Do you sometimes feel like you're driving through life without a map? Do you find yourself confused and frustrated when facing decisions?
If so, take heart. God cares about every detail of your life and wants to guide you through it. He is willing to reveal His wisdom to you for all decisions - both minor (such as whether to attend a certain event) and major (such as whether you should marry the person you're dating).
Here's how you can discover God's will for you and live in the center of it:
Get to know God's general will for you. Understand that God's overarching plan for you - as it is for everyone - is to bring you to a saving relationship with Jesus and transform your character to reflect Jesus' love of God and people. Make it your top priority in life to pursue that relationship with Jesus, knowing that everything else will flow from that.
Get to know God's specific purposes for you. Realize that God created you to fulfill specific purposes. Identify your talents, skills, and desires. Then think and pray about them, asking God to reveal His purposes to you and give you a clear sense of your calling. Make decisions about how to spend your resources (time, energy, and money) on a regular basis in light of your knowledge about your calling so you can fulfill it well.
Read and study God's Word regularly. Read the Bible often, meditate on what you read (while asking the Holy Spirit to help you understand each passage), and apply that knowledge to your life by acting on it. Try to devote 15 to 30 minutes each day to studying the Scriptures.
Don't let discouragement defeat you. If you've been struggling to deal with a particularly frustrating situation for a long time, don't quit praying about it. Remember that there is nothing God cannot do. Trust that God will answer you - when the time is right. Understand that a delay in hearing from God simply means that His perfect time hasn't yet come to give you an answer, and there's always a good reason why. Be patient and trust that God is at work behind the scenes.
Listen for God's voice. Remember that prayer isn't just talking to God - it's also listening to Him. Don't fill all your prayer time with just your own voice speaking. Spend time in silence, away from distractions, actively listening for what God may whisper to your heart.
Take your eyes off yourself and set them on God. Rather than focusing on your dreams and desires, focus on the God who wants to give you what's best for your life. Delight yourself in God by choosing to trust Him with all your heart, even in the midst of difficult circumstances. Commit every aspect of your life to God. Don't block God's plans for your life by limiting ways in which you're open to following Him. Instead, make yourself completely available to God to use however He would like.
Invite God to shape your desires according to His will. Recognize that your most heartfelt desires may be from God, but you need to discern whether they're truly His plan for you or just your own plan that you're trying to get Him to bless. Don't push your own agenda on God; seek to join Him in what He is doing. Be truly open to whatever plans He may have for you. Ask Him to align your desires with His will by changing ones that don't fit into His plans into ones that do. Use a journal to keep track of your desires, how they change, and how they are ultimately fulfilled.
Step out in faith. Once you hear some guidance from God, act on it. Do as much as you know to do until He sheds new light on your path. Turn your dreams into specific goals, and your goals into plans that detail how you'll go about trying to reach those goals. As you move forward, keep praying and keep investigating your options. Seek advice from people whose spiritual maturity you respect. Understand that obstacles may be tests from God designed to strengthen your faith. Persevere.
Look for signs of God's intervention in your life. Know that God will use the past, present, and future to work in your life in a providential way, weaving all things together for good purposes. Pay attention to doors He opens and those He closes. Pray for the wisdom to discern the truth about events in your life that seem miraculous. Ask God to help you learn what He wants you to learn from them.
Surrender to God. Don't block God's best for you by withholding a part of yourself from Him. Surrender your body to God by staying sexually pure, eating nutritiously, avoiding substances that harm your body (like the nicotine in cigarettes), getting the right amount of sleep, and exercising to stay fit. Surrender your mind to God by taking every thought captive and refusing to dwell on thoughts that don't please God (negative thoughts and those that don't align with biblical values) and choosing to focus on thoughts that do please Him (positive thoughts that reflect His values). Surrender your will by giving your desires, goals, and plans - about your relationships, career, and every other part of your life - to God and telling Him that you want what He wants for you even if that conflicts with what you want right now. Understand that if you surrender to God, He will bless you by revealing more of His will to you and acting to bring about good in your life.
Wait for God's peace. Before making a decision, ask yourself: "Am I truly at peace with the direction I plan to take?" If not, take that as a warning signal to stop and wait. Move forward only when God has given you His peace about the decision.
Wait for God's timing. Know that God's timing is perfect. Understand that rushing into a decision can easily result in a mistake. Ask yourself: "Does this decision need to be made now? Am I the one to make this decision? Would it be best to wait? What are the pros and cons of waiting?" List the reasons why you think it may be the best time to make your decision. Ask God to either confirm that the timing is right or confirm that you should wait.
Make time for rest and contemplation. Take time out from busyness on a regular basis to rest and think about all that's going on in your life. This will help you achieve a clearer perspective on decisions you need to make.
Resolve to accomplish God's mission for you. Don't waver from your resolve to do God's will, despite what it may cost you personally. Ask yourself: "Am I open to whatever might occur once the decision is made? Do I desire God's outcome and not my own?"
Ask God for wisdom and courage. Realize that you need a steady supply of both. Pray for both wisdom and courage daily.
Understand the true meaning of success. Don't be fooled by our fallen world's definition of success - achieving wealth, fame, and power. Realize that true success - success that lasts for eternity - is doing God's will to accomplish the purposes for which He created you. Whenever you fail by making wrong decisions, ask God's forgiveness and power to move on. Learn from your mistakes. When you begin good work for God, work to complete it. When things go right for you, thank God and give Him the glory. Live a life of integrity so you can leave a legacy of faith that will inspire others to seek and do God's will in their own lives.
Adapted from Finding Your Way: A Guide to Discovering God's Best for Your Life copyright 2005 by Gary LaFerla. Published by Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.bakerbooks.com. You can purchase a copy at Christianbooks.com
Gary LaFerla has a broad and diverse background in both international business and Christian ministry. He is senior pastor of Calvary Chapel in Akron, Ohio.