God’s Will . . . how do you know?

Far-off, veiled, distant, unattainable – these are words that often seem associated with discerning God’s will for our lives and making decisions. We seem a bit conflicted, this group who call themselves Christian. We say Jesus is our best friend and he is the one who sticks closer than a brother. My best friends and brother speak to me pretty regularly, clearly and I can’t really miss out on what they have to say yet I can miss out on what Jesus says. Does that mean that I associate with a mute and capricious companion? No! So here are a few things I’ve gleaned as I have made some major life decisions and sought God’s will for my life.

     God speaks to people. Victor Shepherd reminded me in “Theology of the Human Person” that it is God’s address that defines God’s image in us. We are different than all of God’s creation because He talks to us.

     I have often wondered what was so special about Abram. Why did God call him out of Haran? Why did God talk to Abram? After all wasn’t he just some heathen nomad? After pondering that for a few years I realized that there probably was nothing special about Abram. God had a message and a plan for him. Abram listened, heard and responded. How much of God’s will do we miss just because we aren’t listening and even if we do hear something are we willing to respond? I am in full time ministry now but I believe God had been calling me since I was in my late teens. I know that I heard that call but I rationalized it away and chose to do something completely different.  Recently someone told me they knew God was calling them to do something. My question is how do they know? From personal testimony I know they are not praying or regularly reading their Bible. If we’ve got our fingers in our ears all we hear is our own thoughts. Please don’t take God’s name in vain when labelling His will with your preference.

     Even in the silence we need to engage God. A few years ago a very good friend of mine entered into a silent phase. We were separated by geography so we connected mostly through email. When I knew he was going to be closer over the Christmas holidays I tried to arrange to get together with him. My inquiries resulted in silence. I had suspicions about the reason for the response I was getting. So after a time I re-engaged him through email. Turns out my suspicions were correct. His silence was a message to me conveying what he needed – space. I was smothering him. The onus was on me to find out, talk to him about it and see what he had to say. Conversation is a two way street.

     Often we get to have a choice. While in Bible College I heard a speaker talk about our “Divine Destiny”. A tool he used and I continue to use when having these discussion with teens is this: imagine a Venn diagram with three intersecting circles. One circle is labeled “What gives God the greatest glory?” Another is labeled “What gives you the greatest joy?” The third is labeled “What most advances the Kingdom?” When these three circles are at their greatest point of overlapping you can be quite assured you are in the will of God. I have found places where these circles overlap to a great degree, at Echo Lake Camp and my present position at Trulls Road. I challenge each one to search out these three circles and see where that great overlap happens in your life.

     Here are some practical steps to help you with discerning God’s will and making choices: ask people who know you well to assess your gifts, strengths and abilities; find out your S.H.A.P.E.; take your church’s ministry class; try out new experiences and opportunities; do your Myers Briggs or other personality and gifts inventories; pray; read the Bible; spend time in solitude and reflection to listen and respond.

Rev. Kris Gowdy is the Student Ministries Pastor at Trulls Road Free Methodist Church in Courtice, ON

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