“I feel like that’s God’s will for my life.” “I just need to find God’s will for my life.” “I don’t really know what God’s will is for my life.”
As a college student, these three phrases can be heard regularly from my circle of Christian friends whenever the topic of what the future holds comes up in conversation. Common in our shared Christianese, “God’s will for your life” is a mystery everyone is trying to figure out.
That’s a problem.
God’s will was never meant to be a mystical enigma that we try to decipher. It’s not a magical recipe and we need to discover and then follow in order to please God. Unfortunately, in many of today’s churches, that’s exactly what “the will of God” has come to mean. When we ask ourselves what God’s will is, there’s a subconscious follow-up question beneath it: How can I do things that will make God happy with me? Christian culture is so keen on “application”—another Christianese word that might be translated as “making ourselves better people”—that we overextend it to areas that God never intended.
But Jesus has already clearly defined God’s will:
“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40).
God’s will is for people everywhere to come to salvation through saving faith in the work of Jesus Christ.
But there’s more.
Look two chapters earlier, John 4:31-34:
“Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, ‘Rabbi, eat.’ But he said to them, I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, ‘Has anyone brought him something to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.’”
Don’t miss the tremendous implication of these verses: the overwhelming task of saving sinners was food to Jesus, his very sustenance. A task that would crush anyone else literally fed Jesus; it was his life’s mission to save the lost (Luke 19:10).
This is the profound, life-altering truth about God’s will: God’s will is Jesus’ job. It’s his sustenance. It’s done.
In light of this, we can finally be honest and admit that the question we really want to ask—the question we’re masking by asking “what is God’s will for my life?”—is simply “what do I want to do?” And that’s ok! In Christ you are free to live life without the overwhelming question mark of “am I getting God’s will right?”
Don’t misunderstand this: obedience to God’s word and consistent submission to scripture, repentance, and prayer are not suddenly out the door. In fact, we can only live without the “am I getting God’s will right” question because the answer is so obviously, “no!” If anything, knowing that God’s work is accomplished and that in his eyes there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1), should propel us to eagerly pursue Jesus knowing that—having failed and been redeemed—we are eternally secure in Christ.
So what does it look like to live in God’s will? It doesn’t look like asking yourself what God’s will is at every crossroads in your life. Instead, it looks like being a sinner that is saved by Jesus—that is, being loved by God and, because we are loved, loving God and others.
The good news is that God’s will—the salvation of sinners—is not something for us to accomplish; we are far too under qualified for such a task. The good news about God’s will for our lives is that “It is finished.”