Recently a young woman whom I greatly respect wrote to me in frustration saying, “I would love to respond in obedience to God’s call on my life- if only I had any idea what the heck it was!” I understand her angst, as I also spent too many years struggling with this sidetrack. Don’t misunderstand me- I believe the will of God is of utmost importance, but many times religion has muddied the matter beyond recognition and left many of us wallowing in despair and confusion, missing the simple and powerful truth in front of us. Religion taught me (directly and indirectly) that God’s will involved behavior above the heart and location above presence.
When people talk about God’s will it is almost always in relation to where they are to go or what they are to do; this is where many of us become distracted or paralyzed, waiting on God to spell out specific directions. Joseph and David were 30, Abraham 75, Moses 80 and Noah 480 years old when God came along and gave them a specific assignment. What did they do before then?
I dare say that God’s will is more about WHO we are than WHERE we go or WHAT we do.
“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27
What does it mean to be created in God’s image? How does God’s image translate to human form? Jesus walked this earth to show us just that.
“And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power” Hebrews 1:3
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Colossians 1:15
It was my quest to understand who Jesus is and what He taught that led my heart to adore Him. With new fascination I read and reread the gospels, falling more in love and coming alive to the incredible reality of being a child of God, made in His image. Reading the red letters in my Bible has incited the release of religion so I could grasp His heart. In doing so, my preoccupation with having to know where God wanted me to be and what I was supposed to be doing fell away; my heart came alive as I gazed at Him, and walking alongside Him became simple. Where am I supposed to be? In His presence. What am I supposed to do? Reflect His image. What does this look like? Look at Jesus!
And this is where I remain- gazing at Jesus. His simplicity baffles me and I’ve decided until I can comprehend and live out His simple teachings, I will not entertain complicated and cerebral theology. What is the will of God for my life? To love God with all my heart, all my soul and all my mind and to love my neighbor as myself. (Matthew 22:37-39) According to I Corinthians 13, if I followed all the rules, led a phenomenal worldwide ministry, saved thousands of people, gave millions of dollars, wrote dozens of books, performed mighty miracles, taught theology at the most distinguished of schools – but did not have love, I am nothing.
What is God’s will for me today? Start with the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew ch 6-8) where Jesus spells it all out- be salt and light to the world around you, love your neighbor, keep your mind pure, give to the poor, pray to your Father, don’t worry, don’t judge; in short, treat people the way you want them to treat you. This teaching isn’t meant to be a list of do’s and don’ts; it’s a reflection of what God’s image looks like reflected in humanity (us!). It’s meant to be lived out of the heart and in relationship with God.
Micah 6:8, I Thessalonians 4:3- 12, I Thessalonians 5:12-18, Romans 12:1-2, I Peter 2:13-16, I Timothy 2:3 give straight instruction of God’s will;
that all men come to the knowledge of truth,
act in justice, mercy and humility,
abstain from sexual immorality,
give thanks to God in everything,
be transformed by the renewing of our minds,
submit to authority
Notice all these instructions come out of WHO we are, God’s children- we can’t fulfill any of it otherwise. To attempt living God’s will without God Himself enabling us is vain religion.
God is not the cruel professor feeding trick questions in order to humiliate and flunk you- He’s the loving Father who is patient and faithful to complete His work in you (Philippians 1:6)! Rest in that promise and trust His word to be a light to your feet (Psalm 119:105) God is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13)
This is what I told my zealous young friend. God’s will for us begins with knowing who’s we are. As we surrender to His love and embrace our status as His child, we will reflect His image. Love God and love your neighbor- don’t let yourself be distracted with anything else (especially not the life draining worry that we don’t know God’s will!) He will guide you in the specifics. In the meantime, carry on loving Jesus and being the beautiful light He created you to be.