One of my favorite pastors, Tim Challies out of Canada, wrote something on his blog today that caused me to pause and ponder a key question. Is it important to understand God’s will for your life?
At first glance, I would say, of course it is because God designed you and equipped you to fulfill a specific purpose in his ultimate plan. Like Tim explained, it’s not that God doesn’t have a plan for you. Rather, perhaps we are too focused on trying to understand what that plan is rather than following God’s prompts regarding the next step we should take.
“God does not mean for you to pry back the curtain of his hidden will. Instead, God means for you to respond to the leading of his revealed will,” Tim wrote.
In fact, he noted that when these three things converge, you can be confident you’re taking the right step along the course he laid out for your life. They are:
- Scripture – Does the Bible support this kind of activity? For example, is it God’s will for you to leave your spouse, or engage in deceptive business practices? Probably not.
- Providence – God’s foreseeing care and guidance over people and earth’s creatures. Is what you want to do serving people or providing good stewardship of God’s creation and his resources?
- Desire – Is this something your heart, mind and conscience agree you should do? Satan can sometimes influence your thinking and heart’s desires. But, if something doesn’t seem right, then perhaps you should pause and reconsider.
“If there are multiple options that exist at that point of convergence, you can confidently choose any of them and trust that God will bless you,” Tim wrote.
It reminds me of the scene in Karate Kid where wise Mr. Miyagi takes his protege, Daniel, into the backyard where several old, but perfectly preserved cars are lined up, stretches out his arm and tells the teen to simply choose one as a gift.
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Whatever you’re contemplating at this stage in your life, if Scripture, Providence and desire line up, then all the options line up with God’s will and you can simply pick the one you most feel drawn to pursuing.
It’s not always going to be sunshine and unicorns. Satan will certainly throw up roadblocks to entice you to quit just so you’re miserable and God gets no glory. You might think you made the wrong choice when you’re perfectly aligned with God’s will.
Sometimes God will test your commitment as well before bringing real blessing into the situation. But you don’t have to worry about being out of God’s will in whatever option you choose.
Pursue what is plainly obvious
Which brings up another one of Tim’s points. Your greatest focus should always be on whatever is plainly God’s will right now.
“Better than focusing on what God may have for you a year or a decade in the future is doing what God has provided for you today,” Tim explained. “For while God’s will for the future may be difficult or impossible to determine, his will for the present is usually not.”
I know my life has ventured down many paths, each of which served a specific purpose at the time. While some of the ventures did not end as I would have hoped, it does not mean I wasn’t walking in God’s will for each one of them. After all, God used each venture to prepare me for the next step toward what would be my ultimate destiny.
God certainly doesn’t waste our mistakes, either. He uses them to grow our dependence upon him and to teach us what to avoid in the future.
Are you pursuing ‘purpose’ or ‘destiny?’
Many people confuse destiny with purpose. I know I did. I stumbled through a variety of jobs over my lifetime. When each phase ended, I may have been convinced I wasn’t walking in God’s purpose. After all, aren’t we supposed to succeed in everything when we are walking in God’s will?
That’s not necessarily true. For example:
In my teens, I worked at McDonald’s and was convinced I needed to go into restaurant management. That didn’t work out as I hoped, but it instilled a desire to be involved in a business. It also instilled in me a solid work ethic that I enjoy today.
In my early 20s, I wanted to be a police officer. I went through years of training, but abandoned it just as quickly. My desire had always been to help others in challenging situations, but being the tough guy upon occasion wasn’t suited to my unique personality.
When that effort “failed,” it opened the door for a stint in the military because I really didn’t want to go back to school to try something new. However, the U.S. Air Force trained me to be a journalist. I didn’t like the regiment of military life, but I learned I was really good at writing.
In my late 20s, after leaving the military, I started my own photography business, which was very successful relatively quickly, yet ultimately failed. Even though I was not yet a Christian, God was testing to see if I would pursue a business at all costs or be the father I never had to my three daughters. That experience also confirmed a desire to be in business for myself, just not in retail.
So when the business ended, I returned to college to get a degree in public relations. However, “spinning” unfavorable issues and situations into a more positive light wasn’t exactly scriptural. Yet, the writing aspects of that career proved I needed to be utilizing that skill.
Which opened the door to becoming a magazine editor serving small business owners. Now, we’re getting closer to a true purpose that was ideally suited for me. But, working for a corporation was a real pain in the posterior. I needed to be in business for myself.
So, when a door opened to launch my own publication, I was prepared and it flourished for many years, until it ended abruptly.
That experienced pushed me into a dark time where, for four years, I lacked a sense of purpose in my late 50s. Was it God’s will that I be “stuck” for years without anything meaningful to do or obvious direction for my life? Yet, during that time, he continued to provide for all my needs as though he had my life in a holding pattern.
Yet, would any other situation have prepared me to start the Forward From 50 platform to help other men and women over 50 to identify and pursue a purpose for their lives? Probably not.
Focus on one step at a time
Were all those experiences out of God’s will for my life? If so, then I wasted a lot of time chasing down rabbit holes.
Or was each experience a single step toward my ultimate destiny — the one God created me specifically to accomplish?
I wonder how I would have responded at age 20 if God had told me my destiny would be to create a website and online platform to help people over 50 to discover their purpose.
First, I would have wondered what an online platform even was. Second, I’d probably have thought if a “geezer” didn’t know what he or she was supposed to do by the time they were 50, then there wasn’t anything I could do to help them. But, God had another plan. I just needed to see the situation from his perspective.
“The fact is that life is a succession of days and days are a succession of moments,” Tim wrote. “While you may not have utter clarity about what God means for you to do in a month, year or decade, it’s rarely difficult to discern what God means for you to do right now.
“The man who is faithful to honor God in each moment cannot possibly be said to have wasted his life. The woman who seeks to do what God has made plain in a day will never be said to have lived without meaning,” he added.
“If you live each moment in obedience, then you will live each day in obedience; and if you live each day in obedience, then you will, in time, live your entire life in obedience,” Tim explained. “If you are faithful to do God’s will in each moment, you’ll eventually do God’s will in a lifetime. And God will be well pleased.”
What is God calling you to do now?
Pastor Tim Challies’ full blog post, is available at www.challies.com. His book, “Run to Win: The Lifelong Pursuits of a Godly Man,” is available at Amazon.com. If you click on the link to buy it, Forward From 50 might earn a small commission.
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.