Stones of Hadrian's Wall, North England, United Kingdom

Doing God’s will instead of just finding it

The concept of following God’s will for your life is something you’ll hear in churchy circles on a regular basis. Everyone wants to know God’s will. Who wouldn’t? It would be so much easier if God would just thump us on the head with a neon sign explaining exactly what we’re supposed to go do with ourselves, but He doesn’t really work that way.

That all-important question drives so many people: What is God’s will? We treat it like a holy question, like it’s some camouflaged animal crouching in the brush too scared to reveal itself. But I don’t think God’s will is like that. I don’t think we have to tiptoe around God’s will in our lives like it will disappear if we step too hard. I don’t even think God’s will is difficult to discern. What’s difficult about God’s will is obedience.

Stones of Hadrian's Wall, North England, United Kingdom

Stones of Hadrian’s Wall, North England, United Kingdom

Today’s verse is 2 Corinthians 8:1-5.

Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.

I think we get caught up in finding God’s will for our life, when we really need to find God’s will for today. We don’t understand our lives anyway, so trying to find the answer to sum up the purpose for our life in one word isn’t a very good idea. I don’t think we can do it.

But finding God’s will for today? What does the Bible say? What is right in front of you today? Do you need to go to work? Do you need to go to school? Do you need to take care of someone else? I love this passage because it’s talking about a group of people who made a real difference. The churches of Macedonia didn’t have much, but because God told them to give, they gave. And God blessed their obedience through Paul. Can you imagine being a supporting church for the Apostle Paul? Yikes.

Whatever God has put in your path today is what you need to focus on right now, and you need to do that according to how God says to live in the Bible. That’s why it’s so important to know what the Bible says. But what about tomorrow? Just being honest here, I’m facing some pretty big decisions in 2014, one of which just popped up a few days ago and seems to be taking on a life of its own. It’s exciting and terrifying and wonderful and so much bigger than me, and the first question I had was: “Is this God’s will?” Because I don’t want this to be just some wild hare that popped up in my random brain.

But if I take it and examine it according to the Bible, it’s not. Making this decision wouldn’t contradict anything in Scripture. On the contrary, it would actually help spread God’s word to other people. Plus, it’s something I’ve always dreamed of, and it’s something people need. It’s something that God can use to really make a difference in people’s lives.

Everything is in place just about. God has opened many doors, especially in the last few days, that demonstrate that this idea isn’t from me. It’s from Him. So why do I hesitate? Why am I still stuck in the “searching for God’s will” phase?

Honestly? I’m terrified. This is a huge step. It’s a massive decision. It’s not the decision I ever anticipated making, and it scares me because it’s unknown. And that’s where we get to the obedience part.

If God has told you to do something, do it. Don’t hesitate. Don’t speculate. Don’t worry. Just jump. Dive in head first and trust that God will catch you. If you’re living your life for Him, if you’re seeking Him first in every decision you make, if your purpose in life is to give Him glory, you can’t make a wrong move. The decisions and choices you make, if they are dedicated to Him, will be successful. Maybe not in how you define success but it’s more important to be successful in God’s perspective anyway.

So here’s to 2014, a year of change and transition! I’ve mentioned a few times how awful 2013 was, and it really was. It was a tough year. A hard year. A frustrating year. But one of the many blessings that came out of 2013 was me learning how to trust God all over again. I’ve always trusted Him but never like this. I saw God do miracles last year. I saw God take situations that could have no resolution and tie everything up with a beautiful bow. And if God can do that with all the craziness of last year, I know He can do miracles this year too.

So I’m going to trust Him. If He says jump, I’m going to ask: “How high?” He knows what He’s doing, and He never asks us to do something that He won’t equip us for. That doesn’t mean the process will be easy. It rarely is. But as long as He’s there, it won’t fail. Not in the areas where it matters.

So what is God telling you to do today?

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Scottish flag flying at the top of the walls of Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland

Distractions often disguise themselves as opportunities

Life is full of distractions. Have you noticed that? I’m easily distracted anyway, so when life is full of little things that destroy your focus, it’s incredibly difficult to accomplish anything of significance.

Some distractions look like great opportunities, and because we’re so desperate for those opportunities or because we want a break from “normal” life so badly, we jump at the chance to do something different. Some distractions look like actual danger, and because we don’t want to jeopardize what we’ve already accomplished we take the necessary steps to minimize the damage. The point is that most distractions don’t look like distractions, but every distraction has one thing in common: they will pull you away from what you’re supposed to be doing.

Scottish flag flying at the top of the walls of Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland

Scottish flag flying at the top of the walls of Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland

Today’s verse is Nehemiah 6:1-3.

Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies found out that I had finished rebuilding the wall and that no gaps remained—though we had not yet set up the doors in the gates. So Sanballat and Geshem sent a message asking me to meet them at one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But I realized they were plotting to harm me, so I replied by sending this message to them: “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?”

I really love the Book of Nehemiah. It’s so different from many other books in Bible, mainly because it’s written in first person (which is probably something only a writer would care about). But the story of Nehemiah in a nutshell is that God told Him to go rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and God put him in a specific place in his life to be able to request the personnel and supplies he needed. But there were people who didn’t want to see the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt, so Nehemiah and his builders faced extreme opposition throughout the process. One group that seemed to be a perpetual thorn in Nehemiah’s side was this trio of troublemakers, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem.

Today’s verse wasn’t the first time they had tried to get Nehemiah’s attention. If you just read these verses, though, you might be tempted to think that Nehemiah’s being rude, but I encourage you to read the whole book of Nehemiah. It’s not long, only 13 chapters. And you’ll see exactly what this guy went through in order to do what God had called him to do.

Each of us has an appointed task in our lives right now. Some tasks are “bigger” than others. Some tasks may not feel like tasks because you’re enjoying it so much. Others may feel like a constant test every day, challenging you with every breath to give up. But it’s most likely you know what that task is no matter what it is. For some, your task may be to go to work and do the best you can for your employer. For others, your task may be to take care of your family. And then there’s others whose task may be planting a church or ministering to the lost or encouraging others. Whatever the calling in your life, if you know it’s from God, you can be sure you will encounter distractions along the way.

We have an enemy who wants nothing more than to see us fail, and he will stop at nothing to halt us in our tracks. And if he can’t make us fall, he’ll load us down with too many things and keep us so distracted we’ll miss God’s instructions.

So how do you identify a distraction? That can be difficult. Distractions oftentimes look like something good. Obviously distractions will change from person to person, but they’ll have a few things in common. They’ll take you away from what you’re doing and push you to invest your focus somewhere else. They’ll wear you down with emotional garbage. They’ll fill up your calendar with things that don’t matter, that don’t help others, that waste time and money you don’t have to begin with. Distractions are selfish things; they take and take and take and give nothing in return.

And I’m not talking about taking a day of rest or even a week of rest. Don’t misunderstand. I’m the kind of person who will drive myself into the ground and won’t stop to rest because I’m afraid it will hinder my productivity–but the opposite is true. We weren’t created to run 24/7. We all need a break, a time to rest, a time to refocus, a time to just chill. And if you take a week to let yourself breathe and come out feeling refreshed, that isn’t wasted time. That’s not a distraction.

But if you take a week and fill it full of useless things that don’t benefit you or anyone else, a week that doesn’t improve your relationship with God, a week that turns into two weeks or three weeks or even a month–that’s a distraction.

Don’t be afraid to say no. I’m talking to myself here because I struggle with that word. Ask God. Take it up with Him and make sure what you’re turning down really is a distraction, but if it’s going to pull you away from things you’re supposed to be doing, you’re probably safe in assuming that it’s not what He wants you to do.

Avoid distraction. It’s not helpful, and it’s not healthy. God has designed you for a specific purpose, and letting the enemy guilt you into doing something you aren’t meant to do will only increase your stress level and make you ineffective. Saying no to something you weren’t supposed to do in the first place isn’t selfish; it’s wise.