Like many raised in the church, I grew up thinking that I must discover God’s will and plan for my life. God’s sovereign will seemed to be very specific, involving very detailed plans of everyday life as well as the large decisions of life. This divine plan had to be sought out daily in prayer, reflected over while pouring over the Holy Scriptures, and always seemed like something that was just out of reach. Does God want me to go to this college or that one? Does God want me to go to college at all? Should I go up to the clerk at the gas station and “tell them about Jesus?” These were the kind of things that consumed me growing up and I find that many Christians are still consumed and anxious about such questions.
Along the way I have given up such a view of God and life. In the previous two posts, I have sought to explain a very different understanding of God’s Sovereignty and the idea of predestination. Whereas in the past many have considered finding God’s will as a scripted life, I have characterized it as the unscripted life. Rather than some script that one must discover each new page, or some sort of cultural script that defines certain accomplishments, possessions, and circumstances as happiness or success, the Jesus follower must live an unscripted life. In the second post, I described the kind of things that our human will and volition should be pointed towards– that of stewarding ourselves and the process of continually putting off that which burdens and keeps us from living a full life and opening ourselves to the new things that we encounter while following behind Jesus.
I am continually persuaded that God’s will is about character rather than circumstances. Such character involves a death to the old ways of life and putting on the life-giving traits of the Spirit. In my last post, Jason Thomley commented on how this process is described in Jeremiah 1 where God gives Jeremiah the two-pronged vocation of tearing down and planting. In Colossians 3, Paul describes this two phased process (that one could probably break-down into much more detailed steps). First, Paul starts out with the primary goal: Set your mind on things that are above (v. 2)! This is like the two greatest commandments of 1) Love God & 2) Love Neighbor that some of you lifted up in your comments on the last post. But like most of us, we look at Paul and say, “Yes, that’s right, seek the things that are above… okay, but how do I do that and what does that look like.” The same sort of thing happens when Jesus gives the two greatest commands in Luke 10. A religious scholar sly asks, “You have answered correctly, but who is my neighbor?” Just as Jesus provides the story commonly known as the Good Samaritan, Paul lays out some key ideas of what it means to set one’s mind on thing above. In verse 5, he says that we must put to death fornication, impurity, passion, and evil desire, as well as, get rid of anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language. Then in verse 10, he says that we must clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience while bearing with one another and forgiving one another and having love and thankfulness and peace, and letting the Word of God dwell in you while you sing to God. In verse 18, Paul he gives some practical steps for households. I’m sure if he wasn’t working with parchment or papyrus scrolls he might have written more and got more detailed.
What is God’s will? I might not be able to give a full answer, but I do know that it starts with character– with putting to death many things in our lives and clothing ourselves with traits that open up our spirits to Spirit of life.