By Ben Simpson
Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
I have spent most of my life in ministry with teenagers, college students, and young adults. I have often heard this question: “What am I supposed to do with my life? What is God's will for me?”
This question is not exclusive to young people. Human beings want to know what to do. We get one shot at life. We want to live well. So we focus on big decisions like those pertaining to marriage, career, and family, asking God for guidance. We want to discern God’s will. To discern means to perceive, distinguish, or recognize.
Life with God involves discernment when making the big decisions. But discerning God’s will is more often needed in the small stuff. We find plenty of clear instruction concerning God’s will in the Bible. In the New Testament, Jesus calls us pray for our enemies and to love them, offering forgiveness. He tells us to serve sacrificially and give generously. He calls us to be peacemakers and prophets, seeking justice for all people. We are told to be heralds of the good news of the kingdom. In everyday life, we encounter situations where we are called to faithfulness. Usually, we are able to discern what is right.
But what is difficult is moving from the knowledge of God’s will to action. Knowing the right thing is a step, but doing it is much more challenging. It is one thing to say “God, show me your will,” and another to pray, “God, strengthen me to do your will.” We need help, inside and out.
The writer of Hebrews helps us with this dynamic. In the passage above the writer asks for God to equip the recipients of the letter with “everything good for doing his will.” The writer also asks God to “work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ.” God needs to equip us from the outside and change us on the inside. Both are necessary in learning to discern and do God’s will.
God’s external help and inner work are both available through prayer. God can show us the way and provide us with the things we need in order to do his will. God can also attune us to the leading of the Holy Spirit, who will renovate our hearts and heal our wounds so that we might act according to God’s will, not only in external actions but also from a pure motivation.
Eugene Peterson writes, “The Christian is a person who recognizes that our real problem is not in achieving freedom but in learning service under a better master. The Christian realizes that every relationship that excludes God becomes oppressive. Recognizing and realizing that, we urgently want to live under the mastery of God.”
Through prayer, we learn to discern God’s will. As God provides knowledge and strength we grow in trust and learn to serve under God’s mastery. Through service, we bring glory to Christ.
We pray so that we might discern and do God’s will, and thereby honor him with our lives. Seek God’s direction today, and follow as Jesus leads.
People often pray when facing big decisions, which is wise. But what about everyday circumstances? How does prayer help us to discern and do God’s will in both the big and small decisions of life?
Father, help me to know and do your will. May I always honor you and your kingdom purposes. Teach me your commands, that I may walk in them, and help me to live my life well before you concerning the decisions that are unique to my time and place. May I live a life that brings glory to Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.