One of the things every person wants to know is the best, safest and most pleasurable path for their future. We want to know which job to choose, which town to live in and if that all illusive ‘ONE’ will ever come into our lives, make our hearts skip a beat and meet us at the end of the aisle before we live happily ever after.
And it doesn’t take you too long within Christian circles before you start hearing and using the phrase ‘God’s will’.
“I’m seeking God’s will for my future.”
“I just want to know God’s will for this situation.”
“God give me a sign and make Your will clear.”
God’s will and the subject of Christian guidance is a huge topic and often complicated and even messy. We don’t want to step outside of God’s will or make a wrong decision because second best just isn’t what we want to settle for.
So we wait, and wait . . . And wait, praying, hoping and flicking through our Bibles for some clarity and leading.
Lets just acknowledge that God is 100% in control.
Yes bad decisions, particularly when they mean we walk into sin have consequences, but God is not sitting in heaven saying “if only Gary had chose a different career I could use him better.”
No, He is more passionate about our life than we are. And He is in control.
But He does make certain things clear:
1 Thessalonians 4:3 tells us “For this is the will of God, your sanctification”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
In 1 Peter 2:15 we are told “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”
And in 1 Peter 3:17 we read that “it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.”
Throughout the Bible God gives us direct instructions, and in fact in one place we are actually told that we should not be foolish, but we should understand what God’s will is.
That is found in Ephesians 5:17. It continues in verse 18 telling us that we should not be drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit.
It is God’s will for you and I that we are filled with His Spirit.
When we talk of ‘filled’ here, don’t think of a glass being filled with water.
Think more of the sails of a ship being filled with wind and driven along. That’s the meaning of the word Paul used here. And I believe that this is the key to walking in God’s will and being guided by Him.
His Spirit fills the sails of our life and drives us along.
If you do read John MacArthur's book, his main point is that if we are not living in God's revealed will we can never be sure of His unrevealed will.
While i agree on much of this i want us to follow it through 1 or 2 more steps so we aren't left with a list of "do this, this and this and bob-is-your-uncle" but with a focus on Jesus more than anything else as being the decisive issue in our living.
All the declarations as to what God’s will is can be found in other area of the Bible as being something that must be done in our lives by the Spirit. For example 1 Thessalonians 4:3 tells us that God wills our sanctification, But Romans 8:13 tells us that if we put to death the deeds of the body, by the Spirit we will live. So our sanctification, or our victory over sin must be done by the Spirit.
So here’s the main point -
If the Spirit is driving us forward then we are sure that we are in God’s will.
If the Spirit of God is that force which controls us and moves us, who, as Philippians 2:13 says "works in us both to will and to work according to His purposes", then we don’t have to stress to much about the decisions we make. We can live free of anxiety in this area.
So how do we get this filling or guidance of the Spirit and are there any Biblical examples?
1st - How are we filled with the Spirit?
To answer this lets go back to the time of our salvation, that time when we first believed the Gospel and ask “How did I first receive the Spirit?”
Galatians 3:2 answers this with another question:
“Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?”
Anyone who seriously reads the Bible can answer that question - we received the Spirit by hearing with faith.
What did we hear?
The Gospel, or good news about Jesus Christ.
Now, jump to verse 5 where Paul asks another question
“Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?”
So we’ve moved forward from the receiving of the Spirit at our conversion to the continual supply or filling of the Spirit right now.
Does He (that’s God) who supplies the Spirit to you (that’s the filling) and works miracles among you (that’s both the fruits of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit in action) do so by works of the law or by hearing with faith?”
How are we filled with the Spirit?
By hearing with faith.
What do we hear?
The good news about Jesus Christ.
To have the Holy Spirit as our guide, as the driving force behind all our living and all our decisions we must continually hear the good news about Jesus Christ with faith.
Look again at Ephesians 5:18 where we are instructed to be filled or driven by the Spirit. The following verses from 5:19 - 6:9 display for us the evidence and characteristics of someone who is Spirit filled:
[READ FROM BIBLE]
Now look at Colossians 3:16
We begin with the phrase “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”
And then the evidence and characteristics of someone who has the Word of Christ dwelling in them is displayed from verses 16 - 4:1
[READ FROM BIBLE]
The result of being filled or driven by the Spirit is the same as having the Word of Christ dwell in us richly. We receive the Spirit’s filling and guidance by the Bible. So if we want to walk in God’s will, if we want Him to be the driving force of our lives then we must be continually in this book.
So what about an example from the Bible?
Luke 24:13 - 33
[READ FROM BIBLE]
These two guys are heading in one direction (Emmaus) but then Jesus shows up and begins going through the Scriptures (the Bible) doing what?
Verse 27 -He explains to them all the things concerning Himself.
The result of this is that their hearts burn within them (verse32) and they change direction and go back to Jerusalem. They didn't get some Old Testament text telling them to go up to Jerusalem, No they had the Bible opened up to them with Jesus as the focus. This changed the very direction they were going that night.
Seeing Christ has an amazing effect on the way we live, the choices we make and the direction we walk in life.
We also see in this event, why Paul in Colossians calls it the Word of Christ. Namely, because it is all about Jesus.
The primary reason for opening this book is not to win arguments.
We don’t use it like some Christian fortune cookie.
And it isn't solely to preach sermons.
No, the primary reason why we read....no why we study this book is so we can see Jesus, so we can know Him and love Him more and more.
A quick word here to anyone in any leadership or ministry; whether preaching from the pulpit, helping at summer camps, leading at campaigners etc etc - If you are not in this book, if you are not setting aside time to come to the Word of Christ and see Jesus on display here for who He is and all that He has, is and promises to do; you need to step back and get back into a close, experiential and personal relationship with Jesus.
And that only comes through prayerful study of this book.
Lets move on to something a bit lighter - signs and wonders!
Any conversation about God’s will must touch on this.
Many of us want God to do something in order to make His path clear. We want a Bible verse to jump out at us or some word of prophecy or some other miraculous sign or fleece.
Now, let me state here that God does, can and will work in miraculous ways with signs etc to bring clear direction to His people. We should expect that.
But we should not seek for it.
When the Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign to prove that the things He was doing were of God, Jesus replied in Matthew 12:39 that it is a "wicked and adulterous generation who seek for a sign."
He then declares that a sign will be given (in our case it has been given).
“no sign will be given except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
Jesus draws attention away from the signs and onto Himself.
You see our focus on God’s will ought not to be on knowing our future - that’s stuff of witchcraft, tarrot cards and palm readers.
Our focus ought to be one of faith.
Romans 1:17 tells us that "The righteous will live by faith"
Hebrews 11:1 would clarify what faith is - It is the "essence of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
We trust God as sovereign ruler over all. We cling to the promise that He works all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).
And we live trusting that His Spirit will guide us.
That He is the one who works in us both to will (that is desire) and to work for His good pleasure.
Rather than living in fear of wrong decisions we trust His hand upon us and live in the principle of Proverbs 16:9
“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”
We make plans and we make decisions in faith that God will establish every step.
We don’t expect these steps to be revealed before we take them, but we trust Him as the one who will never leave us or forsake us and who is almighty & soveriegn.
We focus on Jesus and trust that as the Word of Christ dwells in us richly and we are filled by the Spirit,
that He will create desires within us, as Philippians 2:13 says.
We take advice from mature believers, we think things through, we consider what we desire or want to do, we weigh up whether sin is involved, we make sensible decisions. We choose subjects, schools, universities, courses and jobs and yes even a wife or husband, not as a result of some revelation but with faith in the supreme ruler over all our steps.
We pray and we sing with the Psalmist that God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light to our path, because it is here in this book that Jesus is revealed most and where our love for Him and obedience to Him finds its foundation and strength. We ask as James 1:5 instructs us to, for wisdom.
And while we trust that He is working in our hearts and minds, driving and guiding us by His Spirit and Word we are not surprised if or when this God who spoke creation into being, speaks into our situation in miraculous ways.
The plea is to take your eyes off yourself - honestly no one will care in 100 years from now what car you drove, job you done etc. And if we are brutally honest no one part from God will give a second thought about the person you married, and in fact many of the things we agonize over will be like dust in the wind come eternity.
Honestly: whoever thinks to themslves that its a good job that great great great grandad John hooked up with great great great granny Bessy.... we just dont think that way. And you're great, great grandkids wont think that much about you either.
Focus on something greater, more glorious, more worthy of your attention. Something that has power throughout all generations and which will have impact on future generations; Namely Jesus.
Get into this book, plead with Him to reveal Himself to you on its pages. Trust His promises…
And in boldness and courage live and make decisive decisions by faith in the one who loved you and gave Himself for you so that in Him you might be sons and daughters of God, sure of a future with Him in heaven and on earth.
If anyone has any questions feel free to ask and then i want to just let Jesus have the final words from one last passage in the Bible.
[READ FROM BIBLE]