How often do we pray and ask God specific questions about our lives? Questions like, where should I live? What degree do I pursue? Is now the best time for me to move? Should I take this job offer? Who should I date? The answers to these questions are the ins and outs of our daily lives. They dictate how we will spend much of our time and days. It would make sense then, that we ask God to direct and guide us, waiting for a nudge one way or the other.
However, as I was reminded by a sermon at my church a few weeks ago, before we can discern God’s will for our personal lives (and the answers to questions like these), two other things must be going on. One, we must have a relationship with God through Jesus, and two, we must be actively maturing in our faith. Philippians chapter 3, verse 16 says, “Let us live up to what we have already attained.” As Christians, our role doesn’t stop after asking Jesus to be our Savior. We are to then grow spiritually, but we can’t do that if we aren’t being obedient.
I know, I know. No one likes this word. Obedient. We associate it with other words like dependence, restraint or constraint. Yet Scripture tells us that obedience is what we are called to (Romans 1:5), that it’s beautifully liberating (2 Corinthians 3:17), and that it’s the path to our reward (Philippians 3:20). Being obedient to God’s commands goes against practically everything our culture tells us, but it’s what we are called to do – always (Deuteronomy 11:1). Jesus tells us in John chapter 14, verse 15 that if we love Him, we’ll keep His commandments, and James chapter 2, verses 14-26 elaborates on the importance of growing spiritually.
Our ability to discern God’s will for our personal lives will be hindered, however, if we aren’t being obedient. Romans chapter 12, verse 2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
The truth is, whether we like it or not, this verse doesn’t say that even if we’re living in the ways of the world, we’ll still be able to tell God’s will for our lives. If we choose to be more like the world than like Christ, then we, in turn, wander from Christ. This is an implicative conditional sentence, meaning, if one thing happens, then so does another. When this wandering happens, it gets hard to tell which way God wants us to go. Are we doing what He wants or just following our own desires?
But the good news is that the same is true of the opposite. If we choose to be more like Christ, then we are able to know His good, pleasing and perfect will.
This is why it’s so important to not only ask Jesus to be our Savior but to continue to grow in faith, to mature spiritually. The beautiful thing is that when we make the decision to press in wholeheartedly, God will speak to us – and we can trust this truth! Isaiah chapter 30, verse 21 says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” Then in the book of John, Jesus tells us, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me […] My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (10: 14, 27). Sometimes God speaks through the urging of the Holy Spirit and other times in the wise counsel of those we trust. Regardless of how He’ll go about doing it, the point is, He will.
When we grow, ask, and listen, we must be prepared to hear from God. And one more decision awaits: will we obey His answer to us?
If you know you haven’t been obedient, you can ask God to redeem you and then walk in obedience. If you’re feeling overwhelmed trying to be obedient to God’s commands when doing so is hard, be encouraged. Not only are you living how God called you to live, you’re being a light to others when you may not even know it.
Let us live up to (Philippians 3:10) the grace by which we are saved (Ephesians 8:9).