Have you ever heard a test message from a warning system? I can still hear the robotic voice of this one from several years ago: “This is a test of the Apple Valley warning system. This is a test and only a test.” At one time in my life, the Christian walk felt like that—a test and only a test. If I didn’t make the right decision according to God’s will then I failed the test. Every little choice had the power to fracture my relationship with God and bring misfortune into my life.
Thankfully, I now see that this isn’t in line with the gospel. The Christian life isn’t a test to see if you make all the right choices. God’s favor upon you depends on the finished work of Christ, not your ability to figure out what God might be trying to tell you. The Christian life is about freedom in Christ to enjoy life (Gal. 5:1, 1 Tim. 6:17). It’s about exerting all the energy he works in you to grow and serve (Col. 1:29, Gal. 5:13). And it’s about trusting God’s grace in Christ to cover not only all your sins but also all your poor choices (Rom. 8:1).
Many Christians—especially new ones—get excited at the thought of a close walk with the Lord, filled with supernatural activity like hearing God’s voice. But before long, this expectation turns into anxiety. How do I tune into what God is telling me? Through some kind of listening prayer? Maybe a walk in the woods? Either you convince yourself he’s telling you something through random occurrences (is that Jesus in my pancake?), or you give up.
Dear Christian, this life of anxiousness isn’t God’s will for you. You can indeed have a close walk with God, but most likely it won’t be glamorous. Although God can and does work miracles, he usually works through the ordinary stuff of life. That’s where we can expect to meet him.
God’s Will Is Your Sanctification
One of the clearest passages in the Bible about God’s will is 1 Thessalonians 4:1–12. In verse 1, Paul says he’s talking about “how you ought to walk and to please God,” which is something we’re after when we talk about finding God’s will. He then says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3).
Could there be a clearer way of telling us God’s will? Paul goes on to explain what he means by “sanctification,” but for now, notice what Paul says about this will of God for you: “Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (vv. 11–12).
Do you aspire to live quietly? Sounds boring. But this is part of God’s will for your life: The daily grind of doing your day job to serve others and provide for your family and neighbors. To love fellow Christians in your local church. This weekly rhythm of life might be boring in a way, but it has its own sort of beauty when you know that God works in these ordinary things and not in your pancakes. Through the ordinary, God’s will is done: your sanctification, your growth in grace.
If we reorient our outlook on the Christian life along these ordinary pathways, we begin to see that the simple stuff of life is where God intends for us to find enjoyment.
God’s Will Is Your Joy
Ever heard this saying? “Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy.” It’s attributed to American founding father Ben Franklin, although he was actually talking about wine. While it’s a bit crass, this claim has some truth to it. God provides rain and causes grapes to grow. The wine that comes from those grapes gladdens man’s heart. So, we can say through the whole process that God indeed provides the good things of life for our enjoyment. Rain and growth of crops are some of the most ordinary things of the natural world, yet they’re used often in Scripture to show how God works and provides for us:
You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for man to cultivate,
that he may bring forth food from the earth
and wine to gladden the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine
and bread to strengthen man’s heart.(Ps. 104:14–15)
God indeed “richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” (Eccles. 2:24–25).
God’s Will Is Your Freedom
But there is greater proof that “God loves us and wants us to be happy.” He sent his Son to die for you and me (John 3:16). Christ took the curse of death that we deserved for our sin so that we can have the blessing of joy he earned by his obedience. By his wounds we have been healed (1 Pet. 2:24). We as Christians should never get tired of hearing the gospel of God’s love, forgiveness, and new life in Christ. This good news isn’t merely the entry point of the Christian life; it’s also the daily wind in our sails. The knowledge that God is for us renews and strengthens our spirits so that we can face each day with the confidence of conquerors (Rom. 8:31, 37).
Even as we strive towards holiness, we do so knowing our righteous acts don’t earn our right standing before God. Rather, as we receive the righteousness of Christ by faith, we become, as Calvin writes, “freed from the law’s yoke” to “willingly obey God’s will.” And we can rest knowing that God will use even our failures to accomplish his purposes.
Believer, God’s will for you is a life of joy doing ordinary things in the freedom Christ bought for you. This is not a test.