As one of my former co-workers used to say "it's an odd little thing..". I have been saved, and in church for almost 19 years, and I have tried to be observant. I've observed quite a few things, and among those things is the misunderstanding God's people have about the "will of God".
It is not uncommon for a young man that is just entering the ministry to say something like "I'm praying for the will of God in my life" or "I'm seeking the will of God in my life". Sometimes they seemed absolutely paralyzed with indecision, lest they do something that isn't in the will of God for them. Though certainly commendable, one is left with the impression that the child of God lives his life in a large factory with cardboard boxes on a conveyer belt whizzing by. Somewhere in this metaphorical factory is a box with your name on it, and your tasking is, through observation (or prayer or fasting, or altar calls, or by other number of religious exercises) to find the box with your name on it, and climb inside, hereby placing yourself 'in the will of God'. If at any point in your life you climb out of the box, then you are now 'out of the will of God.' But is this a scriptural concept?
The Bible says in Romans 12:1-2," I beseech you therefore, brethren, by
the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies
a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world:
but be ye transformed by the renewing
of your mind, that ye may prove
what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" 1 John 2:15-17 reads," Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man
love the world, the love of the Father is
him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the
flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and
the pride of life, is not of the
Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away , and the lust thereof:
but he that doeth the will of God abideth
for ever." From these two passages, there are some things we can determine. We can determine that the will of God is knowable, as opposed to being mysterious. We can determine that the will of God for my life or yours is provable, as opposed to being guesswork. We can determine that the will of God isn't something you 'seek' or 'find'. It isn't something you stumble across while cleaning out the garage. It isn't something blazoned across the sky after you spend all night at a bench praying. The will of God is something that you DO.
Approaching it from that perspective, we now have to decide how we can figure out what it is we are supposed to be doing. Should we all retreat to our prayer closets and sit cross legged until we get a goose bump or a hunch or a feeling? Actually, finding out the will of God is the easy part; he wrote it down.
In 2 Peter 1:1-3, the Bible says " Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious
faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour
Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus
our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain
unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of
him that hath called us to glory and
virtue:" God has already given us everything we need in his word. He didn't give us 80 or 90% of what we need and then leave it up to us to figure out the rest. So the will of God, which you and I are supposed to be doing, is contained not in hunches or goosebumps, but in your Bible. Why you would waste 5 seconds chasing a hunch or a feeling or a goose bump when you have a Bible is beyond me. If we find an activity that is not knowable and provable and doable by the Bible , then it doesn't meet the criteria and couldn't possibly be 'the will of God'.
I'll give you some really practical examples. Before I was saved, it was the will of God for my life that I be reconciled to God by accepting his son. After I was saved, it was the will of God for my life that I go into all the world and preach the gospel. When I was single, it was the will of God for my life that I abstain from fornication. After I was married it was the will of God for my life that I love my wife and Christ loved the church. After we had kids it was the will of God for my life that w raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and it was God's will for their lives that they obey us. It is the will of God for my life that I be kind, edify the brethren, be thankful. The difference between all these things and what most people talk about when they talk about the will of God is that all these things can be known, proven to be true, and then performed.
The idea that God is going to tell you to do something that he didn't already tell everybody else to do is not only silly, it's dangerous. It is private revelation, which is unscriptural, and it elevates your feelings or hunches to the same level as God's word. So if you ask me "what does God want me to do with my life?" I would tell you to read your Bible!
A few years back we knew a dear couple that got it in their head that God wanted them to open a 'Christian' tattoo parlor. The husband of the couple told me that God had 'spoke' to him and informed him of this. I asked him where in the Bible had God spoken to him. He then let me know what I already knew, that had received a 'word' while in prayer. This 'word' just happened to line up with what he and his wife already wanted to do. I told him I could show him from the Bible that this couldn't possibly be what God wants him to do, and it became quite apparent in the ensuing discussion that they had experienced an emotion and signed God's name to it. They were unwilling to look at the Bible, instead defaulting to the 'leading of the Holy Spirit'. I said "You mean the same Holy Spirit who wrote the Bible?"
Of course equally dangerous as private revelation is this activity that I refer to as 'Bible roulette' where someone will just open their Bible to whatever passage it happens to land on, and then 'claim' that verse. The Bible commands us to meditate 'in' the scriptures, with verses in their proper place. This is my honest prayer when I have a decision to make; I ask God to show me what to do, and to show me out of my daily Bible reading. This obviously means I have to be reading my Bible daily to get the answer. Sometimes this means I wait longer than I want, but he has always proven faithful.
I know what you're thinking; well then, smart guy, what about specifics? How do I know whether or not I'm supposed to move to Mongolia or buy a Prius? Once again, the scriptures have the answer. In 1 Corinthians 16:5-9, the Apostle Paul tells us how he made his decisions. "Now I will come unto you, when I
shall pass through Macedonia: for I do pass
through Macedonia. And it may be that I will
abide , yea, and winter with
you, that ye may bring me on
my journey whithersoever I go . For I will not see
by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the
Lord permit . But I will tarry at Ephesus
until Pentecost. For a great door and
effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries." In Colossians 4:2-4, he says "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same
with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for
us, that God would open unto us
a door of utterance, to speak the
mystery of Christ, for which I am
also in bonds : That I may make it manifest ,
ought to speak." The Apostle Paul did the things he knew he was supposed to do until a door opened up for him to do the things God had told him to do in a different place or on a different scale. If the door didn't open up, he stayed where he was and did what he was already doing.
Someone asked me if my job was the will of God, and my reply was that it was the will of God that I work somewhere and since that's all I could prove, that's all I could worry about.
I am a complete failure in the ministry by most standards, and a complete hindrance to the ministry by my own reckoning. Repeatedly I have attempted to head to the mission field. I made plans to go to Zambia, and it fell apart. I made plans to go to the Middle East and God closed the door. I tried to go to Haiti and God shut down the entire United States government for 3 weeks to keep me from getting my passport. What did I do? I continued to perform the will of God where I am, while waiting for a door to open. If the door opens, I intend to perform the will of God someplace else. The commandments don't change, just the landscape. I also try not to worry about things I can't know, prove and do. It really does help.