Learning God’s Will

There was a point in my life where I wanted to know without a doubt God’s will for my life. But I didn’t know how to go about discovering it. I felt my options were to passively wait for God to do his will, or take ownership of everything and forge my own path. In short, I had a will and I didn’t know how it was supposed to interface with God’s will.

What helped me figure this out is a story about King David.

To catch you up on the context of the story I’m about to share: Saul is king, but David has been anointed king by Samuel the prophet, and Jonathan, Saul’s son, is David’s best friend. David has gained fame and Saul is upset because he knows the kingdom will be taken from him and given to David. So, Jonathan helps David hide and learns from Saul that he wants David dead. Jonathan gets David out of town and now David is on the run. David comes to a city that he thinks might be able to help him, and this is what happens:

That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances:

“‘Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands’?”

David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.

Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?” (1 Samuel 21:10-15)

David was in trouble. He thought that the king of Gath might turn him over to Saul. What did David do? I can assure you he didn’t passively “let go and let God.” He took an active stance and sought to preserve his life. He pretended to be insane. God didn’t come to him and tell him to feign insanity to get out of a jam. (In chapter 22 he does hear instructions from God through a prophet so it isn’t out of the question that God can speak in personal ways.)

David was neither passive nor controlling. He knew God’s will was for him to be king, so knowing that. he acted to preserve his life.

But King David is a complex figure. He does things right, he does things wrong. He trusts God and kills Goliath, and he writes psalms. But later he commits adultery and murders Bathsheba’s husband to cover it up. His daughter is raped and as king he does nothing. His son Absalom rebels and tries to take the kingdom from David yet David does nothing. He has blood on his hands in killing political rivals. His first born of Bathsheba (the wife he stole from Uriah) dies in infancy. Towards the end of his life he takes a census of the fighting men against what God wants. Yet despite all the crap, he is still considered a man after God’s own heart.

It is David’s complexity that I can relate with. He lives life in the trenches, making errors and repenting. David is a picture of what it is like to seek God sometimes and fail to seek God others. He illustrates how we can be consumers of God’s resources, owners of God’s resources or stewards of God’s resources.

Stewardship is what we want, consumers are passive, and owners over controlling. In short, when we are consumers we are passive in doing God’s will because we feel like “if I get involved I’ll screw it up,” or “I don’t know what God’s will is so I won’t try.

Owners treat what is God’s as their own. This leads to attempts to control what is out of your power, whether that is a job, project management, friendships, child rearing, or anything else. Our sphere of influence becomes a sphere of ownership.

Stewards are in the proper mindset to know that they are entrusted with God’s resources, it is God’s job, God’s money, God’s project, Gods children, God’s people that he is giving to us to care for. Stewardship avoids passivity/inactivity. Stewardship also avoids ownership and the need to control what is outside of our control.

David moves between steward, consumer and owner, again and again.

I believe most people fall into a false dichotomy, their default is either consumership or ownership. Both are out of joint with God’s will.

God has a will. We each have a will too. A will that God created. The purpose of having a will of our own isn’t to simply give it up and not use it, to let go and let God. It is to bring it into alignment with God’s will. That is the hard part. But we do that through prayer. Prayer is how we can do the will of God with our own will. It isn’t a relinquishing of our will, it is a changing of our will.

In the Lord’s prayer where we say “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” we are not primarily talking about governments and history. We are talking about God’s will being done in us, so that our will is in union with God’s. That is discipleship and that is how we become stewards of our sphere of influence.

What is your attitude towards your sphere of influence?

What is God’s will for you and your sphere of influence?

If you are unsure, how can you find out? (Hint: 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 is a good start)