Doing God's Will

Que Sera, Sera

When I was just a little girl,
I asked my mother, "What will I be?
Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?"
Here's what she said to me:
Que sera, sera,
Whatever will be, will be.
The future's not ours to see,
Que sera, sera,
What will be, will be.

Sounds like a strange opening for a study of doing God's will but bear with me. I think this is a question the every young boy and girl asks when they take their minds off their toys and such. "What's going to happen to me when I grow up?" A good question. This lesson is my first in a series on the subject of doing God's will.   There must, of necessity be more to follow for such an important subject (more lessons later, perhaps on the web).  So, let's launch into this thought provoking subject.

God's will for us can be divided into two categories - His Decreed Will and His Preceptive Will. It is important for us to know our role in these two categories or we will get stuck in a sort of endless loop of uncertainty and God's instructive discipline - more on His instructive discipline later.

God's Basic Will for the life of every man and woman.

John 6:28-29 Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" [29] Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

The very first issue we must face is the claim that God has on our lives. We are not our own - we, as sinners, have been purchased by the Lord Jesus Christ Footnote - it is God's will that we come to a knowledge of Him and to believe on the Lord - believe on His redemptive work and receive Him as our Lord and Savior. That is the first basic step in doing the will of God - Receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Without the sinner's obedience to redemption's call they are bound for hell and can only be the recipients of His Goodness that is designed to call them to repentance. Footnote The first act of obedience for the sinner can only be to the call of the Gospel - believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.  Jesus' answer to the Jews about doing the works of God was the equivalent to wanting to do His will - to be approved by God as His people. That translates into today as the Christian man or woman might ask the question what does God want them to do with their life. Today's question the Christian might ask is, "How can I know God's will for my life?" Answer:  be sure of your salvation - take that step.

God's Decreed Will.

Psalm 139:15-16 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, [16] your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (NIV).

The problem comes if the Christian tries to figure out the future. That is God's prerogative. In our passage, the psalmist is marveling at the wonder of his creation within his mother's womb and then inserts this very important bit if information - God has a dossier on us all! Think of it - every day in your life has been set in context with the Sovereign Will of God. God has decreed that certain events will come into our lives - that is His business - not ours. We are not in the future-telling business. One of the most serious offences that the Jew could commit was that of participating in the practice of fortune-telling. Footnote It is strictly forbidden for more than one reason. First, it is the practice of fortune-telling that brings one into contact with demon activity. Second, it simply is not our business to know God's decreed will for us. That is not to say that we shouldn't prepare for the future. We are to be diligent in preparing, for example, for our vocation. We are to study our abilities - prepare in education for a eventual vocation where our abilities are used to the glory of God. We should be listening to our parents, our friends or anyone who knows us and we have a high regard for in their Christian walk as to what they see in our lives that would help us evaluate our abilities and assets.   The problem comes when we try to circumnavigate the biblical approach and substitute a quick, easy answer to what is supposed to be a life that is dependent on obedience to the precepts of God and steps of trusting Him for direction. But I anticipate the lesson.

There is a practice within Christian circles of saying that one hears the voice of God. It goes something like this: "The Spirit of God led me to (fill in the blanks). Or, "The Lord told me to (fill in the blanks). One noted Bible teacher call this "strapping it on." That is, to lend importance to something a Christian says - he might say "I've prayed about it and I believe it's the Lord's will that we (fill in the blanks). Be careful about this - we are to make decisions after prayer - we are to take responsibility for our actions based on what we learn from God's word as we apply it in our lives - but to "strap on" that it is the leading of the Spirit of God, or it is the Lord's will that - - -. There is no biblical basis for that approach. "Strapping on" 'It's the Lord's will.' is just another way of giving weight to what we say - when it's done at the expense of obeying the Lord's precepts, it's just another form of "spiritual" intimidation.

Dr. R. C. Sproul gave an incident out of his own life that might illustrate this business of "strapping it on." Quite a while back in his career he had left a teaching position and was looking for employment. He had five job opportunities - coincidentally, he had five friends who promised to pray for R. C. for God's will in choosing the right job. Well, they all came back with approximately the same comment that they had prayed a lot about R. C.'s decision and the Lord had "spoken" them and that such and such a job was the Lord's will. The problem was that none of them had agreed on what was the Lord's will - they had all named different jobs as the Lord's will for R. C. As it turned out he chose a sixth job but it serves to illustrate that we really do not know God's decreed will and we must ultimately rely on good judgment based on proper scriptural application and a sound evaluation of our abilities as compared to our job opportunities.

Let's look at another passage:

The Preceptive Will of God.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. [6] In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Notice the flow of action:

1.         Trust in the LORD with all your heart.

2.         Do not lean unto your own understanding.

3.         In all your ways (in the home, at school, at work) acknowledge Him.

4.         He shall direct your paths.

To trust in the LORD covers the whole gamut hearing and obeying the Word of God. We have already covered the first act of obedience - trusting the Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation. This brings us into relationship with Him - the trusting does not stop there. Maybe we should read the whole context from verse one. "My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: [2] For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee." (Proverbs 3:1-2). Trusting means listening and obeying the commandments of God - Solomon promises from God's authority that trusting in this manner will result in a fruitful and fulfilling life. Next we come to a most important matter - the matter of whom do you trust. A word-study on the word "lean" might be in order. It literally means to shift one's weight on something so as to rely on it for support. Abraham invited the Angelic visitors to "rest" under the shade of a tree. Footnote Saul leaned on his spear. Footnote The LORD allows the wicked to rest on their apparent security but holds them accountable. Footnote Israel leaned on Egypt as a staff for security but Egypt broke and splintered, hurting Israel. Footnote Let's get to the point. If we "lean" - rely - on our own evaluation - our own understanding, then we do not fall under the providential oversight of the Lord as far as His decreed will. We will make mistakes in judgment. We will literally be wasting our time as far as the Lord's will is concerned.

Next comes acknowledgment of God playing a part in every area of our lives. It never ceases to marvel me that many Christians seem to leave God of certain areas of their lives. It's as though they can compartmentalize their lives. Let me try to illustrate this from my dad's home. We used to have a room called "the glory hole." Funny name for its function. That is where we put stuff when we were expecting company and wanted the rest of the house to look neat. All the junk would go into "the glory hole." I suppose it would have been quite a shock if we were to open that door to our visitors and they would have see the junk all piled up in it. We tend to do that with God. There are certain areas that we will allow God to be in, but then there is "the glory hole" where God is to stay away from. No. We are to acknowledge God in every area of our lives. This looses the next important part of our passage in Proverbs - God's action. His Decreed Will for our lives.  This the exciting part of our lives when we make important decisions regarding opportunities of vocation, ministry or who are friends - spouse will be.  Taking part in God revealing to us His Decreed Will is designed by God to be culmination of many steps of obedience to His precepts as we have learned them step by step.

But let's get back to our part of the passage. Our responsibility is to learn God's precepts and to obey them. Realizing the Preceptive Will of God is just that. Learning His Precepts and obeying all of them. One at a time. Isaiah put it this way:

Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. [10] For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: [11] For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. [12] To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. Isaiah 28:9-12

The tragedy for Israel was that they would not accept God's way of being in the center of God's will - as a result, they fell under the discipline of God.  Isaiah had been ridiculed by the religious leaders of the day as speaking like one would to a childish person (verse 9).  But this was the way God had ordained they would be taught - they rejected the precept upon precept approach and as a result, they would be "taught" by a foreign tongue (possibly their captors or some Bible teachers point to this passage as a prophesy of Act 2:5 - 11.  The important point not to be lost is that we should be careful about not rejecting God's precepts - even the ones we do not like.

The Importance of Obedience - Avoiding Instructive Discipline.

We cannot pick and choose which part of God's Precepts we are to obey. Our passage in Isaiah teaches that each precept comes one at a time. When a precept is understood by God's child the responsibility is to obey that precept. We cannot forget that which we have learned for convenience sake. I have mentioned God's Instructive Discipline. If we do not obey His Precepts we place ourselves under His instructive discipline much as a disobedient child would fall under his father's discipline. Not as a vengeful act on the part of the father but as a form of instruction. Let's look at a passage in Hebrews:

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: [6] For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. [7] If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? [8] But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Hebrews 12:5-8

God wants to bless us - not punish us. This passage is pointing to the Lord's discipline which quotes Proverbs 13:24 but we should also read Deuteronomy 8:2, 3 in this regard. The point of God's instructive discipline is to "grow us up" so that we would know His will for our lives. God must bring us back from our self-imposed detours from His will - many times that comes in the form of discipline. See also Psalm 119: 71; 89 - 92.

Jesus' emphasis on obedience is strong. Listen to the words of Jesus: "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. [23] Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” John 14:21. Learning the Preceptive will of God and Obeying it is the key. We must place importance on each precept. Not to pick and choose those that please us.

Elizabeth Elliot has long been an inspiration and encouragement to me and places a great important on obedience to God's precepts. She stresses the importance of obeying His commands and gave out a poem by an unknown author. The theme of the poem was for the child of God to "Do the Next thing." That may not make much sense as a title but the theme is that we are to take each command of the Lord as very important and carry it out and then do the next, and the next, and the next. This is the pathway to realizing our passage in Proverbs 3. This is how we can discover the will of God in our lives.

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