God’s Will For Your Life

By July 29, 2015Archive

EMM-Gods_Will_for_Your_Life-OlneyWhat is God’s will for your life?

If you attend the average graduation event for a youth group or Christian college, you might get this happy answer from an ancient (often not-so-happy) prophet named Jeremiah:

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Essentially, God’s will is for you to be rich, secure, and experiencing constant enjoyment of His presence. Smooth sailing. Which is totally true if the future referred to is, you know, God’s will for you after you die and your lifelong exile as a “stranger” and “alien” on earth comes to an end (Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11). But we all know that is not the answer that people are looking for when they inquire about God’s will. Usually, we want to know what college to pick, what kind of job we are going to hold, when we will get married, who we will get married to, when to kick our kids out of the house, when to retire, etc. We want a crystal ball.

As a pastor, I get asked this question all the time. Fortunately for me, I don’t need a crystal ball. The answer is easy. Do you want to know what God’s will is for your life? I’ll tell you right now. Ready?

Your sanctification.

You’re welcome.

What is sanctification? The word basically translates to “holy-fication.” To be sanctified is to be set apart by God the Father as holy and then actually made holy by God the Spirit. And the final result is that you would look like God the Son.

God’s will for your life is that you would look like Jesus.

Let’s consult some experts:

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God…” (1 Thessalonians 4:2-5).

“For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people” (1 Peter 2:15).

In fact, Peter even wrote that when we suffer as a result of doing good, we are “suffering according to God’s will” (1 Peter 4:19). Being like Jesus invites suffering, and suffering in turn makes us more like Jesus, our Suffering Savior. But watch how deep this goes:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:28-29).

Whoa. Do you hear what Paul is saying here? Everything that exists and occurs…exists and occurs to make you more like Jesus. You know when you fall in love and the whole world is suddenly more beautiful and yet so plain in comparison to your beloved all at once? That is what is going on here on a cosmic scale. When you become infatuated with Jesus, suddenly everything in life explodes with vibrancy and purpose. Your spouse that you resented becomes a gift to shed light on where you don’t look like Jesus. Your menial job becomes a gift to make you humble like Jesus. Your cancer is a gift to teach you to number your days, to make you wise like Jesus. At the same time, that shiny promotion you missed out on isn’t quite that big of a big deal after all, because you have Jesus.

We are more obsessed with finding the will of God than any other generation in history because modern American life is like standing in the cereal aisle: choice paralysis gone omnipresent. Here, even those in abject poverty have more choices to make in a week than an ancient king could have ever imagined making in their lifetime. Yet when Jesus told His disciples not to be anxious,  I believe He meant freedom from this sort of anxiety as well.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21).

In Christ, that proverb doesn’t just humble us, it comforts us. Here’s what it says to us who love God: “Grow in wisdom. As your mind is ‘renewed in knowledge’ (i.e. as you become more like Jesus), you will be able to better ‘discern what is the will of God’ (Colossians 3:10; Romans 12:2). So make your plans. Keep an open mind. But rest assured: God’s purpose will stand. Whatever you do, whatever happens, whatever goes ‘wrong,’ it will all make you more like Jesus.”

More of the big picture:

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). There it is. According to God’s will, God’s Spirit makes us like God’s Son so we can call God Father. Ephesians 1:3-5 says virtually the same thing.

Many theologians have said it: we become like what we behold. That’s why happily married couples act alike and sometimes, in a creepy way, seem to even look alike. As G.K. Beale said, “We become what we worship.”

Ultimately, we are all driven by images. We want to be the corporate executive, the professional ball player, the world traveler, the Pinterest-savvy mom, the blushing bride, the straight-A student, the brilliant artist, the beloved pastor, the home owner, the proud parent. We want the carefully sculpted body, the right spouse, the sleek wardrobe, the full head of hair, the framed degree. We make countless sacrifices for them. Case in point: Facebook. The state of our hearts would cause Paul to weep, for each is a city full of idols (Acts 17:16). Would that every Christian teenager knew Jeremiah 17:9 as well as 29:11:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

If “doing” God’s will is “being” like Jesus, then who obeyed it and embodied it better than…Jesus? God’s will is Jesus. Yet how striking is it that His appearance was nothing like the images mentioned above? In fact, there was nothing about His physical appearance or social status to impress or attract anyone; He was a man of sorrows (Isaiah 52:2-3). Yet if we were to see Him now, the glory would shatter all of our silly images in an instant. We would be like John, falling down as though dead (Revelation 1:17). The Super Bowl would look less glorious than a one year old’s birthday party. We would say with King David:

“As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness” (Psalm 17:15).

My prayer for you today is that you would be satisfied with His likeness, that during your exile here on earth your life would show forth flashes of His glorious likeness—of generosity, of courage, of purity, of grace in suffering. I pray that the image that drives you is the “image of the invisible God,” Jesus Christ, and that you would find peace, hope, and joy in being graciously called His child:

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

In other words, I pray that you would delight in God’s will for your life.

Dane Olney

Author Dane Olney

Dane Olney is joyfully married to his high school sweetheart Brittany and they have a son named Levi. He is the Discipleship Pastor of VCC and is pursuing an MDiv in Christian Ethics from Fuller Theological Seminary.

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