There is an old story preachers tell about a man trapped on the top of his house during a flood/hurricane/tsunami (insert your own natural disaster). The water is swiftly rising. As this man sits on his roof, fearful of being swept away by the current, he cries out to God, “God please deliver me!”

A few moments later, a farmer friend arrives with his boat. “Hey, friend, want a ride to safety?” he asks.

“No,” replies the man on top of his house. “God is going to deliver me.”

An hour later, the water is up to the gutters. A voluntary rescue person comes by on his yellow raft. “Hey, let’s get you off of there—and on to safety,” he yells.

But the man on top of his house refuses to go. “God is going to deliver me.”

Another hour passes and now the water is halfway up the roof. Roof Man is now on top of his chimney, nervously looking down at certain death and destruction.

Fortunately, a Red Cross volunteer swings by in a canoe and offers to ride Roof Man to safety. But Roof Man refuses. “No, God is going to deliver me.”

A couple of hours pass by and the water sweeps over the top of Roof Man’s house. He is carried away by the current and drowns. When he gets to Heaven, he meets Jesus and says, “I though you were going to deliver me.”

Jesus looks down at Roof Man and says, “I sent a boat, an inflatable raft, and a canoe—but you refused each one.”

We’ve all heard this story and every time we hear it, we laugh, right? But quite often this is the story of our attempts to discern God’s Will.

I can’t tell you how many college students tell me, “I just want to do God’s Will.”

This is good. I wish more young people would surrender themselves to God’s plan for their lives.

But quite often those well-meaning college students or teenagers or even young married folks act as if God’s will is some sort of vague, hazy thing. A vapor that can’t be grasped. It’s almost as if they want God’s Will, but don’t ever think they’ll have a shot at actually finding it.

It really doesn’t have to be this way. Here are two truths that should change the way we think about God’s Will.

  1. It is Satan who wants us to be confused, directionless, and ineffective. 
  2. It is God who has a preordained plan for us, who has given us specific steps, and who wants to see our lives matter.

So, knowing those truths, how do we wrap our arms around that seemingly mysterious thing called “God’s Will”? Here are four concrete ways in which God speaks to us:

1. God speaks through circumstances. Its funny, Christians routinely blast atheists and atheism, but we ourselves often act as if there is no God. We complain about the uncontrollable events in our lives as if we’re just here by chance, left to sort life out on our own.

But life isn’t dog-eat-dog. God is in charge of this world. God is in charge of our little world. And the events that He allows—getting fired from a job, meeting a future mate, getting rebuked by a pastor or Christian leader, the family we were born into, the town in which we live, the skill sets, talents, and gifts we possess—are all part of God’s divine blueprint for our success.

None of this happens by chance. God is not up in Heaven pounding His fist against His head saying, “Whoops, I really messed up with Dan.” No, God didn’t mess up. God didn’t make a mistake. God isn’t ever caught by surprise.

So you can do one of two things. You can continue to live as the world lives. You can stick to the motto, “Life is random, you get out of it what you make of it, I can’t help the way I am.” Or you can embrace your life—your life right now—as God’s will.

Yes, what happens to you that’s out of your control is God’s Will for your life.

2. God speaks through opportunities. Remember the guy with the boat? God presented him opportunities and he refused them. A long time ago I had a friend who constantly agonized over every decision, every opportunity, and wondered, “Is this God’s will?”

Meanwhile, God presented him opportunity after opportunity. He wanted to get married, but no girl was good enough. Oh, but he didn’t say that. He said really good spiritual things like, “It’s not God’s Will.” Oh yeah? Did you talk to anybody about it? Did you pray about it? Did you ever consider that this could be an opportunity to explore?

And on and on it went with this guy. A dozen ministry and job opportunities were presented, but he never pursued any of them. He hemmed, hawed, quoted a lot of Scripture verses, but never made a move.

10 years later I had lunch with him. And even though he’s held down a job and even gotten married (finally found Miss Right), he’s still in that pondering, hemming and hawing stage. I fear that at the end of his life he’ll be like Roof Man and God will say, “I brought along this opportunity and that opportunity and you refused to take them.”

God works through open doors and opportunities. It’s that simple. These are not just “lucky” occurrences. If you want to do God’s will, do as one of my Bible College professors used to say, “Go. Do something and God will direct you.”

3. God speaks Through spiritual counselors and mentors. This is where most of us slip up. We live a lone-ranger Christianity and refuse to listen to wise spiritual counselors. I believe that God’s plan for the Christian in this age is through the local church. Every believer should not only be a part of a local church, but should voluntarily put himself under the accountability of that church.

Now, for young people, this is a tough sell. Why should I let a pastor or anybody control my life? But the truth is this: the Bible talks over and over about the value of wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to make good decisions, spiritual decisions, and God-honoring decisions.

But young people don’t have a lot of wisdom. That’s why we need to sit at the feet of pastors, trusted lay-leaders, parents, mentors, etc. Every major decision I have ever made in my life I have done with the approval and consent of my pastor. Why? I trust my pastor. He’s a man whom God has sovereignly put into my life to help guide me.

And you know what? I’ve been blessed every time. There have been many moments when I have had what I thought was a really good idea. But people I trust, who have more spiritual wisdom than I do, raised questions. They said, “Hmm, I’m not sure this is a good idea and here is why.”

You too have spiritual mentors in your life—if you don’t, find some in your church. Seek their wisdom. Seek their accountability. Seek their unbiased opinion.

A wise person will take such advice as God speaking to them. That is God’s will.

4. God’s will is revealed in God’s Word. How basic, but how true. The fact of the matter is this: 99 percent of what God wants to you to do in your life is spelled out in His Word. And here’s a news flash for you. God is not going to mysteriously lead you to do something that contradicts His Word.

Ask yourself these questions:

How much of God’s revealed Word are you following now?

Are you faithfully seeking Him on a daily basis through Bible study and prayer?

Are you active in ministry at a Bible-believing church?

Are you sharing your faith?

Are you doing your best to live apart from sin?

Are you faithful to your spouse?

Are you seeking satisfaction in Christ instead of the world?

These are just a few of many areas where the Bible touches our lives, where God’s Word is revealed to us in simple, concrete, direct language. And you and I can't escape it.

Quite often, Christians try to blend their own sinful lifestyles with the teachings of Scripture and then they wonder why they can't ever seem to discover “God's will for their lives.” But unconfessed sin keeps you from closeness to God.

Its not that God expects us to be perfect. But are you honestly living for Him, seeking Him, and doing your best to obey His commandments?

If so, guess what, pinch yourself, you’re in God’s Will.

Daniel Darling is the author of Teen People of the Bible. Visit him at danieldarling.com.