By Jim Sonnenburg, College Small Groups Director, Sadddleback Church
I love doing ministry with college students. There is this mix of youthfulness and spontaneity, but also a process of maturity happening in their life with all the decisions, direction and the future to consider. Trying to figure out what to do with your life is one of the biggest, most challenging and frustrating endeavors. But it is also an incredible moment to encourage college students in their relationship with God.
Unfortunately, many college students look to the future and God’s will incorrectly. At times an obession with the unknown aspects of God’s plan for their future draws the majority of their focus. This can lead to the neglect of the plainly revealed will of God. So many college students end up tripping on the present becasue they are too focused on the mystery of their future. We need to help students focus on the simple truths of the Scripture they already know and at the same time trust God to show them parts of their future when he’s ready. It helps when we can talk them through the various aspects of God’s will.
The first component is God’s declared will, also known as God’s commands. Throughout Scripture, God has laid out his will through the 10 commandments, the Great Commission/Great Commandment, etc. For example, in the book of Thessalonians, we see God’s will listed several ways:
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own bodyin a way that is holy and honorable,” 1 Thessalonians 4:2-4
Second is God’s permissive will. These are things that God allows to happen. Because of the free will that God gave Adam and Eve, there are consequences that are not a part of God’s plan (evil and Satan’s workings among mankind are included in this area. There are also situations like natural disasters, car accidents, etc.) God grieves over these situations. But we can take hope in this: God is so great that he will take even the worst of situations and bring good out of them for those who love him. I believe that part of our response as his children is to find/look for God in the troubles and trials of life. Below are some examples of God’s permissive will:
“But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
The third component is God’s sovereign will. For example: Mary was chosen to give birth to Jesus. Jesus is coming back again someday. Saul/Paul is intercepted by Jesus on the road to Damascus, etc. These show a specific and clear intervention into humanity by God. It shows that he does have a specific plan for people sometimes. This is the component of God’s will that we spend most of our time seeking and searching after. Below are some verses:
“As he (Saul) neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ’Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ’Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’” Acts 9:3-6
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” Matthew 24:26-27
Here’s my point. Many students I talk to about God’s plan for their lives focus so much on the divine direction/intervention from God that they ignore the commands and desires God has for us in how to live our lives. They are so focused on the 10%, that they miss most of the 90%.
Next time you get to talk with a student about this general topic, share with them the different components of God will (including the Scriptures), and ask them which of the three they believe God wants them to grow the most in right now. If he or she does respond that it’s honestly that last 10%, then encourage them to focus on what they already know to be God’s will. The truth is, most of us know more about God’s will than we are actually doing. Dallas Willard summed it up like this: “What is the next right thing you know you need to be doing? Start there.”
Our greatest need is not more information but rather to own and act on what we already know.