This is the will of God, your sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3a, ESV).
Often discussions about God’s will seem to revolve around answering life’s big questions like where we go to college, who we choose to marry, which job to take, which house to buy, what our kids’ lives will be like when they grow up . . . and then before we know it, we’re discussing where they’ll go to college, who they’ll marry, what job they’ll take, and the whole thing cycles into the future.
But believe it or not, God’s will doesn’t focus on these kinds of issues. He’s not holding His breath, hoping you’ll choose to move to Bolivia instead of California or vice versa. His will is not a secret blueprint for making specific, minute decisions—a master plan He’s hiding from you, testing you to see if you can figure it out. Because here’s the truth: if you are busy being the person God wants you to be—the parts He does make clear in Scripture—you’ll already be where He wants you to be.
God’s will for you is “your sanctification.”
Sanctification is one of the key words we learn from Scripture that helps us understand what our salvation means. It covers the space of time between our justification (the moment of conversion when God declares us righteous through our faith in Christ’s payment for sin) and our glorification (when we stand before Him in eternity). Sanctification means to make holy—a process that is crucially important for us since by nature we are not holy, and we need to be holy. More and more holy. So this is what God is doing with us right now as we wait for Christ’s return, as “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). We’re being sanctified. Little by little. Day by day. One step at a time.
This is God’s will for us.
To the believers living in Thessalonica, much of what apparently needed sanctifying in their lives were their sexual practices and their understanding of moral purity. That’s why Paul zeroed in on their need to “abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3b). In other cities and places where he wrote his first-century letters, the more pressing matters may have been idolatry, immaturity, materialism, or some other spiritual deficiency. But in every place—including our place today—the overarching, sanctifying need was and is to increasingly conform ourselves to the Word of God, living with a pure conscience, being quick to respond to the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. For not only does this transformative lifestyle give proof that we are growing in holiness, it also helps us not “be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).
God’s will, plain and simple, is the Bible. The will of God is the Word of God, not merely the specific answers to life’s various multiple-choice questions. Because if you’re doing what the Word of God says, you’ll be making the right decisions already. If you are increasingly the person God wants you to be, you will not make wrong choices about the details like where you are or who you’re with.
You’ll be doing His will.
Because you’ll be growing in sanctification.
This post originally appeared on Dr. James MacDonald’s daily devotional Our Journey and was republished with permission.
James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is the founding senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, leads the church-planting ministry of Harvest Bible Fellowship, teaches the practical application of God’s Word on the Walk in the Word radio and television programs, and is a gifted author and speaker. You can find out more about James and his ministries at WalkintheWord.org.