Finding the Will of God in the New Year
Finding the Will of God in the New Year
2 Timothy 3:14-17
How do you figure out God’s will for your life? How can you tell if the decisions you make are the right ones God would have you choose? Here are 3 real-life examples of people trying to determine the will of God. As I share them with you, decide for yourself if these methods are legitimate ways to interpret the intentions of God.
Margaret is a successful career woman with a desire to please God. She worked her way up to a supervisor’s position in the accounting division at first National Bank and married rather late in life. Now in her late thirties, she is struggling with the importance of her job. She would like to do something significant for Christ, but feels that her job prevents her from making any changes. Margaret’s church recently had a missionary speaker who challenged Christians to become involved in world evangelism and encouraged everyone to justify why they are not “serving the Lord overseas.” Those words stay with Margaret as she ponders spending the next 25 years at her desk, doing the same old accounting tasks.
The next day she read in the paper about a hurricane devastating the Marshall Islands. The accompanying photograph of 2 children crying over the death of their parents vividly captures the pain, and Margaret prays for those kids left to fend for themselves. That very afternoon a coworker, making plans for his vacation, leaves a brochure on the Marshall Islands, and Margaret decides to pray that the Lord would make His will clear to her. That night her husband comes home complaining that the best lawyer in his office, a young man named Marshall, has just been transferred to their East Coast office.
“Honey,” Margaret says to her husband, “I’ve been thinking about what that speaker said in church yesterday, and the funniest set of coincidences occurred. Do you think God could be calling us to be missionaries in the Marshall Islands?”
Douglas is a teenager, active in his youth group at church, and anxious to obey the Lord Jesus. He knows that Scripture calls him to heed the will of God, but he isn’t sure what God’s will is for his social life. So Doug worked out a system for Friday nights.
First he makes a list of girls he wants to date. The he begins phoning, starting at the top of the list. If the line is busy, he takes that as God’s sign that he is not to date that girl. If no one answers, he is to wait and try again later. If the phone rings and the girl he’s interested in answers, that means God has given his blessing for Doug to ask her out.
Next, there is Bill. He decided that he was going to put God in control of his eating. The Bible gave no clear directions so he decided that before any meal he would pray and whatever impression came to mind, that’s what he’d eat. Bill soon found that most of the time his first thought after prayer was his favorite burger at his favorite restaurant. Desiring to be obedient to the vision he purchased the sandwich again and again.
So what do you think about these true stories? I won’t ask for a show of hands, but I bet some of you follow similar patterns in trying to find God’s will for your life. You may look at circumstances or seek answers in the Bible or devise a system or go with impressions or mental images. Is this legitimate? Maybe. Maybe not.
When seeking God’s will for your life the real question is how do you view God? Do you view his will as something that is hidden and elusive? Maybe you feel that the only way to find his will is by performing elaborate or mystical rituals. If so, you are going after God’s will in a godless way. This leads to the question …
Are you pursuing like a pagan? Here’s what God said to the nation of Israel, after they came up out of Egypt and were on their way to the Promised Land. Deuteronomy 30:11-14, Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. (NIV)
The point is that God’s will for your life is not beyond your reach. No rituals or pilgrimages are necessary to find and to follow God’s will. The knowledge of what he wants you to do is not out there some where. It’s near and God wants you to know it.
It’s a lot like the old story of the Native American who visited New York City. As he walked down a busy street with his city dwelling friend, the Indian suddenly stopped and asked, “Do you hear them? Can you hear those baby birds chirping?”
Skeptical, his friend replied, “How can you possibly hear baby birds with the noise of the cars and the machinery and the people?”
The Indian looked around and located a tree landscaped into the sidewalk. In seconds he pull some limbs back to reveal a nest of baby robins. He told his friend, “The ear hears what it’s been conditioned to receive. Watch!” With that he took a quarter out of his pocket and dropped it to the sidewalk. At the “ping” of its landing several pedestrians on that busy street simultaneously looked down to locate the lost change.
Today we’re going to learn to make decisions by the book. There is one source of information containing God’s will that we can have immediate access to at any time.
The Bible is God’s Revealed Will
If you want to know God’s will for your life the first place to look is the Bible. I’d go so far as to say that if you don’t start with God’s written word, you’ll never be able to determine his will. If you want to know God’s will take him at his word. Look what the Bible says about itself. 2 Timothy 3:14-17, …continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (NIV)
The Bible is inspired or “God-breathed” as the NIV puts it. The words of Scripture reveal the mind and heart of God. The Bible tells us how to find salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. It’s useful for teaching to make a person wise. When we read it we might get rebuked. That means our sins are revealed as we read its pages and we’re convicted of our wrong-doing. It also shows us how to live the right way and mature in our faith.
The Bible equips us to do God’s will because it shapes our minds. When we agree intellectually with the truths of scripture and believe in our hearts the word of God shapes our character. The Bible gives us an internal map to living out God’s will. To find God’s will, the Bible is where you begin. The problem is many people just don’t know what to look for. There are basically two ways that we find God’s will in his word: Search the Scriptures for …
1. The REVELATION of God’s Character. 2 Peter 1:20-21, Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (NIV)
One of the biggest reasons God gave us the Bible was to reveal who he is. We’ll never understand him on our own. In fact we’d never even look for him without the prompting of his Spirit. In the Bible we learn who God is and when you know him – his likes and dislikes – you are able to figure out how to do his will. Hebrews 1:1, 2 says, In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son… (NIV)
Not only did Jesus come to die for sinners, he also put on flesh to reveal the nature of God. As we read about him in the Bible we learn who he is and how to conduct our lives in light of his character.
I was studying a passage from the book of Mark. One Sabbath Jesus was in a synagogue and a man entered the assembly with a withered hand. He apparently came forward and asked Jesus for healing. The religious leaders in the crowd whispered that he better not do it because it was the Sabbath. Jesus asked them whether it was lawful to do good or evil, to heal or to kill on the Sabbath. The religious leaders would not answer. It says that Jesus looked around at them angrily. The Greek word means “filled with wrath.” He was deeply grieved at their callousness to the man’s suffering and burning with anger.
Jesus’ response told me something about the heart of God. He’s far more concerned about the needs of people than religious regulations. This makes his will clear when the choice is between religious duty and helping someone who is hurting. God’s priority is people. If we want to please him, people should be our priority too.
You can hardly crack open the Bible without bumping into a revelation of his character. But if you want to know and do his will you can also search the scriptures for …
2. APPLICATION of principles for your life. There are specific things the Bible tells us to stay away from and also positive actions to perform. I don’t need to ask for a special vision of God’s will concerning sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman. He’s already prescribed the boundaries for sexual expression in his word. Sex is reserved for the marriage bed and no other. If someone has hurt me or sinned against me, there’s no need to pray and ask God if I should say something to them about it. His word commands me to go to them. Likewise, I don’t need to ask him if I should forgive and seek restoration. The scriptures clearly instruct me concerning these matters.
Go after revelation and application. In Matthew 5:19 Jesus said: “Whoever practices and teaches these commands of mine will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Who’s going to be calling you great? God is. The kingdom of heaven is the realm where God reigns supreme. If you apply Jesus’ teachings to your life, you’re operating within his kingdom which means you’re doing his will and God will call you “great.”
God’s will is not as big a mystery as some folks believe. It’s there for all to see in the Bible. If you want to know God’s will take him at his word. What we must be conscious of is the way we deal with God’s written word. I advocate - The E.A.G.E.R. Approach…
A man wanted to know the will of God for his life, so took out his Bible, let the pages fall open, closed his eyes and put his finger down on a spot. Looking down at the verse under his finger he found that it said, “Judas went out and hanged himself.” Slightly frustrated he followed the procedure again. This time the verse at the end of his fingertip instructed, “Go and do likewise.” Now alarmed he repeated the same steps once more. Anxiously, he peered down at the text under his finger which read, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” That’s the pagan way to seek God’s will. It’ll lead you into error.
E - Examine the Bible consistently. Deuteronomy 17:19, is God’s will for Israel’s king, “He must always keep a copy of the law with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the LORD his God by obeying all the terms of this law.” (NLT)
The godly leader is to go to the scriptures daily. The N.T. calls us as followers of Christ, kings and priests. Consistent time in the Bible is the most responsible course of action for people designated as such by God. The same encouragement was given to the a young Christian leader named Timothy by his mentor in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.”
A - Acquaint yourself with the Scriptures systematically. This means that you shouldn’t use the hunt and peck method. To really understand what god is saying you can’t just rip verses out of context. You need to read whatever book of the Bible you’re in straight through. Let me give you an example.
One of the most misquoted verses comes from Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Does this mean that if you pray real hard you can go and perform brain surgery? Does it mean that you can personally walk on water if you have enough faith? Of course not. You have to read the entire book of Philippians to know what the author is talking about. He wrote the letter from prison where he was chained 24/7 to a Roman guard. Life wasn’t fun, but he had learned to be content and even joyful no matter what his circumstances. In context, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” tells us that we can have an internal of state of contentment and joy even when life is the pits because of Jesus Christ.
G - Gaze at the verses meditatively. This doesn’t mean that you sit in the lotus position and hum while you read the Bible. This is a call to think deeply about the scripture that you read. Mull it over. Some people even memorize it. Joshua 1:8 says, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
Having been a student of the Bible for 30+ years now I’ve become so familiar with it that in my quiet times I often read too quickly and miss the vital details. I’ve slowed down and not worried about the amount I read and scriptures have come alive again. God is in the details.
E - Embark on your study with prayer. Psalm 119:18 says, “Open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” Ask God by his Holy Spirit to make you receptive to his truth in the Bible. Ask him to make you attentive and aware of what he’s trying to say to you. This will help you to get into God’s word with expectancy. Finally, it is essential that we …
R - Respond in obedience. James 1:22-25 “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. … he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”
When you detect God revealing his will to you in the Bible, put it into practice as soon as you can. That can be a problem because sometimes God shows us things that he wants us to do or stop doing and we respond by ignoring it or rationalizing it away.
Lee Strobel writes about our mindset when we fail to respond in obedience: Pretend that your daughter and her boyfriend are going out for a Coke on a school night. You say to her, “You must be home before 11.” Now suppose it gets to be 10:45, and the two of them are still having a great time. They don’t want the evening to end, so suddenly they begin to have difficulty interpreting your instructions. They say, “What did he really mean when he said, ‘You must be home before 11?’ Did he literally mean us, or was he talking about you in a general sense, like people in general? Was he saying, in effect, ‘As a general rule, people must be home before 11?’ Or was he just making the observation that ‘Generally, people are in their homes before 11?’ I mean, he wasn’t very clear was he? “And what did he mean by, ‘You must be home before 11?’ Would a loving father be so adamant and inflexible? He probably means it as a suggestion. I know he loves me, so isn’t it implicit that he wants me to have a good time? And if I am having fun, then he wouldn’t want me to end the evening so soon.
“And did he mean it in an exact, literal sense? Besides, he never specified 11 p.m. or 11 a.m. And he wasn’t really clear on whether he was talking about Central Standard Time or Eastern Standard Time. I mean, it’s still only quarter to seven in Honolulu. So with all these ambiguities, we can’t really be sure what we meant at all. If he can’t make himself more clear, we certainly can’t be held responsible.”
Many people stop hearing from God because there’s an area of disobedience. I can assure you that if you don’t follow through by doing what God reveals, you’ll go no deeper. God will keep bringing you back to the same place again and again until you get it right.
God’s will for your life is near. He’s given you his word in the Bible, but you’ve got to approach it eagerly and respond obediently. If you want to know God’s will take him at his word.