Growing up in a Pentecostal church, there were certain "norms" I became accustomed to and never questioned. People being "slayed" in the spirit, the spinning around and jumping in ecstasy, six hour long church services, etc. One of the norms that most interested me was when a "prophet" would come to the church. Everyone would be so excited, hoping that the prophet would reveal God's will for their lives. He/or She would come, proclaim ministerial prosperity, financial prosperity, and victory over peoples lives. People would be ecstatic, give a generous offering to the prophet, and the service would be over. Now, I'm not going to condemn this whole practice, they tend to condemn themselves. What is peculiar to me, however, is this desire, that everyone has, to KNOW God's will for their life specifically. To know what moves must be done for a successful career, who they should marry, where they should go to school, what ministry to pursue, what to DO with their lives. They want to know God's will, so that they can line up their lives according to it. So they seek out "signs" from God, because they do not believe God can speak to their situation directly from the scriptures. A good book on this subject was given to me by a dear canadian friend, its called "Just Do Something" by Kevin DeYoung.
Though I won't go into full detail about the book, it's main point is that God reveals His will for us in scripture, and whatever He has NOT revealed we do not need to know. But, we can trust Him in whatever situation we are in because He works all things for His ultimate glory, and our ultimate good. So we shouldn't worry about making choices between coke and pepsi, or between two good people you see yourself with, or the careers we will take. The only thing we should be concerned about is making sure we are worshipping Him with all of our decisions.Trust God, and make a choice.
But what is the will that God HAS revealed for us?
"And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:14-18) So, here we have Paul breaking down what is God's will for believers. God wants us to:
1. Admonish the Idle-
We are saved by grace through faith, not by works. That DOES NOT mean that there isn't work to be done. If it is true that our hearts have been changed to be like Christ's- then we will desire to do the will of the Father. Christians must be reminded to not be lazy in their new found faith, but to bear fruit. Love on people, read the Scriptures, serve others, fight sin, and glorify God with your actions.
2. Encourage the fainthearted-
In a world where we have three main enemies (Satan, the World, and our own flesh), it is easy for believers to be discouraged. They might fall into sin, be rejected by others due to their faith, or may be attacked spiritually by thoughts of doubt. This is when we must encourage our brothers to hold on to the truth of the gospel! We must build up their strength with loving words. Equip them to fight against the temptations of life through prayer and digging into the word, reminding them that we ALL need the grace, strength, and mercy of God to live this new life in His Son.
3. Help the weak-
This is speaking about the physically weak and the spiritually weak. Like a big brother helping his younger sibling open a jar of grape jelly, mature christians in the faith must help those who were recently born again; in order that they may walk correctly, holding fast to their faith in Christ and not to their works or the flesh.
4. Be Patient
After speaking on the idle, fainthearted, and the weak, Paul then speaks again to those counseling these three types of people, by reminding them to be patient with believers in those categories. It's very easy to lose your patience, when you lose sight of the tremendous grace and mercy that had to be shown to you at one point. God was patient and long-suffering with ALL His children- He calls us to do the same with all His people.
5. Don't repay evil for evil, seek to do good to each other and to everyone
Having the "an eye for an eye" mentality as a christian is antithetical to the Gospel of Christ. Christ calls us to do good, and when evil is done to us- to do even GREATER good to our transgressor. We should be seeking to do good towards our siblings in Christ- and to do good to the rest of the world. That includes unbelieving family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, random people in your day-to-day life.
6. Rejoice always-
Does that mean always FEEL joyful and happy? No. The joy of the Lord is not based solely on our emotions, but on the truth of who God is and His faithfulness. We may be in dire situations, but we must remind our souls to rise up, and remember our redeemer has conquered over death and we will be with Him for all eternity. Our current conditions do not usurp our position in God's kingdom.
7. Pray without ceasing-
Don't stop praying. I know from experience, that your prayer life is a thermometer to how your relationship with the Father is going. The quality time you spend with a person builds the trust, friendship, and intimacy you have with each other- and that is no different with God. We are to be in constant communication with our Dad because He wants us to talk to Him.
8. Give thanks at all times-
Everyday that you open your eyes is a blessing from God. If you wake up, and all your limbs are still intact, you have a roof over your head, your family is alive and safe- it's because of God's mercies that are new every morning for you. We MUST give thanks at all times- Because we rely on God at all times! There is not one nano-second that goes by that God isn't sustaining every particle of your existence. We must thank Him for that. Then, there is the grandeur of your salvation by Christ, through faith- that ALONE is worthy of an eternity of thanksgiving.
See, God's will for all of us is our conforming to the image of Jesus! God is not so much concerned about what color dress you wear to the high-school ball, as long as you honor Him with your body and witness to those around you about the good news of Jesus. God will not smite you if you pick one church over the other, He wants you to faithfully serve a church community and be an example of Christ to other believers. God's plans for you will not be overturned by your actions, He is sovereign and will use all your decisions, wise or unwise, for your ultimate good and His glory. His will for you is for you to worship God and enjoy Him forever.