Friday, July 14, 2017

God's Will in my Life (Phil. 2:12-13; Ro. 12:1-2) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

"Why Am I here?" "Why Am I Alive?"  “Do I have a purpose or am I just taking up space?”  Have you asked such questions?   George Cameron thinks about these questions daily.  He is alive due to the kidney donation of Clay Jones, a high school football player in Texas, who died in an accident.  Cameron writes: "I gambled, I drank to excess, I didn't take care of myself.  But knowing that I carry the kidney of this young man has really affected me.  It awakened faith in me.  I wonder why God spared me.  I have changed for the better and now work harder at being patient and loving and respectful of my life and the lives of others.”

Yes, God desires for you and me to seek, to know, and to follow His will.  Listen to this scripture from Colossians: “We pray and ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will, in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might.”    Yes, Lord, fill me with the knowledge of your will.

Two weeks ago I spoke about God’s Will in general.  To review, first, God’s Intentional Will means that God created human beings to worship God, to live worthy lives, to bear fruit, to lead moral, just and spiritual lives. Second, God’s Circumstantial Will means that God is involved in the circumstances of our lives. God takes the disappointments, the defeats, the failures, the accidents, the set-backs, even evil and weaves them together for His good purposes.  Third, God’s Ultimate Will means that because God is the sovereign ruler, God’s will for history, the world and our lives will not be defeated but will ultimately be fulfilled.  Today we are examining the question of discovering God's will in our personal lives.

In what kinds of situations have you prayed for God’s will?  “Lord, I need guidance in this decision I’m facing.” “Lord, help me solve this problem.” “Lord, should I change jobs or go back to school to change careers?” “Lord, help me with raising my children.” “Lord where can I get help for my marriage.” “Lord, where can I get help for my aging parents?” “Lord, help me with my finances.”  “Lord, should I have this surgery or not.”   Perhaps you can identify with one or more of these concerns.

First, Scripture declares that God’s Will is knowable; you and I can know it.  This is good news.  God’s Will is not some life-long quest where you must travel to India or Nepal to find it.  Some claim that God’s will is in the searching, the seeking, the journey itself, not the destination.  That is not the word of the Bible.  Romans: 12: “Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  It can be discovered, perceived, discerned, and experienced.  Faith is the gift which enables us to personally understand God's will.  Yes, it is a mystery on the one hand, and yet God will unveil this mystery to us when we sincerely pray about it.

Further, scripture says God's Will is not only knowable, it’s achievable.  By faith, God gives us the power and grace, the insight and ability, to fulfill, to obey, to accomplish His will, to be where God truly wants you to be and to do what God wants you to do.  This is confirmed in these words in the Gospel of Matthew: “Well done, good and faithful servant, well done, enter into my kingdom.”    Again, this is good news.

Further, God’s Will for your life may be right in front of your nose.  In fact, you may be fulfilling God’s will today.  I have spoken with people over the years who tell me they have been searching for God’s will but haven’t found it.   “I don’t know what God’s plan for me is, but I hope I find it before I die.”   Some believe it will be something extraordinary, like saving the environment, making a major difference in their community, saving lives or becoming a missionary and winning thousands of people for Jesus.  I remember talking with a fellow pastor one day.  He was incredibly frustrated.  He said he was waiting for God to give him his opportunity to be like a Billy Graham and lead crusades around the world, but was currently stuck being a pastor in a small church. Is it possible that he was already doing God’s will but was blind to it?

Sometimes we know God's will in advance.  Recall God’s call to the Apostle Paul.  “During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, come over to Macedonia and help us.  After Paul had seen the vision, he got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called them to preach the gospel there.”

In another example, Christian song writer Amy Grant grew up in Nashville, in a Christian home imbued with faith, traditional values, love and support.  She knew from the time she was a child that God was calling her to a career in Christian music.  By the time she was 16, Amy had released her first album and today she’s a dominant voice in the Christian music movement.  She has sold over 30 million albums and taken Christian music to a wider audience than any other artist in the Christian genre.  I have known grandparents who heard God calling them to raise their grandchildren or people who knew God was calling them to adopt a child.  People who know God’s will early on and are fulfilling it have told me:  “I was born to do this.”   God’s will is for them is a life-time calling.

On the other hand, Scripture also teaches that we don’t always know God's purpose in advance.   God called Abraham to go forth to a land that God would show him in the future and to trust that God would be with him.  God didn't tell him where the land was but to simply obey and trust.  God says place your hand in mine and walk forward trusting in me.

For example, a pastor writes: “I have found that God’s will for me is meaningful more in retrospect than in prospect.  I find when I step out in faith, rather than waiting around for a sign from God, and move ahead, God shows me His will.   How He desires to use my life becomes clear.  I see God’s hand far more when I look backward than when I try to look forward.”

I find this is often true in my life.  God decides how and when he wants to use us for His glory.   Our role is to be alert and ready and have the courage to trust in God and go forth in faith.

Recall the verse from Philippians: “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure “ The biblical truth is this: God has a lifelong purpose for some people like Billy Graham or Amy Grant.

On the other hand, God has changing or different plans for other people.  God’s will may change in your life over the years.  God's will for you and me is to please him at the different stages of our lives.  God used David, from being a lowly shepherd, to a fighter who killed Goliath, to the king of Israel over his lifetime.  Likewise, God’s will is often to use us in temporary or short-term ways: like serving in the church in different roles, or volunteering at a hospital, or an animal shelter or in the public schools, or taking on some cause in the community i.e., crime or homelessness, or cleaning the beaches, or raising children or caring for an ill neighbor.   I still haven’t figured out whether being a parent is a temporary or lifetime role.   Psalm 138 vs.8 says: “The Lord will work out his plans for my life; the Lord will fulfill his purpose for me, your love oh Lord, endures forever.”

Where do we find God's will?  How can you discover God’s will?  Here are some biblical ways God reaches out to us.  God doesn't use the cookie cutter approach.  God uses the tailored approach.

First, God speaks through His Word, the Bible.  Read it prayerfully and regularly.  Everything we need for living a life that pleases and honors God is found in Scripture.  Psalm 119 says: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

But we need to be a little careful and pray for God’s guidance.   A man was facing a major dilemma in his life and decided to seek an answer by turning to the Bible.  He flipped open the Bible and randomly put his finger on a page and read the verse: “and Judas went away and hanged himself.”  He was a little startled, so he tried it a second time, and placing his finger on another verse read: “Go and do likewise.”  He thought, I’ll give it one more try and randomly selected a third verse, and read: “Thus saith the Lord.”

Second, God speaks through your own faith and intuition and judgment and common sense and conscience.  You will be in-tune with God’s will if you are daily walking with God, the Holy Spirit will guide you.  Pay attention to the voice within you.  Often I've found that a thought arises: call this person or go see this person, a church member or family member, and they say:  “Wow, I was just thinking about you,” or “I really needed to talk to someone.”  Listen when God speaks to your inner self.

Third, God speaks through the circumstances of your life.  Oswald Chambers put it this way: “God speaks in the language you know best, not through your ears but through your circumstances.”  Think about those times when you said: “It was meant to be, it happened for a reason, it was a God thing.”  What you do each day matters to God.   You may now be where God wants you to be and doing what God’s wants you to do. Rejoice in it.  Give thanks for the opportunity to serve the Lord.

Fourth, discover God’s will by knowing how God has shaped you, designed you, wired you in terms of your spiritual gifts, attitude, aptitude, abilities and talents, your personality, your passion, your interests.  What motivates you?  What energizes you?  What could you see yourself doing?  God strives to match your divine design with your work, your tasks, your opportunities, your decisions, your service, your vocation and avocation.   When there is a match, you are doing God’s will.

If you are not good with numbers, like I am not, God’s will is probably that you not become an accountant or church treasurer.  If you can’t sing a note, God’s will is not likely that you should sing professionally or sing in the church choir.   If you have a poor sense of direction, God’s will is not likely that you become an air traffic controller.  We discern God’s will by knowing ourselves or our divine design and how God has put us together.  I remember a Sunday School teacher at a former church who told me after teaching her first day of Sunday School: “I am sorry pastor, I resign, I realized something today, I don't like children.”

I thought God wanted me to become a cop.  I majored in Criminal Justice Administration at SDSU.  I worked as a police intern for three years during college.  I realized at the end of that time that I was not cut out to be a cop.

Fifth, we discern God's will through the wisdom, counsel and faith of others.  As you seek God’s will, talk to others, to people you respect and trust.  Listen with open ears.  Don’t get defensive if someone says something you don’t want to hear.  You want to hear the truth.  Listen for the word of God from these people.

Sixth, sometimes you must take a leap of faith to find God’s will.  I’m sure you’ve experienced times in which you have prayed and prayed but nothing seems to happen.  I have.  God are you listening?  We must step out in faith and trust that our decision is in accord with God’s will.  Only later, do we find the answer.

Finally, sometimes God reveals his will in a time of need, the needs of others or in a time of our own need.  We are most vulnerable in a time of need.  I have known people who responded to another person’s need, say illness, and they felt God calling them to become a doctor or nurse.  Likewise, I’ve know people who deal with illness in their own lives, and decided they heard God calling them to medicine.

We go to God in our own time of need because we have nowhere else to turn.  It is a time of crisis or confusion or illness or brokenness.  Here we are most receptive and open to God’s word and will.  In such times God can reach us because we are ready to listen.   Yes, discovering God’s personal will is so important.  I close with this prayer:  “Dear Lord, fill us with the knowledge of your will.”  Amen!

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