Figuring out God’s will can be amazing and life-giving, but it also takes some work. It might not come right away, and you might become discouraged. But don’t fear – God wants you in the centre of His will far more than you even want to be there yourself! Sometimes figuring out God’s will is a major life decision (or a broader question): Where should I study? What program should I major in? Should I marry this man (or woman)? Should I go to this church or that one? These are important questions that will likely direct the course of our physical, emotional, and spiritual lives and should not be taken lightly. At other times, God’s will might come in our questioning of the smaller things in life. I have the evening free for the first time in 3 weeks, does God want me to spend it with my family or in a ministry? How would God want me to respond to my co-worker who is giving me a hard time today? How does God want me to drive (you may balk, but I think any of us who have lived in Toronto knows this is a very legitimate question! In fact, I often have to repent whenever I drive on the 401…I’m sure I’m not the only one ).
While understanding God’s will is so personal and unique for each person here are a list of questions you can ask yourself that may help you determine your next steps.
Just to make things a bit easier, let’s focus on the “large” ticket items first. Questions of career path, educational study, or geographical location:
1) What breathes life into me?
2) What am I the most passionate about? What causes do I care so much about that I am willing to go to any length to see them brought to fruition?
3) What ministry do I feel most drawn to? Do I know why?
4) What gifts and natural abilities do I see in myself? How are they currently being used (or conversely, underutilized?)
5) Where do I see the greatest need in my community?
6) What do those closest to me (friends, family members, mentors) have to say about my line of thinking? What skills or abilities do they highlight in me? What areas have other people complimented me for where I really believed them? (this is not about being proud or humble, it’s an honest interior look at ourselves)
7) If I had $1 million right now, which charity or cause would I be most drawn to donate it to? If I chose to keep it for myself, what would I do with it to further the Kingdom?
8) What previous education or professional background can I see enhancing the direction I am currently being led in?
9) What recurring themes keep coming up? (When you hear multiple messages such as through a sermon, through friends, or through Scripture, I think it’s time to pause and take note) [Another way to phrase this: What doors keep opening and which keep shutting?]
10) Do I really have a heart for the people I feel led to serve? How do I know?
11) If I have family (spouse, children) and feel led to move, how will this affect them? (For this one it is crucial to not only pray but also to talk openly with your family before jumping into a new career or location.)
12) What subjects did I excel at in school? (While I do know of a few cases where God has called someone to a field they previously didn’t excel at and therefore I know it’s possible, I also urge you to be practical. I never finished grade 12 math, I’m pretty sure God is not calling me to be an accountant barring some miraculous intervention otherwise)
13) How does my personality fit (or not fit) with the area I am considering? (Again, there are some exceptions to this. For example, many pastors are introverts and yet preach incredible sermons. Many extroverts, like myself, have been employed as writers and editors. Yet, a profession which will unnecessarily drain you and where you feel like you can’t fully be yourself is likely going to lead to professional burn-out later on)
14) If I am considering a specific church or para-church ministry what about the congregation (or organization) interests me? Can I see myself aligning with the ethos and overall vision statement for the most part? Can I see myself agreeing theologically with the main statements of faith? If there are discrepancies, are the areas I disagree with deal-breakers? (For example, I always say as long as I agree with 80% of a church’s or para-church’s theology I am fine to work for them. As a theologian, I realize I will never find any organization where I am 100% in line with everything stated. But here’s where I realize my limits. I am charismatic, but I would still work for an organization that believes Spirit Baptism is not for this generation. That’s fine. I’m even okay when churches tell me not to teach their kids about it. However, if a church outright denied a fundamental area of my faith such as salvation or justification by faith, I would be out of there, no questions asked. These areas differ for each person).
15) Practically speaking, how does this ministry align with my other obligations? If it is unpaid, would I be able to work part time or help raise my own funds? If I have young children, how can I properly balance time with my family? If I am single, how can I still maintain friendships?
Now let’s say we are making a daily “smaller” decision. Here are some questions to ask:
1) If I choose to act or re-act in a certain way, how will other people perceive it? Especially if I work largely with non-Christians who don’t have contact with other Christians, will this further my witness or take away from it?
2) If Jesus were to physically walk into my work today and see me interacting with a client or co-worker the way I currently intend to, what would He say about it?
3) Will cussing another driver out or losing my cool really help me get to the place faster or will it simply elevate my blood pressure? Is it worth it? If I have passengers in the car with me (especially young children) how will my behaviour affect them? What strategies can I use to calm myself down?
4) If I am honest with myself, where do my daily priorities lay? How do I usually choose to spend my time? What can I reduce or give up entirely to make space for the things that really matter to me? What life-giving activities can I presently increase so that I find the most joy and fulfillment?
5) What arguments can I avoid because they simply aren’t worth having? Conversely, when do I need to speak up to defend the people who mean the most to me (spouse, children, friends).
6) What friendships should I invest the most heavily into because they breathe life and we both enjoy each others company? Which friendships should I limit because they are draining, toxic, or always end in arguments?
7) What areas of my faith do I feel like I have compromised on recently? What should I do about that?
8) Who are some Godly and mature people who can mentor me and help hold me accountable? (Here I generally would encourage your mentor to be the same gender as you or else a married couple. This reduces any temptation and makes it all the more comfortable to share whatever’s on your mind with someone who likely can connect a bit better with your struggles)
9) What church groups or other fellowships can I be a part of that would help keep me on the right path but also where I can give back and encourage others?
10) If I am a student, what extra-cirricular activity could I give up to make space for Bible reading and prayer? (By extra-cirricular I am referring to anything not directly linked to your schooling. I don’t necessarily mean basketball or softball practice, I mean things like excessively scrolling Facebook or checking your phone. Is it possible to put your phone on airplane mode for even 15 minutes a day while doing your daily devotions?)
11) If I am in Bible College, Seminary, or studying theology…what extra measures do I have to put in place to make sure the Bible is still speaking to me in a living and breathing way rather than becoming a mere textbook?
12) What growth have I seen in myself? What growth have other people noticed?
13) What seemingly small, unnoticeable act can I use to encourage and build someone else up today? What random act of kindness can I engage in?
14) If I am visiting a restaurant, hotel, or even fast-food chain how can I maintain my integrity rather than looking down on another person. (You’d be amazed but when I was in Edinburgh I noticed that so many people mistreat fast-food workers by being excessively demanding, rude, or arrogant. The same thing happens in Canada, the U.S. and virtually every country I’ve been to. I urge you not to look down on someone who has a job you don’t feel is “as important” as yours, but rather see them as a living human being and realize they have the same needs as you do).
15) If I am walking past a rough-sleeper today, what can I do to lighten the person’s load? (You don’t necessarily have to give money, but you can at least consider a smile, a nod, or a quick “hello.”)