EDITOR'S NOTE: Raphaël "Ralph" Villeneuve served with our team in L'viv during the summer of 2017. In the article below, he recounts in his own words how he learned to discern God's will and direction. If you haven't already, I encourage you to first "Meet Ralph", and then introduce him to your family. Our kids need examples of other young people who have wholly dedicated their lives to Christ.
Are you a Christian teen wondering where to head out in life, what God may want you to do? You want to find out, but you're not sure how. If so, then you're just like I was a few years ago. It may seem hard or mysterious, and you've probably heard someone say "God told me" or "God wants me to." How could they possibly know? To answer these questions, I'm simply going to tell you my story.
But before that, it is important to note that it will be impossible to find and follow God's will if you have not: chosen to accept Christ as your personal Saviour and resolved to dedicate yourself completely to Him. These two decisions are absolutely crucial for finding His will; they are prerequisites. So this text is aimed at those that are ready to follow God no matter what. No matter what. (Repetition helps to get information into the mind, they say.) You must be ready to sacrifice life and limb, lose what family, friends, and belongings you may have. Luke 14:26 makes it very clear: "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." Simple. Then God will use you, because you will be available. I don't mean that you must lose all of these things before serving God, but that you must be ready to lose them if God so wants. We are like tools in God's hands. What's the point of having a brand new shiny wrench sitting in the toolbox doing nothing? You just have to let yourself be used by God, and He will use you to accomplish His great purpose.
Call me Ralph. I was born in a Christian family, have one brother, and great parents who taught me the Bible, what salvation through Christ is, and character. We went to church, and I attended Sunday school; much like most people that have been born in a Christian family. When I was ten, we moved to Mexico as missionaries. We stayed there until I was thirteen, and then we moved back to the province of Quebec, but in a different city than the one we came from. It was during those years in Mexico that I was saved and decided to follow God. It was only when I was about twelve that I was saved; of course I was not a felon, but I had not accepted Jesus as my Saviour until then. There were no drastic changes in my life after that moment, not until about more than a year later. That's when I decided I had enough of trying to drive my own life; I wasn't particularly happy at the time, so I gave it all up in His hands. Then my life began to change, slowly but surely, with God's help.
Ever since we had come back from Mexico, I felt I would not live in Quebec forever. Amidst school and routine, I got some interest into Eastern European countries. I'm not sure when that began, but I do remember reading an article in a missionary magazine about missionaries in Poland. I realized that as much as we hear missionaries going to Africa or South America, we almost never hear about someone going to Slavic countries to spread the Gospel. Slavic people do not have less needs to be evangelised than anyone else. These countries stayed in my mind for a while; and I prayed about what His will could be. Prayer is so important in the Christian life; you can't get away without it. Start by sincerely saying what you have on your mind and in your heart, and it doesn't need to be half an hour long either. God hears, and He will answer you, in His way, at His time. You must be patient for the answer to arrive, but ready to act when it does. God may answer in a variety of ways, but he may also not answer at all, or answer in a way we never could have seen coming. Very often, when we ask something, we imagine how God could answer to satisfy our demands. God answers according to His will, which is always best for us, even if it is sometimes hard to understand how. (More on that later.)
Back to my story, things got really concrete when my mom told me about a missionary in Ukraine whose blog she had been following for a while. She told me that the missionary and his team organised a trip every year for young men that involved the distribution of tracts for their correspondence Bible course and trips to small villages in the Carpathian Mountains. I was instantly interested, but there were only a few months before the trip, and I didn't have the funds needed for the whole journey. So I waited, and prayed again. Seeing no reason why not, I began to accumulate money for the next summer. God really blessed, and I got quite a bit of money. Somewhere in the winter, my mom looked at their website and saw that the trip had been canceled for that year. When I heard that, I was not really surprised. I had been asking for God's will for many months, so I knew this was a clear answer. But what now? My dad told me to write to the missionary and tell him I was ready to go anyway, which I was. So I did, and after some correspondence, he gave me the green light after talking with his team over there. It turns out that the work they needed to do that summer was pretty much computer work, which I like and find it to be easy. So I went over there for nine weeks, accomplished a lot of work, and got along very well with the missionary team (and fell in love with Ukraine too!). Coincidence? Highly unlikely. Actually, I'm sure it isn't. God extraordinarily guided the whole trip and all the events surrounding it. While I was there, it became crystal clear what God wanted me to do in the years to come. I thought, "With what I know about missions that few know at my age, how could I live a normal North American life? God has given me this knowledge, and I must use it. The only way of doing that is by going in another country to share the Gospel." And God has been directing me in that direction ever since.
This is how it happened to me. Your story is going to be different, and I want to point out two things: first, it is not because I am the son of missionaries that I found God's will; though the fact that I am the son of missionaries greatly influenced what God will want me to do. Second, not every Christian is called to go in another country. This makes sense, because otherwise no Christians would stay in their native country. And I also want to specify that any Christian that shares the Gospel is a missionary. It is just that this word is used to indicate someone that does it in another country. By extension, the mission field is also anywhere someone will preach the Gospel. The Great Commission at the end of Matthew 28 is very clear (go read 18-20 if you haven't yet or just as a reminder). "Go ye therefore, and teach all the nations…" That includes your country as well. It all depends in what ministry God calls you.
Another thing: some have the impression that there are "full-time" ministers, namely those that are supported financially and work eight (or more) hours a day on a particular ministry, and "regular" Christians that have a job. The only difference I see is that some are supported, and others have regular jobs to provide to their own needs, and the needs of their families. No one is more "Christian" or Godly than the other. Any Christian that obeys the Lord and follows his will is a faithful Christian. When we went to Mexico, we were not supported; my dad found a job and worked. We did our ministries on the evenings and in the weekends, and God blessed immensely. Even the great missionary, Paul, worked to provide for himself; he made tents (Acts 18:3).
I have to tell you that for a long while, I was afraid that God would send me in a jungle in Africa or South America. Ironic, right? I was in Mexico. I didn't want to live in a 40°C humidity-quenched place with all sorts of deadly creatures. Hmm. I was in Mexico. To be fair, we lived in the mountains, so the only vegetation there was dry bushes and a few small trees, and the humidity was around 10% on average. So far God has not directed me to any of those places, but that does not mean that will never happen. We have to keep our eyes and ears open.
So, what does God want you to do? Maybe you have an idea, but you may also be clueless. Whatever the answer, keep looking and listening. God's will is not something you find once and then you're done; it is a lifelong quest. God may want you somewhere one day, and somewhere else the next. Examine your motives; could God be placing a burden in your heart or is it just what you would like? Beware of doing something against God's will, for there will be repercussions. If you obey Him, however, He will bless. It is not going to be easy, but why would you do otherwise? He is the Lord Almighty that has all knowledge and power, so do you really think He would let you down? The Bible clearly states that "all things work together for good to them that love God" (Rom. 8:28). If you are one of these people, well, you know that anything, and I mean anything, is for your good. That's easy to believe when life runs smoothly, but what about hard times? It can be harder to believe when you break a limb, flunk an exam, or lose your job. But in all of those instances (and many more), whatever God permits will work together for your good.
A tremendous number of people die each day, and you can be sure that the vast majority of them have not accepted Christ as their Saviour, and a great number have not even ever heard the Gospel. Check out this website: http://www.worldometers.info. It shows approximately how many people are born and die each day. Almost two people die each second. Ouch. That is why the greatest number of them must be reached and told the Good News before they die, for salvation through Christ is their only way to Heaven. It is as if you had found the cure for cancer, Alzheimer, and other deadly diseases. What would you do? Stay at home and watch TV? Of course not. Well, what we know is so much more than just a cure for some disease; it is the cure for the disease that everyone is born with, sin. Jesus' blood is the only way by which people will have their sins forgiven, and by which they will be righteous on Judgment Day.
Jesus' final order to us before he left the Earth was to preach the Gospel and train disciples which in turn, will do the same thing. That way, the Gospel will spread like wildfire; it is exponential. Of course, not everyone will accept the perfect gift of salvation, but we must know that it is God who ultimately saves, we are just the messengers. Our job is to share the Gospel with as many as we can, and only God can do the rest. Is it going to be easy? Absolutely not. We may be mocked, ridiculed, persecuted, and for some, martyred. But we are not the ones they reject; they reject God. Hebrews 11 speaks about the heroes of the faith, and it is an amazing chapter (go read it now).
And let me tell you, everyone that I ever heard that followed God's will to the ends of the Earth (figuratively speaking or not) never regretted it. Neither have I. When you walk in His steps, you can be at peace knowing you are in the right place doing the right thing. The time is short, and we must make the most of it for the Lord. If you choose to follow and obey Him, he will give you the strength and resources you need. Are you up to the task?
Ralph would like to thank Jason Labrecque for his help in editing this article.