“What is God’s Will for My Life?” Three Freeing Verses for Students and Families


“How do I know what God’s will is for my life?”

As a former student pastor, I saw the special weight this question carries for teenagers and young adults. Members of these age groups are making decisions that have the potential to shape a lifetime: where to go to college, what to study, where to work, who to date, etc. Students sense that the decisions they make will either build-up or wreck their lives. Parents, family members, and other trusted adults simply want to give advice that will not destroy the lives of the young people they love.

Wretched decision-makers that we are! Who will deliver us from this body of death?

In his grace, God does not abandon his children to shoulder the weight of this responsibility alone. As Proverbs 2:6 says, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding…” This verse is intended to provide comfort, but misapplied, it can heap even more anxiety into the life of a Christian. After reading it, many sense an added pressure not only to discover God’s will, but to do so through hearing the “audible voice” of God.

God has spoken to his people in supernatural ways, and it is certainly his prerogative to continue to do so. But the truth is, God has already spoken to us all. And he continues to speak to us today. As Tim Challies writes, “God speaks to us by his Son, through his Spirit in the Bible.”

All of Scripture is useful both for training us in godliness and in preparing us for life (2 Timothy 3:16-17). That being said, I have found that these three verses are particularly helpful for leading the people of God, teenagers, to live in surrender to His purposes, and thus to experience His freedom.

Verse #1: Acts 17:26-27

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.”

Paul’s words in Acts 17 remind us of the importance of living with intentionality in the present. God has sovereignly ordained the lifetime and dwelling place of every person on the planet. And he has done it for the explicit purpose that they might seek fellowship with him. For Christians, the implications of this truth are nothing short of extraordinary.

As Rico Tice unpacks, “What’s going on in history is that God is reaching out to people so that they’ll reach out for him. The reason your neighbor lives where she does is so that she’ll be reached with the gospel. Why did God want a Christian—you—to be in your particular workplace? …[F]irst and foremost, he put you there so others might hear the good news.”

As students and families fret about what to do in the future, what a joy it is to remind them that they are already in the will of God! They are exactly where God has willed for them to be in the present, as are the lost people in their homes, schools, workplaces, and communities. His will is for the lost to reach out and find him, and he has ordained the lives of both us and our students for that purpose.

Even as he desires our faithfulness in the future, God has given us everything we need to be faithful to him today.

Verse #2: Colossians 4:5

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.”

Students and families navigate decisions ranging from “Where to eat?” to “Where to attend college?” God’s will is that they do so with strategic intentionality: actively aligning the rhythms of their lives so as to maximize their missional impact in the world. Just as our present pursuits should be dictated by an awareness of the lost around us, so too should our choices about the future be made with “wisdom toward outsiders [to the faith].”

Without compromising our effectiveness in our present circumstances, Christians should always be asking the question, “How can my life be leveraged to introduce more people to Jesus?” For some, the answer to that question will entail increased intentionality in current circumstances: devoting time to pray for the lost, seizing opportunities for leadership and service in the church, or growing in dedication to evangelism in the community. For others, the Lord may prompt a change in circumstances: a new job, a different city, or a relocation to labor amongst members of an unreached people group.

It is to substantial sacrifice that we are called. But, as John Piper preached, “There is never a dull or insignificant moment for the Christian who is radically devoted to shrewd purchasing of life’s moments for eternity.”

Verse #3: Ephesians 5:17

“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

In his excellent book, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done, Matt Perman highlights Ephesians 5:17 as the Christian’s freedom from decision-making paralysis. Far from being shackled to wait upon God’s audible revelation or a burning bush-type encounter, Perman notes that the meaning of Ephesians 5:17 “is that we are to make decisions by using our critical judgment to apply the Scriptures to our everyday situations.” Perman continues saying, “God works through our understanding to enable us to determine the best course of action…and then, within that framework, gives us room to make our own decisions using our renewed thinking.”

Does Perman’s thinking undercut the role of divine guidance in our decision-making? Far from it! Instead, this thought process acknowledges that the saving work of Jesus has resulted in two wonderful realities for the people of God.

First, the law of the Lord has been written on the hearts and minds of every follower of Jesus Christ, enabling them to know God deeply and personally without third-party mediation (Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 10:16). Christ fulfilled all of God’s Law on our behalf, freeing us to make decisions with assurance that our mistakes, should we make them, will not condemn us.

Second, the Holy Spirit of God has taken up residence in our hearts. He guides us into the right understanding and application of the fullness of God’s wisdom (John 16:13). And even if we misinterpret his leading, “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).

For students and families alike, these words are good news. We need not fear falling out of alignment with God. Because in the gospel, God has aligned himself with us through Christ. Even when God’s will may not be clear, we are freed to take risks in faith for his glory. And as we do, his Spirit will be faithful to lead us into the knowledge of what’s best next.


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