God's will is something we often talk about. Making the right choice means finding God’s will for your life, but God’s will is hotly debated. I am sick and tired of people telling me what they believe God’s will is, then reversing God’s will a short time later to suit themselves.
God told me or God’s will are some of the most dangerous and misused phrases in all of Christendom, and we have already faced problems in this church with people thinking they hear God when they are actually serving themselves.
We believe God speaks to us. We believe in prophetic words, but before you speak on behalf of God you need to establish your credentials. We do not permit anyone to walk off the street and start praying and prophesying over our people. If you have this gift, do our 101 and 201 course, join our prayer teams and over time become a part of what the Lord is doing here.
I mean, who among us believers does not want to find the will of God in our lives? Yet so many people I talk to have no idea even where to start in finding God’s will for their lives, and they look at their own lives and struggle to understand God’s will. How can it be God’s will for me to lose my job, lose my marriage, lose my mind?
What is God’s will and what is not God’s will? How can we know God’s will? Is it common to miss God’s will or is that even possible? Can I really know that I am doing God’s will? That I am in His will? How come someone else thinks they know God’s will for my life and I don’t?
Beware of anyone dressing up their opinion as the will of God!
All these and more are common questions every thoughtful believer grapples with at one time or another in life. Does God withhold His will for us? Does He set an impossible series of tasks to make us earn the right to learn His will, a bit like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade… bow now, step here, etc.
Much of the confusion about God’s will goes back to not understanding God Himself and how He does His amazing work in our lives. The Christian life is not merely a matter of getting from right now to the completed product, from point A to point B. No, God’s will for us in this life is more about the journey itself.
And in the 21st century, we think that our opinion really matters! As we grow, we realise that ultimately the only opinion that really matters is God’s!
Romans 9:21 (ESV Strong's)
Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honourable use and another for dishonourable use?
GOD’S SOVEREIGN WILL
The first facet of God’s will is His Sovereign, determined, immutable will. This determined, decreed dimension of God’s will has four qualities:
(1) It is absolute.
(2) It is immutable, which means “unchangeable.”
(3) It is unconditional.
(4) It is always in complete harmony with His plan and His nature. In other words, the decreed will of God will be holy, just, good, and righteous; therefore, it will be best. And it will all work toward those ends.
Romans 12:2 (ESV Strong's)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
While we may not know the will of God for the future in our specific situation, but He has given us a whole list of requirements that are in His will for all believers: such as
Obey and honour parents (Eph. 6:1, 2). Marry only another Christian (2 Cor. 6:14). Raise our children by God’s standards (Eph. 6:4). Meditate on the Scriptures (Ps. 1:2). Pray (1 Thess. 5:17). Assemble for worship (Heb. 10:25). Proclaim Christ (Acts 1:8). Love one another (1 Cor. 13).
God’s sovereign will is about how we should live, and He lays out His will so it applies to all of us, no matter who we are or where we live. You should never be confused by God’s sovereign will, because it is clearly spelled out for us in His Word.
2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV Strong's)
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
GOD’S PERMISSIVE WILL
The second facet of God’s will is His permissive will, which represents what God allows. Essentially, God’s permissive will is the way things play out. We believe that God is all powerful and all knowing, so nothing ever takes Him by surprise, and nothing is outside of His permissive will. He permits evil at times, but He always has a plan!
This is not necessarily what He wants, but it is what He permits. For example, God allowed Job to go through suffering. He didn’t cause the suffering; He permitted it. This is where the whole matter of evil comes into play.
And this is one of the irreconcilable difficulties in our theology-the tension between the determined will of God and the responsibility of humanity. We need to make Christ known to the whole world, knowing all the while that not everyone in the world will believe. God does not cause sin, but He does permit it. He is not pleased when His creation yields to temptation, but He uses even that to accomplish His purposes.
Romans 8:28 (ESV Strong's)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
So even pain and misfortune, stuff that the Lord doesn’t want but permits, can be used by Him to your good. It may be the result of your sin, or someone else’s sin, and therefore it is not God’s sovereign will, but God can make lemonade out of lemons!
Understanding God’s sovereign and permissive will gives rise to a certain kind of Christian that I call a spiritual fatalist. In this condition believers have little or no faith, but basically expect God to do bad things more often than not, and then claim it as God’s will. It’s is a bit like Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” where, as a good Jew, he says, “I know we are your chosen people, but do you have to choose us every time?”
Don’t become a spiritual fatalist! Your Heavenly Father loves you and wants the best for you.
Matthew 7:9-11 (ESV Strong's)
which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
We need to realise that, although God’s will is for us to be blessed, sometimes bad things happen to good people. When this happens, and it will, don’t get fatalistic about it, just ask God to show you the good He intends out of it, and trust Him to turn it around. To know Him is to love Him, and to love Him is to trust Him.
GOD’S WORD AND GOD’S WILL
If you don’t know God at all, how can you possibly know His will? The more you get to know God, the more you understand His will for your life. God’s Word and God’s will are intertwined.
And how can you get to know Him? By reading His Word every day. That’s why I keep talking about the Bible reading plan, because no matter how hard it seems, every moment invested in reading, studying and even memorising God’s Word will yield fruit, and the fruit will be manifested as choices that align with God’s will.
Hebrews 4:12 (ESV Strong's)
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Find God's Will
God’s Word is not just a book, it is living and active. It penetrates into your life. It helps you make choices according to the spirit, not the soul.
Everyone has a soul. It’s not your body, it is the centre of your mind, will and emotions. You make most decisions in your soul. You think things through in your mind, and while you mind is logical, it often does not make choices in isolation, it is heavily influenced by your will, what you desperately want to see happen. And your emotions, how you feel at the time.
Sometimes we want something so badly it eclipses all logic. That’s what happens when we wilfully choose to sin, without counting the consequences. Then at others times, we are down, we are depressed and then we will often make stupid, illogical, disastrous decisions when they are emotionally distressed.
I have learned not to make any big decisions on Monday morning. On Mondays I am exhausted, spent, flat and frankly miserable. It is a poor time to make big choices. Yet humans make huge decisions in the most inopportune moments, like the middle of a fight, or when they are depressed, angry, frustrated or discouraged.
So how do you make spiritual, godly decisions according to God’s will in your life?
HOW TO FIND GOD’S WILL IN YOUR LIFE
Ephesians 5:17 (ESV Strong's)
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Life is full of decisions, and if we want to make the right choices—those that glorify God and benefit us and others—we need God’s guidance, we need to know His will and we need to actively seek God’s will for our lives. The following seven words will help us in seeking His direction.
Psalms 66:18 (ESV Strong's)
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
If you continue with wilful sin in your life, then you place a barrier between yourself and God. If you want to live your life in the will of God, then you need to keep short accounts with God. Don’t beat yourself up about it, confess it and get right with God. You need to ask, “Is anything in my life hindering me from hearing what You are saying, Lord? If so, what is it?” “Is there any ongoing situation, or person I’m too attached to that stops Your will in my life.”
1 John 1:9 (ESV Strong's)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Why should God make His will known to you if you never obey Him? We must be committed to submitting to whatever God instructs us to do. Sometimes we find it difficult to move ahead because we want to know step two before we complete step one of God’s will.
However, we must surrender ourselves to His timing and guidance. Obeying the will of God is both a humbling and an uplifting experience (1 Pet. 5:6).
James 4:7 (ESV Strong's)
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
God is not trying to hide His will for your life. He doesn’t have a series of tests and hoops you need to jump through to earn the right to hear about His will for you!
Jeremiah 29:11-13 (ESV Strong's)
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
God is actually excited about His awesome plans for your life. And He can’t wait to lead you on to your destiny… All you need to do is ask, and wait! God may take His own time in revealing His will for your life, but if you seek Him, you will find Him because He wants to be found by you, and He wants to reveal His will.
James 4:2 (ESV Strong's)
You do not have, because you do not ask.
Meditating for the Christian is not just sitting down contemplating your navel. You need to meditate on something of significance, and nothing is more significant than the Word of God!
Psalms 119:105 (ESV Strong's)
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
God’s Word is a light, and the more we think about and study God’s Word, the clearer our path will become. That’s why I get as many of us as possible reading the Word of God every day. I’m not trying to make your life miserable, I am opening you up to your destiny. And like a lamp, you cannot see a mile ahead, God just reveals a little bit, and calls you to step into it.
Christianity, with all the teaching and Bible translations available, is still about faith. You have to trust God and believe Him to reveal His will for your life.
Mark 11:24 (ESV Strong's)
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
God delights in our faith, and He is tickled pink when we seek Him and trust Him for our future and destiny. He absolutely loves it!
Hebrews 11:6 (ESV Strong's)
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Believe and be rewarded! Therefore, trust that He will show you what to do.
God promises that He acts on our behalf when we wait in faith for Him.
Isaiah 64:4 (ESV Strong's)
From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.
If we insist on running ahead and taking things into our own hands, if we constantly force things or try and manipulate circumstances to make our desires come to pass, then we will be disappointed. On the other hand, if we wait patiently for the Lord, and when the Bible talks about waiting it means waiting expectantly, then the sovereign, all powerful God of the universe will act on our behalf.
It’s our choice!
When we obediently seek the will of God, we can be sure that He’ll hear us and give us the wisdom we need to make the right choices.
Matthew 7:7-8 (ESV Strong's)
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
And once we know God’s will, we have a responsibility to embrace His direction and obey Him completely.
You will find great peace and confidence in knowing that you are making choices based on God’s guidance, on His will. Perhaps no one else will understand or agree with your decision—but you will have heard from the One who matters the most.
WHERE THERE’S GOD’S WILL, THERE’S A WAY!
Your choices need to be aligned with God’s will, not just His permissive will, not just what you can get away with, but His sovereign will, His first choice for your life. And you will never know God’s will until you know God, and if you want to truly move in His will, the more you know Him, the more you will trust Him, and the more you trust Him the more you will believe, and even rest in His will.
The issue is not so much discovering God’s will, because that’s written in His Word, it is living in God’s will. And living in God’s will is all about knowing Him, and getting to know His character and hence His will. And when you get to know Him, you will begin to see through His eyes, giving you a fresh perspective.
We much prefer to live in the here-and-now realm, seeing life as others see it, dealing with realities we can touch, analyse, prove, and explain. We are much more comfortable with the tactile, the familiar, the logic shaped by our culture.
But God offers a better way to live. His way requires faith that lifts us above the daily grind and the drag of our immediate little world, opens new dimensions of thought, and introduces a perspective far beyond human limitations.
In order to enter this better way, we must train ourselves to think God’s way. This turns our focus away from ourselves and our circumstances, and all the troubles we face, and it opens our minds to a God-centred frame of reference, where all things begin and end with Him and His sovereign will.
Some of us here need to change perspective, to see beyond our immediate circumstances where we fatalistically blame God for every bad thing that happens to us. We should live above the circumstances, seeing with God’s eyes the blessing He intends for our lives.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (ESV Strong's)
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
FACING THE STORMS OF LIFE
In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus shares the story of two builders, who built their houses on different foundations… one on sand, the other on rock. When the storms of life came, the sand based house collapsed while the rock based house stood firm. The houses were built on different foundations, but often we forget that they both faced cyclonic storms.
We will all experience storms in life. Good things will happen to us, as well as tragic and inexplicable things. Every life will have its share of pain. Even so, we have a God who, despite the worst tragedy, can bring good out of bad! That’s not to say that God will make bad good, because bad is bad. But it is to say that good can come out of bad, but you only get to see this when you can see with God’s eyes.
Romans 8:28 (ESV Strong's)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Life is a process, and as finite beings who live moment to moment, we can’t see around the bend, we can’t discern God’s ultimate purposes or see the entire big picture. But we can know that the ultimate result will be good…Why? Because we know that God is good.
KNOW GOD, KNOW LIFE… NO GOD, NO LIFE!
Knowing God’s will for your life is simply about knowing God, and that is life and life to the full! The more you know Him the more you trust Him, and the more you trust Him, regardless of the circumstances, the more you will live and move and have your being right in the centre of God’s will.
And if you live there, if you live according to God’s will, then the world can throw anything at you and you won’t doubt, you won’t accuse God and you won’t make excuses… you will simply trust, no matter what.
That’s the peace that passes all understanding… knowing God so closely that nothing else matters!
So the challenge this day is to take your eyes off circumstances, off the bad consequences of your previously bad decisions, and place them firmly on the Lord. Watch those things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. Then no matter what happens you can say this…
Habakkuk 3:17-18 (ESV Strong's)
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
For those who truly know God, worry is not an option. The closer you are to God, the more your will aligns with His, and your decisions become His will for your life. It is not so much about worrying over your future and your choices, it’s not even about seeking to make right decisions…
Matthew 6:33 (ESV Strong's)
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.