Christians naturally want to know what God’s will is for them. However, when the focus of this question is on vocation rather than following Jesus, we are liable to get sidetracked.
Here are five common mistakes that Christians make when trying to discern and pursue God’s will for their life:
1) Looking in all the wrong places.
I believe this is far and away the biggest mistake we can make. We attend conferences, workshops or even pay an exorbitant fee for testing so that a “life planner” can lead us to the Promised Land of vocational fulfillment. (I have done this.) We get off course because we haven’t seriously considered the most obvious way God communicates his will to us – through reading the Bible.
God expects us to discern his will (Romans 12:1,2; Ephesians 5:15-17). Furthermore, he tells us where to look (2 Timothy 3:16,17; Psalm 119:105). The Bible is filled with commands telling us what we should be doing and not doing. And the thing is, most Christians know what these are, but are looking instead for something with more pizzazz, something that relates to the “9 to 5 world” rather than to one’s entire life.
The best advice I ever heard on the subject of God’s leading is not complicated. It is short, sweet and to the point – Do what you know to do.
2) Ruling out our present situation as a calling.
We are sure we are missing our true calling. There could be a number of reasons we feel this way, but one reason might be that we don’t think becoming more like Jesus is a calling. It is.
Do what you know to do. Obey God. Act on the convictions of the Holy Spirit. As far as vocation goes, yours may not be anything out of the ordinary. But if it is what God wants you to do, then don’t waste time looking for something else. As the saying goes, bloom where you are planted.
3) Being too content with the status quo.
The flip side of mistake # 2 is to waste your time because you know God wants you to do something different, yet you resist. You feel comfortable and secure in your present situation. But it may be that you are just comfortable and secure in your sin. It is likely that one reason God has called you to something different is to move you into a place where you will trust him, a place out of your comfort zone, away from your idols to a place where you will become more like Jesus.
4) Pursuing a calling of your own making.
This happens whenever you don’t consult God at all (James 4:4). This goes one step beyond mistake #2. Perhaps because you have underestimated how important sanctification is, you have moved on to a place God has not asked you to go. And you still aren’t growing in your faith in the new endeavor.
5) Losing confidence in a clear calling from God.
This is a situation very unlike the others. Here you have obeyed God’s call for a specific task but what he asked you to do has not yet been accomplished even though years may have passed. The mistake is to doubt the calling instead of looking for confirmation of it. Remember where God has brought you, trusting his faithfulness. Stay the course. God will provide what you need.
Let’s be honest. Most of us are aware of a sin of commission or a sin of omission that God wants us to remove from our life, but sadly, for many of us, eliminating it is not high on our list of priorities. Following Jesus requires us to change our priorities to match God’s (Matthew 16:23). However you phrase it – to be holy because Jesus is holy (1 Peter 1:15,16), to be presented perfect in Christ (Colossians 1:28), to crucify the sinful nature (Galatians 5:24), to attain the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13), or sanctification, – your unique calling as a Christian is to be conformed to the image of Christ with ever-increasing glory and it is God’s plan and priority for your life (2 Cor. 3:18).
God sometimes asks people to do something out of the ordinary. But, most of us will live quiet lives out of public view. It doesn’t mean your calling isn’t important to God or leads to any less glory.