“A story is told of a farmer who was plowing his fields one day and praying, ‘Lord, what is your will for my life?’ He looked up and saw two large clouds forming what appeared to be letters. He continued to watch them drift overhead and could make out two letters, ‘P.C.’ He thought about this for a few minutes, certain it was an answer to his prayer. ‘P.C.’ he thought. ‘P.C. God must want me to Preach Christ!’ A charge ran through his body as he realized that God was giving him a sign. God was calling him to be a pastor or evangelist! He left his farming equipment in the field, announced to his friends he’d been called to be a preacher, and went out preaching in any church that would have him. But his sermons were dreadful and his ministry unfruitful. He was miserable. A year later he returned to his farm. His friends came and asked him, ‘What happened? We thought God called you to be a preacher.’ He said, ‘I finally realized that P.C. didn’t mean Preach Christ; it meant, Plant Corn!” (Hamilton, Kindle Locations 634-642)
This is the story Adam Hamilton tells as he begins to talk about how God’s will can seem so elusive to us. How many of us have ever had an experience like the farmer in this story? How many of us have thought God was calling us to something only to realize that as we begin to do the activity that it is not really something we were called to do, and maybe God was actually calling us to something else? How many of us feel like God’s calling or God’s will in our lives is elusive and hard to figure out? How many feel like you maybe can’t see it at all?
Understanding God’s will in our life can be one of the hardest and most difficult concepts to grasp in our lives, and it can be very disheartening when we get it wrong or can’t see it in our lives at all.
These past few weeks we have been focusing on these “Why” questions that Christians often ask of God and we often feel we are left without a concrete answer. Questions that often leave us feeling forsaken and abandoned by God. It is these “Why” questions that shake a person’s faith and cause people to question the God that we believe in. These questions infect our faith and sow seeds of doubt in our mind that the God we profess faith in might not be loving and might abandons us. In looking at the nature of suffering and of unanswered prayers we have come to understand how God’s presence in our lives means that God is there in both the good and the bad. God is not the cause of the bad, but that God works with us through the bad times. However, in all of these questions we ask one thing has been similar amongst all of them. Each one of them look at how we perceive that God might be absent from our lives. We ask the questions because we feel as though God is lacking in some department in our lives.
That is no different as we ask our question this week. We are a faith who look to God for guidance in our lives. We seek for God to give us direction, and when we do not receive guidance or direction we feel as though God is not working in our lives. We feel like because we have no call or cannot see God’s will. God obviously does not care about us enough to give us purpose. Or when it is wrong we often feel as though we cannot trust God to be our source of guidance because we feel that we have been steered in the wrong direction.
As we begin to look at God’s seemingly elusive will let me begin by giving you the same reminder I have given you the last two weeks. God is always there. God never leaves or forsakes us. God is always calling us. God is always looking out for us. However, often times maybe we aren’t attentive, or aren’t discerning, or even wanting to move too quickly.
So, let’s start from the beginning. Let’s start with looking at God’s will and how we understand it. What does God’s will mean? What does it mean for God to have a will for each one of us? Does it mean that God has every minute, every second, of our lives has been planned and written out to happen in a certain way? Does God’s will mean that we are merely puppets acting out a play that has already been written? The lines, the actions all planned out? Or does God’s will in our lives mean something else entirely.
As Hamilton wrestles with this he proposes an idea saying, “What if God, in giving us life, invites us to collaborate in writing the story of our lives?” (Hamilton, Kindle Location 691) We collaborate with God on the story of our lives. That is to say that it is not as much God has already written the story and we are merely just acting out what God has already put into place, but that the story of our lives are being written and both God and ourselves are writing the collaboratively as we both live and live the way God calls us to live.
Think for a second if God had our lives planned out, planning each and every word we would say or each action we would take, then why do we make bad decisions. Or even why are we punished for our bad decisions if God has written them into our timeline. This all comes back to the idea of our free will. We have the freedom to make decisions that might be counter to God’s will. If we acknowledge our free will and think that our lives are planned out, what if we make choices that deviate from the plan God created for us. What if we don’t go to the right school, marry the right person, or get the right job? To suggest that there is a very specific path that we are to be on suggests that either God is limiting our free will to choose, or that God’s will can be so easily disrupted by some of our actions.
Rather I think Hamilton has some value in his thought. If we understand the way that God works, and the freedom that God gives us, we understand that while God has a calling and a will for each of us every moment of that cannot planned. God has a call for each of us to do what God wants us to do, but we still have the choice to accept God’s calling or to deny it. While the latter seems like a bad decision we still have that option much like we have the choice to reject God’s love.
This freedom that we have is what makes it so difficult for us to understand or sometimes comprehend God’s will. It is what gives us the ability to listen to or to ignore God’s calling. It can even give us the freedom to interject our own wants into the equation of what God is calling us to, and it can lead to making God’s calling the elusive object that we often perceive it as.
Now we know that God does have a calling for each of us. God has a life that God wants us to live. Paul opens us to this revelation in his writings to the Colossians,
“For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:9-10)
It is this calling to live lives worthy of God that we find the work that God calls us to do. It is not that our actions are planned out to the T, but that God calls us to live these lives and to do the work we are called to do. It is a collaborative work in which we work with God to do God’s work. We work with God to find ways to enact these callings.
So then why do we struggle sometimes to see what it is that is God’s will in our lives? If we believe that our lives are a collaborative work in progress then why is it sometimes so difficult to see what God wants for us?
Well a few things play a role in this. First of all we need to remember the collaborative nature of God’s calling in our lives. So often we want to take control and do things our way. God’s will may be elusive because we are trying to take it over. Listen to Paul’s words here in Romans 12,
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
There are many things that can come between God’s will and our understanding and enacting of it, but often times it is our own selves that get in the way. This is not a solo journey. We often don’t see God’s will because we allow our will to cloud it. We must work with God. Paul in this passage to the Romans is calling Christians to remember who is calling them. Remember that it is not a solo effort on our part, but that there is a God who calls us to live according to a call. We be so easily be swayed by the yearnings of this world or even trying to go at it alone, but we must remember that God is the one we should turn to and work with to understand God’s will.
We also must remember that God’s will is something that is discerned. Not only must we be working with God and not on our own, but we must also be willing and able to discern what it is we feel God calling us towards. Take our opening story for example. Do you think if the farmer had taken some time to discern and reflect he might have saved a year and known that “P.C.” stood for plant corn? God’s will is not something that just happens. It is something that comes out of deep discernment. It is something that comes from prayer and conversation with God, and with open discernment amongst others. God’s will is sometimes tough to understand. It is often deeper than we originally think. We may have an idea of what God’s will might be, but we must be certain about it and understand clearly what that means. Discernment helps us to understand clearly exactly what God is calling us to.
Lastly, and really one of the most important things to understand about God’s will is that we must listen. One of the biggest reasons that I have seen in my ministry for people not knowing or understanding God’s call is that they often are not listening to God. They are not being attentive to God. This one connects with each of the last two in ways. There are many reasons we are not listening to God. We may be doing it purposefully, or even unknowingly. But often God’s will is most elusive and invisible when we are not listening to what God has to tell us.
In both of our passages today Paul is talking to each of these communities about God’s calling and God’s will. We see from Paul that it is about keeping God right next to us. It is about understanding that the story of our life is a collaborative effort between who God wants us to be and the way that we live our lives. We must all understand that we all have a role to play in that. As Paul writes to the Romans saying,
“For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.” (Romans 12:4-5)
We all make us the body of Christ. God has a plan for each of us, but it is up to us to take up that plan and make it our lives. It is up to us to work with God to write the rest of the story. Through listening and discernment we can learn what God’s will in our lives is and where God is calling us to serve.
Out of the three questions we have asked this may be the one that plagues you the most. I have found that with Christians of strong faith it is not suffering or even unanswered prayers that hinders their faith. They often have reconciled those questions in some way in their life. However, it is in knowing that persons faith is really strong and unwavering, but feeling that from God you have no purpose. You feel that God has no will for you, but let me tell you that you do have a purpose and will from God.
God has a calling for each one of us. We are all part of the Body of Christ and we all have a role within that body. God has given each and every one of us a calling. God has something for each of us, and God wants to work with each of us to make that calling come forth. If you feel like God’s calling is elusive in your life come and talk to me. Come and I can help you to work on understanding God’s will. I know how difficult it can be. I know how empty it can feel. Know that I am here to help. I am here to assist you, and I am not the only one. All those who are sitting among you can also help as you seek discernment of of God’s will. Also…and most importantly, talk to God. Listen and discern. Allow yourself to continue to be open to God.
Remember God’s true calling on all of our lives which Paul wrote in some fashion in both scriptures to live lives worthy of God, and to do that means that we are remembering that God is a constant part of our lives and we hold God in that position.
1. Hamilton, Adam (2010-10-01). Why?: Making Sense of God’s Will. Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.
2. New Revised Standard Version Bible.