Figure out what God wants.

It’s not as complicated as we make it out to be.

Too many of us Christians know God expects something of his kids. Loads of us preach it all the time: “God has a wonderful plan for your life. Just seek his face.” Problem is, when we seek his face, it’s only to praise him, not know him. The wonderful plan? We don’t know it, and never bother to find out what it is.

In fact a lot of us assume God’s plan is unknowable. It’s part of his secret will, his intricate plan for the universe which has been micromanaged all the way down to every single action we take. Which is secret because—let’s face it—there’s no way any one human can fathom it in all its complexity. Way too many moving parts. God is thinking a billion steps ahead, and if he clued us in just a little, it’d blow our minds.

Or, which is more likely, we’d respond like a backseat driver: “You know what you oughta do, God, is this…” and since we have the smallest fraction of information, we’re really in no position to judge how God rules the cosmos.

Anyway, the complexity of God’s master plan is too intimidating for a lot of Christians. “It’s way beyond me,” like the TobyMac song goes. True, the song’s more about how God stretches us beyond where we’re comfortable, but most Christians use the phrase as our excuse to stay comfortable. God’s will for our individual lives, God’s plans for our individual futures, the nature of God’s personal relationship with us—that’s too deep for us. Probably too deep for everyone, seminarians and scholars included.

Rubbish. And, might I add, disingenuous. People want God’s will to be far out of our reach, because it might just mean we have to change our lifestyles. A lot. You know, like Paul wrote:

Romans 12.1-2 KWL
1 So I urge you Christians, by God’s compassion:
Present your bodies to God as a holy, pleasing, live sacrifice—your logical worship.
2 Don’t follow the scheme of this age. Instead be transformed. Mind renovated.
Find out for yourselves what God’s good, pleasing, complete will is.

If learning God’s will—God’s complete will—weren’t possible, Paul wouldn’t have advised the Romans to do it. It’s not enough to give him our warm fuzzy feelings. He wants our bodies. He wants us to follow. Stop conforming to this culture; it’s passing away. Conform to the next one.

How? Seek God’s will. It’s not beyond us. God made it available. You know what Jesus taught. If you don’t, read your bible. Then do that.

Start with the stuff in the bible. The general, revealed will of God: The stuff he told the Hebrews, the Christians, and everybody on the planet, to do. Figure out which of it he still expects of his kids, and do it. Basic obedience.

Plenty of Christians debate about which biblical commands still apply in the present day, and which ones don’t. While they’re busy debating them, they do none of them. Don’t fall for that. Do them.

God’s will isn’t hard to find.

If we’re truly interested in God’s will, crack a bible. It’s all spelled out for you. Dig through God’s commands. Start doing ’em.

Start with Jesus. Look at what he taught in his Sermon on the Mount. Mt 5-7 Try to live like that. No, it’s not easy. Talk it over with the Holy Spirit. Ask him for help.

Look at the Law in the Old Testament. Look at the Prophets. Try to discover God’s attitude about his people. Read Proverbs and Ecclesiastes and Job; to put some of that wisdom to good use. Read the apostles’ instructions to the churches. Work on transforming your life and renewing your mind.

Get neck-deep in following God’s will: So much so, our only questions about his will aren’t about what he specifically wants us to do next, but whether we’re doing it right. “Am I taking it too literally? Not literally enough? This verse sounds impatient; since love is patient, 1Co 13.5 how ought I interpret it?” We shouldn’t worry about whether we’re living in his will: We’re right smack in the middle of it.

Listen to the Holy Spirit. Talk it over with him constantly, and you’ll find he sorts us out as we go: Whether we’re overdoing it, underdoing it, doing it fruitlessly or legalistically, or interpreting it all wrong. He’ll direct us towards other scriptures to apply to our lives. He’ll work on us. ’Cause our obedience demonstrates to him that we’re serious about our relationship with him. We’re not hypocrites.

The reason people assume God’s will is unreachable? They’re not reaching for it. They expect it to be handed to them, like when your mother gave you vitamins. They don’t imagine it’s something we gotta climb for and get into, like the cookie jar we weren’t really supposed to plunder.

Seek God’s will and you’ll find it. Avoid God’s will, keep telling yourself it’s not available, and you won’t find it. But will you be ready for God’s kingdom when Jesus finally brings it with him?

That’s not a rhetorical question: No. No you won’t.

God’s will, or God’s rubber stamp?

Whenever we Christians get to talking about God’s will for our lives, we’re not usually talking about what he told us to do, and wants us to do. We’re selfish; we don’t give a sloppy wet dump about that.

What we really mean is we want God’s approval. “Am I living within his will?” is Christianese for “Is my lifestyle good enough to get me into heaven?” ’Cause if it’s not, we’ll change it. Maybe we’ll change it. But no further than that: Just enough to get us into heaven.

All we wanna know is whether God can live with the lifestyle we’ve chosen on our own; whether he’s okay with the choices we’ve made without his input. Are we good? Or is he offended, and plans to disown us at the End? Or worse, is he gonna smite us for our misbehavior in this era?

I’ve met kids who are so anxious about knowing God’s will. And when I point ’em to the bible, they get really frustrated: That’s not what they mean at all. They know God spells out his will in the bible. What they want is specific directions about certain circumstances. Where to go to school. What to study. What career to choose. Whom to date. Things, their parents and pastors insist, will affect the rest of their lives. (Which it can, though in reality, it doesn’t have to affect it any more than the next five years or so. But kids still consider five years to be huge.)

Well, I break it to them, God gave you free will about those things. Usually he has you choose them for yourself. Let’s be fair: You only wanna hand off those big decisions to God because big decisions are risky—we might be wrong—and therefore scary. I get that. Every human gets that. But part of maturity is defeating our fears. That’s some of the reason God gave us free will. So stop being a coward and choose wisely.

Look, once we’re already following God’s commands, once we’re learning how he thinks, it’s way easier to make wise decisions. ’Cause it’s a lot more obvious when we deviate from wisdom. And way easier to hear the Holy Spirit’s directions: “No, don’t go there,” or “Good; keep it up.”

Problem is Christians (same as all humans) like quick fixes and shortcuts. We want simple yes and no answers from God; we want the ability to live in God’s will, without ever trying to follow God’s will. And he doesn’t work like that. It takes obedience.

Sorry if that’s not the easy answer you were hoping for. I tried to keep it simple though.