What Might Scripture Say?
Scripture does have some direct things to say about the will of God to which we should give some attention. We might begin with the thought that God does have a will for our lives and that he wants us to experience and live into it. Since he has revealed his will to us in the story of Scripture, it seems imperative that we should take note of it. Here are some of those obvious texts that talk about the will of God for our lives. These are from the New Testament.
Get a Little Fizzle in Your Life: Ephesians 5.17
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
What does this Scripture say about us if we do not know God’s will? Are we: a) uninformed, b) to be googling God’s will, or, c) just plain stupid! The correct answer is, yep, you guessed it: “c.” Paul told the Ephesians not to be foolish, which could be translated with the same impact the first hearers would have had, by our word stupid (see Contemporary English Version). The context suggests that there is not much time in life to stop dilly-dallying (a theological term that means goofing off, which is another theological term for … I think you get the picture/metaphor) around, because life is short. We must make the most of every opportunity in life we have (5.16).
We are told “not to be unwise” and the essence of this is suggested by Paul in the following sentence: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” So, the first thing Paul wanted his Ephesian readers to understand was that God’s will is that they must be Spirit-filled. Remember, one baptism, many fillings. Plainly stated, it is God’s will that you be continually filled with the Spirit. In the original language, this appears as a form that means “the filling is continuous.” You are the receiver of the filling — it is a continuous gracious act of God, not something that you work up or work out or go to a special geographic place to receive. The statement is a command for his readers/followers to choose to allow Spirit-filling to occur. Get a little fizzle put into your life, would be one way of saying what Paul said in the Ephesians passage. Remember, we all have the Spirit if we are believers (Rom 8.9).
Our prayers often betray our belief about the Spirit as well as other concerns. We may pray, “God, send your Spirit,” when, in fact, the Spirit is always present. We may pray, “God, give me more of your Spirit,” as if he came in some kind of a dose. We may pray, “God, give me more love,” when Scripture tells us that God has already poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us (Rom 5.5). We may pray, “God, give me more grace,” when Scripture says that his grace given is sufficient for us (1 Cor 12.9). We may pray, “God, give me more power,” when Scripture tells us that we have received power when the Holy Spirit came into our lives (Acts 1.8). We may pray, “God, please guide me,” and he is saying, “I’m trying. Why don’t you follow?” Get the picture? God’s will is that we are continually making the choice to allow him to continually fill us and in that space and moment what we choose to do is his will. Stop and reflect on that for a moment.
God’s Will to be Holy
Here is another Scripture that suggests what God’s will is for our lives.
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; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life (1 Thess. 4.3-7).
This passage is pretty obvious. It is God’s will that we live “set apart” lives. Paul’s readers didn’t have to wonder what this meant, for Paul made them a list of sorts. First, he told them to avoid sexual immorality. In short, stay away from sexual sin. This doesn’t mean to avoid sex. God invented sex and he intended it for pleasure as well as procreation. He designed sex to be expressed in the commitment of a marriage relationship and nowhere else. Second, he told them to control their bodies. He may mean that we should keep our bodies in subjection and by doing so we are honoring God. This may include anything that calls attention to or distracts from our physical body. Third, Paul told them to treat others fairly. Treat others like you would hope to be treated. Don’t use or abuse others to get what you want.
This shortlist of concepts may seem somewhat narrow-minded in today’s “do what you want to when you want to” lifestyle. But if we are to live into God’s will (story) for our lives, we must be aware of his stated will for our lives. God’s will for us is to have a “set apart” life.[ref] One may well ask, “What am I to be set apart from and for?” [/ref] Living into his will is often clear when we are looking with the right glasses on.
God’s Will to…
Finally, here are two other passages, one by Paul, the other by Peter, that speak specifically to the will of God for our lives.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thess 5.16-18).
God’s great desire is that a believer’s lifestyle should reflect who he or she is. Therefore, we should be joyful, continually in prayer, and be giving thanks in all circumstances—this is God’s will for our lives. His will is something that we live into, not something that we go googling for.
As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do — living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry (1 Peter 4.2-3).
Peter’s desire is that believers live a life that is opposite of the items that he lists here. This different story is God’s will.
These few Scriptures reflect the idea that God does have a will for our lives, but it is not as directive in the specifics as we would like to see. It does not answer the individual questions of “what should I,” or “who should I,” specifically. However, these Scriptures and others do provide us with some direct assertions of what God expects to occur in our lives. When we become too busy with discovering some individualistic “will” and overlook clear direct statements, we run the risk of sinning against God. We might ask, “Why would he guide us in some specific direction when we have not taken him seriously on some of his general directives?” It just may be the case that while following his stated will, we see in that lifestyle his will for us. If we say that we are living into the story of these and other passages of Scripture, then whatever we choose to do will be the will of God for us. Stop and reflect on that for a moment.