Tag Archive for 'God’s will'

How Does God Guide Us?

This is a repost from 2014:

How does the Lord guide his people? Assuring us a Christian life with a beginning, a middle and an end, with the end being the tying up of all loose ends? It is an interesting fact that the apostles, in giving much doctrinal and practical guidance, never once (as far as I can see) gave guidance with respect to Christians’ futures. They are never asked, and never offer such guidance, as to what the will of God is for their lives and how they are to discern this. This is disappointing for any one hoping, through prayer or Bible study or some other discipline, to be handed a torch which has the magical power of shining a golden light illuminating the path leading from the present to an assured tomorrow, or to the next year, or the next decade of our lives.

–Paul Helm, Helm’s Deep: Ecclesiastes and the New Testament

Don’t spend your life waiting for God to whisper sweet nothings in your ear. God has already spoken.

–Carl Trueman

Our pictures of life are far too often like eating fast food, or like living under the shadow of a rule book, or like staring glassy-eyed out into the third heaven waiting for “a word from the Lord”. Wisdom challenges all this. It says to us, warmly yet firmly, “Grow up!”, “Mature!”, “Move beyond childhood into adulthood!”, “Use the mind God has given you!”

Wisdom is about learning to apply the gospel to every area of our thinking and doing. We will be tempted to justify our ignorance and mental laziness by saying that we’re trusting the Lord. We may even appeal to Proverbs 3:5-6 to defend this attitude. But that’s not what Proverbs 3:5-6 is about. Rather, it encourages diligent, careful, prayerful, intelligent and enthusiastic exploration of life in the light of the gospel.

–Mark Storm, Symphony of Scripture

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
James 1:5

My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding–
indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 2:1-5

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Proverbs 9:10

Also see:
About that little voice in your heart… | Reformation21 Blog

After all of that, I would slightly disagree with the idea that God only speaks from the outside, as the blog post above says, although maybe I’m taking that too literally. I strongly believe that the Holy Spirit speaks to us from within when it comes to conviction of sin(s), God’s character, his love for us in Christ, and reminding us of what He’s taught us in the past (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to spiritual things we hadn’t realized before (Ephesians 1:18). Whenever we hear the Holy Spirit speak, we always need to confirm it with Scripture. Our hearts are too easily deceived (Jeremiah 17:9). We need to be saturated in Scripture in order to discern from within, and especially nowadays from without, what is true.

Repost: God’s Will For You

We can know God’s will for us. Are we willing to do it?

Our modern western minds tend to think of God’s will as what God wants us to do in a certain situation. God’s will as he presents it in Scripture is a little different than that. There are different types of God’s will (Sovereign decretive, Preceptive, Will of disposition) but that’s for others to teach. I’m writing about God’s will as revealed in Scripture.

These are all NIV. I added italics.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is true worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:1-2

I don’t believe we can take God’s will out of this passage and change it to mean what we’d like, which often ends up being what God wants us to do at a particular point in time. I’m learning that it’s important to be careful to keep the meaning within the context.

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of the foolish. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love your fellow believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
1 Peter 2:11-17

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
1 Peter 4:19

Suffering is obviously something that’s put on us, not something we choose to do, but continuing to do God’s will while suffering is God’s will, if you’ll allow me to write an intentionally strange sentence.

So with all of this general stuff about God’s will for us, how does he answer us when we ask him things? Psalms are a good place to look for this. It’s really a subject for another post, and probably by someone other than me, but I found this example. I can’t remember why I was looking at the NKJV, but the words chosen fit well. Again, our modern western minds might be disappointed in how Spurgeon doesn’t even touch on how God might answer us specifically in telling us what to do in a particular situation.

Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For in You do I trust;
Cause me to know the way in which I should walk,
For I lift up my soul to You.
Psalms 143:8 NKJV

David is pleading with God to ask Him what he wants him to do in order to be obedient to Him in a way that is right. Psalm 143:10 NKJV says:
Teach me to do Your will,
For You are my God;
Your Spirit is good.
Lead me in the land of uprightness.

Spurgeon’s commentary on verse 8 is very helpful. If you’re interested in this subject, read the whole Psalm first and notice all of the things David is looking for from God.

“Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.”  The Great First Cause must cause us to hear and to know. Spiritual senses are dependent upon God, and heavenly knowledge comes from him alone. To know the way we ought to take is exceedingly needful, for how can we be exact in obedience to a law with which we are not acquainted? or how can there be an ignorant holiness? If we know not the way, how shall we keep in it? If we know not wherein we should walk, how shall we be likely to follow the right path? The Psalmist lifts up his soul; faith is good at a dead lift [was Spurgeon into powerlifting?], the soul that trusts will rise. We will not allow our hope to sink, but we will strive to get up and rise out of our daily griefs. This is wise. When David was in any difficulty as to his way he lifted his soul towards God himself, and then he knew that he could not go very far wrong. If the soul will not rise of itself we must lift it, lift it up unto God. This is good argument in prayer, surely the God to whom we endeavour to lift up our soul will condescend to show us what he would have us to do. Let us attend to David’s example, and when our heart is low, let us heartily endeavour to lift it up, not so much to comfort as to the Lord himself.

Also see:
God’s Will Is Not a Secret | Scripture Zealot blog
Finding God’s Will | Scripture Zealot blog
Praying God’s Will | Scripture Zealot blog

God’s Will Is Always A God Thing

We need to get rid of these ideas that answered prayer is when God grants a request the way we want it. Or that it’s a “God thing” if something turns out the way we prefer it to. Or that “it’s a good thing God was watching out for us” when we avoided an accident or other calamity, but are quiet about God if otherwise. If “all our days were written in His book and planned before a single one of them began” (Psalm 139:16 HCSB), and “not one sparrow falls to the ground without our Father’s consent” (Matthew 10:29 HCSB), then it’s all a God thing, whether or not we perceive the matter as good or bad. A friend wrote in a recent comment to a blog post, “There is nothing God can do, or any part of His will accomplished, except that His infinite love be a part of it. No matter how we perceive God’s will, His love is never diminished.”

Some claim that strong faith is defined by throwing our energies into begging God for a miracle that will take away our suffering and then believing without doubting that he will do it. But faith is not measured by our ability to manipulate God to get what we want, it is measured by our willingness to submit to what he wants. It takes great faith to say to God, “Even if you don’t heal me or the one I love, even if you don’t change my circumstances, even if you don’t restore my relationship, even if you allow me to lose what is most precious to me, I will still love you and obey you and believe that you are good.”

–Nancy Guthrie, Hearing Jesus Speak Into your Sorrow

Jesus and Paul received ‘no’ as an answer to prayer, which were both very integral parts of God’s will.

“Father, if it is your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, your will must be done, not mine.”
Luke 22:42 GW

So that I would not become arrogant, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to trouble me– so that I would not become arrogant. I begged the Lord three times to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me.
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 NET

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2 NIV

Even though you’re evil, you know how to give good gifts to your children. So how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him?
Matthew 7:11 GW

I’m challenged to pray that by faith I will see God’s will as always loving, whether or not things go the way I’d like, and whatever losses I may have, as with all of the immeasurably good things he gives me.

(When single verses are given to support an idea, it’s always encouraged to look at them in context.)

God’s Will Is Not Secret

OK, some of it is. Some of it isn’t. There is a whole lot of it in the Bible that isn’t secret, and if we spend the time learning that, it makes our lives much freer and takes some of the anxiety out, if people have a problem with that. Here is a repost with additional resources on God’s will. They are all from Reformed teachers and have a certain slant, just as a warning for those who may believe differently.

Later on, I plan on writing a post about God’s leading, which overlaps with this subject.

___________

How amazing it is that we can read (or listen to) Scripture anytime and hear from God. We may or may not receive special revelation where our eyes are opened to something new and life changing, but it’s always beneficial and very special. Let’s not lose the wonder of being able to read what the good, loving and living God of the universe has written to us, telling us everything He wants us to know.

If you don’t feel this way about reading your Bible yet, be sure to pray for it. This is God’s will for you–to know and enjoy Him through it. Then wait while you keep reading. This is a gift from God, so if He takes a while, don’t feel like it’s your fault if you’re striving and obeying.

The primary purpose of reading the Bible is not to know the Bible but to know God.

–James Merritt

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
John 17:3

I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.
Be good to your servant while I live,
that I may obey your word.
Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.
Psalms 119:16-18

If you’d like shorter, free resources, here are two that are excellent, especially the sermon by John MacArthur (first one is shorter):

What Is "God's Will"? by Dan McCartney and Charles Clayton

You know, if you’re saved, Spirit filled, sanctified, submissive, suffering and saying thanks you know what God’s will is for you? Whatever you want.

–John MacArthur, God's Will Is Not Secret – listen to or read the sermon here

Books:
decision-making-and-the-will-of-God

can-i-know-Gods-will-sproul

Kevin DeYoung

Discovering-Gods-Will-Ferguson

found-Gods-will-MacArthur

Affiliate Links

A Rambling Prayer

your will be done
Matthew 6:10

According to the risen Lord Jesus Christ,
Help us to do your will and be obedient to you.
Guide us in praying according to your will more and more.
Help us to gain spiritual knowledge and wisdom.
Compel us to highly value it.
Remind us to pray for it.
Energize us to enjoy seeking it.
Convey it to us, realizing that it comes from you.

Help us to meditate on your words in Spirit and in truth.
I confess that I sometimes go the way of my own earthly theories and introspection.
We know you long to bring us back when we go off your path.
Help our thoughts and ideas, private and verbal,
to be confined to those of Christ, the Word of truth.

Then let us continually go back to Scripture,
so that our rambling musings on things of You are always enlightened and corrected by Scripture.

We praise you for your word–for being living and active through it.
Remind us that we can hear you speak to us by just reading our Bible.
What an indescribably great thing!

Want, Ask, Seek, Wait, Find

How do we go about ‘getting’ something we want that’s spiritual and in God’s will? I never thought I’d write a post about ‘steps’ to get something or somewhere or ‘XX’ reasons for… which I generally don’t like, but that’s what this post will end up being.

I believe that Proverbs 2:1-6 is a model for this. Since it’s about knowledge (Col 1:9-10) and wisdom (Prov 9:10, 1 Cor 2:6-7, Eph 1:17) we’ll use that example. We know that God wants us to acquire spiritual knowledge and wisdom and he will give it to us. Although I don’t mean to say that God “helps those who help themselves”, he’s not usually going to give it to us if we don’t want to receive it, don’t ask for it, or don’t care or bother to look for it (Matt 7:7).

If you don’t want something but want to want it, pray for that. (It almost sounds like humorous, or circular thinking, but really.) If it’s difficult to pray for, ask God to give you a spirit of supplication (Zech 12:10).

Proverbs 2:1-6
My son,if you take my words to heart
and treasure my commands within you,

Take what it is that God wants you to do seriously and put a high value on it.

2 if you pay close attention to wisdom,
and let your mind reach for understanding,

We need to look for wisdom and focus on understanding it.

3 if indeed you call out for insight,
if you ask aloud for understanding,

We need to earnestly ask God for it.

4 if you search for wisdom as if it were money
and hunt for it as if it were hidden treasure,

We need to both put a very high value on it and search for it as if it were something that’s hard to find, but so worth it if we do. If you had a million dollars hidden in your house somewhere, wouldn’t you tear it up to find it?

5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and you will find the knowledge of God.

That’s what we need to do. But this may not come right away. We may need to do these things for weeks, months, years or even decades and wait on the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)

6 The Lord gives wisdom.
From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

One more thing. This comes from God. We need to strive, but it won’t come because of our striving or our own intellect. We need to seek with humility.

I think this can be a model for obtaining many things that we know are God’s will–as prescribed in Scripture (Psalm 37:4). I have seen this happen again and again the last few years regarding things in my life and persistence in prayer for others. It never stops amazing me. It’s important that we remember that this is for things that we know God’s want us to have, spiritual things, not things that are material which may or may not be his will for us and with good motives (James 4:3). He “lavishly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Tim 6:17b) but not anything we want. Comparing our prayers to Paul’s is very helpful in this regard.

~Jeff

God’s Plan for Your Life

Some people say, “God will never reveal his plan for you if you don’t seek out to him for guidance” as Greg Jennings* did. Well if that’s true, I wish God would have told me that I would deal with mental illness, chronic fatigue and chronic back pain so I could be ready for it. But God doesn’t work that way. I can’t find any place in the Bible where God reveals his plans for your life. Certainly he has plans and God’s will comes about no matter what.

Another thing is, when God does supposedly reveals plans, it never seems to be things we would consider negative. But these are the things that God often uses to bring us much closer to him, if we are willing to submit to God’s will.

Just as if God were to answer all of our prayers in the affirmative, can you imagine the chaos if God revealed to us his plans for us? This would have unimaginable ramifications. We need to live by faith and not by sight.

From a human logical point of view, if God revealed to us that we would be successful, we might not work as hard. If he revealed that we would become very ill, we may despair and give up. As far as the small things, learn what God’s will is as well as you can as life goes on, want desperately to please Him, ask for knowledge and wisdom, and if you truly delight in the Lord (Psalm 37:4), do whatever you want.

*I love Greg Jennings and the Packers. He is obviously a brother in the Lord and could very well be more mature (more than I was at his age for sure), more faithful and more knowledgeable that me. I disagree that God will reveal to us specific extra-Biblical material, with some minor exceptions. Jennings does come from a very different denominational background that me. “Be Great” is maybe a subject for another post. I hope he can play at his highest level until he’s at least 40 and keep publicly speaking about God as he matures.

2 Corinthians 5:7 GW
Indeed, our lives are guided by faith, not by sight.

Greg Jennings, Christian Wide Receiver for the Green Bay Packers

I Felt Led To…

In a recent post I made a comment about some saying “If you feel led…”, which as commenter Nancy pointed out is usually just encouraging people to pray or speak about something.

Here is a post that addresses a similar but wider and dangerous issue that explains exactly how I feel think about these things.

I Felt Led To… at THE REFORMED READER

Finding God’s Will

isn’t as hard as you may think. This is my view which sounds like an expansion of Augustine’s view. I believe it’s also similar to Gary Friesen’s view in his book Decision Making and the Will of God: A Biblical Alternative to the Traditional View although it’s been over a decade since I read it.

HT: Challies.com

Psalm 37:4 HCSB
Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you your heart’s desires.

Saying or Praying “God Willing”

I would like to repost something I wrote a while ago. Then at the bottom is a link to a post called 7 Reasons to Say ‘God Willing…’ from another blog which complements this very well. Hat Tip to Challies.com.

———

Praying God’s Will

Someone was once saying that a preacher on the radio was saying that we shouldn’t be saying, “If it’s Your will” when we pray because we’re not having confidence in what we’re praying, or something to that effect.

I said that it’s Scriptural to say that because of a couple of passages/verses:

James 4:13-15
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” TNIV

1 John 5:14
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. TNIV

However I’ve rethought my reasoning. The James passage isn’t talking about prayer, it’s talking about plans, predicting the future etc. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” So while I think it’s Scriptural to say, “I’ll be doing … God willing”, the James passage doesn’t support saying, “If it’s Your will” when praying.

The 1 John passage is talking about God answering according to His will, not necessarily how we should pray. Matthew 21:22 says, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” But this needs to be balanced with 1 John 5:14 as mentioned above.

So when is it appropriate to say, “If it’s Your will?” I’m not trying to teach here. I’m just writing what my thinking is at the moment. Please feel free to comment.

If we are praying something that we know is Scriptural, it would almost be disrespectful to to add the if. For example–praying for growth in knowledge, wisdom (James 1:5-8) etc. If we are praying for miraculous healing, a certain material item etc. it may be respectful and reverent to say if it’s Your will. Some would say that shows a lack of confidence. I’m not sure if we could judge right or wrong either way.

As far as asking for something we know might or might not be in His will, it’s fine to ask and to be persistent as the parables of the woman in front of the judge and the man knocking on his neighbor’s door asking for food for a guest. If we should know the answer is no, then should we stop asking.

Paul pleaded with God three times for the thorn in his side to be taken away. God gave him a definitive answer, ‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”‘ (2 Corinthians 12:9)

We don’t always know what to pray and the Spirit helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26-27). Thomas Schreiner in his commentary on Romans says that since the totality of God’s will is hidden from us, the Spirit fills this lack by interceding for us. The Spirit searches our hearts which long for God’s will, searches even the depths of God (1 Corinthians 2:10) and intercedes for us according to God’s will with groans that our words can’t express.

I think it’s very important when praying for someone to always pray for things that you know are in God’s will according to Scripture along with any requests they may have or things you think they should have that may or may not be a part of God’s plan. For example if you pray only for healing and that isn’t a part of God’s plan, you’re not really doing them any good. But if you pray for comfort, perseverance, hope, strength etc. along with healing, you know you will be participating in glorifying God in their situation whatever the outcome.

———

7 Reasons to Say ‘God Willing…’

New Year’s Resignation

This is somewhat of a tangent for this blog, but I like the perspective this article brings.
New Year’s Resignation

Praying God’s Will

Someone was once saying that a preacher on the radio was saying that we shouldn’t be saying, “If it’s Your will” when we pray because we’re not having confidence in what we’re praying, or something to that effect.

I said that it’s Scriptural to say that because of a couple of passages/verses:

James 4:13-15
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” TNIV

1 John 5:14
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. TNIV

However I’ve rethought my reasoning. The James passage isn’t talking about prayer, it’s talking about plans, predicting the future etc. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” So while I think it’s Scriptural to say, “I’ll be doing … God willing”, the James passage doesn’t support saying, “If it’s Your will” when praying.

The 1 John passage is talking about God answering according to His will, not necessarily how we should pray. Matthew 21:22 says, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” But this needs to be balanced with 1 John 5:14 as mentioned above.

So when is is appropriate to say, “If it’s Your will?” I’m not trying to teach here. I’m just writing what my thinking is at the moment. Please feel free to comment.

If we are praying something that we know is Scriptural, it would almost be disrespectful to to add the if. For example–praying for growth in knowledge, wisdom (James 1:5-8) etc. If we are praying for miraculous healing, a certain material item etc. it may be respectful and reverent to say if it’s Your will. Some would say that shows a lack of confidence. I’m not sure if we could judge right or wrong either way.

As far as asking for something we know might or might not be in His will, it’s fine to ask and to be persistent as the parables of the woman in front of the judge and the man knocking on his neighbor’s door asking for food for a guest. If we should know the answer is no, then should we stop asking.

Paul pleaded with God three times for the thorn in his side to be taken away. God gave him a definitive answer, ‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”‘ (2 Corinthians 12:9)

We don’t always know what to pray and the Spirit helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26-27). Thomas Schreiner in his commentary on Romans says that since the totality of God’s will is hidden from us, the Spirit fills this lack by interceding for us. The Spirit searches our hearts which long for God’s will, searches even the depths of God (1 Corinthians 2:10) and intercedes for us according to God’s will with groans that our words can’t express.

I think it’s very important when praying for someone to always pray for things that you know are in God’s will according to Scripture along with any requests they may have or things you think they should have that may or may not be a part of God’s plan. For example if you pray only for healing and that isn’t a part of God’s plan, you’re not really doing them any good. But if you pray for comfort, perseverance, hope, strength etc. along with healing, you know you will be participating in glorifying God in their situation whatever the outcome.