What if knowing God’s will for your life was not as complicated as it seems?
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I have a friend who has struggled for a very long time to understand what God’s plan is for him. Like all of us, he longs to know that he’s in “the center of God’s will.” He’s wants to find that sweet spot where his work, relationships, family, and church jive perfectly and if feels like he’s enjoying God’s very best. Some of you know what that feels like. Some of you – like my friend – have no clue what that is like, but you wish (and pray) that you did!
I’ve been in your boat—a lot. But there is good news for all of us who ask, “Can God’s will for my life be found and followed?” It can. It absolutely can. And it’s not as difficult to figure out as we tend to think.
Let me begin with a bit of my story…I moved from Texas to Southern California 13 years ago to be in the movies. I was a good ole Texas boy turned Hollywood actor (Matthew McConaughey stole my idea). One Sunday, at my new church in Los Angeles, I asked a fellow thespian why he chose to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. He confidently answered, “I believe God wants me to be an actor.”
His response floored me. He was confident that his chosen profession was God’s will for him, and I was jealous of his certainty. More often than not, my response to the same question was not nearly as succinct or God centered. I loved the movies and liked the art of acting, but I had no idea if that career path was God’s will for me. So I began trying to figure it out.
It wasn’t long before my scattered musings on God’s will became focused prayers about it. To my surprise, God soon responded with a life-changing answer.
One morning in my tiny Los Angeles apartment I was reading Matthew’s gospel when the all-too familiar words jumped off the page in a brand new way.
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:34-40
Bingo. I literally jumped to my feet as the “Halelujah Chorus” played in my head and I exclaimed, “That’s it! That’s God’s will for me!” In that moment Jesus’ words resonated in my heart, soul, and mind like never before. God had answered my prayer. I knew God’s will for my life.
According to Scripture, God’s will for your life and mine is crystal clear: love God and love your neighbor. With all you’ve got.
In the last 15 years I’ve been hired to work on a cruise liner, at a public university, and on a movie set. I’ve held jobs as a veterinarian’s assistant, a valet, a waiter, a telemarketer, a tour guide, and dental supplies salesman. Even now I work as a pastor, a writer, and a speaker, and one day I hope to become a novelist, a church planter, and a dad.
So which of these roles was God’s specific, divine will for me? None of them.
In which of these roles could I do God’s specific, divine will for me? All of them.
And that is the beauty of God’s will for us. It is not contingent on our job status, marital status, or socioeconomic status. We can be uneducated, unemployed, and unmarried and still know and do God’s will. And, conversely, we can go to our dream college, get our dream job, and marry our dream spouse and still miss God’s will by a mile.
It’s when we respond to Jesus’ command that we can live deeply fulfilling lives no matter where we are. And there is great focus and freedom in that.
Each of us will follow God in different ways and contexts as we navigate our unique roles in churches, communities, families, and careers. But God has made it abundantly clear that the greatest commandment and God’s divine will for all of us, no matter our station in life, is the same: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Now let’s help each other do it.