How to Know God’s Will for Your Life

Do you feel confident that you’re in God’s will? Do you feel good about the decisions you’re making and the direction you’re heading? Are you sensing God at work in you, through you and for you?

Or is there some doubt and confusion? Do you sometimes feel like you’re groping around in the dark hoping you’ll stumble over His will for your life?

Have you pleaded with God to reveal His will only to be met with silence?

I’ve been there.

But what if His will is right there in front of us? What if we’ve been praying for something He’s already revealed?

In Matthew 17, Jesus takes His three closest disciples up on a high mountain. Verse 2 says, “There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.”

The Greek word for “transfigured” is “metamorphoo.” It’s where we get the word “metamorphosis.” It means to change into another form, like a caterpillar changing into a butterfly.

In Romans 12, Paul urges us to present ourselves to God as living sacrifices, to surrender ourselves to Him. It’s the logical thing to do based on all He’s done for us. Then verse 2 says:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

The Greek word for “transformed” is the same Greek word used in Matthew 17 for “transfigured.” In other words, the result of surrendering to God and renewing our minds is to be changed into another form, the form of Jesus. The process of renewing our minds is something we do in cooperation with the Holy Spirit as we spend time in His word, but He won’t make us do it. We don’t have to change if we don’t want to.

Verse 2 ends with:

Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Then. Not before. We discover God’s good, pleasing and perfect will after we surrender to Him and our minds are being renewed.

Paul says it like this in 2 Corinthians 3:16-18…

But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

The words “changed into” are again the word “metamorphoo.” God is making us more and more like Him, so that we can “see and reflect the glory of the Lord.”

Can I suggest that before we fret over knowing who to marry or what job to take or where to live or how we’re going to make it financially or how our difficult circumstances are going to work out that we instead focus on the main thing?

And the main thing is to renew our minds so that we’re changed into the image of Christ and can reflect Him to others. It’s learning to think like Him, talk like Him, love like Him, forgive like Him, give like Him, act like Him, plan like Him and serve like Him.

That’s God’s will.

For us to be like Jesus.

If that’s our priority, I promise all the other stuff will come into focus.

What to Do With Your Impossible Situation

I’ve been hesitating for several minutes before typing this first sentence. Do I really want to write this? Do I actually believe what I want to say?

In Matthew 15:21-28, a Canaanite woman comes to Jesus and begs Him to drive a demon from her daughter. I think most of us would expect Jesus to do what she asked. Instead, it says, “Jesus did not answer a word.” Hmmm, not exactly how we’d expect Jesus to deal with her.

She doesn’t give up. But then Jesus tells her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” In other words, my mission doesn’t include you. I came to the Jews.

This woman won’t quit though. She’s fighting for her daughter’s life, so she continues to ask for His help. That’s when Jesus seems to act out of character again. He says, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

Um, did Jesus just call this woman a dog?

Actually, there’s more than one Greek word for dog. The word he uses here is the word used for “puppy.” He’s not calling her a dog. His point is the same as earlier; His mission is to the Jews, not to the Canaanites.

I love her boldness and tenacity. “Yes it is, Lord. Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” She refuses to go away. The disciples have probably grown tired of her pleading, because they encourage Jesus to send her away.

I would love to have been there for this whole exchange. Jesus made it clear His mission was to the Jews, but she wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. It’s a stand off. Now what?

The next verse says, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed.

Wait. What happened? Why did Jesus change His tune? We’ll get to that in a moment.

I think we can take away at least two key points from this encounter–one from the woman’s example and one from Jesus’.

First, great faith means not quitting. If our request is met with silence, we don’t give up. We seek God and keep on seeking. Hebrews 11:6 is clear: “…He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

There’s a difference between seeking and earnestly seeking. The Canaanite woman was an earnest seeker and she was rewarded. We don’t see rewards going to the halfhearted, casual seekers.

The second point has to do with how Jesus responded. Even though Jesus was fully God, He had chosen to set aside His rights as God and lived as a man. Philippians 2:6-8 says, “…have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Jesus took on the limitations of humanity, but He was filled with the Holy Spirit and He walked in intimate communion with the Father. Both of those are available to us as well.

John 5:19 says, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

So I wonder if Jesus was in such intimate fellowship with the Father that when the woman kept insisting He help her, the Father whispered, “I’ve also sent you to her.” Could the same thing have happened at the wedding in Cana when Jesus’ mother tells him the wine has run out? He initially responded with, “Woman, why do you involve me? My hour has not yet come.”

Maybe for all His life Jesus had the sense that His hour had not yet come. He may have said this same thing many times. And He says it again at the wedding, but something was different this time. Maybe this time He heard the Father’s whisper, “It’s time now.” And then He turned the water into wine.

Without being in close relationship to the Father, Jesus would have missed the Father’s voice. The same is true for us. So what might God be whispering to you? What encouragement or instruction might He be giving to you today…that you’ll miss if you’re not seeking Him?

In John 14, Jesus goes on to say something even more incredible…

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Jesus modeled for us how to do life. He even said we would do greater works than He did. And that’s the reason I hesitated to even write this post. Greater works than Jesus? Really? What about the unanswered prayers? The people who weren’t healed? The relationships that weren’t restored? The bills that couldn’t be paid?

I don’t know.

I’ve seen God answer prayers. I’ve seen things that have no rational explanation. But I’ve also experienced unanswered prayers. So I have a choice. You do, too. We can set our sights lower and expect less, which I’ve written about before. We can conclude that God doesn’t do miracles any more and just settle for the best we can do. Of course, we’ll have to learn to ignore large portions of the Bible.

OR…

We can be like the Canaanite woman and be bold and tenacious. We can refuse to quit when the answer doesn’t come how or when we’d hoped it would.

AND…

We can choose to model our lives after Jesus and remain in intimate fellowship with the Father and believe and attempt things that seem impossible, because it’s the Father doing His work through us.

What are YOU going to choose?

Dealing With Disappointment

Of all the negative emotions we can experience…fear, anxiety, worry, shame, etc….I believe disappointment is one of the worst.

We’ve all experienced it. It’s that feeling of sadness or dissatisfaction when things don’t turn out like we’d hoped or prayed or counted on.

You wanted a new bike for Christmas. Instead, you got a sweater.

You thought for sure this would be the month you’d get pregnant, but didn’t.

The interview went so well. You just knew you’d be getting the job. But someone else did.

Your spouse promised to do better, then failed. Again.

You prayed. Your friends prayed. You believed. But the biopsy revealed cancer.

After saving for two years, you take your dream vacation. And it rains.

Negative emotions can be paralyzing. Fear keeps us stuck. Anxiety robs our joy. Worry steals our peace. Shame keeps us from intimacy with God.

And disappointment can block us from experiencing the abundant life God desires for us.

A number of years ago, I fought a losing battle with disappointment. I was praying and hoping and believing. I was expecting God to come through. And when He didn’t, at least not when or how I’d hoped He would, I was disappointed. Unfortunately, I nursed my disappointment until it grew strong and became disillusionment, anger and bitterness.

My solution was to take what I thought was the safe course of action…lower my expectations. If I expected little, I would be disappointed little. If I expected nothing, then I could avoid disappointment altogether.

So for many years, my prayers were small. They were general in nature. I avoided specific requests to protect me from the inevitable disappointment that would follow.

But thinking and praying like that is offensive and hurtful to God. If my children ever told me they were afraid to ask me for something because they knew I wouldn’t come through, I’d be devastated. I would feel like I’d failed as a father. How must God feel when I intentionally lower my expectations of Him?

Luke 11:5-8 says…

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

Shameless audacity. I love that. It’s like God is saying, “I dare you to ask big and keep on asking until I come through.”

What if during the month of November, we were to replace our disappointment with delight?

Psalm 37:4 says…

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

To delight in Him is to make Him the priority. It’s spending time with Him. It’s talking with Him. It’s allowing His word to penetrate our hearts and renew our minds. It’s learning to desire Him more than we desire things or easier circumstances. It’s choosing to believe He’s good, no matter what happens.

No, it won’t be easy. It will require faith. We will have to choose to believe God, not our circumstances or feelings.

But if we will choose to delight in Him, He will begin to shape our desires to match His. He will put His dreams in us and give us the courage to reach for them. He will dare us to ask for not only what we need, but what we want.

John 16:23-24 says…

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

If you’re like me, you’ve wrestled hard with verses like these. What about all those times we asked and were disappointed?

I don’t have a magic formula. I can’t explain why some people are healed and some aren’t. I don’t know why a teenage girl gets pregnant the first time she has sex and a godly woman who has tried everything can’t conceive.

But I do know this…God is good. And I cannot afford to allow my disappointment to ever chip away at that foundational truth. Doubting His goodness will lead to lowered expectations. And when I lower my expectations, I miss out on the joy of seeing Him do things only He can do. Read the passage again. The joy is not in the asking. The joy is in the asking AND receiving!

So choose to delight in Him. Crank up your shameless audacity and pray big. If the answer doesn’t come, then keep asking, but while you wait, also thank Him for being good. Try that everyday for a month. See what happens.

“Lord, I’m asking You for ________________. And I’m thanking you for being a such a good Father that You always know what’s best for me.”

I’d rather ask God for too much and perhaps suffer some disappointment along the way than lower my expectations and miss out on all He wants to do in me, through me and for me.

What about you?

Can You Be Trusted?

There are times when I struggle with trusting God, so it’s something I’m constantly working to get better at.

I invest time in His word. I thank and praise Him for His goodness, faithfulness and generosity. I try to take every thought captive and hold them up against the truth of His word. When I feel myself getting worried or anxious over my circumstances, I re-focus my eyes on Him. I have a long way to go, but I’m getting better.

While learning to trust God is crucial, there’s another question that’s just as important: Can God trust me?

I personally don’t know anyone who wouldn’t like to have more money or more influence or more answers to prayer or more success. I wonder what would happen though if God granted us the desires of our hearts.

What would happen if God answered your most passionate prayers? Would the world be a better place? Or would you just have more stuff and be more comfortable?

How would you handle 10x the amount of money you have now?  It’s tempting to think we’d be wonderfully generous with a large amount of money, but if we’re not generous with the amount we have now, that won’t change if we’re given more.

Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

When we delight in Him, He shapes our desires to be like His. If we’re not delighting in Him, then more than likely, our desires are more selfish in nature. And those aren’t the desires He grants.

In 2002, a West Virginia man won the Powerball jackpot of $315 million. Ten years later, his daughter and granddaughter were dead from drug overdoses. He’d also been sued multiple times. And once while he was at a strip club, someone drugged him and stole over half a million dollars in cash from his car. He later said, “I wish I’d torn that ticket up.”

Unfortunately, that story is not unique. Many lottery winners, professional athletes and celebrities get into a great deal of trouble as the result of their sudden great wealth and fame.

Of course, our natural reaction is to think that wouldn’t happen to us. We’d be different. We could handle the fame. The money wouldn’t change us. We’d be generous. We’d use it for good. And I’m pretty sure that’s what everyone says.

Great wealth or power or influence without character to match will crush us. It will also make us even more accountable to God. There’s a principle in His Kingdom: Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” (Matthew 13:12)

If we can’t be trusted with what God has already given us, then why would He entrust us with more?

Maybe some of the answers to prayer God withholds are a form of protection, because He knows we can’t be trusted. We want a greater assignment, which requires greater resources, but we don’t have the needed character. Romans 5:1-5 says…

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Character development for God-sized assignments takes time. It requires persevering through times of suffering, pain or confusion. It means being faithful with what we’ve already been given. It means learning to think more like God does. It’s a process of bringing our values in line with the values of His Kingdom.

So how are you doing with what you already have?

  • Are you seeking God and delighting in Him?
  • Are you sacrificially loving your husband or wife?
  • Are you raising your children to know Jesus?
  • Are you using your current level of influence for the advancement of God’s Kingdom?
  • Do you honor God with your wealth by giving generously?
  • Do you treat those around you with love and respect?
  • Do you use your time wisely and make the most of the opportunities God has given you?
  • Are you grateful to God for what He’s already given you?

The question really isn’t: can God be trusted?

The real question is…can you?

A Recipe for a Boring Marriage

On Thursday nights, I help lead a Young Life small group of college guys. Last week, we talked about marriage and I gave them the opportunity to ask questions. “Does marriage get boring?” was one of them. When I asked them what they thought, most of them seemed to think that it did.

How would you answer?

As I write this, Robyn and I are a little over 24 hours from hitting our one-billionth second of marriage. It’s fun that it just happens to fall on Valentine’s Day. (A billion seconds is about four months shy of 32 years for those keeping score.) So here’s what I can say about marriage becoming boring…if there’s some set period of time after which it happens, we’re not there yet.

Fortunately, our marriage is more fun and exciting and purposeful than it’s ever been. But can marriage get boring?

Absolutely. Here’s a recipe for growing a boring one…

Stop growing. Don’t read. Don’t listen to podcasts. Don’t expose yourself to new ideas.

Have no goals and pursue no desires.

Put yourself first and only meet your spouse’s needs if yours are met first.

Keep your focus on how bad your circumstances are and all the things that are wrong in your life and your marriage.

Constantly compare your spouse to others.

Go to any lengths to make your spouse understand you, but don’t try to first understand.

Live for small things like money, not great things like the Kingdom of God.

Let your appearance go.

Don’t seek help for the same negative emotions you’ve battled all your life.

If you must have sex, let it be infrequent and in the same way every time.

Let romance die after the newlywed phase.

Be serious all the time.

Be your spouse’s biggest critic. Most of your communication should be about what your spouse does wrong.

Hold grudges. Offer forgiveness sparingly.

Actually, this recipe is better for creating a marriage that ends in divorce. If, on the other hand, you’d like to create the marriage you’ve always wanted, download my complimentary eBook, “Friend and Lover.” You can get it here:

Friend and Lover eBook