before we do anything
- So does God have a secret individual will that He expects us to figure out before we do anything?
- So does God have a specific plan for your life?
- And Yes we know it is good/wonderful – Rom 8:28
- God does have a specific plan for our lives BUT it is not one that He expects us to figure out before we make a decision
- I’m not saying:
- God won’t help you make decisions (called wisdom – we’ll talk more about that next week)
- God doesn’t care about your future
- God isn’t in control of your future
- We shouldn’t pray to God about our future
- Traditional understanding of God’s will:
- “Conventional understanding of God’s will defines it as a specific pathway we should follow into the future. God knows what this pathway is, and he has laid it out for us to follow. Our responsibility is to discover this pathway – God’s plan for our lives. We must discover which of the many pathways we could follow is the one we should follow, the one God has planned for us. If and when we make the right choice, we will receive his favor, fulfill our divine destiny and succeed in life. . . If we choose rightly, we will experience his blessing and achieve success and happiness. If we choose wrongly, we may lose our way, miss God’s will for our lives and remain lost forever in an incomprehensible maze” – Gerald Sitter
Problems with traditional approach
- It undermines personal responsibility and initiative
- “God told me”
- Have you ever had a friend say, “God is leading me to date her, or to transfer schools”? How do you respond to that? It puts their decisions out of reach of criticism
- Or even worse, a girl breaks up with you and you get the dreaded “I’ve been praying about it a lot and the HS told me to break up with you”. Not only are you getting rejected by Susie the hottest girl at the U of A but the third person of the trinity
- Haddon Robinson:
- “If we ask, “How can I know the will of God?” we may be asking the wrong question. The scriptures do not command us to find God’s will for most of life’s choices nor do we have any passage instructing us on how it can be determined. Yet we persist in searching for God’s will because decisions require thought and sap energy. We seek relief from the responsibility of decision-making and we feel less threatened by being passive rather than active when making important choices.”
- Many of you are paralyzed with indecisiveness and we sometimes spiritualize it and call it “I just haven’t figured out what God’s will is for my life”
- The problem with that is that he has revealed 95% of his Will – His Moral will
- Everything is subjective
- With the typical approach it’s really just a guessing game and reduces life to a series of random guesses
- These are the common approaches of the typical approach
- Open Door/Close Door
- Sign from God
- “A peace”
- We never take risks b/c we don’t feel a peace about it
- How do you think Jesus felt about going to the Cross?
- The fact is, most “big” decisions will leave us feeling uneasy
- It promotes an unhealthy preoccupation with the future
- If you don’t get anything else I say, I want you to hear this
- Our fascination with the future & the will of God can show a deeper, root issue in our life
- Read Matthew 6:25-34
- Big idea of the passage could not be any clearer – Jesus does not want us to worry about the future
- Interpretation/Synthesizing- God knows what we need to live and we should not worry
- Here’s the Application for us – And this is HUGE
- Look at what Jesus says about Worry and anxiety – They’re not merely bad habits
- What does he say in v. 30? They’re a sign of little faith
- Worry reflects our hearts distrust in the goodness and sovereignty of God
- Worry is a spiritual issue and must be fought with faith
- We don’t trust God
- It’s not good enough that he has a plan for us
- That he has A-Z mapped out. We want to know what l,m,n,o & p are for tomorrow
- And Why? So we can feel in control
- Worry about the future is not just a minor flaw
- It’s an indication that our hearts are not trusting in God’s promises
- Obsessing over the future is not how God wants us to live
- Showing us the future is not God’s way
- His way is to speak to us in the Bible and transform us from the inside out through His Word and Holy Spirit
- We should stop looking for God to reveal the future to us and remove all risk from our lives
- Because we have confidence in God’s Sovereign Will, we can radically commit ourselves to His Moral Will, without fretting over a hidden individual will
- In other words, God doesn’t take risks, so we can
- God doesn’t so much tell you how to get guided
- He tells you how to become the kind of person that can be guided
- Radically trust God and you will slowly become a person who makes wise plans
- John Newton – “what you will, when you will, how you will”
- It’s daily choices to spend time with God seeking Him
- This isn’t what most people want to hear
- You’re saying – I have a decision I have to make right now [I’m a senior and graduate in May– tell me what to do]
- “How do I know what God is leading me to do?”
Three ways to walk in the guidance of God
- Commit yourself fully to God
- Read the Bible
- That slowly turns you into a person of wisdom who can be guided
- Now if you’ve been paying attention, here’s what you should be asking about prayer:
- But what do we pray for if we aren’t asking God to tell us exactly what to do?
- Do these two consistently and you will become a humble, teachable, leadable person
- Seek wise counsel
- Pick something (Use your brain and Pick something)
- Then after you’ve studied God’s Word and sought advice and prayed, make a decision and don’t hyper-spiritualize it. Do what seems best
- Examples of the Apostles
- I Thess 3:1-2 “we thought it best”
- Phil 2:25-26 “I thought it necessary”
- I Cor. 16:3-4 “if it is fitting”
- Acts 6:2-4 “it is not desirable”
- Acts 15:28-29 “it seemed good”
- Don’t wait to be called
- Illustration: You’re walking one day and come upon a small, handicapped child laying on the railroad tracks. The child cannot move, and you hear the sound of an oncoming train. Do you stop, get on your knees, and ask if it’s God’s will to pick up the child? If you don’t get a clear sense of God’s call, do you move on? Of course not. God’s will is clear. Save the life.
- I often think about this in regards to the question of whether or not we need to go overseas. Jesus made it clear that his will was for people of every nation to know the gospel. Why, then, are so many Christians waiting for God to spell out “Afghanistan” in their Cheerios—before they go? The call has been given. Go. If your talents can best serve God’s kingdom by using them overseas, why would you wait on a call to do so?
- Robert Speer once famously said: “With many of us it is not a missionary call at all that we are looking for; it is a shove”
- If you are drinking deeply of God’s Word and regularly seeking good counsel from others and you are a person of prayer you should begin to make many impt decision instinctively, and some of them even quickly
- Study scriptures, pray continuously, listen to others, and make a decision