This post follows last week’s discussion, How to Know God’s Will.
As we seek to know the will of God, we often become distracted.
Through my years of discipling believers and walking my own path, I’ve seen challenges emerge and effectively remove us from our Christ-centered journeys. These diversions come in many forms but most fall into one of the following three types.
We become distracted from God’s will when self-preservation rises its domineering head. This drive for self-sufficiency runs counter to a Christ-centered life. The focus on personal control, wealth, or other egocentric motivations cannot co-exist with our call to abide fully in Christ (John 15:1-7; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
The Bible includes many stories of lives impacted by this distraction. The impatience of Abram and Sarai caused a fateful decision (Genesis 16:1-2). Achan’s greed for wealth overpowered his desire to follow God’s directions (Joshua 7:20-21). The nation of Israel’s fear overwhelmed their knowledge of God’s provision (Numbers 13:31-33). Self-preservation stepped in and distracted from their intention to do the will of God.
2) Life Plan vs God’s Will
We become distracted from God’s will when we confuse it with a “life plan.” My life plans — to raise my children, write a book, be a math teacher, design a skyscraper, research cancer cure, and other goals — are an expression of God’s will. His will for us is to know Him and to make Him known (John 17:3, 25-26). We are called to this mission throughout our lives… regardless of our circumstances. (Read about Joseph’s life in Genesis 37 & 39 to really appreciate this!)
A mysterious tension exists between our understanding of God’s foreknowledge of our life and our free will to make choices. I do continue to puzzle on this with my finite and limited human brain cells.
One thing that I do not find support for in the Scripture is the belief that God has an exact life design for us, e.g. one specific college for each of us to attend, one particular church that we should join, one explicit house that we need to buy. The implication of this theology is that if we missed the “signal”, then we are out of God’s will… perhaps forever. That is terrifying and paralyzing!!
Rest assured, though! The Lord knows us and knows our future (Luke 12:6-7; Jeremiah 29:11). He knows the days of our lives, including our future choices that bring vocation and family. We do indeed need to pray for wisdom and for guidance for these choices. God also gave us creative and intelligent minds to examine life through the lens of Scripture (Romans 12:1-2, 14:5). We seek to live a faithful life that is true to the gifts and talents that He gave to us (Ephesians 4:11-12).
3) The Task is Too Big
We become distracted from God’s will when the assignment seems so big, so unreachable. When we sense God’s prompting for a new direction, sometimes the enormity of it can make us dismiss it. We may have the gifts and the talents but the path we have glimpsed appears too difficult or too complicated to realistically explore.
But wait! Don’t allow the hugeness of the task distract you!
For example: You may be deeply burdened by the problem of homelessness but feel the impossibility of solving this issue in your city much less our country. Instead of walking away from this potentially divine commission, choose to take small steps and survey the possibilities.
- Research homelessness in your community. Browse websites for soup kitchens and food pantries in your area. Read about Habitat for Humanity.
- Offer to volunteer a few hours with an organization to get to know them better.
- Keeping looking until you find the place that most needs the gifts and talents that you can offer.
Stay connected and continue to make a difference in your community. You never know where your faithful responses to serve in the small things will take you (Matthew 25:23).
Examine your situation. Are any of these distractions active in your life? How so?
Seek counsel. Talk with fellow believers as you ponder God’s will, His calling, and your life plan. Feel free to contact me if you are looking for someone to think and pray through your situation.
Pray and pray more! Ask the Lord to reveal any unresolved issues that could be preventing your next step. Be sensitive to His leading also for the timing of your next step.