Ask ministers the question they’re asked most often, and you most likely will get the same answer. “Pastor, what’s God’s will for my life? I’m so confused about what I’m supposed to be doing with myself!” It can elicit in the average person of several responses. We might wonder if anyone can actually figure out the will of God for an individual’s life. Is it crazy to think that some all-powerful being even cares about our lives?
Maybe on another level we think that God DOES care about our lives, because we see people who appear to be living in God’s will. They seem to be hitting spiritual home runs, sharing Jesus with people around them, living contently. But that’s just not us, we have too much junk for God to use us. Luckily, we have stories throughout the bible where God reaches out to ordinary people and leads them to do extraordinary things. One such story takes place in Acts 10, and it shocked more than a few God followers in first century Israel. The story gives us three keys to following God’s will for your life.
1. Be Prepared to Hear God Speak
There’s a man named Cornelius, a military man, the commander of some of Rome’s finest soldiers. We see in Acts 10:1-4, he is listed as a “a devout, God-fearing man as was everyone in his household.” It’s so very easy to read a passage like this through our own experience, but Rome was a wicked place, a place where many gods were worshiped but morality was pretty low. But here was a man who believed in God and “prayed regularly”. So when in verse 3 an angel came to him with a message, he was ready to receive it. He had pursued the things of God; charity and prayer.
About 30 miles away, Peter, a close friend of Jesus, was on the roof of a house praying. He hadn’t always been the most solid of followers, but now, after Jesus had died, resurrected, and ascended into heaven (Luke 24:50-53), he became one of the key leaders in the new Christian church. His understanding of how to follow Jesus relied on his Jew upbringing which wouldn’t allow him to eat certain types of food. However, God sent a vision to him while he prayed on the roof and told him that he could eat anything. This was really confusing, but as Cornelius’ men arrived downstairs it was all clear to him. Jews aren’t going to be the only ones who are part of the Church! Cornelius and Peter were both in prayer, both listening and ready to hear God Speak.
Sometimes we can get so caught up in every day life, the business of the now, the pursuit of the next, that we don’t give God room to hear him speaking in our lives. We see from this scripture that he is prepared to speak into our lives if we are in a posture to listen. I can definitely put my phone down more than I do and quit running around after things that are temporary. Often, just making room in our lives to hear God is all we need to begin living understanding his will.
2. Be Willing To Act When Prompted
Cornelius not only heard the message, but acted immediately upon the request. Acts 10:7 says, “As soon as the angel was gone…” he acted upon the message. He reacted in faith, and did it quickly. Likewise, Peter in verses 21-24 welcomed the messengers and went the very next day with them to visit Cornelius’.
Being in 21st century United States, we can miss some of the difficulties that had to be overcome for this meeting to occur. Romans worshiped many gods while Jews worshiped one God. Romans were a highly pagan society and Jews prided themselves on being right with God and totally different than the surrounding culture. We get a glimpse into this situation in verse 28 when Paul remarks, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you.” Add to this the fact that the Romans had to intervene for many Jewish uprisings in first century and had to maintain a heavy occupying force. Both sides had some serious reasons for apprehension.
No one needs to mention the tensions that exist in our country today. Liberal or conservative, religious or not, Pepsi or Coke, Pats fan or basically anyone else (I digress). We don’t have to look far into social issues, political views, or world tensions to see that there could be much between us and sharing the love of God with others, but as we see in Acts 10, the climate of 1st century Palestine and 21st century America aren’t all that different. People will always have issues keeping them from each other, but God is the one who draws all people to himself (John 12:32). We simply need to act when prompted.
3. Be Prepared to Be Amazed
Something amazing happens when you’ve heard and acted on God’s will for your life: God will blow your mind! Verses 44-46 show the shock that fell on the Jews when God decided to move a different direction than they expected. 44 “Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. 45 The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. 46 For they heard them speaking in other tongues and praising God.”
Today we’ve often lost our sense of awe. The busyness of life and pervasive influence of technology can sometimes steal that sense of amazement. When was the last time you lingered at the sight of a sunrise? When have you gazed into a starry night and felt small in scope of the universe? For Peter and the other Jews, they had already seen some amazing things. Look back at Acts chapter 2! The Holy Spirit came in mighty fashion and the Church began growing like wildfire. Now, 8 chapters later, God was ready to exceed all of their expectations once again.
So much of Christian living is being ready for the Lord to move you. Spending time daily in the Bible and praying aligns us with God. As David says of followers in Psalm 1, “[they] delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.” When we’re lined up with God, it will be easier to hear him when he speaks into our life. Then there will be no end to how God can amaze us.