In all my time working with students, some things change, like trends, language and even worldview. Some questions remain constant. One recurring question for many students is this one: How do I know God's will for my life?
Here are some thoughts:
Life is Relational
Life is not primarily about accuracy, especially when it comes to questions like: What work should I do? Where should I live? Who should I marry (or not)? Instead, life is primarily relational. The great commandments (Matthew 22:35-40) are about who we love. The center of the universe is described in I John 4:19 as God loving us first so that we can respond in love (Romans 5:8).
Further illustrations of this relational reality are found in passages like Philippians 3:20 that describe where we belong or fit: "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ . . . " Passages like Psalm 32:8-9 and Philippians 4:4-7 reflect the relational nature of life centered in God.
Life is Directional
Second, life is primarily directional. In choosing the term directional I mean to convey that we are on a journey with God and the particulars of one day or the next are not known to us. Guidance is understanding where we are headed and making all our choices in the light of that direction or heading.
And the direction has been given us in scripture! Passages like Colossians 1 where God's will for us is revealed (verses 9-14), where what God is doing in the world is explained (verses 15-20) and where our purpose in life is modeled (verses 28-29) make this clear.
Scripture is the Basis
Scripture is the basis for the relational and directional nature of life. Jesus describes His own view of God's word in Matthew 4:4, and Paul teaches the same view to the church in 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
We Are Not Alone
First of all, the Holy Spirit is with us. Secondly, we are members in Christ's Body along with others who love God and are journeying along the same heading. The scriptures call for us to love one another and it is in that set of relationships that guidance is further made known to us. Passages like I Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 describe what is often called body life or church. Those who love us, know us, have the same center and direction to their lives give us the best counsel about our own decisions.
Life Requires Intent
This relational and directional life requires daily intent of the kind described by Jesus in Luke 9:23-27. See also Romans 12:1-2.
God is not a Convenience
Christians who have ignored practicing the values and realities listed above often seek God only in times of crisis. God is gracious and merciful. Forgiveness for the sin of neglecting God and God's revealed work in the world is available. But God will never be a convenience—a guidance resource serving at our whim only when we are interested.
Our Context Affects Us Deeply
Our lives are deeply affected by our cultural context of family, ethnicity, society, nation and history. Too little attention is given to understanding the gifts and dangers of our own context. Who God has made us to be and where God has placed us in the world are realities we are wise to try and understand.
Go, Grow, Wait
Guidance might be summarized by three verbs: Going, Growing, and Waiting. Loving God, others and living in God's direction mean going into the world as Jesus did (John 17:18), growing into the character of Christ (Ephesians 4:13), and waiting on Christ's return (Hebrews 9:28)