Sunday, November 25, 2012

UGW 20-22: God's Leading, What is His Will

            20.  What if I missed the path that God wanted me to take? 
            Get on the new path!  I think that it is indeed possible to miss the first and best path that God wants us to take, by our refusing to obey and follow Him or by our negligence.  And I think this happens more than we realize.  But God is a wise, sovereign God and He can see how any situation can be turned into good.  And He’s always opening up new paths.  So I would say that if you feel that you’ve missed an opportunity or a path that you knew God wanted you to take, don’t dwell on it.  This prevents you from being of further use to Him. 

            Ask for forgiveness, return to Him with all your heart, seek righteousness and obedience, and pray.  And just know that He will work it out for good.  He has many back-up plans.  He will use our mistakes and detours to work out something good, if we love Him and if we let Him.  It doesn’t mean that it would be the same path He desired in the first place, but it will still be amazing, fulfilling, and God-glorifying. 
            And remember that He always knew the mistakes that we were going to make.  They were no surprise to Him.  He’ll never say, “Oh, gee!  I didn’t know she was going to do that.  Now that really messes up My plan.  I guess I’ll have to tinker with some more ideas and see what I can put together to make use of that mistake.”  From the beginning of time, He saw the mistakes we would make, and He saw how He could use them.  His job is to work it into something good.  Our job is to allow Him to, remaining in Him and being obedient from here on out.   
            This idea really relieved me of the guilty stress I was feeling when I was afraid that I botched up the whole “house buying” process by getting paper work in late.  I felt that I absolutely blew it and that God was now confused and confounded and didn’t know how to spin my human mistake into something good.  I felt like I threw Him a curveball.  But then, I realized that He knew all along that I would make that mistake.  And that if it was still His plan that we get the house He wanted for us, He would be able to cover my mistake.  That was such a freeing, merciful, gracious thought.  And I could rest in Him, instead of continuing to beat myself up over it.
            And you have to remember that you can never really know what would have happened or where you would be right now if you had taken that “other” path.  Learn to like the path you are on, to enjoy the blessings and the good in it, and to glorify God in it.  And don’t dwell on “what could’ve been.”  There is no comfort in that and no glory for God in that.  He is with you here-and-now, working the present situations into something good.  He is not then-and-there, back on the path that you “should have” taken.  He’s moved on to another good path and plan, and He’s asking you to come with Him.  Glorify Him wherever you are! 
            [However, I am not talking here about the times that God does indeed want us to go back to the “then and there” to make things right.  There are times when God might be waiting on us to stop glossing over some past mistake or failure and to go back and make it right.  And our relationship with Him will be hindered until we do.  Are you having an affair?  Don’t just sweep it under the rug, thinking, Well, what’s done is done.  I’m already this deep into it, may as well keep going with it.  Make it right!  Clean up your life.  Have you cheated at something?  It may be necessary for you to confess and come clean.  Have you broken a vow?  Make it right!  Have you chosen a bad path?  Figure out how to get off of it and how God wants you to correct it.  Are you neglecting your responsibilities to your family so that you can pursue pleasure?  Do the right thing from here on out.  Never get comfortable in sin or on a wrong path.  God will help you make it right if you ask for wisdom and are willing to obey.
            James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” 
            Lately, a particular part of that verse has jumped out at me, one that I never really noticed before: “without finding fault.”  Somehow, I always missed that part, but once I noticed it, I was intrigued.  To me, it says not only that God gives wisdom, but that no matter what kind of mess we got ourselves into, God will help us get out . . . without condemnation, without rubbing our noses in it.  He will not smugly say, “I told you so” or hold back His help just to punish us further.  That kind of stuff is from the enemy.  But God gives wisdom when we ask, without overemphasizing the fact that we got ourselves into this mess.  He just wants to help us get out.  That should be comforting to all of us.]    

            21.  Will He take me somewhere I don’t want to go or make me follow His Will if I don’t want to? 
            Yes and no.  Yes, He did drag Jonah to Nineveh, but I don’t think He generally sends along “big fishes” to drag us, kicking and screaming, to places we don’t want to go.  I believe that His typical way is not “a big fish,” but to pursue, challenge, call, and convict us.  He will knock on the doors of our hearts and ask us to go with Him.  And when He does call us to something we don’t like, if we will remain in Him, be obedient, and focus on Him and His glory, our feelings will eventually get in line.  But He does allow us to rebel and to be hard-hearted, if we choose.  And I think it breaks His heart and grieves Him when we do.  He wants so much more for us than we want for ourselves. 
            I do think that He looks for hearts that are sensitive to the Spirit, that are willing to obey, to pray, to see needs, and do something about them.  And He will take anyone who wants to be of use to Him and use them for His goals and His glory.  I believe that there are many needs that go unmet and many of His plans and desires that don’t get done, because we shake off any responsibility that we might feel with “God will do whatever He wants.”  No!  I believe that God calls, guides, and convicts, but He leaves it up to man to respond and to get His Will done on earth. 
            There are several examples in the Bible that show us that God calls, but we have to respond.  Exodus 3 tells us about Moses and the burning bush.  When Moses saw that the bush wasn’t burning up, he decided to go closer and check it out.  Verse 4 says, “When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses!  Moses!’“
            If God had wanted Moses’ help, why didn’t He just appear in the sky and say, “Hey, Moses, I have a job for you?”  But that’s not what He did.  He waited to call him until He saw that Moses went to look at the bush.  Why?  I think it’s because He waits for our response, to see if we will acknowledge Him or not.  He doesn’t call to those who are uninterested and just walk on by.  
            Same thing with Samuel.  In 1 Samuel 3, we read how the Lord called out to Samuel three times one night.  And three times, Samuel went to see if Eli called him.  Eli told Samuel that if it happened again, he should say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:9)  And the fourth time that the Lord called to Samuel, he responded as Eli told him to.  And then the Lord gave him His message. 
            I used to wonder why God didn’t just start out saying, “Hey, Samuel!  It’s Me, God.  I have a message for you.”  Why not just say what He wanted to say, instead of making Samuel run all over trying to figure out what was going on?  And this is what really convinced me that God calls, but waits to speak until He sees if we are listening to Him or not.  He doesn’t force His message on us, but waits until we show our willingness by responding to His call.
            Also, in Isaiah 6, we see that Isaiah has a vision where he sees the Lord sitting on His throne, and the angels all around Him.  As he’s standing there (after freaking out about his sinful state - “Woe to me! . . .  I am ruined!  For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”), he overhears the Lord say, “Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?”
              Isaiah responds with that famous line, “Here I am.  Send me!”
            Now, since Isaiah was just standing there, eavesdropping on the Heavenly conversation, God could have just said, “Hey, you over there?  Come here and make yourself of some use!”  But He didn’t.  He mentioned a need for someone to “go” and He allowed Isaiah to offer or not.   
            And I think that this is what He does with us today.  He places the calls and needs before us, He knocks on the door of our hearts, but it’s up to us to listen, respond, and open the door.  He doesn’t force His way in or His ways on us.  How many of us miss our “burning bushes” because we don’t make the time or effort to notice?  How many of us don’t respond to Him when He calls?  How many of us overhear God’s need for someone to do something for Him, and yet we look down at the ground and pretend we didn’t hear anything?  And we wonder where God is and why the earth is in such a mess!  

            22.  So what is the Will of God, according to the Bible?  And how do I find the next step in His plan for me?   
            Well, I’m glad you asked.  But do you really want to know?  Because once you know then you have a decision to make: obey or disobey.  And doing God's Will is not a simple, quick thing.  It’s a life-long, life-altering discipline.  And that’s part of the problem because we want simple jobs with quick and massive rewards.  We want to put in the least amount of effort and get the most benefits possible.  We want Him to open the doors, but we don’t want any responsibilities.  We want freedom, but no consequences. 
            But that is not God’s way.  I think that the problem with a lot of us is that we want to live our lives the way we want, coasting into God’s “Will,” when we should be diligently living as He instructs us in His Word.  And we desperately seek to find God’s “Will” (i.e. His plans), when we should be desperately seeking God. 
            Our job is not to force God to reveal His “Will” or to force an answer.  And that’s one area where I’ve gone wrong before.  Many times.  There were times when I would bow my head to pray and be like, “Okay, God, I’m listening.”  And I basically expected Him to speak simply because I told Him to.  And if I was desperate for an answer, I could easily end up “making up” His answers.  I wanted quick results when I wanted them.     
            But I cannot force God to speak.  I cannot force Him to answer me when I want Him to, but I can make sure that I live in such a way that I am receptive to Him when He does speak.  And this happens by abiding in Him, seeking righteousness, immersing myself in the Word and in prayer, and living in obedience to Him.   
            So if you want to know what the Will of God is and how to stay on the path He wants for you, let me put it this way: 
            “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. . . . Love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Matthew 22:37, 39)   
            “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.”  (John 14:21)  
            “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  (Matthew 6:33) 
            “I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  (John 15:5)   
            “ . . . whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  (1 Corinthians 10:31)
            “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  (Psalm 46:10)
            Love God and others with all you’ve got!  Obey His commands!  Seek His kingdom and seek righteousness!  Remain in Him always, through prayer and His Word!  And if you are living for His glory, your life will be fruitful and God-glorifying!  And we don’t have to know everything; just be still in Him, for He is God!  He will be exalted!  May God be with you and bless you on your journey!   

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