Christina had just finished her undergraduate program with a degree in elementary education. She was praying about a job when two different offers came in from Christian schools several hundred miles apart. The decision-making process turned out to be tougher than anticipated. Either position appeared to represent a good opportunity. Christina reasoned, "They can't both be calls from God. I have this nagging fear that however I choose, I may be getting out of His will."
Young adults face plenty of significant decisions: Where should I go to college? What major should I choose? Where will I work? Whom should I marry? What does God want me to do with my life? More than a few Christians have worried that a wrong turn might set life on a less-than-ideal trajectory. Is there one right choice in a case like this? Can the Lord reset the dominoes we knock over if we make a mistake? We've all second-guessed ourselves and asked such questions in moments of indecision.
Scripture has a lot to say about God's plans. For individuals. For nations. For history. It's in our best interest to seek after His will. But what does that mean, and how can adolescents make pivotal choices with confidence?
In His Heart a Man Plans His Course …
We need to remind teens that finding God's will isn't a guarantee of monetary success or prosperity. Nor does it mean that life will be blissfully trouble-free. It has been said that Christianity is not the subtraction of all problems but the addition of God's presence in every problem.
Also, God's will doesn't come to us like a downloadable document of meticulously drawn plans. Many mature Christians counsel against the assumption that God has a single, fixed set of blueprints for each believer's life. Within God's boundaries for moral living and basic Christian growth, a believer may make a variety of choices and remain in God's will.
Indeed, arriving at God's will isn't like cracking a secret code or needing a precise combination of ingredients for a recipe. It is a relationship based on abiding in Christ in every circumstance, moment by moment. Teens may care most about some goal or end result, but God desires that they walk with Him through the process daily.
… But the Lord Determines His Steps
God's will for people is, first and foremost, that they be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-4). He patiently beckons to us because He's not willing that any should perish (2 Pet. 3:9). Of course, some things willed by God are specific to Christians, such as prayer (Luke 18:1, 1 Tim. 2:1-2), reading and following Scripture (1 Tim. 4:13), corporate worship (Heb. 10:25) and evangelism (Acts 1:8). Christians are to maintain an attitude of thankfulness (1 Thes. 5:18) and handle their lives faithfully before the Lord (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
The clearest biblical injunction about God's will for believers is that we live morally (Rom. 12:1-2, 1 Thes. 4:3, 1 Pet. 4:2). What is God's will? That we live Christ-honoring lives based on biblical truth. But within those guidelines, Christians have liberty (John 8:36, 1 Cor. 10:23).
Regarding Christina and her teaching jobs, God could effectively work in her life regardless of which one she chose. Christians needn't be paralyzed by fear of making a wrong move that irrevocably sets them on a devastating course. The believer in Christ truly is free. This isn't to say we can rely solely on guesses or gut feelings. God directs us through His Word, prayer, promptings of the Holy Spirit, circumstances and other people—believers and non-believers alike. Other influential variables include our personal desires, talents and common sense.
Over time a Christian can cultivate the ability to make angst-free decisions. We may sometimes be keenly aware of what God wants us to do. Other times He may stretch us as we proceed purely on faith. God's will is often discovered gradually and seen most clearly in retrospect. For sure, His Word promises us directed paths (Prov. 3:5-6) and abundant life (John 10:10). It's natural to want to be "in the right place at the right time" to experience both. But believers should be confident, because even greater than knowing God's will is the privilege of knowing God.
Popular author and speaker Alex McFarland is Plugged In's teen apologetics expert.
Published April 2007
Clearing a Channel for God's Still, Small Voice
Heading Off Destructive Decisions