A young woman came in great perplexity to a Scottish preacher, asking how she could resolve the question of her own desires when they seemed to be in such contradiction to the will of God. He took out a slip of paper, wrote two words on it, handed it to her with the request that she sit down for ten minutes, ponder the words, cross out one of them, and bring the slip back to him. She sat down and read: No Lord. Which to cross out? It did not take her long to see that if she was saying No she could not say Lord, and if she wanted to call Him Lord, she could not say No.
No question comes up more often among Christian young people who face what seem to be limitless options than this one of how to discover what God wants them to do. What, exactly, is one’s calling?
There are two very simple conditions to discovering the will of God. Paul states them clearly in his letter to the Romans, chapter 12. The first is in verse 1 (Jerusalem Bible): “… offering your living bodies as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God.” The place to start is by putting yourself utterly and unconditionally at God’s disposal. You say Yes Lord. You turn over all the rights at the very beginning. Once that’s settled you can go on to the second, in verse 2: “Do not model yourselves on the behavior of the world around you, but let your behavior change, modeled by your new mind.”
I said that the conditions were simple. I did not say they were easy. Exchanging a No Lord for a Yes Lord has often been painful for me. But I do want a “new mind”–one that takes its cues from the Word of God, not the mass media. I pray for a clear eye to see through the fog of popular opinion, and a will strong enough to withstand the currents – a will surrendered, laidalongside Christ’s. He is my model. This means a different set of ambitions, a different definition of happiness, a different standard of judgment altogether. Behavior will change, and very likely it will change enough to make me appear rather odd–but then my Master was thought very odd.
Paul goes on to say that these conditions are “the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do.” No wonder we scratch our heads and ask, “What is the secret of knowing the will of God?” We haven’t started at the right place–the offering of that all-inclusive sacrifice, our very bodies, and then the resolute refusal of the world’s values.
Make Thy paths known to me, 0 Lord; teach me Thy ways.
Lead me in Thy truth and teach me;
Thou art God my Savior.
Psalm 25:4, 5 (NEB)
When we cannot see our way
Let us trust and still obey;
He who bids us forward go
Cannot fail the way to show.
Though the sea be deep and wide,
Though a passage seem denied,
Fearless let us still proceed,
Since the Lord vouchsafes to lead.
If there is any man who fears the Lord, he shall be shown the path that he should choose.
Psalm 25:12 (NEB)