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. Romans 12:2 (NIV)
I don’t remember when I first discovered this promise in Paul’s letter to the Romans. I do remember, as a new believer, thinking it was a remarkable discovery. I had encountered this idea that God had a will for my life. But, I didn’t have a clue how to know what it was and I couldn’t figure out why God would hide it from me. Then I found this verse.
As I thought about this verse, I envisioned the process of finding God’s will like a video game. I would set out on a spiritual quest to conquer each level of the transformation process until I had finally won all the levels and, at the end, I would earn a key that would open the treasure chest where God’s will would be revealed to me.
So, I set out. The levels weren’t as clearly marked as I had thought and I think I repeated some levels. OK, I’m sure I repeated a lot of levels. It felt like I was changing, being transformed. But, it didn’t have any clearer picture about what God wanted me to do with my life. The promise seemed clear; if I am transformed then I will be able to test and approve God’s will for me. Was there really no golden key at the top level? I was getting discouraged and afraid I was running out of time. I needed to hurry up and find God’s will so I could do it and not waste my time doing something that might not be his will.
As I went through this process, I also began learning the truth I shared a few weeks ago that God cares more about who I am than what I do. That realization caused a big disconnect for me. My psychology professor would have called it a cognitive dissonance. My idea of God’s will, the thing I was looking for, was based doing. In my head, God’s perfect will for me meant doing what God wanted me to do.
I was reading about the anointing of Saul as the first king of Israel in the Old Testament when the clouds began to clear:
Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance? 2 When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel’s tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will say to you, ‘The donkeys you set out to look for have been found. And now your father has stopped thinking about them and is worried about you. He is asking, “What shall I do about my son?”’ “Then you will go on from there until you reach the great tree of Tabor. Three men going up to worship God at Bethel will meet you there. One will be carrying three young goats, another three loaves of bread, and another a skin of wine. They will greet you and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them. “After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, timbrels, pipes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you. 1 Samuel 10:1-7 (NIV)
The last two verses, which I have underlined, caused me to stop. Samuel told Saul that he would experience a series of events at the end of which he would be a changed into a different person. That sounded to me like he would be what Paul calls “transformed” in Romans 12:1. Samuel then said, once these things had happened, in other words, once Saul had been transformed, he could do whatever his “hand finds to do” because God was with him. If Saul would start with being the doing would take care of itself. I thought to myself, what if I had misread the directions? Could it be that God’s will was not about doing but about being?
If that were true, Romans 12:2 wasn’t talking about “God’s will” in the sense of something to do. Paul is saying that God’s perfect will is for us to focus on who we are by being transformed. If we are transformed, we will be doing God’s perfect will for us and that gives us the opportunity to see how good it is.
But, like I said last time, there is still a sense of God’s will that involves doing. Because that is true, I wanted some level of confidence that what I was doing, or going to go, was God’s will for me. Again, the insight came from the Old Testament, this time Psalm 37:4:
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalms 37:4 (NIV)
I had always read this verse as a promise about stuff. If I delighted in God, he would give me the stuff I wanted. But, what if I turned it just a little and looked at it from the perspective of being. If I take delight in the Lord (am transformed), He will lead me to desire the things He wants for me. It’s not about me getting the stuff I want, but about me wanting the stuff that God has for me.
I had found the key to knowing God’s will. It wasn’t where I expected it to be and it didn’t look the way I expected it to look. Funny how that happens.
Now, I believe that there are situations where God has a specific will for us. He may call us to a career, a marriage, a ministry or something else. That leading or calling to do is part of the concept of God’s will. But, as we will see next week, the “doing” part of God’s will may sometimes come with complications.
Are you seeking God’s will for your life? Instead of asking what God wants you to do in some specific situation, ask if you are being who God wants you to be right now. If you are being transformed into the person God has called you to be, trust that He will lead you to do the things He wants you to do.