Discerning God's Will For Your Life

Below is the audio and transcript from a talk that Twin Cities Metro director Adam Go gave at an Epic recruiting conference.  It’s an inspiring resource for any student who is wondering about what it means to follow God, as they think about college and the years following that.  Also included are some handouts that you can download to help in having conversations about recruiting and discipleship. 

Handouts for students: Principles in making Godly decisions, and Questions to consider when thinking about your future

Handouts for staff & coaches: Questions about inviting others into conversations about God’s will, and joining ministry

Transcript of “Discerning God’s Will For Your Life”:


For the most part, we do it backwards. In this society, you go thinking about what you should do with your life backwards. You start thinking: ‘what job should I get?’ and then it’s ‘does God want me to do that?’ or ‘what have I always planned on doing? Is God going to be ok with that?’

So we’re going to talk about motivations today, because it’s not so much what you do, like I said last night — I don’t really know what you should do, nor do I really think that’s the point — but more of why you choose to do and how you do it. You can be a lousy pastor, and that’s not really helpful to the Kingdom. Or you can have whatever job you want to name, and seek God’s kingdom, and share your faith in it! So the “what” is not nearly as important as the “why” and “how”. I think God’s will is all right here. It’s all in the Bible. I’ve got 1400 pages of God’s will for my life. So that’s where we’ll start.

So on your pamphlet are written some statements. First, ‘I was under the lordship of Christ when I made my plans.’ The second is ‘I sought godly wisdom/wise council when I made my plans.’ The last statement is ‘God can change my plans.’

So the question for all of you is, “Yes or No?” Were you under the lordship of Christ when you made your plans? I ask that because, if you weren’t, my question would be, should those really be your plans?

I was pre-med, I wasn’t saved until I was a freshman in college, but I knew I was going to be a doctor starting at age six. So it’s kind of hard to believe that that is God’s plan when I wasn’t under the lordship of Christ when I made that decision.

Second thing was that I sought wise council. I wish I would have asked more people more things when I was younger, even when I was married. Whether it was about finances, or marriage or family, kids; I wished I had sought wise council. And let me give you a word of encouragement: you can ask each other, but to me that’s not necessarily wise council because other students also trying to figure out their life. So to me, wise council generally means older and more mature people in their faith. So I would love to think that you would ask any staff on your campus, any pastors, any adults in your life that you can ask and not just talk to each other.

The last thing is ‘God can change your plans.’ So, you need to ask, yes or no? If you say no to those things, I just think you will have a harder time figuring it out. If you say yes, I think you’ll be on the right path.

So we’re going to be looking at a passage: 2 Corinthians 5. Let’s open up there. This isn’t going to be rocket science, we’re going to go through the text and share some stories. Mainly my goal is to challenge you with questions to think about. Verse 11 to the end of chapter 5. This text is kind of famous. In verse 20 it says, ‘We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors.’

This is a common passage that maybe we’ve heard in Cru or Epic as we talk about our identity as an ambassador for Christ. As we think about your life, that’s one of the things to think about, that your life is that of an ambassador of Christ. An ambassador is simply someone who speaks on behalf of someone else.

So if you’re the American ambassador in France, you live in France and speak on behalf of the president of the United States government. What you say is what the president wants you to say and how he wants you to say it. You don’t just speak on your own; you speak on behalf of the president. So for us, the idea is that we’re Christ’s ambassadors; we speak on behalf of Christ to the world.

So here’s the scary part for us: you may have never thought that before, but you’ve been an ambassador of Christ this whole time. Whether you’ve actually been speaking on behalf of Christ, I don’t know. But what you said and how you’ve acted, has been a representation of God’s kingdom. So for us, the question isn’t ‘how has it been so far’ but ‘what’s it going to be like in the future now that I know this.’

So we’re going to read this text, and what we want to know isn’t ‘what to do to be Christ’s ambassador,’ but why Paul was able to get to the point where he was. What were the motivations he had behind being an ambassador? That should be the thought for you. Why was he an ambassador, and therefore, why should I do what I’m going to do?  These are the motivations I want you to have when you think about life after college, and even your plans for this summer. I want you to look at these motivations and say, ‘are these the motivations I have been using?’ as opposed to the ones written on your paper. Maybe some of those are good, some of those maybe not so great. I’m going to read this for us.

2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2: ‘Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord: we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.  For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all — that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says,

            “In the time of my favor I heard you,

    And in the day of salvation I helped you.”

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.’

So the goal is to be an ambassador, to have the message of reconciliation, which is what you went out and did as you shared the gospel yesterday. For some of you, that was awesome, you were looking forward to it; for others it was like, ‘I don’t want to do this, why am I doing this?’ So I can’t just tell you to do it because you’re supposed to. You gotta know why– ‘Why should I do this.’ We’re going to talk about four things.

First thing is verse 15: ‘And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.’ The first question I want to ask you is, ‘are you living for Christ or for yourself?’ When you think about life after college, when you think about this summer, the decisions you make, are you making those decisions for God or for yourself?

I’m going to give you fairly recent significant examples, since I’m asking you to think about a significant issue in your life. A couple years ago, Hanni and I were in charge of the movement on campus. We were the directors for the University of Minnesota. 55000 students, we had 450 students involved, 11 staff, been around for 5 or 6 years, people liked me, it was a comfortable gig, our ministry was doing very well. And I knew they were going to ask us to become the directors of the whole Twin Cities Metro.

So now, I would lead not a team of 11 but of 15, not just one campus, but 28 campuses. Not just one movement but 14 movements. Staffing on 2-3 campuses and not just 2 directors but 3. Everything went from ‘happy joy joy’ to ‘that sounds really messy and a lot harder.’  They called us in to have a meeting with our regional staff, our bosses. Hanni and I were in the car before we went in, and I said ‘ok we need a game plan, what should we do?’

We knew they were going to ask us to do this, we don’t want to do it, we don’t think it will be as fun, it will be harder, we like what we’re doing, and… why? We’re still doing a great job. But we said if it means reaching more students, we should do it. We have no good reason not to do it- we live here, we are capable leaders, we could do it. We had this conversation with our 3 bosses, telling us the reasons why, and at the end of the conversation, we said we’ll do it; we’re just going to say yes. Because, basically what they were saying was, Adam and Hanni, we believe in you, there’s 200,000 college students and we want you to reach them.

I thought, this is not a hard decision: reach more people with the Gospel or not, and we have the capability to do it. The answer is yes. No prayer, what is there to pray about? ‘God, is this your will? That we reach more people?’ Yeah! It was a hard thing, but we said, if it means reaching more people, even if it’s not as comfortable, even if it’s not what we planned…person to person, it doesn’t feel as happy for me, but it makes sense everywhere else. We would reach more people with the Gospel.

So my question for you is, are you living for Christ or yourself? Here’s two things I hear from students and my staff where I know that they’re not living for Christ. They say two things. They say, “I really want to do ‘this’ instead” or “I don’t want to…‘blank’.” So when I’m talking to my staff team in a staff meeting, and I say, “I think we should go do this,” and they say, “well, I don’t wanna…” What’s ‘I don’t wanna’ have to do with reaching people with the Gospel? We’re doing this for Jesus not because it makes us happy or because it’s easy. We’re doing this because we live by faith when we think about what God needs from us.

We try to make wise decisions, and in general, it’s not about what makes us happy. It’s, what does God want? What is God calling us to? When I talk to students and we talk about sharing our faith or serving, and they say, ‘oh I gotta do this,’ I want to know if in your heart of hearts, this is a decision made because you want to serve God and live for him, or is it because you have a personal — frankly sometimes selfish — motivation for your own life? That’s the first thing.

Second thing is this: verse 14 “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all […]” Is the love of Christ what causes you to do things? Is that the motivation for your decision? The first question is ‘what is God’s love like?’ Christ’s love compels me, which means that I’m receiving that love and then its making me do something…so what is it like?

Well it’s a sacrificial love, it’s a giving love, it’s a patient love, it’s a saving love. It’s not just a sacrificial love — it saved you. So if Christ’s love compels you, I would say that it means that this is the type of love I received. I got saved, I got adopted, I got accepted, justified, blessed. That compels me to do something for other people. So when you think about what you’re doing after college and this summer, do you think, ‘God loves me so much, I just gotta to do this for Him and other people. That is what’s leading me to make this decision, because I love and have been loved that I’m just going to go do it.’

So I’m going to share an example, which is weird because Hanni is here. So I have been super busy this fall. Just tired. We have two little kids, and I know she’s just as busy and tired as I am.

I came home one day, and I had a meeting from 9-12, meeting at 1, meeting at 2, 3, came home at 4, had to leave at 5:30 to go to another meeting, something like that. Normally I would go on Facebook, take a little nap, but instead I mopped the floor, did the dishes and folded the laundry.

And during that time, I did that because I hate it when I hear moms talking about dads, and they’re like, ‘they don’t like to help,’ or ‘they don’t like to clean’ and I’m like, ‘what does that mean “you don’t like to clean?” ‘ That’s not an excuse! If you love your wife, if you have been loved by your wife, it should compel you to serve her. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to mop, if you don’t like to take out the trash. Mop! Take out the trash! So instead of my wife coming home to messy house, I’m going to suck it up, mop the floor and vacuum. Why? Because her love compels me. I love my wife and I want to do it.

So here’s the question, and this is a hard question: Do you experience God’s love so much, that you’re just compelled to do stuff? I can’t make you feel God’s love. I can tell you some stuff. But it’s experience, through fellowship, through the Word and worship, it’s through dealing with hard stuff sometimes and having God heal and renew your life, and it’s one of the reasons why I was attracted to Hanni — she was willing to deal with hard stuff and have God heal them and become whole. This is a goal for you: that you would experience God’s love so much that it makes you do stuff. Whether it’s serving someone, sharing your faith, or doing something crazy for God. Your decision after college… what’s your motivation? Is there anything in your heart that says, ‘Because I love God so much, I just gotta do this?’

Here’s the next thing- Verse 13: ‘If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God […].’ I like this one. You guys need to do some crazy stuff for God. You need to do a couple things in your life where people say, ‘are you crazy?’ Why? Because I think the Bible is crazy. It’s nuts.

God became man?? That’s weird. Have you tried to explain the Trinity to someone? ‘Yeah there’s 3 of them, but they’re one.’ Yep, that’s what I believe! And then there’s Abraham, and God tells him, just leave! It’s all right; I’ll give you descendants like the stars. That’s weird. And then Moses saw a burning bush. And by the way hey, go lead some people 40 years, just wander around, run through a sea. Hey little dude, go kill that big dude with a sling. No gun, just a sling.

And oh yeah, you’re supposed to serve people, instead of be served. You’re supposed to be last when you’re first. You’re supposed to submit to your husband, that’s weird. You’re supposed to honor and cherish your wife and die for her like Jesus died. That’s weird too. (By the way that’s my number one piece of marriage advice. Are you willing to die? That’s how life works. Life comes after death.)

The Bible is full of weird stuff. It’s full of crazy stuff. To be honest if you’re really going to follow Jesus, you gotta be out of your mind a little bit. If you don’t do stuff that’s out of your mind once in a while, I don’t know if you’re really following Jesus. So it sounds harsh, but if we read the Scripture it would be even worse, so we’re not going to read that.

I’ll share my calling story. I’m Filipino-Chinese. My dad got married in the year of ’66, got on a plane in January of ’67, and landed in Oahu. It was snowing, it was cold, my mom was wearing high heels, and they had $50. My dad came to study medicine, he was already a doctor, but it was like, study more in America, going back, and obviously, they ended up staying. It wasn’t what my mom wanted, but they ended up staying.

I have two older sisters, 10 and 11 years older, only son in a Chinese family, played tennis. Was pre-med, got saved as a freshman in college. Got accepted to the medical college in Wisconsin. It’s a big deal. So my parents aren’t believers, and God had changed my life so much, I thought maybe I can intern for a year, get trained, and it will help me be a better doctor.

And I did that. I went to Life Options, a conference, and during the middle of worship, I heard God saying, ‘You should give up a year to intern.’ And I thought, yeah I can do that; it’s just a year. Told my parents, and they weren’t happy, but they said ‘as long as you can defer and go back.’

So the next year, I started my internship in Madison and the first couple of weeks, people were asking me what are you going to do next year? Are you going to join staff, or go to med school? And I said, ‘I don’t know, I have lots of time to decide.’ At fall retreat I thought, maybe God will speak to me there.

At retreat, the second message is titled ‘Your life is not your own.’ I’m like ‘this sucks.’ So I’m listening to the speaker, Saturday morning- not even Saturday night! And the guy that was speaking got saved at Madison, 20 years before, in the same dorm I got saved in. He said, your life is not your own, you’ve been bought at a price. God bought me.

He said there’s 7 things in life: your time, talents, money, relationships, plans…none of it is yours. It was bought at a price. By the end of the message, all I heard was, ‘Adam, don’t go to med school. Adam your life is not your own, don’t go to med school.’

I started weeping. I left worship, stared out the window for about 20 minutes, saying, ‘This is too soon, I can’t know yet.’ I did that because I knew for sure it was real. The year before I didn’t tell my roommates for 2 weeks that I was going to intern; this time I told my roommate right away. I found my roommate, told him I can’t go to med school.

The clear thing to me was ‘don’t go to med school,’ it wasn’t ‘Adam, join staff,’ it wasn’t ‘Adam, plant a church,’ it was, ‘Adam, don’t go to med school.’ That was the hard part for me. The hard decision wasn’t, are you going to raise support, are you going to join staff.

It was, ‘hey, why don’t you slap your dad in the face, tell him that all he did for you was worthless, don’t go to med school,’ right? Cause that’s the hard thing. I can deal with not having a quarter of a million bucks. I can deal with raising support. But it’s the parents.

That was October 15-ish. Like any good son, I told my parents December 21st, 3 months later. That was the first day I was on Christmas break. I couldn’t lie to them anymore, I went to their room, said, ‘hey Mom and Dad, we need to talk,’ which…I don’t do that. I said I’m not going to med school; I’m going to join staff with Campus Crusade for Christ.

I don’t know if you can imagine saying that to your parents, but that’s not the happiest thing you can say to them. So we fought for like 2 hours, they said I was crazy, brainwashed, they said why can’t you be a doctor and be a Christian. So that was 2 hours of them telling me I’m crazy and I shouldn’t do it.

So I left, went to this church parking lot just to cry. It’s around 10 or 11 at night, and I’m in the car saying ‘praise Jesus in all circumstances, praise Jesus, thank you Jesus, God I love you so much…’ and then after two minutes being like, ‘what the &*%! This sucks!’ So I just start cussing for like 5 minutes.

Then I remembered there was a friend I met up with a week or two before at Starbucks just randomly, so I thought, maybe my friend Katie will be at Starbucks. I drive to Starbucks, and she’s not there. But there’s this couple from Cru from 2 years ago, who had already graduated there. And I’m just covered in snot, crying, and this girl, she’s just the most motherly girl, she comes up and she’s like ‘its so good to see you!!’ [Cue re-enactment of moment when Adam cries and friend comforts him excitedly].

After that I go home, and for the next 4 days, my mom doesn’t talk to me at all, not a word. My dad talks to me, but on Christmas I left, didn’t even have Christmas dinner. I told them I had to leave, that I couldn’t do this anymore, and my mom just looked away. She didn’t say anything.

My dad said, ‘Mom, he’s telling you he loves you, just give him a hug.’ And she wouldn’t do anything. I went to the door and before I left my dad gave me the best hug he’s ever given to me. He said, ‘You can always come back.’ I remember thinking, I’m not trying to leave the family. I just can’t go to med school.

And for years, for a solid 2, 3 years, every time we talked it was, ‘brainwashed,’ talking about what other people are doing… they still don’t know what I do. My dad called our Crusade office in Madison, talked to them for 2 hours; called the University of Wisconsin chancellor’s office, complained and said that they shouldn’t let Crusade to recruit; called the Crusade headquarters in Orlando…he’s just like, ‘what happened to my son? He got into med school, was a great student…’

My question for you is: would you do anything crazy?  For some of you, this weekend is it. Like really? For some of you, this is enough. Like, “Why did I give up my weekend for this?” and that’s nuts for you, and that’s awesome. Let’s go another notch up on crazy. You want me to spend a whole summer on a missions trip? I don’t even know what that is, I’ve never shared my faith. That’s another level of crazy. I think we should do crazy things for God.

I’ll give you one more level of crazy. You abandon your plans right now and you’re willing to go on a foreign missions, you join Epic staff, you go do some other inner city ministry. I don’t know what it is; I don’t think all of you should do it. I just believe there’s more of you that should that aren’t. I believe that about all college students.

There’s 200,000 college students in the Twin Cities Metro. How many of them are able to work for Target, Best Buy, or the school system. How many of them? All of them basically, right? Out of 200,000 college students, how many do you think are Christians? Maybe 50,000 students. So how many of them could work for God’s kingdom? Only 50,000. In every year, I see students flocking to work for Target and Best Buy and the school system.

I am begging you guys to consider working in God’s mission field, in the harvest. I gotta believe that there will be a day when that trend changes. And not everyone. But a few more. 5,000 Cru staff in the country, and there’s maybe 200 Asian Americans. There’s only maybe 40? 50? Maybe 70 Epic staff who are actually Asian. Really? Like 150 out of 5,000? I’m not saying there should be 3,000 Asians on staff. But how about like, 200? 250? Do something crazy. I think God deserves something crazy.

Here’s the last thing: why you would do something crazy? You fear the judgment seat of God rather than the voices of men. Verse 11: “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. […]” So why are we ambassadors? It says we try to persuade men, because we fear God. Simply put, this means we care more about what God thinks than what man thinks.

So when we have this conversation, and we’re going out to share our faith, and we’re afraid, this says, ‘I don’t care what they say or think about me, I don’t care about how they respond. I care about what God thinks and says about me. What he says is that I’m loved and I’m chosen. Therefore I’m ready to go out and share no matter what the response may be, because I know he’s got my back.’

Here’s the thing with this verse. In verse 11 it says, ‘since then,’ which means you need to know what it says right before, so let’s read verse 10: ‘For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.’

So there are going to be two judgments. There’s going to be the first judgment where you said either, ‘yes’ to Jesus and move forward, if you said ‘no’ to Jesus you go somewhere else. Then there’s the second judgment, where He shows you all the things you’ve done for Him: the motivation for why you did it, how you did it, what you did, who you served, who you loved, your relationships and He’ll judge those.

We’re ambassadors for God because, we live for Him instead of yourself, because the love you received from God compels us so much, we’re willing to do crazy stuff for
Him, because we fear God more than we fear man, and because one day, you will stand before God and the judgment seat of Christ. He won’t just look at what you did, but why you did it. He will look at your motivations too. It’s not just ‘what,’ right? The lady with the two copper coins? It wasn’t what she gave, it was why and how.

This is my goal for you. That when you go to the judgment seat of God, you say, ‘God I love you so much.  I did everything I could to live for you, not for myself. My plans…I had some of them. I let them go. Everything I did I did it for you. I love you so much, I had to serve you, I had to give my money to these people, I had to change the path on which I was going. People thought I was nuts. Even my parents, the elders at my church thought I was nuts. But I cared more about what you were going to think about me than what those people thought.’

You want to know what God’s will for your life is? That’s what God’s will for your life is. Everything else is details. Teacher, lawyer, doctor, Epic staff, pastor…that’s kind of a detail. If you get this part right, I’m going to feel real good about what you end up doing. If you can say ‘yes’ to this stuff, God can use anyone anywhere. You gotta know what’s inside you. Ask God to change your heart, and He’ll tell you what to do. He’ll lead you somewhere. He’ll give you a ministry and a mission.

As I share my story, I want to say one more thing. I desperately want to see some of you giving up your life to God. But I don’t want to think for one second that it’s not going to be really hard. It’s easy now, I’m 34, it’s almost been 15 years since I’ve made that decision so I’m very removed. But it was really hard. I cried a lot. And I could tell you some awesome stories about how God fathered me through it, while I lost my earthly father’s approval. It’s going to be hard, if you choose to do this, but it’s going to be better. Your best life is the story of loss. And what God says is that you can save your life and you’ll lose it, or you can lose your life for Me and the Gospel, and gain it.

Let me pray for us.

“Jesus, thanks for Your Word, God I pray that we would stop thinking about what we’re doing, and just look at our heart and just figure out where we are on the inside and that You would change us. I pray that we would be willing to surrender things to You. Lord, we don’t know what You want us to do. We don’t know if people here are supposed to keep doing what we’re doing, or do a 180. I ask that You help us look at our motivations and our hearts and that they would be consistent with Your Word. I pray that we would feel the excitement and joy of living rightfully before You, of living in the center of Your will. I pray that Your Holy Spirit would speak to us right now, that You would convict us where we need convicting, that You would comfort us where we need comforting, that You would lead us and that we would be open to that. I pray these things in Your name, Amen.”