“For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” (1 Thessalonians 4:3 ESV)
Sometimes I wish that God would give me a Moses-moment. You know, a burning bush or a booming-voice-from-heaven to make his will for my life a little clearer. Or maybe show up a bit like Morgan Freeman’s God appears to Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty. It’d certainly make things a lot simpler.
Many of you probably know the feeling I’m talking about. We want to follow God’s will for our lives. Yet, with a plethora of choices ahead of us – about our career, our future spouse, whether or not to go on that long-term missions trip, where to study – following God’s calling often seems impossibly confusing.
What is God’s plan for my life? What if I make the wrong decision? Do I risk disobeying God?
These are all valid questions, and of course we should pray carefully and seek advice from wise friends and mentors about the big decisions before us.
I think, however, that we often risk over-complicating what it means to “follow God’s calling.”
I think that us millennials too often confuse God’s purpose for our lives with what our society tells us gives us purpose, meaning, and identity. We talk about God’s calling in terms of particular career paths or individual vocations. Accordingly, we can all too easily conflate God’s will with the individualistic notion that our identity and purpose is found in our personal achievements and successes “for” God.
In focusing on what we do for God, we risk putting ourselves, rather than God, at the centre-stage of His will for our lives. We make His will about us rather than about Him, what we do for Him rather than about what He is doing in us.
“He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
The gospel calls us to lay down our own agendas, our own glory, our own egotistical desires for the sake of the Kingdom. In some of the most challenging words in the New Testament, Jesus tells us that “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
These words force us to drastically reconfigure our way of thinking about God’s will. God’s calling on our lives is not that we’d be recognised by other Christians for the great work that we do for the Kingdom. His will is not about our glory, but about His. It is about the putting to death of my ego, that I might become more like Christ.
His will is that I might lose myself so that I might find Him, enjoy Him, and be like Him.
God’s will is simply that we’d be conformed to the image of Christ, not the image of the high-achieving, successful, popular individual which society imposes on us as the ideal picture of the purpose-driven life. God’s will is nothing short than our sanctification, our transformation into the great Christ-like life.
According to Dallas Willard, “The most important thing about you is not the things that you achieve; it is the person that you become.”
The Word of God already tells us what God’s will is for our lives. Put simply, we are called to glorify God in all we do.
Paul tells the church in Corinth,
…whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV
Elsewhere, he tells us that, in whatever we do, “in word or deed,” to “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17 ESV). We are created to be image-bearers of the Father, ambassadors of Christ, to proclaim His name in all we do through our conduct and word. In whatever season of life we find ourselves, in every career and relationship, we are called simply to worship Him.
This is a freeing revelation. Often, we get so caught up in trying to discern the little individual details of God’s calling on our life that we miss the bigger picture, which God has already revealed to us.
Whether you are employed or unemployed, you are called to worship Him. Whether you are married, single, or dating, worship Him. Whether you are eating or drinking, playing sports, studying, working, resting, God’s will is simple – worship Him. Our highest calling is to be satisfied in Him, to give glory to Him, to decrease as He increases in us.
To paraphrase the famous words from John Piper, God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.
God’s will is simply that we would be conformed into the image of His Son through the transforming work of the Spirit. It is to worship Him in all we do – whether that is in the valley or on the mountaintop. It is to give ourselves to Him in the trenches of our mundane day-by-day living. It is to give Him glory in our relationships, our recreation, our procreation, our eating and drinking, our laughing and crying, our failing and succeeding, our living and our dying.
His will, I think, is simpler than we’ve made it.