My little lady celebrated her fourth birthday last week, which was an exciting milestone for our family- how quickly the time goes! Amongst her pressies, she received a children’s choir CD, where one tract has children sharing what they want to be when they grow up. As we listened to each child introduce themselves and share what they wanted to be, my little lady and I sat quietly listening in the car a little longer than usual. She was mesmerised hearing the other kids, “…when I grow up, I want to be…..” Some of the careers that ranked the highest in these little children’s lives included fireman, pilot, nurse, teacher and doctor. They had no burdens associated with sharing their dreams of the future. As we get older however, things start becoming more burdensome- don’t you think? I remember being in my final year of schooling and often feeling burdened by what I wanted to do once I left school. I would pray and ask God to guide me and even hope that some voice from heaven would boom down… “Emily, I want you to be a ……” So how do we know God’s will?
In the first post in this series, I quoted David Platt, who raised the idea that perhaps God’s will isn’t actually hidden at all and that perhaps, just perhaps the constant searching for God’s will can cause us to be preoccupied to the point that we actually miss entirely what being a disciple of Jesus means.
John MacArthur, in a great sermon on God’s Will neatly reduces God’s Will for our life into 5 things (I will add a sixth 🙂 )
1. It is God’s Will That We Are SAVED
In 1 Timothy 2:3-4, we read “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” As we read this, we see that God desires all people to be saved and come to the know Him. 2 Peter 3:9 confirms this, as Peter writes that God desires all to repent.
2. It is God’s Will That We Are SPIRIT-FILLED
Ephesians 5:17-18 shows that God desires us not to be “filled with wine” but to be “filled with the Spirit.” While it is clear that we receive the Holy Spirit at salvation (Ephesians 1:13), this shows that things in our life, such as alcohol, can prevent the Holy Spirit working through us as effectively, controlling our minds, hearts, words and deeds. God desires that the Holy Spirit and His inspired Word is the greatest influence on our life. As we look at this, it is a point of challenge- what is our greatest influence? Is there sin in our life that is preventing us from being Spirit-Filled? This isn’t some mumbo-jumbo, where we should be able to do incredible things that point to us. Being Spirit-Filled means seeing the big, juicy, fruit of the Spirit growing in our lives in order to point to HIM. We long to be more like Jesus for God’s glory and can humbly and thankfully see that we have grown in our relationship with Him since last year.
3. It is God’s Will That We Are SANCTIFIED
Sanctification is a big word that means we are in the process of being made holy. Like the Pantene shampoo ad from ions ago- “it doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen”. Sanctification is a lifetime journey of being made more like Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 says:
“3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honour, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”
I love that last verse particularly- we have been called to holiness. While sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit, we are also called to control our bodies, showing we too have responsibility in this. Our working at our salvation (Philippians 2:12) does not save us- we are saved by grace and grace alone. Yet, we are called to pursue holiness and as we do this, we can be confident it is God’s will for us.
4. It is God’s Will That We Are SUBMISSIVE
This ‘S’ word- Submission, has so much baggage that just shouldn’t be there! Submission is for men and women and we are actually told repeatedly that Jesus was in submission to the Father (see- told you it wasn’t all bad!). 1 Peter 2:13-15 says, “13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”
I think this one, particularly in Australian culture is hard. We don’t like to submit to our leaders, we prefer to knock them, make them the butt of our jokes and loudly voice our opinions. So quickly, we can badmouth our boss or the policeman who gave us a speeding ticket (particularly when we were driving DOWN a hill- what did they expect?) Yet, these verses call us to be subject for the Lord’s sake to EVERY human institution. Why? So that by doing good, we will silence those who criticise us and the Jesus whom we serve.
As married women, we are also called to be submissive to our husbands (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18). Not ‘venting’ to other women about what our husbands have done, not being that argumentative, annoying dripping on a rainy day (Proverbs 27:15). Instead, we are to reflect Jesus’ submission to the Father in our marriage.
We should also be in submission to God and His Word, taking every thought and decision under the authority of the Bible (2 Corinthians 10:5, Romans 12:2).
5. It is God’s Will That We Are SUFFERING
This one is even more challenging that the points previously. I love comfort! Philippians 1:29 says that “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” Here, our suffering is specific. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take a Panadol when we have a headache because we want to ‘suffer’. No. These verses show we should be suffering because of Jesus and because we love Him and long to serve Him, we will suffer for our faith. 2 Timothy 3:12 even says “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” If we desire to live a godly life we will be persecuted. We should expect it. We shouldn’t quickly pack up shop at the first sign of persecution, rather we should expect it.
6. It is God’s Will That We SHARE OUR FAITH
This is my addition to John MacArthur’s list. It goes hand-in-hand with suffering- how can we be persecuted if no-one knows we are Christians? We must SHARE OUR FAITH. If we live an easy, comfortable life where we never make a confident stand for Jesus, no persecution will come. This morning in Church, we read that Philip, when questioned by the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8, simply opened his mouth and began sharing the good news about Jesus (Acts 8:35). I so often hear others say that they are sharing Jesus by living a loving, Christian life. I have even used this excuse! Why is it an excuse? Because if we never ‘open our mouths and share the good news of Jesus,’ we will simply be bringing praise to ourselves. People will look on and think we are ‘good’ people rather than ‘saved’ people. We will look ‘religious’ when our neighbour sees our car head out to church each Sunday, instead of people in ‘relationship’ with a Living, Breathing, True God.
As we look at these six points of God’s Will, we don’t see any answers for how many children we should have, nor do we see the name of the man we are to marry (if we are to marry at all) or the career move we should make. Why? Because God’s Will is so much bigger than this. He is more concerned with WHO we are than WHAT we do. As we seek Him and recognise His specific will told through His Word, we then have freedom to make choices for our life. Are we meant to be a Doctor or an Interior Designer? It actually doesn’t matter. What we should be asking is “How can I share my relationship with Jesus with those around me?” and also prayerfully assess our motivations. Are our decisions helping us become sanctified or leading us into greater sin? Are we making this decision because we want to be rich and comfortable or in order to use the gifts we have been given for God’s glory? As we embrace the freedom we have in Christ, may we first and foremost seek God and reflect His glory to those around us. In this way, may we be used as His hands, feet and mouthpiece to the world around us. In this way, may our eyes be fixed on eternity for how we use this short time on earth has the greatest impact on how and where we spend the forever of our future.
David Platt. (2013). Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
John MacArthur. (July 16, 2006). Taking the Mystery Out of Knowing God’s Will. Panorama City: Grace to You.