By a Sweetly Broken Girl who is hoping to encourage you on your walk with the Lord. October's posts include "Child of Mine" (my life story, about finding healing and wholeness after struggling with a broken home, broken heart, and broken self-image) and "Through the Furnace" (a devotional-type guide to help you on your journey to finding healing and wholeness in Christ). God bless!
Thursday, November 15, 2012
ISI 10: Understanding God's Will
If you could invite any five people (living or dead) to a dinner party at
your house, who would you invite?Why?
Open With Prayer
(This is a huge topic to
explore.And if you want to get deep
into this topic, I recommend that you read the “Understanding God’s Will”
series that I posted on both my blogs – myimpressionisticlife.blogspot.com
will take a while, but it will give you a lot to think and talk about.And then you can get together and discuss
those posts and the following questions.But if you do not want to do that much, I have given a much shorter
overview of it here.FYI: Those posts do
included other things that we look at in this Bible study, too.So some stuff will be familiar.)
“Therefore, I urge you,
brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices,
holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship.Do not conform any longer to the pattern of
the 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
Defining God’s Will
We all want to know what God’s Will
is, don’t we?But do we really know what
we are asking?Are we willing to put in
the required effort to know it?Do we
really know what the Word means when it talks about “God’s Will”?
If we want to talk about God’s Will,
we need to first define it.When we say,
“God’s Will,” I think there are (at least) three different things that we could
be referring to:God’s desires, God’s
plans, and what actually happens.
If you said, “It’s God’s Will that I
got this new job,” it could mean that you think it’s what God desired for you,
or that it’s what He preplanned for you, or that it was God’s Will because you
got the offer and it all worked out.So
if it happened, it must have been God’s Will.You know, the whole “Whatever happens is what God wanted because God
always does what He wants” idea.
I think it causes a lot of confusion
when we lump them all together as “God’s Will,” because they are all different
we add to the confusion when we believe that since God is all-powerful, He’ll
always do whatever He wants to do, His plans are fixed.But are they really?Does He plan and cause everything?Does He always do whatever He wants?Do our prayers make any difference at
Or is our understanding of God’s
Will off?And do we have more of a role
in and responsibility for making God’s Will happen than we realize?
So to better understand “God’s
Will,” we need to first define it.Is it
what He wants for us/asks of us?Is it
His pre-made plans for our lives?Is it
whatever happens because God always does His Will, such as “Well, it must have
been God’s Will that I got pregnant . . . or lost my job . . . or that our
house got destroyed in a tornado, etc.”?
Personally, I think that “His Will”
is most accurately defined as what He desires.It’s what He desires for us (the choices He wants us to make and the
path He wants us to take, etc.), and it’s what He desires from us (living
God-glorifying lives and being obedient, etc.).(And sometimes, it’s about His over-arching, pre-planned plans for
His Will isn’t (in general) about
some pre-set path that we have to figure out in prayer, crying out to God,
“Lord, what is Your Will for my life?”It’s bigger than that.And yet
smaller.It’s about how He wants us to
live daily - abiding in Him, walking in daily obedience to Him and His
Word.It’s more about the moment than it
is about the future.About the small
daily things than the huge future things.
And if we are living as He wants us
to live daily, “the next step on our path” will become clear . . . as we walk
But if we just focus on finding “the
next step” instead of being more concerned with how we walk with Him daily, we
will be off-track.We are pursuing the
wrong thing.Yes, it’s great to want to
know His plans for our lives, but He doesn’t reveal those before it is
time.He doesn’t often explain why He’s
allowed something in our lives and where it will take us.
But He will reveal to us how we are
supposed to live today, how we can be
obedient today and what changes we need to make and how we can walk closer to
Him.Focus on that, and the next step becomes clear when it needs to become clear
and we will always be on the path He wants us to take.
I also think we are off-track to
think of His Will as “whatever happens must be God’s Will because God always
does what He wants.”Living like that –
like we have no effect on whether God’s Will gets done or not and like He
always does His Will regardless of us - will cause us to be lazy in our daily
pursuit of God, lazy in prayer, lazy in obedience, and lazy in reading and
applying His Word.God is very clear
that our obedience is critical in obtaining the blessings He wants us to have,
in staying on the path He wants us to take, in staying in His Will for us.
Consider the Israelites at
Passover.It was God’s Will that they be
spared when the Angel of Death came and killed the firstborn of the
Egyptians.But in order for God’s Will
to be done, they had to be obedient in putting the blood of a lamb on their
doorframe.God had a Will, but it was
carried out by the people’s obedience.
God’s Will was to get the Israelites
from Egypt into Canaan.But in order for
this to happen, Moses had to be obedient in getting them set free and the
people had to be obedient in following him to the promised land.Disobedience and a resistance to follow Moses
was equal to resisting God’s Will and plans, and they earned themselves death
through an extended stay in the desert.Had they just obeyed and followed God’s directions in the first place,
they would have obtained the blessing.
[Interesting and disturbing note: In
we see that after the Israelites refused to go into the Promised Land because
they were afraid of the people that lived there, God decided to do to them the very
things that they were afraid would happen all along, as punishment.
It makes me wonder . . . Can our
refusal to follow God in the path He leads “earn” us the very things we are
afraid of, the things we are afraid that God will do to us or allow into our
lives?If we live in fear of the bad
things that might happen to us, might that actually “cause” them to
happen?Because we are cowering in fear
of life’s terrors, instead of fearing God, trusting Him, and following Him in
But God’s Will was still
accomplished; He took the next generation of Israelites into the Promised Land
because they were willing and obedient.
Our Responsibility to Obey
Getting God’s Will done requires our
obedience, a responsibility on our part to follow Him in His plans for us, to
live as He wants us to live.He does not
force His Will upon us and not everything that happens is because He planned it
that way, because He caused it, or because it was His Will.Many times what happens is a result of our
sin and our failure to seek His input and our failure to pray.The Israelites didn’t have to die off in the
desert, but they resisted doing it God’s way.Yet, God made a way to accomplish His ultimate Will for the people, just
with the next group of willing people.
Let’s look again at Romans
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in
view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and
pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship.Do not conform any longer to the pattern of
the 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.”
Out of thankfulness for the mercy
that God has shown us, we are to live holy and pleasing lives as God calls us
to (this is what I call seeking righteousness or living righteously).We are to sacrifice our desires and plans for
His sake and for His kingdom, offering our bodies to be used by Him and for His
purposes.And this includes our minds,
which we are to transform and renew by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is to be our daily
We need to get our hearts and minds
in line with Him.And this can only
really happen when we choose to stop conforming to the world.We can’t do both: have our minds conformed to
the world and transformed by the Holy Spirit.But when we choose to let go of our worldly pursuits and mindsets - when
we seek righteousness, holiness, and God’s Kingdom and seek to be pleasing and
submissive to Him - we give the Spirit room to come in and transform us.And it is then that we can discern
God’s perfect Will for our lives, what He wants for us and from us and the ways
that He wants us to walk.And then, it’s
up to us to obey!And as we walk in
obedience, the path will become straight and we will know the “next steps” when
it is time.
“If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm.” (Psalm
“The righteousness of the blameless makes a straight way for
them, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness.”(Proverbs 11:5)
We won’t know God’s plans for us by
trying to force Him to reveal it, by trying to make it happen, or by going
about our business while neglecting a serious pursuit of God and our
responsibility to be obedient.We have a
lot more to do than just “going with the flow,” thinking we’ll stumble into
God’s Will for our lives.
We need to be delighting the Lord by
being spiritual sacrifices - by letting the Spirit transform us into humble,
righteousness-seeking, God-honoring, God-fearing, totally-committed and
radically-obedient Christians - if we want to remain on His best path for us,
if we want to know what His good, pleasing, perfect Will is.
I think we cause problems when we
misinterpret verses like
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord . . .” (Jeremiah 29:11)
“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines
his steps.” (Proverbs
“ . . . for it is God who works in you to will and to act according
to his good purpose.” (Philippians
We hear these and we think that it
means that He has plans and that He will always do whatever He plans.We think that they are set in stone and it’s
going to happen regardless of what we do.Right?
And in a way, that is true.God’s plans eventually get done.But we have a right to refuse to follow Him
in His plans.And if this happens, He
will just find someone else to work His plans through.Just ask the Israelites who were led out of
Egypt but died off in the desert because they refused to follow God in His
plans.His Will does get done.But it is up to us if we will be a part of
it, through our obedience and humility and spiritual transformation, or if we
will fall outside of His Will, die off in the desert, and miss out on the
blessings because we chose to do it our way.
Philippians 2:12 echoes the need for daily obedience in order
to see His purposes accomplished.
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed. . .
continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. . . .” - and then comes verse
13 – “for it is God who works in you to will and to
act according to his good purpose.”
We are to continue in our obedience,
in fear of the Lord, because God works in us to accomplish His purposes.But if we are not living in active obedience
– if we are just floating through life thinking God’s Will for us will always
be done because God always does whatever He wants regardless of our
responsibility or obedience – then we cannot expect to be accomplishing His
Usually, when we float through life
without consciously and actively abiding in Him in reverent fear, we are just
accomplishing our own purposes and putting His name on it, even though they
might seem good, godly, and reasonable to us.
Yes, God is all-powerful and He does
indeed know what is best.And whatever
He does is best.But just because He
knows what’s best and wants what’s best doesn’t mean that He always causes
those things to happen, apart from man’s cooperation.I believe that He voluntarily limits His use
of power in causing things to happen.He
does not always use His power to force things.He doesn’t always do “His Will,” regardless of us.There are times that He hinges it on us.(Of course, as I said, His Will does
eventually get done, but through people who are willing to do it and to follow
Him His way.Those who neglect to do it
His way miss out.)
Our problem is that we would much
rather seek His plans than seek Him with our whole hearts.We would much rather believe that His Will
has to do with finding out His plans or the next step on the path than it does
with transforming our life.
We want a quick open door, not a
total makeover of our spiritual lives and disciplines.We want the blessings without any work or
responsibility on our parts.We’d rather
just convince ourselves that everything that happens is because God planned it
that way and made it happen, that we don’t have much responsibility because God
always does what He wants anyway.And we
want to believe that every problem we have in life is because He made it happen
for a reason, not that it might be some consequence of our own doing or a
result of our disobedience or just a part of life that we have to deal with.
Seeking “the next step in His plans
for us” is a lot easier and a lot less disruptive than transforming our lives
and our minds.
But we do have responsibilities and
we do create consequences.His best
plans for us don’t always happen because we can choose to obey or disobey.We can choose to pray or not.He allows us to be disobedient, to not seek
answers in prayer, to fail to pray for His Will to get done.
And He allows us the
consequences.He honors our free-will
and our choices and allows us to have an influence over what happens in life,
for good or for bad.We have a hand in
(and a responsibility in) making His Will happen and in reaping blessings
instead of curses.By obedience,
righteous living, and prayer.
“He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.
. . . Who, then, is the man that fears the Lord?He will instruct him in the way chosen for
him.”(Psalm 25:9, 12)
“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 . . .Then you
will understand what is right and just and fair - every good path . . .
Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.” (Proverbs
2:1-2, 9, 11)
“The integrity of the upright guides
them . . .”(Proverbs 11:3)
“He who walks righteously and speaks
what is right . . . this is the man who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge
will be the mountain fortress.His bread
will be supplied, and water will not fail him.” (Isaiah 33: 15, 16)
“This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand
at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way
is, and walk in it, and you
will find rest for your souls.But you
said, ‘We will not walk in it.’“(Jeremiah 6:16)
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed. . .
continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who
works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”(Philippians 2:12-13)
Humility, wisdom, understanding,
discretion, integrity, righteousness, seeking “the good way” and walking in it,
obedience, and reverent fear of God are what will take us down the good,
restful path.It’s what will keep us
safely within His Will for us.
But that path is not pre-set and
fixed.Because we can refuse to look for
or go down that path.We can refuse to
include Him in our choices.We can
disobey.We can fail to put the blood on
the doorframe.We can fail to trust that
He will lead us into the Promised Land, fail to follow in faith.His best plans for our individual lives don’t
happen apart from our obedience.
His Will is a Verb
When it comes to our
daily lives, the way I see it is this: His Will is a verb.It is how we are supposed to live daily.The Bible talks about doing the things that God wills, things
that He desires us to do.It does not as
often talk about waiting for His Will or trying to find it as though it is a
pre-set path or plan.
Matthew 7: 21:“‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father
who is in heaven. . . .’“
John 7:17:“If anyone chooses to do God’s will . . .”
Psalm 143:10: “Teach me to do your
will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.”
Ephesians 5:17, 18: “Therefore do not be
foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. . . . be filled with the
1 Thessalonians 4:3: “It is God’s will that
you should be sanctified . . .”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Be joyful always; pray
continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you
in Christ Jesus.”
And a line in the Lord’s Prayer
says, “your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”(Matthew
6:10)I used to read this as “May Your plans come
to pass,” as though we had no real responsibility for that happening and that
it would happen no matter what.We were
simply acknowledging that we wanted His plans to happen.But I’m beginning to wonder if it really
means, “May Your Will be obediently done by us on earth, as it is done up in
heaven by your angels.May we do what
You want us to do, and may what You want to have happen, happen; by our
obedience and prayer.”
It seems that, in general, His Will
for us is how He desires us to live, in obedience to His Word.But if we are focused on trying to decipher
what His future plans are for us, we will exhaust ourselves.Because the future is His to know, not ours.We just have to concentrate on how He wants
us to live today, and our path will straighten out when it is time.
His Will - what He desires from us,
how He wants us to live - is not a mystery; it’s all there in His Word.But do we take the time to discover it?Do we abide in Him?Do we put aside our own selfish desires and
plans in obedience to Him instead?Or do
we waste our time and energy pursuing “the next step” instead of pursuing Him,
or trying to figure out what the future holds instead of trying to figure out
how He wants us to live today?
Focus on These:
So if you really want to know what
the Will of God is and how to stay on the path He wants for you, let me put it
“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
“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!If we do these things, we will
be walking safely within His Will for our lives.
The thing is, we were made to love (really
love!) Him.And to be loved (really
loved!) by Him.And our lives will
reflect it.It doesn’t mean that the
closer you walk with God, the less pain, heartache, trials, obstacles, and
doubts you’ll have.In fact, I find that
the closer I try to get to Him, the harder it gets, the more questions I have,
the more resistance from the enemy I sense, and the more I struggle and wrestle
with Him and my fears and my faith.
But we were made to love Him and be
loved by Him.And our obedience will
show if this is true for us or not.Our
pursuit of righteousness and His Kingdom.Our desire to get to know Him as He is, in His Word.Our desire to include Him in our lives and
decisions and to open our hearts to Him fully in prayer.Our willingness to follow instead of lead, to
humble ourselves instead of trying to sit on the throne.
And if our lives do not show
evidence of these things then we areoutside
of His Will - His best plans - for us.And we need to get on our knees and ask His help in making it right.
So why am I saying all this?Why such a huge post on God’s Will and our
responsibility to seek righteousness and be obedient and abide in Him?Why repeat it over and over again in various
For one, I am saying this because I
think that many of us are missing out on a genuine, loving relationship with
Him.Maybe because of our own negative
self-views, because we are not comfortable trusting others (even God), because
we don’t know how to let ourselves be loved, or because of our misconceptions
about who He is.
And our lack of obedience and lack
of abiding in Him reflect that.And we
are probably creating serious, negative consequences for ourselves, missing out
on the kind of healing, love, peace, joy, and blessings He wants for us.And it’s time to seriously take a look at the
walls that we have up between us and God.(If this is the case, maybe give the “Through the Furnace” series a look,
over at myimpressionisticlife.blogspot.com and sweetlybrokengirl.blogspot.com.There might be something there to help you
work through the things that block you from a real, genuine relationship with
our heavenly Father.)
But mostly I am saying this not for
the hurting Christians who struggle with letting Him love you but for the
multitudes of apathetic Christians who are coasting and compromising in their
spiritual lives.I think that lazy,
lukewarm, self-serving, comfortable Christianity is what has greatly helped our
country get into the moral mess that we’re in.
We are ruining our “Promised Land”
because we are becoming the Israelites who died off in the desert: too focused
on our own comfort and happiness, complaining about our circumstances,
forgetting what God has done and Who He is, worshipping “golden calves” in our
hearts, hardening our hearts to God’s convictions, and failing to fall down
before the Lord in humility, failing to live in reverent fear, and failing to
I have been there before – lazy,
lukewarm, self-serving, and comfortable. Not truly understanding the incredible
responsibility and need for seeking righteousness, for actively pursuing Him
daily in His Word, for praying for His Will to get done, for doing my part to
make it happen, and for walking with Him moment by moment in humble dependency.I figured that God would just do whatever He
wanted anyway, regardless of me.And I
didn’t understand that prayer really does matter, that God works His Will
through willing people.
But a five-month stretch of demonic
harassment (in the lesson, “Supernatural Stuff and the Armor of God”) opened my
eyes to the spiritual battle that rages around us, to the reality of the
invisible world working alongside this one, and to the very real need for us to
get off of our lazy, lukewarm, self-serving, comfortable, Christian butts and
get on our knees and get into the Word and pursue Him, His Kingdom, and His
righteousness with all we’ve got.That
is how we are a part of His Will getting done!That is how we impact the world for His glory!
If only we will begin to take our
Christian responsibility seriously then we might see God intervene in our
country.We might see revival!This is why I am writing this lesson.
“Help, Lord, for the godly are no more; the faithful have
vanished from among men.” (Psalm 12:1)
“The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if
there are any who understand, any who seek God.”(Psalm 14:2)
“Go up and down the streets of
Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares.If you can find but one person who deals honestly
and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city.” (Jeremiah
“I looked for a man among them who
would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so
I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.So I will pour out my wrath on them and
consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they
have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.”(Ezekiel
“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to
strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”(2 Chronicles 16:9)
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves
and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear
from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.Now my eyes will be open and my ears
attentive to the prayers offered in this place.”(2 Chronicles 7:14-15)
The Next Step
Okay, now onto something a bit more
practical.Sometimes figuring out the
“next step” is the next thing that
God wants us to do.We are standing at a
crossroad and we ask God, “What do You want me to do next (or do about X,Y, or
Z)?”And the thing we need to figure out
is How can I recognize His guidance when
He is revealing the next step?
When we were house hunting, I really
wanted the next step to show up in neon lights.But that obviously wouldn’t happen.And the weight of that decision was crushing me.I was a panicky mess, feeling like I would
fail at sensing God’s guidance.I
trusted Him; I just didn’t trust myself to hear Him.(The fact that we were living in a very moldy
rental that was making us sick really added to the stress and my panicked need
to find a new place.)
But then I found a book that gave me
some really good advice on how to know when God shows “the next step.”And I really have to thank Gigi Tchividjian
here.Through her book, A Woman’s
Quest for Serenity, she helped me understand how to discern God’s guidance,
when so many other things were making it hard to hear His leading.(If you can find her book, it is well worth
Though He won’t give us a neon sign,
I’m learning that He has given us other “keys” to help us find the right
path.(Gigi calls them “lights,” and
they are what I based these “keys” on.)To boil it all down, God guides us in three different ways: guidance
from the inside, indications from the outside, and confirmation from God’s
1.Guidance from the inside would be what our conscience tells us, what our
heart tells us, and, most importantly, what the Holy Spirit tells us.This would be the impressions or convictions
that we have from the Holy Spirit about what He wants us to do or what the next
Sometimes it coincides with what we
want to do, sometimes it doesn’t.Sometimes it makes sense, and sometimes it confuses us even more.Sometimes it speaks to the current concern or
situation that we are praying about, and sometimes it hits us out of the blue,
completely unrelated to anything we were thinking about.But we need to be deliberate about being
receptive to the Holy Spirit, about actively listening for Him to speak to
us.And we need to expect that He will.If we don’t expect Him to, we won’t notice
when He does.
2.Indications from the outside would be open doors or circumstances falling
into place that seem to be saying “this is the way you should walk.”Maybe it’s about an issue you are praying
about, or maybe it’s God interrupting your plans with something new that He
wants you to do.It could be a need that
comes to your attention or a fork-in-the-road that calls you to make a
choice.It could be a call to move
forward, or it could be a call to take a step backward.And these indications could also come from
other people.It could be impressions
that they have had about you, or it could be wise advice from godly
[But as we consider “open doors”
here, remember that not all open doors are from God.Satan would love nothing more than to get us
out of God’s perfect plan for us by dangling enticing, counterfeit offers before
us.With every open door, we need to
seek God’s wisdom, be discerning, and be willing to obey whatever God calls us
to do in that situation.Maybe it is
an open door from God, or maybe it’s just a test or a distraction from Satan.]
3.And confirmation from God’s Word is just what it sounds like.It’s when God leads us, through His Word, in
the right path.Sometimes, after praying
for guidance, the Spirit leads us to a passage that speaks directly to our
problems.And sometimes, we find God’s
message to us as we go about our normal Bible reading.We should be regularly reading God’s Word -
immersing ourselves in it - so that we can know it as a whole, and not just
pulling out the verses that we want when we want them.
While we do our regular reading, we
should always be alert for any passage that speaks to us, because there is so
much more to glean from Scripture than just the answer to a particular problem
or prayer request.In the course of
reading God’s Word (even if we are looking for specific guidance about
something else), we may be led to passages that speak to us about something we
weren’t even considering.Such as about
forgiveness or how we use our tongue or how we treat others, etc.It may be that God wants us to settle these areas
before He guides us to the answer that we are looking for.
Guidance from God’s Word also means
that we check the steps we want to take against His Word.He will never, NEVER ask or tell us to do
anything that violates a biblical command that He has already revealed to us in
His Word, no matter how strongly we feel that He wants us to do it.
Therefore, things like affairs,
cheating, lying, harshness, premarital sex, jealousy, idol worship, gossiping,
dabbling with the occult, contacting the dead, taking an ungodly job, spousal
abuse, practicing homosexuality, taking a life, etc., can never be God’s Will
for us.Even if our inner convictions
and the outside circumstances are telling us to do it, God’s Word says, “Don’t
do these things!”
And His Word is the Truth, The
Measuring Stick.So to try to find
permission in His Word to do these kinds of things would mean that we would
have to twist what He has already clearly revealed as His Will in these (and many
other) areas.(Hey, I’m just the messenger
here.Read the Word for yourself and
take it up with God if you think I am wrong.)
Those are the keys to discovering
God’s Will for us, the next step.And
when all three of these “keys” say the same thing, we can confidently take the
next step as it has been revealed.But
if any one of them says something different, we need to wait.Wait and recheck Scriptures and pray some
more until all the keys match.And then,
if we are right, the doors will open smoothly in time.We are just responsible to do the next step
as we best believe that God is leading us.
[But we need to be careful to resist
the urge to be hasty or to interpret subtle or ambiguous signs as saying what
we want them to say.We should be
cautious about interpreting any guidance that we get.And even more so when the decision is a
significant one.Proceeding cautiously
and wisely also involves asking God to (and trusting God to) close the door if
we are not on the right path.In fact, we
should always include “Lord, close any doors that are not right” in our prayers
for guidance.Because He does answer
this one.And then, if He does shut the
door or change our direction, we need to just trust Him and be willing to wait
for Him to open the right door at the right time.]
Here is another little help for when
you are faced with multiple options or paths, and you need to know which one is
the right one.When I struggle with
wondering if I am making the right decision (or made the right one), it helps
to ask myself “Why am I making this particular decision?”I let my mind wander and try to figure out if
I am choosing (or not choosing) a particular option . . .
- for my own selfish or
- because it seems wise to me?
- because I am seeking my own
happiness or making myself feel better, as opposed to seeking holiness and joy
and contentment in the Lord?
- for other people?
- just because I want to or I don’t
know what else to do?
- because it’s easiest or most
- because it’s more glamorous?
- because I feel guilted into
- because I am angry, seeking
revenge, jealous, or wanting to set myself above someone else?
- because I cannot wait and am being
hasty or impatient?
- to distract myself from a
different decision I need to make or issue I need to face?
- for the money or status or
- because I am chasing after an
- because I don’t have enough faith
in God to handle it?
- because I am afraid of
something?Afraid of failing?Of letting others down?Of hard work?Of not being able to see the whole picture?Of not knowing how it will all work out?Of embarrassing myself?Of not having my needs met or my “needs” met
(those great big wants that we call needs)?Of letting go of the control? Of
having to rely on Someone else?
Those are all wrong reasons for
making a decision.And if I find that
one of those reasons is driving a decision that I want to make then it might
just be the wrong decision.Or at least
the wrong timing.
(Another question to ask yourself
which may make it clearer . . . “Who does this choice glorify more or benefit
more: Satan or God?”Sometimes, it’s as
simple as that.And sometimes it’s
not.So take everything into
But generally, there will be one
option that will make me answer something like this, “The only reason I would
choose this one is because I feel like it is the one God is telling me to
choose.”And this helps me know which
one is the right one, until and unless God brings further guidance.And interestingly, it’s usually the one that
seems more unreasonable or scary or difficult or impossible.Such as God telling us to “wait” when we
really want to force something, which is where I usually get tripped up in the
But no matter how I feel or how
afraid or confused I am, I can trust that the decision is the right one when I
can honestly say that . . .
- I believe it’s what God wants me
- I believe it is the most
- I have humbled myself before Him
and prayed about it and waited on Him for His guidance and timing,
- the “three keys” line up – inner
confirmation, outside confirmation, and God’s Word,
- I have a deep conviction that it’s
right for us,
- and I am doing it out of faith.
And so I can go forward in
confidence that I am making the right decision (even though I know I will
always struggle with fear that I am making the wrong one), believing that God
has called me down this path and that He has His purposes for it and that He
will work it all out for good, even my mistakes.
Jeremiah 29:11:“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’
declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you
hope and a future.’”
Proverbs 16:9: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the
Lord determines his steps.”
Philippians 2:13:“. . . for it is God who works in you to will
and to act according to his good purpose.”
Romans 12:1-2:“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of
God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to
God - this is your spiritual act of worship.Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the 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 8:28:“And we know that in all things God works for
the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”.
Questions (These may be a little jumbled and repetitive, but just go with
1.Does this topic trigger any thoughts or questions you want to
share?Any thoughts about the above
Bible verses or any other Bible verses you want to talk about?
2.I think that we tend to interpret verses
(like the Jeremiah and Proverbs verses above) to mean that God always does what
He wants and causes all things to happen?Is this what they are saying or could we be misunderstanding them?
3.How do you define “God’s Will”?His pre-set plans, what He desires for us and
from us, or whatever actually happens?Or can you think of another way to describe it?
4.What are the hazards of defining “God’s Will”
the wrong way?
5.How might we use “It was God’s Will” to
rationalize or excuse our behavior or choices?Or to explain tragedies?Do we sometimes confuse natural consequences
with God’s divine activity in our lives?What effect does this have on us and our faith?What damage might it do?Examples?
6.It’s a common assumption (hope!) that if we
are following God’s Will for our lives (going through the doors He opens),
things will be easy and pain-free.We
tend to see these as indications that we are on “the right path.”We think that if we encounter trials,
obstacles, loss, and heartache, it might mean that we took a wrong turn
somewhere.What biblical examples can
you think of that support or contradict this idea?What can we learn from these?
7. Do we look at the circumstances of our life –
the tragedy and pain and heartache – and use it to interpret how God must feel
about us?Such as, does having a bunch
of money and lots of happiness mean that God is pleased with us?Does loss and heartache mean that God is
unhappy with us or punishing us?Where
might we be going wrong in our thinking?And does God always treat everyone the same, or according to our
definition of what’s “fair”?
8.When and why do we say “It’s not fair” in life?What is our basis for saying it?What does this reveal about our understanding
of God and faith and life?How would the
Bible address the “It’s not fair” mentality?
9.What is a biblical way to view life and tragedies and trials and pain?Are the times when it is God’s Will that we
go through painful trials?What are some
reasons why He might deliberately put us in trials?(Examples from life or the Bible?)
10.We looked at this last lesson, but let’s do it again.How do you define “God’s sovereignty” and how
does it relate to your view of “God’s Will” and the circumstances of life?If you believe that humans have a degree of
free-will, what is your view of
the balance between God’s all-powerfulness and human free-will?
11.How can we know when a circumstance or trial is God’s doing and when
it’s from something else?(Or is it all
God’s doing)?Examples?How should we respond in these cases?
12.Are there things that we (or you personally) hold against God – blame
Him for – that He is not responsible for?Or is He responsible for everything that happens?Is everything that happens His Will?
13.If not, how do you think God feels when bad things happen to us or when
we cause bad things to happen?
14.If the painful circumstances of our lives
never change – if it’s not His Will to remove the painful trials – what can we
do about it and how should we respond?If He doesn’t take the burdens from us, what might He give us or do for
us instead to help us bear the burdens?
15.What kinds of “faith struggles” might we have
to face in learning to bear the burdens?What effect might this have on us if we do it wrong?If we do it right?Have you been through anything like this before?
16.Do you agree with my idea that our path will
straighten out as we walk in daily obedience to God?If this is true, how should it affect our
faith and the way we live?
17.What gets us off of the straight path?How can we stay on it?How does God help us stay on it?What is His part of it and what is ours?
18.What does “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105) mean for us?(Some people think that the Bible is the only source of wisdom and
guidance that we need.Do you
agree?Can God give us wisdom and
guidance in other ways?)
19.What kinds of things might mislead us when we
are looking for guidance?What might we
do instead of seeking godly wisdom?What
kinds of effects might this have on our lives?Examples?
20.Does Philippians 2:13 happen only with our cooperation, or does God
work in us “to will and to act
according to His purpose” regardless of our
cooperation?What effect should your
view of this have on your life and decisions?
21.While we already touched on this, what is
your opinion of the whole “Does God cause it or allow it” debate?Are there hazards and complications of
believing He always “causes” everything?Of believing He just “allows” things?Does He work in the world in both ways, sometimes causing, sometimes
allowing?Can we often know whether He caused
something or just allowed it?
[As I said earlier:“Consider Job.God did not micromanage every tragedy that
came into Job’s life.He did not tell
the “fire from the sky” to strike the animals or the wind to blow the house
down while Job’s children were inside.God gave Satan a certain amount of leeway.He gave a boundary, such as “Do not touch Job
himself,” but then He let Satan run wild and do as he wanted.God allowed the tragedies and He saw the
tragedies, but He did not cause them to happen as they did.”How does this example affect your view of
God’s activity in our lives?]
22.How do you think most Christians tend to
interpret Romans 8:28?Do we use it to support the idea that God
“causes everything to happen for a reason”?Is that the same thing as saying He “works in all things” according to
23.Why might people take comfort in the idea
that God causes everything to happen for a reason?But if that is not true – if God allows man’s
obedience or disobedience to affect what happens – how should this sober us
up?And if this is the case, how can we
find comfort instead in Romans 8:28?
24.Assuming that God “allows” things based on
our obedience or disobedience, how should we be living if we have influence over
what happens and responsibility for what happens?What is our responsibility in making sure
that God’s Will gets “found” and done?(Take into consideration Romans 12:1-2.)
25.What do you think of Numbers
14:26-35, where God punished
the Israelites who refused to go into the Promised Land by causing the very
things that they feared would happen?Can we end up “earning” the tragedies we are afraid of, by our refusal
to trust and obey God?
26.In your opinion, what is the purpose of
prayer?Does it really have an effect on
God’s Will or His plans?And if so, how
can we have the most effective prayers?(We will look at this issue more in a future lesson.)
27.What do you think of the “three keys” that
help us know how God is leading us?How
have you experienced God’s leading in your life?
28.“Our problem is that we would much rather
seek His plans than seek Him with our whole hearts.We would much rather believe that His Will
has to do with finding out His plans or the next step on the path than it does
with transforming our life.We want a
quick open door, not a total makeover of our spiritual lives and
disciplines.We want the blessings
without any work or responsibility on our parts. . . . It’s a lot easier and a
lot less disruptive than transforming our lives and our minds.”
Do you think this is generally
accurate?Can you think of other ideas
like this?How does living this way
affect our life and faith?
29.“I think that lazy, lukewarm, self-serving,
comfortable Christianity is what has greatly helped our country get into the
moral mess that we’re in.”
I know this is harsh, but do you
agree or disagree?How exactly is it
affecting our country?And what can be
done about it?
30.Are there any other thoughts or questions
that you want to add?Any other Bible
verses that you want to discuss that relate to this topic?