Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On discerning God's will

My husband and I talked last night about how we are in a weird phase, like God is preparing us for change. We don't know what or how or when. Just that something's gotta give, sooner or later. If you've been in a season like this, then you know it raises questions and speculation regarding "God's will." What does He want for us? Which direction should we move in? What kinds of things should we be considering?

From my pre-college days, I've learned it's messy to start asking questions about God's will. When I was applying to schools as a high-schooler seriously agonizing over where "God wanted me to go," a wise friend challenged my thinking when she said, "I'm not sure God has a preference about what college you go to. Probably, you could choose where you want to go, and be the woman He wants you to be at any number of schools." My initial reaction was total disbelief, because in my mind, certainly God had the "right" college for me, and I just had to be clever enough to solve the puzzle of where it was (again, let's talk about how I complicate matters). She was right, of course. I've since learned that God's will for me is so much MORE about who I am and what I believe than what my circumstances are.

This morning, God was gracious to show me something else about His will. I started reading the book of Galatians, and as in many of his letters, Paul starts with an opener (that I almost skimmed over):

To the churches of Galatia:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
(v. 3-5)

It's the gospel, in a nutshell, isn't it? But then, in the very next verse, Paul jumps in with some harsh words:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
(v. 6-7)

Ouch. What a way to start a letter. Paul lays out the gospel, and then chastises the people in the churches of Galatia for turning away from it. And what caught my eye is his mention of God's will, the thing we all want to understand better.

Paul seems to be laying it out like this:

God's will put Jesus on the cross to deliver us from sin.
God's will is that we accept this gift and believe that Jesus took our place so that we can live under grace and be at peace with Him.
But you people have turned away and traded all this for something that can't really save you. There ISN'T actually anything else that can save you, but you are being deceived by the counterfeits.

"The gospel," by the way, is a fancy word that simply means "good news." The gospel of Jesus is good news because it explains the one and only way for a person to live in peace with a holy God.

And it's what I lean on. Most of the time.

Like the people in Galatia, I am surrounded by lots of other "gospels," things that promise to save me. Things that offer a deceptive kind of peace, a temporary, circumstantial peace instead of a lasting, personal peace with God. In my conversation with my husband about our future, it would be easy for us to put our trust in the gospel of money. Or the gospel of employment. Or the gospel of our own smarts and resources. Of course, all those are good things that we want. But the truth is that we can be Galatians. We can so quickly desert him who called us in the grace of Christ...and trust in something other than Jesus.

Back then and today, man has distorted the good news of Jesus in every possible way. You can find a book or religion to match any belief you want to hold, it seems. But even within our own churches, many are following other gospels. And no matter what statistics say, I think the biggest threat to the gospel of Jesus is the gospel of ourselves. That's the gospel I am tempted to follow most often.

The gospel of self sounds like, "I just need to figure this all out," and "If it all goes according to my plans..." A woman trusting in the gospel of self secretly hopes God is on board with all her ideas and expectations. I know this gospel all too well.

But in grace, the Lord has gently revealed the times I've deserted him to follow false gospels in my life. He's pruned me back so that I better understand his will for my life: that I trust in the one real gospel, the one true way to find grace and peace, and that is the gospel of Jesus. He is the only one worthy of my trust, no matter the circumstances.

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
John 14:6

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,  who gave himself as a ransom for all...
I Tim 2:5-6

What I ended my quiet time wondering is how many of us "deserters" need to return to the one true gospel. It's not easy, because sometimes trusting in Jesus means letting go of that security we feel when we believe we're in control. It sometimes means letting go of trusting in a black and white number on the bottom line. It sometimes means letting go of your expectations you've held onto for years like a security blanket. Expectations in marriage, in childbearing, in finances, in relationships, in health.

My advice, if you're struggling to wholly trust Him, is to throw yourself towards Jesus with abandon. He will catch you. He is not afraid to sort you out. He is the one who can give you the peace you've been looking for.  

If you want to be in the center of God's will, then believe Him. Don't just believe in Him. Believe what He says. And let go of everything else.



  1. goodness. the right words at the right time, leslie.......

  2. whew...so good leslie all of this. we have some decisions coming up about our future and that's all i've ever wanted is to do His will. but i know i let myself get in the way so often by probably making it so much harder than it really should be. this was to good to read and remember..thanks girl.

  3. Great post! We are in a season of transition and it is SO easy to trust in "the gospel of self". Silly how I praise Him when it goes well and think I can do it better if it has any bumps.

    Taking this to heart today. Thanks.

  4. What a post Leslie!! For so long I have had that "solving the puzzle" mentality. I am seeing how the Lord is retraining my brain away from this, this post reinforces that!

    Being the best woman for Him where I am at is a dang struggle, because there is a lot of "once this happens" attitude. Anyway, this post was a great way to start my day. So thank you!!!

  5. You spoke straight into my heart!I am learning this right now in my life and it has been a painful road. I almost at times dont know how to process actually giving it all to God because for YEARS i have held onto "control". It feels so foreign to me to not try and find the answers and just let go and let God. Thank you for your post ! It gave me something to reflect on as I go about my morning routine

  6. So good. SO SOOO good. A certain pastor I know always says love God and love others. That's it. That's God's will. Why do we always mess it up so bad???