There was a time early in my ministry when I really struggled with God’s will for my life. I was interning at a small church in Illinois, and I was in the middle of a tenuous job search where nothing seemed to be moving foward.
So one day, I went into the church where I was interning, and the pastor sat me down and said, “Pete, I’m really excited to let you know that we’d like to offer you a full-time job here as the associate pastor. I’ll do the preaching and leading. You’ll do everything else.”
I immediately thought, “This is where God wants me. I’m in!” Even driving home that afternoon, I was thinking, “Thank You, Lord, for speaking so clearly!”
I got home and told my wife, “Libby, we got a great opportunity – and I think this is what the Lord is telling us to do.” And she responded, “Well, do you think He would probably say the same thing to me?”
So I said, “Of course!” But after a short conversation, she came right out and told me, “Pete, I’m not getting it. You’re gifted to preach and lead. And in this role, you’ll be doing neither. Do you really think God would put you in a position like that?”
Libby had a really good point. So we decided to put our heads together and pray that God would make His will clear to us both. It became clear that this wasn’t the role for me. And, with nothing else on the horizon, I said no.
I’m sure that’s happened to you at some point as well. You feel a strong conviction about something, and you’re almost positive the Lord is leading you in a certain direction. But then someone points something out – and soon you’re just as positive that God is saying something completely different!
Well, whenever I find myself in a season like that, I’m comforted by the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 12:2…
“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.”
This verse tells us two things: First, it’s possible to discern God’s will. And second, God knows what’s best for you. That means God’s will isn’t ours to create. It’s ours to discover. But how in the world do you do that? Great question – and to start answering it, we have to go back one verse to Romans 12:1…
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.”
My dad always told me, “Pete, God’s will isn’t a tightrope – it’s a playing field. And there are many decisions that can be made on that playing field.” Friend, Romans 12:1 tells us that God’s mercy is how we get on the playing field of His will. We receive Christ through faith. And by His grace we’re forgiven of our sins and indwelt by His Holy Spirit, and then we step into the arena where we can begin to discover His will for our lives.
Not long after I turned down the job at that small church in Illinois, a guy named Bob from a church in Texas, called Bent Tree, happened to walk into my home church in Wisconsin, where my dad was the pastor. He told my parents that Bent Tree was searching for a pastor. And he asked, “Do you know anyone who would be good for the position?” After a good conversation about the qualifications of the person they were looking for, my mom gave him four names – mine being one of them.
The next day, Libby was at home when Bob called our house. I came home a couple of hours later and found her crying. “What’s wrong?” I asked her. She replied, “Pete, I think we’re moving to Texas.”
Eventually, God laid that decision on my heart as well, and we moved to Texas – where we’ve been doing ministry ever since. But we likely never would have ended up where we are today if I’d taken that associate pastor job.
Maybe today you have a decision you’re grappling with, and you’re trying to figure out what God wants you to do. But if you’ll fully offer yourself to Him as a “living sacrifice” – laying your plans, your motives, and your desires at His feet – He’ll show you His will. And that, my friend, is the only way to discover God’s perfect will for you.