Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus…
“What is God’s will for my life?” Have you ever asked that question? I expect you have. I know I have, many times. Moreover, during my tenure as a parish pastor, I must have heard that question at least a hundred times from people who sought my pastoral counsel. Folks in my church were facing job transitions and wondered, “What is God’s will for my life?” Others were getting serious in dating relationships and came to me wondering, “What is God’s will for my life?” Still others were coming up on retirement and weren’t at all sure what God had planned for them in this unfamiliar season of life. They wanted to know “What is God’s will for my life when I leave my career?” If you’re not asking what God’s will is for your life today, chances are you will be doing so pretty soon.
When we wonder about God’s will for our lives, usually we’re thinking about specific paths we might take, such as those I mentioned in the previous paragraph. While it’s certainly right to seek God’s will for such particulars, we will be helped to discern God’s specific will if our whole life is shaped by God’s wider will. The will of God for the whole creation can tell us who we are, why we are alive, and how our lives are an essential part of what God is doing in the world.
As he begins the letter we know as Ephesians, Paul identifies himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (1:1). An apostle was a person who was sent by someone in authority for a certain reason. Paul had been sent by God to share the gospel with Gentiles and to plant churches of new believers. He had been given this mission “by the will of God.” As he writes this, Paul does not see God’s will in narrow terms as having only to do with his particular job description. In fact, by referring to God’s will, Paul connects his life with God’s larger purposes for the world, indeed, for the entire cosmos. The first chapter of Ephesians speaks of God’s will three other times besides verse 1. God predestined us to be his children “in accordance with his pleasure and will” (1:5). He “made known to us the mystery of his will,” which is to unite all things in Christ (1:9-10). God also “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (1:11).
Thus, the question of God’s will for my individual life and circumstances should be seen in light of God’s expansive will for the whole creation. If, for example, God wills to unite all things in Christ, then it’s likely that God’s will for me includes being someone who unites rather than divides. God’s cosmic will helps me to know how to act today in my workplace, family, church, and community.
I’ll have much more to say about this as we get further into Ephesians. For now, let me encourage you to consider how God’s will shapes your life, not only in terms of specific paths you have taken, but also in terms of how you live each day and how you understand your life’s purpose.
Something to Think About:
These days, in what areas of life are you wondering about God’s will?
How is your life shaped by the grand will of God?
How do you see your life in relationship to what God is doing in the world?
Something to Do:
Talk with a Christian brother or sister about how their life is guided by God’s will.
Gracious God, thank you for caring about me. Thank you for giving my life purpose and direction. Thank you for helping me to understand your will for my life.
As I reflect on the first chapter of Ephesians, I am struck by the fact that your will is much bigger than I sometimes assume. Your will for my life isn’t just about me, but about your will for all creation. Help me, dear Lord, to see myself and to live my life in light of your will for all things. May I be caught up in your amazing work of uniting all things in Christ. Amen.
If you’re wondering how to determine God’s will for the particulars of your life, you might find helpful a piece I’ve written called “How Does God Guide Us?”