This month we have been exploring how to discover God’s will for our lives and one of the most comforting things I hope you have heard is that God wants us to know His will even more than we want to know it. God doesn’t want us walking in darkness struggling to find our way and he doesn’t want us wandering aimlessly through life always asking if we are going in the right direction. God wants to show us His way and He wants to guide us into His personal will for our lives which is why he has given us different tools and resources so that we can discover it.
The first week we saw how knowing God’s providential will and walking in God’s moral will, can help us know God’s personal will. Again, the providential will of God are all those things we know God will do because God has said he will do them. For example, God said he would send the Holy Spirit to help us and guide us and God did. We don’t have to ask God for his spirit to lead us because he already sent it and God said the spirit would be here when we need it, we just need to open ourselves up and allow the Spirit to speak to us and lead us.
The moral will of God are all the laws and directions God has already given us like the 10 Commandments and the teaching and example of Jesus. When we follow these directions we put ourselves in a place where God can more easily guide us in personal ways. So the more we know of God’s will already revealed to us, the more we will be able to see God’s will for our own personal lives.
Last week we learned that another amazing resources God has given us are the people in our lives. We can turn to those who are where we want to be in life and in faith and simply ask them for help and direction when we are facing a difficult decision. So many times God speaks through others so we need to be willing to stop and ask for help when we need it. Honestly, even when we don’t need help and when we are not in a crisis it’s helpful to ask people for guidance and direction so that when the crisis comes and the quick decision needs to be made – we can make them.
Today I want us to turn to another resource God has given us that is vital to knowing His will, in fact for me, it is the primary way I have discovered God’s personal will for my life and that is God’s word. We have already seen that the Bible is our main source for knowing the providential and moral will of God, but there’s more to the Bible than that because in Hebrews 4:12 it says that God’s word is living and active which means that it has the ability to speak directly to our lives and the decisions we have to make. God’s word can give clear direction to our lives, but how?
Let’s be clear and understand that while the word of God is powerful and holy, it is not the magic 8 ball. Remember the magic 8 ball? You ask it a question and then shake it up, turn it over and it gives you an answer. This can be fun – but this is not the way to read the Bible. We don’t lay our question before God and then open the Bible, point and look at where our finger lands and say – this is the answer to my question. This will be my life verse forever. (I tried this at our Men’s Bible Study and I pointed to a blank page – what does that mean?)
If this isn’t how to use God’s word, then how do we use it? Are we supposed to look at our own personal situation and then find the exact parallel in the Bible and then follow what we find? While this might sound good, that process clearly has its limitations. First of all, we live in a radically different cultural context than the people of the Bible so the circumstances we face are going to be very different than the circumstances the people in the Bible faced. And just because God laid out a specific direction for a man or woman generations ago doesn’t mean God wants the very same thing for us. We are all different and God has different paths for us so to find our exact story in the Bible and use it as a model might not work. Now if God is asking you to build a gigantic boat and gather 2 of every animal to put in the boat before it rains, then you might find a story that could be helpful, but most of the time, that won’t happen.
So if we don’t look for exact parallels and clear specific answers and directions, then how do we use the Bible as a guide for our lives? How does this help us understand God’s personal will for our lives? The answer is to look for the principles we find here and then use those principles to give us direction. A principle is an unchanging truth. It’s a truth that can guide our decisions and point us in the right direction because it’s unchanging nature helps us understand how God ordered the world and wants us to live. If you were with us last week, we looked at the story of Rehoboam found in 1 Kings 12. In that story we found a principle that can help us learn God’s will when we have to make a decision in a hurry. Rehoboam had to make a quick decision about what kind of King he was going to be so he did something that we should all do, he… (asked for directions). The principle we learned is that God can speak to us and give us wisdom and direction if we will ask the right people.
Now this principle isn’t just found in that story, it is a principle we see throughout the Bible. Look at Proverbs 13:20 – he who walks with the wise grows wise but a companion of fools suffers harm. Or look at Psalm 1:1-3. If we want to grow in wisdom then we need to surround ourselves with people who are wise because we will learn from them but if we spend our time with fools, then we end up making foolish decisions and suffer for it. That is a principle, an unchanging truth that can guide us not only into the right path but God’s specific path for our lives.
There are many principles like this in the Bible and if we can identify them and apply them, then we will begin to see God’s will for our lives. It’s like a map slowly unfolding before us. Now many of these principles are clearly stated like what we heard from the book of Proverbs, and they teach us how God has set up this world to work best and how we should live our lives in order to experience God’s best. Another good example of a clear principle God gives us is again found in Proverbs, Proverbs 22:6. Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
Last week we confirmed 7 youth and one of the reasons we did this and one of the reasons we provide ministry for children and youth is because this principle guides us. We teach and model and order our lives according to the principles God gives so that our children can see Jesus and come to know God’s truth and His will for their lives. We have a lot of children here at Faith Church and so this needs to be an ongoing principle that we follow and this principle helps guide our decisions and vision for the future.
Principles aren’t just clearly stated like the ones in proverbs, however, sometimes they are truths that are implied in teachings we find from cover to cover. For example, a principle we see throughout the Bible is that God forgives our sin. Another one is that God loves us unconditionally. Another is that through giving we receive. We might not find that clearly stated, but we find many teachings that lead us to these timeless, unchanging truths.
Godly principles can also be found in the stories we read in the Bible. For example, the story of Noah teaches us that God is faithful to his promises and we are reminded of that every time we see a rainbow. The story of the little boy who gave Jesus 5 loaves and 2 fish teaches us the principle that when we give all we have to God, God will use it beyond our wildest imagination and do more than we ever thought possible. That little boy had no idea his lunch would feed the crowds and I can only imagine the thrill he must have felt to see that happen. You have to wonder what other amazing things that little boy experienced during his life and the transformations that took place because he continued to follow that principle and every day gave his all to Jesus.
So principles are everywhere in the Bible. They can be found in every story, every teaching, every prayer and psalm and prophetic word and we can use them all to help us make decisions and discover God’s will so it is important for us to know them. It’s also important to know them because God is clear that His principles don’t always line up with the principles we see in the world, look at Isaiah 55:9.
While we look at life one way, God often sees things very differently so we can’t always use our conventional wisdom to guide our decisions – we need to use God’s wisdom and principles to guide us. A great example of this has to do with our money. Many people today are trying to get out of debt. Maybe we overextended at Christmas and are trying to pay down our credit card bill or maybe we are already thinking about April 15th and wondering where the money will come from to pay our taxes. Whatever financial situation we are facing today, God has given us a very clear principle in the Bible that does not follow the conventional wisdom of the world. God says give away what you have and then He will provide all that we need. Malachi 3:10
So God’s ways are not always our ways. We might think the wise thing would be to send that 10% to MasterCard or Visa, or pay down our car or house payment, but God says no – give it to him and then trust Him to provide for all we need. This is why understanding God’s principles is so important. His ways aren’t always our ways and many times His ways don’t make sense in the world around us, but if we will walk in His ways and trust Him, he will shows us that it works and then he will open up more of his will to us.
So the more we study the Bible and learn God’s principles, the more we will find that every decision we face and every question we have will find a connection point in Scripture. We aren’t going to find an exact parallel to our lives or the magic 8 ball type of answer to our question, but we will find the direction we need so that we can discover God’s personal will and the reason I say this with confidence and assurance is because it has been true for me.
Last week I shared that I was given 48 hours to make a major life decision – would I remain the pastor of St. Paul’s in Lewisburg or move here to Faith Church in Bellefonte. I wasn’t able to talk to the members of my church or even any colleagues of mine, but I did talk to my family and they have always been people who have helped me evaluate situations and they were helpful, but I really wanted God to speak to me to in an objective way and for me that meant God speaking to me through his word. You will be glad to know I didn’t open the bible and point, but I did ask God to speak through His word and then I just remained open to what I was already reading. And that’s a key here, if we want God to speak to us through his word then we better be reading his word on a regular basis. We can’t wait until we need direction on a major life decision until we open God’s word, we need to open it and be reading it on a regular basis because when we are, God will have an easier time leading us to what we need to hear.
As I was struggling to make my decision I was preaching through the beatitudes for Lent and I was on the 2nd beatitude which said, Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. That was the text I had to preach that Sunday so I was reading it and trying to make some sense out of it but in the back of my mind I was wrestling with my decision. I wasn’t getting far with my sermon so decided to read this verse in other translation so I picked up the Message and this is what I read: You’re blessed when you feel like you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
I knew immediately that what was most dear to me was my position as pastor in Lewisburg and that God was telling me to let that go so I could be embraced by Him. The direction of God was so clear that in the moment I read those words I cried because I wasn’t sure I wanted to give up what was most dear to me. Obviously I did because I am here today and I have felt the embrace of God in many ways since then and I have been blessed.
God gave direction through His word and he can do that for all of us if we are reading and reflecting on it on a regular basis. In fact, God has promised to guide us through his word in Psalm 119:105. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. God’s word will guide us and direct us and God’s word can reveal His personal will for us if we will read it and then live out and walk in the principles we find.
Discovering God’s Will – Unfolding the Map
1. God will have an easier time directing us through His word when we are reading it on a regular basis. Set aside 5 minutes each day this week to read the Bible. Consider reading a Psalm or a few verses from Proverbs each day.
2. Practice identifying God’s principles in the Bible. Read the following verses and write down the principles found there. Consider how these truths might direct your life and guide your decisions this week.
• Psalm 1
• Proverbs 3:1-10
• Matthew 5:1-16
• Romans 8:31-39
• Galatians 6:7-10
• John 1:1-5
• John 6:1-13
3. Identify a time when God gave you clear direction through His word? Share this experience with one person this week.